Wednesday, November 2, 2011
In February 2010, Rob and I dug a pond in our yard. It’s about 12 feet long and 3 feet deep at the deepest end. Where the pond is now, there used to be nothing but invasive plants, a tangled thicket of nandina, ardisia, ligustrum, camphor, and wisteria. It was a wasteland.
The first thing we did was get rid of the invasives. That meant cutting them again and again, and mowing and weed-eating. Then we dug the pond and surrounded it with limestone rocks (the only kind of rock found naturally in Florida). We designed a huge bed around the pond and mulched it with newspaper and wood chips to kill the grass and low-growing, non-woody invasive weeds (bordergrass and old-world climbing fern). Then we filled the pond with water and goldfish and eelgrass and hornwort.
We built and painted a picket fence around the pond that summer, in 2010. We painted it dark black-green, like the fence that borders the front of our front yard. It took weeks to paint the many surfaces of that fence, and while we worked the goldfish had babies.
It wasn’t until November 2010 that I was able to plant the first plants around the pond. In Florida, planting season runs from November through February; the rest of the year it’s too hot to plant—or it’ll be getting too hot too soon. Inside the fence I planted Shi-Shi Gashira sasanquas, a leucothoe, sweetshrub, a Walter’s viburnum, a bluestem palmetto, coonties, needle palms, beautyberry, arrowwood, hearts-a-bustin’, and three Piedmont azaleas –and then I ran out of time. It was February 2011, a dry, hot, weird February.
2011 has been the driest year I can remember. All summer I was hand-watering, every day, trying to keep my plants alive. I was worrying, too, that this drought isn't just an aberration, part of a natural fluctuation, but the beginning of a trend, the early days of a new reality--a hotter, drier Quincy.
Now it’s planting season again, but it still hasn’t started raining, so I’m planting—but cautiously. I’m concentrating my efforts in one area, just the pond garden, so I can keep everything watered. So far I’ve planted Christmas ferns, royal ferns, lady ferns, and southern wood ferns. I love ferns. A homeless man I once knew called them "fairies," and I thought that was such a good name, because ferns are so ethereal, so magical.