Messy Upkeep

I appreciate a stately, classic rock wall. These manmade puzzles of stone add weight and stability to gardens at Coppertop. We are fortunate to have two, long rock retaining walls, one along the driveway directly across from the front door, and one on the north side of the house which we cleared about a month ago.

For many weeks we’ve neglected cleaning up the plants along the driveway’s rock wall. The last time I weeded and trimmed this area was Ash Wednesday, and that was around when I took this photo:


The fence sits directly behind a 3-ft deep border of plants, and other plants grow from crevices in the wall. This section of garden is easy to neglect because we don’t look out on it as often as we enjoy the views toward the water. However, it’s across from the front entry of our home and needs to be a welcoming spot.

Yesterday afternoon I began to tackle this area by cutting back large sword ferns, Polystichum munitum. The new fronds in the very center of each fern are just beginning to unfurl, so I carefully cut away all brown, dried fronds.



We have hundreds, if not thousands of these sword ferns in the understory of our undeveloped acres, and I will only trim back a few! These are classified as evergreen ferns, but in a chilly northern climate, the older fronds can end up looking ragged, so I’ll prune a few ferns that are suffocating other plants or are in prominent locations where their old brown fronds stand out.

Plants I recognize atop the wall:  sword ferns, coral bells, lady’s mantle, low-growing evergreen conifers, sedum, azaleas, forget-me-nots, and ground covers including golden creeping jenny, candytuft, vinca/periwinkle, rock cress and others I can’t name.

Along the 70-foot wall, weeds are taking over, so when Hubby came home we weeded, and I’ll complete the weeding today. He removed a dead azalea, an errant volunteer spruce, a patch of ivy, and a good number of unwanted alder saplings. While two does nibbled plants uphill from us, we also shoveled moss and plenty of Northwest native palmate coltsfoot – Petasites palmatus – which have tumbled downhill and encroached on the driveway gravel. I’ve seen these moisture-loving plants all over town:


This part of garden care is some of the messiest, and since the day was a drippy one, getting muddy was inevitable. Good thing we love rain!

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”
– John Updike




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