The little bulbs, Scilla siberica, Crocus, and Eranthis hyemalis have been up for a while but they fail to unfurl when the temperatures are cold. (I did sneak in the snowdrops). It is generally around 50F when the flowers open. We have had very few days with temperatures over 50F. Yesterday was the perfect spring day for working in the garden. You might disagree. I like it cool when pushing a wheelbarrow of compost and dragging leaves raked from the gardens. I noticed the flowers wide open while cleaning beds. It is very hard to stop raking and dragging and compost spreading to pick up the camera. It breaks the rhythm. I did force myself, i.e. needed to stop in order to rest the weary muscles, to run in and get the camera. The ground is fairly dry which is a good thing since photographing small flowers requires the prone position. Bright yellow is harsh this time of year and I must remember to put the Eranthis next to the scilla. A mixed bed would just be glorious. There is nothing so blue as this little scilla. Even the pollen is blue. One lone purple striped crocus is blooming in a corner of the garden. It is difficult to notice just one crocus especially one that is white and purple. It called to me begging to be noticed. It deserves better placement and more added. The small bulbs are a good way to start the spring season. They would get little attention if they bloomed at the same time as that showgirl, the herbaceous peony. What is your favorite small bulb. I cannot choose. I just can't. Thanks to Cindy of My Corner of Katy for her inspirational 'Three for Thursday'.
The light in the garden says spring but the temperatures are those of early February. Change comes fast in March and April, usually. The light levels indicate that preparations for this year's perfect vegetable garden must begin. There is one component absolutely necessary for a vegetable garden. A garden can have perfect soil with the best mix of compost, sand, silt, and clay along with the larger pieces of minerals in the form of rocks and pebbles. The micronutrients and microorganisms may all be present in abundance all ready to aid in plant growth but, without light, all is naught. Sunlight is necessary for high vegetable production. There are a few vegetables which will take less than full sun and still produce. Lettuce and some of the cole crops will produce with a half day of sun and lettuce actually needs a bit of shade during the high light days of summer. Gardens are not static, never done, always evolving and growing, and mine is surrounded by trees. Beautiful mature oaks, white pine, a few maple. Mostly oaks and oaks, white, black, and pin are wonderful shade trees with deep roots. You can always plant under the shade of an oak but you cannot plant vegetables. Not with great success. The past few decades have been wonderful for tree growth as evidenced by the growth rings on the latest victim.
This stately oak was starting to cast a shadow on the garden. It had a beautiful form and it will make beautiful lumber from the bottom trunk and it will also share its warmth as the wood is burned in the wood stove next January. It has not gone to waste. Taking down a large tree can be a major project especially if it is located in close proximity to a house or barn. Thankfully, I now have two Equipment Managers. Husband and son took down two oak trees on Saturday last. A tractor comes in handy if there is any breeze which may misdirect the landing zone. Chainsaw and tractor, along with very handy men made short work of downing the trees. Taking the trees down is the easy part. Taking them apart requires much more time and effort. I believe it was Henry David Thoreau who wrote the words "Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice" referring to the chopping and then the burning. Even with a chain saw it is still a job which requires energy and produces a bead of sweat on the brow but it is also a job which produces a tangible and satisfying conclusion. Wood on the hearth and light for the garden. Here is a video of the procedure. The commentary is directed at my filming companion, 2 year old Hailey, who watched her Dad and Papa take down a tree on a very cold March morning. Here is what is left of the other oak. You can see how much work still needs to be done before the corn is planted in this patch.
Last Friday was a gloriously warm day with temperatures hitting 70F but that warmth lasted just one day and since Friday evening freezing night temperatures and daytime temperatures in the 40's are holding everything in suspended animation. Snow is falling as I write on this first full day of spring. The balance does not seem to have been achieved here yet. The snow does look pretty and will not last long. Plant roots are alive and well and pushing the top growth although there are just nibbins of green here and there. Garden cleanup has commenced and the long left shade border is cleaned and composted as is the entrance bed. I mix organic fertilizer with compost in the wheelbarrow and apply it to all beds. Well, all beds is the goal but sometimes I fall short. There are a couple of snowdrops blooming in this bed right now but in just a few weeks it should be covered with white crocus and the perennials will be popping up. Last year it looked like this
on April 6th.
The fish pond beds are cleaned but remain bare of compost and the ornamental grasses wait, flat on the ground from all the winter's snow, to be burned. I am getting closer to achieving the river of snowdrops as I did transplant some of them here under the rhododendrons which have been pruned by the deer population. There is much to do in the garden but my motto is 'one bed at a time'. Gardeners often get a reputation for their behavior but this one is desireable and deserved especially as it refers to 'garden beds'.
Today is St. Patrick's Day. Right on cue the little white snowdrops unfurled to reveal the green. They have been closed up tight as the temperatures were cool all week. Until today. Today the thermometer rose to 62 F and the snowdrops opened at about 55F. They have a very sweet fragrance and someday I hope to have rivers of them. Yes, rivers. It is a goal. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
This bloom day brings actual outside blooms. Not many and this first bunch of snowdrops is resisting opening fully but I am counting them as blooms anyway. Temperatures are still quite chilly although today was sunny. I think the key temperature for fully opening of snowdrop blooms must be somewhere above 45F. Thursday is supposed to be in the high fifties so perhaps that will push these white delights open to reveal their green chevron. This hellebore is the only one in bloom although all of the others are budded up. I love the pure white hellebores. This one has had its foliage clipped but the bed has yet to be cleaned out. There are still patches of snow here and there. The stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, is showing the green in time for St. Patrick's Day on Thursday. The winter aconites in this bed are starting to show color. I have planted many but some are buried under snow and others are not yet showing growth. There is one lone yellow crocus in a back bed which was planted over twenty years ago. It neither dies out or spreads and I have come to look for its solitary bloom when the temperatures moderate. The purple crocus in the front are still blooming although they were shut tight today given the temperature. Inside, I have a blue plumbago which is blooming. Baby blue is not a common flower color and I find this one quite a unique shade. It will be a great outdoor container plant this season. Also blooming is this phalaenopsis orchid. Phalaenopsis orchids are relatively easy houseplants. I've only killed a couple in my life. There is so much to do in the gardens at this time of year that it is difficult not to become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the tasks. The pups, Tucker and Cooper, are quite unconcerned though and posed for Bloom Day. They know they are the biggest blooms in the garden. Many thanks to Carol of May Dreams for sharing the blooms. Even though I have just a few, I can visit gardens all over the world via her inspiration of Bloom Day. That should satisfy the craving for blooms.
Spring is over a week away according to the calendar but the garden rarely waits for the specific date as Mother Nature has a schedule all her own. These are the only flowers in the garden. They are revered for that fact alone. The bees do not know that they are here yet. I am going to pay attention and watch for that first pollinator. It is still cold. There is still snow. Spring will come and go for the next few weeks alternating with late winter but spring will take over. It is inevitable.
Big changes are afoot. The gravel garden has appeared and even the drismal day cannot keep the yucca from glowing. February, my least favorite month of the year, is gone. Nothing really changes much in February except perhaps the heightened angle of the sun. March, however, is a month of changes. Changes which can occur daily. Last week the garden looked like this, and now, this. This week, seven days later, the snow is receding at a fast clip. Much of the garden still has snow but there are very clear patches showing. The back border faces the southwest and it is the first to emerge from the frozen claw of winter's grasp. I can imagine starting to clean out this border soon. The GFSD, or mini-Stonehenge, is also materializing and there is green to be seen here. The daffodils and daylilies are showing. This daylily already shows a bit of a nip by some hungry beast. I am hoping that the patch of rye grass will keep flower munching to a minimum. It is time to spray a repellent once again. Even though the weather is less than desirable today, the morning walk was inspiring. The changes are clearly visible. There will be blooms for March Bloom Day. What is inspiring you in your garden this week?