I Dig

I ALWAYS THOUGHT B&B stood for bed and breakfast. Now I know it means balled and burlapped.

Plants sold in plastic containers are a cinch to plant – you dig a hole and pop them in. Bigger trees and shrubs are B&B’d, like the two hefty mountain laurels I planted this afternoon. They’re heavy mothers.

Oh, my aching back.

Yesterday I went to Marder’s in Bridgehampton, an old-fashioned, full-service nursery where they really help you, to see what they had on sale. I was shopping on the principle that you should choose plants to suit your conditions, not frustrate yourself trying to grow what isn’t natural (and get 60% off if possible).

I went armed with a list of deer-resistant, shade-tolerant, acid-soil-loving shrubs to begin creating a ‘mixed hedge’ along the road (as opposed to the solid, all-one-kind, evergreen wall that is synonymous with the Hamptons). There’s an area about 20’x60′ along the road that is now cleared, thanks to my daughter Zoë, of most saplings and undergrowth (there’s still plenty of wisteria vine, pulled up out of the ground and coiled for later removal and ‘treatment’ — that is, poisoning [heh heh]

On my wish list was:

  • skimmia
  • clethera
  • kerria japonica
  • mountain laurel
  • mahonia
  • American holly

Not the most exciting stuff, but better to have un-showy flowers, I figure, than no flowers at all, because they don’t get enough sun or the deer have eaten them.

Marder’s was out of most things on my list, but I ended up buying eight plants:

  • 1 pee gee hydrangea
  • 2 osmanthus (purple false holly)
  • 3 sarcococca (sweet box)
  • 2 mountain laurels

They were delivered this afternoon. I had the delivery guy set the mountain laurels — only about 3 feet high but the root ball makes them monstrously heavy — near where I wanted to plant them. Once they were out there, right by the road, I realized I needed to plant them right away or risk their being stolen. (Call me paranoid, but this happened in Brooklyn once with two brand-new Alberta spruce; they lasted about 20 minutes on the front stoop.)

I had decided not to spring for planting services like last week, when I had a doublefile viburnum planted by the nursery and felt like a princess. Having watched the technique, I wanted to give it a try and save the bucks (planting often costs as much as the plant). It would have been easier with another person, but my daughter had gone off to the Yankee game.

Each of the two shrubs took an hour to plant: digging the hole with two different shovels; wrestling the plant into the hole, then out again and digging deeper, then in again; cutting the rope and burlap away and pulling it out from underneath; re-filling the hole with dirt (by now I was on my knees and using my gloved hands to push the dirt back in; I’d had it with the shovel); making a moat around it to hold water, much like building a sand castle at the beach, but muddier; and finally watering by hand.

I know I should have made the holes twice as wide as the plant (there’s that garden guilt again), but 1-1/2 times was the best I could manage.


10 thoughts on “I Dig

  1. I’m exhausted reading this post! Off to my “Restoration Intervention” in Greenport!

  2. Your stamina and energy is an inspiration!! I have to have another glass of wine here in Amsterdam to think about it (g).

  3. Dug yet another hole today, even deeper, for the B&B hydrangea. I think I deserve more than just one measly glass of wine!

  4. You sure do, and just maybe, if you come visit me, I’ll share the fabulous wine that my kid and her boyfriend gave brought from London to Amsterdam and then back home to Breukelen

  5. Sorry, have been checking in on your great articles but have been rushing this way and that…Autumn in New York! (Somehow I don’t thing they managed to rhyme “eldercare” in that song!).

    Anyway, Bravo, but watch it with the back. I had a girlfriend who ended up basically bedridden for a year an a half because of displaced discs.

    I would cross certain of the non-natives off the list…I think you may have already plated oak-leaf hydrangea but if you haven’t go with that for shade. Excellent.

    Also, think about serviceberry, bayberry, some scrub oaks…and when it comes to deer-proof plants (but WHAT in the end is *really* deer-proof???) have a look at the New England Wildflower Society. A sideline business is their native seeds sales–excellent…highly recommended. I know you’re focusing right now on shrubby plants but there are tons of natives you’ll need to fill things out. There are a bunch of native asters and goldenrod that grow well in semi and full shade.

    Bath: non-chlorinated water, one cup of Epsom salts, half bottle of hydrogen peroxide, to taste: lavender oil, vetiver oil, rosemary oil, lemon oil…soak, repeat, rinse, konk out!


  6. Northern bayberry is lovely. And, if it doesn’t have to be evergreen, some fothergilla is nice.

    I hardly ever follow planting instructions to the letter. I’m sure the plants you planted will be fine even if you dug the holes slightly smaller.

    When I buy big things from the nursery that are too massive/heavy for me to handle, I call up one of the local yard crew companies and have them do the planting for me. It’s always less expensive than what the nursery where the plants were purchased charges for planting.

  7. Good suggestion, Kathleen. There are plenty of people looking for work around here. Fothergilla was on an earlier list of mine, thanks for reminding me!

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