Will the garden win this year?

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In the battle between me and my backyard — extensively landscaped by its prior owner ( a childless retiree) — I have something working in my favor. This year, for the first time since we moved here, my 3-year-old is showing a great interest in slipping on her her rubber butterfly boots and spending hours filling up her watering can with the hose. With this kind of assistance, it’s possible that I might win the weeding, mulching backyard battle. I’m always optimistic in the springtime when the foliage is a bit bashful and easy to yank from the soft ground. But I had to go away for a few days and when I returned, the yard seemed to already be turning on me. The lilies of the valley and hostas have spread out across the vast flower beds. The poppies are about to bloom and the little round nubs atop the peonies are beginning to blush. That’s the good news. Dandelions are shooting up too numerous to count. The Virginia Creeper is creeping. And my juniper shrubs seem to have contracted a brown gel-like disease that might be rust. It was this garden and its little bridge arching over a fish pond that made me fall in love with this house. I remember standing in the garden in the rain deciding to myself how I’d love to stay right there while my husband kept telling me we were late to see the next house. He still hates all the yard work. I knew absolutely nothing about gardening when I moved here. My saving grace has been the Maryland Cooperative Extension and the Home and Garden Information Center it operates in conjunction with the University of Maryland. I’ve used their site to determine what diseases were claiming my dogwood trees (it was fatal). I’ve used the extension’s Harford County office in dowtown Forest Hill to identify poison ivy. It took me three trips with photos I’d snapped of various three-leaved weeds before the master gardener took one look and pointed with conviction “That’s it there.” Now I make it a hobby to hunt poison ivy in other people’s yards. My yard still doesn’t look like a master gardener lives here anymore. But at least I know what I’m up against.