Every year, the Carding, Vermont Garden Club organizes a weekend-long “Home and Garden” tour as a fundraiser for its work to beautify the town. Most of the time, this event generates friendly competition as well as collaboration among Carding’s dirt diggers.
And let’s face it, it’s just so much fun to wander through other people’s gardens knowing that any weeds you see are someone else’s to pull.
However, there’s a new twist to the decidedly non-competitive spirit of the event this year—a new gardener who believes that winning is everything.
Hope you enjoy this three-part competition, a favorite among Chronicle readers. Part 2 arrives next week with the grand finale two weeks from today.
The Carding, Vermont Garden Club is pleased to invite every gardener in town to participate in their annual “Home and Garden Tour” on the third weekend of July.
Back in March, the little green postcards bearing these words brightened up mailboxes and community bulletin boards all over Carding. At the time, seed packets were just starting to appear on racks in Cooper’s General Store, and Lee Tennyson had barely accepted delivery of the compressed peat flats in which he would start everything from lobelia to geraniums, begonias, pansies, petunias, and coleus for his greenhouses.
In other words, July seems like a long way away when there’s snow on the ground.
By April, conversations around the coffee mugs in the Crow Town Bakery had turned from the right way to sand a driveway to hopes for a good growing season. You know the drill—not too hot for too many days, not too much rain either, every weather condition in moderation, and no frost after Memorial Day though it would be better for everybody if frost never appeared again after May 1.
But that just never happens.
Gardeners began to potter out to their garden sheds to assess the tool situation, sharpen their clippers, fit that new handle into the square-ended shovel, and check the hoses for splits and cracks.
Andy Cooper put out his first bags of compost on May 3 and suddenly, every gardener in town felt the pressure to weed even though the ground was still cold and very wet.
You have the full range of gardeners in Carding. There’s folks such as Edie Wolfe who inherited her mother’s mature gardens along with her family home. In other words, her peonies are older than she is.
That makes Edie a “maintainer,” separating and replanting the iris on a regular schedule, controlling the day lily hedge along the road, and tucking in marigolds to replace the narcissus after they’ve spent their flowering energy early in spring.
Edie’s best friends, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findley, are like “two paths that diverged in a wood” when it comes to gardening. Agnes is very precise. Her autumn joys never droop. Her bronze hens and chicks rigidly maintain their heart shape within a greater field of green succulents by the same name. Her escargot begonia’s leaves always swirl perfectly in their aubergine pot by her shaded front door.
They wouldn’t dare do otherwise.
Ruth, on the other hand, likes to take her gardening cues directly from nature which seems to do just fine without a lot of human interference, thank you very much. She does manage to put taller plants in the back of her gardens and yank the grass back from the worst of its intrusions.
But otherwise, her red bee balm runs riot with the buttery yellow of the evening primroses and her lime green spirea with its strawberry-ice-cream-colored flowers is taller than anyone has ever seen that plant grow before because, Ruth says, “it would inflict too much pain to prune it. Besides, I like it that way.”
I have to confess that Ruth’s gardening style drives Agnes crazy, and she’s often threatened to show up and weed in the middle of the night.
But she doesn’t.
The three friends used to maintain a mild competitive spirit among themselves during the Home and Garden Tour. Edie would win one year, Agnes the next, and much to everyone’s surprise, Ruth would take the trophy once in a while.
But now they demur from competition. Instead they use the frail and fleeting time from the arrival of compost bags at Cooper’s to the garden show as a spur to get their grounds into shape so they can enjoy the rest of the summer at their leisure.
But the same cannot be said of Carding newcomer G.G. Dieppe. Mrs. Dieppe, as she likes to be called, does not hold with this non-competitive concept. The idea is to win.
And even though she’s never gardened before, how hard can it be to buy better plants than anyone else and hire someone to put them in the ground?
“All it takes is money,” she told Andy Cooper. Of course he alerted Edie, Agnes and Ruth right away.
And the chase for the Carding Gardening Club trophy was on.
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
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