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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Bacopa Hangs At My Front Door

"In a recovering ecosystem, flowers lead the way. Purple-spired lupines and scarlet Indian paintbrush are among the flora fighting their way into the death zone caused by Mt. St Helens’ 1980 eruption..." The Seattle Times, 2011. My heart goes out to those intrepid plants, when I move to Seattle, Washington next year I have no interest in exploring Mount St. Helens volcano. I’m going for the salt-scented ocean, the temperate weather, and a change of scenery and humanity in my last years.

For months I have been so involved in irradiating beetles and weeds that I haven’t enjoyed my flowers. This day is still early enough to be cool, so I took a walkabout around the landscape I have created here with my own hands. It was bittersweet as within a year I will be leaving it to someone else when I sell my home and sail the highway to Seattle.

My eyesight is not good enough any more to see each of the little flowers that I have planted in front of the house, but I remember every year buying pots of spring flowers for my late mother, and then planting the bulbs in a row in front of my house when she was done with them. What few are left bloom each spring, which probably helps the squirrels find and eat the bulbs. They ate every one of the several hundred crocuses that I planted with new home owner enthusiasm in the front yard ten years ago when I bought this house. Squirrels do not seem to like my garlic which I would have been willing to sacrifice to save the tulips, grape hyacinth, and daffodils. I have a line of short yellow garlic and a line of showy tall purple garlic. Both thrive. My patches of creeping phlox are not doing as well this year as previously, neither is the forsythia on the south side, nor the bridal wreath bush next to it. Everything comes and goes.

The forsythia on the north side is a perfect screen for my garage window, and it soaks up the rain so it no longer runs into my garage. Forsythia was a good guess to solve that problem. I had noticed that old houses often had forsythia bushes growing beside the garage and followed the tradition.

I trim my ten foot tall burning bushes away from the roof almost every year, but they grow back quickly and scrape the gutters in the wind. They are probably fifty years old and show with a brilliant burst of crimson each autumn. Like everything else in my yard, I seeded them with white spore, mushrooms, earthworms, and moss which now grows on their trunks, indicating that they are in a good niche of this micro ecosystem, which is fortunate because I no longer have the strength to water them. The first few years I had this house I severely trimmed old wood from these burning bushes, then watered them regularly so young, unblemished branches could grow back easily. The water cost me a pretty penny.

The two tea roses flanking my front porch are nicely trained in natural, interesting shapes. The red tea rose bush has a prettier arching fan shape but the lush color and extravagant size of the peach tea roses draws compliments from passersby. My hanging basket of tiny white bocapa flowers shows prettily in healthy sprays against the yellow brick wall of my front porch. I hang a basket of them there every year. I wonder what I will display at my front door in Seattle?

The arching boughs of my privacy hedge of weigela in my front yard are thick and healthy, grown from one foot starts to about six foot high in just a few years. I prune and shape this healthy hedge almost every month. The cool spring flowering of the trumpet-shaped weigela flowers, some pink some plum, is past, but they will bloom again in the cool of autumn.

My river birch has showy, pink curls of paper bark as pretty as any flower. Whoever used to walk by and peel off bark has stopped doing that, so this year my river birch is as pretty as any in the world, which is a little miraculous. Several years ago I saw it on sale at Lowe’s Home Improvement, but it had been severely neglected, dried out, knocked about. It was very tall and spindly, as if it had given all of what little energy it had into growing up and out of its circumstance. I was looking for a showcase tree for my front yard, but passed over this river birch as hopeless because its branches were broken, leaving only an oddly forked trunk about six foot high. It was just a scraggly tree with a couple of leaves. The next time I was in Lowe’s all the river birch had been sold except this one. Out of pity I took a second look at it. It seemed to me that if I pruned everything away from the main trunk, including one of the forks, the tree was still young enough to grow new branches and might regrow them in a natural, evenly spaced way. I paid the several dollars of its knocked-down price and gave it a try. In just a few years this river birch has grown to three stories tall, and is perfectly shaped. What a beautiful tree, and just what my dry hot front yard needed. Now my front lawn is cool, full, and lush beneath its branches. I am just a little tired now, will tour my backyard another Sunday. When it is cooler, I will do the heavy task of moving the last of my backyard irises into the front yard so that all my iris beds are on display to passersby.

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