The Second to Last Frontier

SO WHILE I WAIT for things to move along on the new old house I hope to purchase, I’m gardening at my old old house in East Hampton, N.Y., which I plan to rent out rather than sell. (I don’t know how people ever sell a piece of property; I get so attached.) Until yesterday, it was hideously hot and humid, and I’m covered with super-itchy chigger bites, all in unreachable or unmentionable places.

BEFORE stepping stones and rock border, above (same general area in May)

However, I have a manifest destiny to fulfill: there are still two enormous areas of my backyard (1,500 square feet each?) that are overrun with weeds and invasive groundcover (<–) and I want them cleaned up and prettified before this season is through. The past few days, I’ve been focusing on an area to the side of my back deck, top, extending toward the rear of the property. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to tame it and prepare new planting beds:

  • Partially outlined a desired bed in large Delaware rocks bought from a local stoneyard
  • Lay down a few bluestone steppingstones leading from the deck to the back lawn, which had the effect of instantly defining future beds on either side of this simple path
  • Hand-weeded enormous areas alongside the rock edging and toward the sideline of the property. The lot next door is unoccupied and woodsy, and I believe that’s where the chiggers hang out. My primary weedy nemesis looks like large wild violet; very common, at least on my property, but I don’t know what it’s called. There’s also a lot of invasive groundcover, mainly vinca, in need of drastic thinning.
  • After clearing an area, I lay down newspaper (New York Times, East Hampton Star), getting distracted by the occasional obituary, to suppress future weeds, like they say in the books.
  • Spread compost on top of the newspaper to hold it down
  • Took photos to document the process for y’all

I’m only partway into the project. Later on, I’ll be dividing and moving perennials and grasses from my other beds into this area. It will occupy me at least through August, along with my 45th high school reunion (no! can’t be!), an assignment for This Old House magazine, my weekly interview column for the website Curbed Hamptons, swimming in the bay, and socializing.

The area where I’ve been working is close to the house and what passes for sunny on my lot, and I look forward to seeing things thrive there that struggled elsewhere. But it is not the last frontier. That’ll be the area way in back, where I’m thinking ‘woodland garden,’ with rhodies and azaleas, if I ever get a deer fence. I’m of two minds about that now, what with the investment the new place will require.

Meanwhile, I go on, for the love of gardening and some inner imperative I feel to make order out of chaos and do my little bit to beautify the world.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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