Monday, April 04, 2016

Spring uncertainties

I'm thinking of Robert Frost's "A Prayer for Spring" on this early April day:

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Pansies and tulips last week . . .

Because with the uncertainties of a New England spring, it's difficult to look beyond what blows in with the next change of weather.  Thoughts of harvest are very far away on this snowy day.

The same, today

Friday, April 01, 2016

Weeding weather

When spring starts to shift gears, the siren song of the garden becomes irresistible.  The temperature rises, the days lengthen, and dirt finds its way under one's fingernails. I think that the scent of turned earth--petrichor perfume--is just as hard-wired to happiness as the smell of baking bread, Chanel No. 5, or freshly-mown grass.

As soon as the soil warms, early spring is a great time to weed.  The plants that need to be removed can be easily pulled, and the ones that need to stay haven't yet ensnared weeds in their roots or secreted them in their foliage.

Sprouts from left to right, top to bottom: sedum, monarda, stachya, marsh marigold/moss/grass, dicentra, lovage, mystery, sedum, iris reticulata

This spring, I have two major weeding campaigns to conduct: (1) a recently added beebalm (Monarda "Pink Lace") has exposed its mint family breeding by aggressively and indiscriminately spreading the heck all over the place and, (2) over the years, numerous lambs' ears plants (Stachys byzantina) have quietly colonized older stands of Siberian irises. I have new homes staked out for these runaways.  As they say, a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, and I look forward to magically transforming these beebalm and lambs' ears plants from bad to good.

And then, there is just the garden-variety weeding: cleaning out mosses, grass, and ground ivy from the rain garden, edging beds, and yanking clumps of oxalis, purslane, and celandine. No redemption there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring blues

Welcome to spring in New England.  To ring in the equinox, last week, the professionals cleared out a winter's worth of lawn thatch, leaves and twigs. Over the weekend, I sprinkled about 10 lbs. of fertilizer over the spreads of naturalized and bedded bulbs. And, then, the next day, it snowed.

Iced irises: Iris reticulata "Katherine Hodgkin"
While the daffodil foliage is about six inches high and a few varieties are even starting to bloom, most of the bulbs are still a few weeks away from hitting their stride. Thank you, global warming: the garden thinks that it's April in March. Until it's February in March. And back again.

Saturday, March 05, 2016


Please tell me that spring is just around the corner, and it's okay to hit the button on a garden re-boot: plants to order, spaces to plan, and the smell of warming earth to anticipate. Pay no attention to the snow squalls swirling and spinning today.

One of the first spring start-up efforts has to go towards overhauling my dahlia situation.  After several years of the lazy person's approach to tuber overwintering, these plants are simply not flowering as heavily as they should. The glory of dahlias is their shameless, perhaps vulgar, garishness--blooms ranked as "dinner plate" size and sparking neon bright--but even those varieties more restrained in appearance bring a much needed energy to the late summer garden. 

Because I primarily cut dahlias for indoors arrangements, I'm casting about for a color palette in shades of apricot, fuschia, and maroon and a flower size that fits comfortably into a table-top vase.

Dahlia palette (
The American Dahlia Society has classified flowers by size, shape, and color, so it's possible to sort through the vertiginous array of varieties.  Because the most popular types sellout quickly and no nurseries carry an encyclopedic selection, I typically end up placing orders with a number of suppliers: this year, Arrowhead, Swan Island, and Ferncliff Gardens.

Kelsey Radiance (CO DB = collarette, dark blend) 
Rose Toscano (M FD OR = less than 4", formal decorative, orange)
Lights Out (M FD DR = less than 4", formal decorative, dark red)
Uptown Girl (BB FD DP = 4"-6", formal decorative,  dark pink)

Can't wait for the deliveries, along with warm weather and sunshine, to arrive in April.  Can planting time be so very far away?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Deal sealed (or about Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum "Varigatum")

Last summer, I wrote about scavenging a clump of Variegated Solomon's Seal from a construction site near work.  Once home, these bedraggled, tattered, debris-coated plants were tucked in a shady bed populated by hostas, sweet woodruff, and various shade-loving weeds.

This spring, the Solomon's Seals came up with bells on.  Well, at least they boasted small white pendant blossoms that look a bit like bells. The "odoratum" and "pluriflorum" portions of its Latin name are a tip to the sweet scent of its many flowers.

It's great when plantings that look this great cost absolutely nothing.  I'll try to remember that dash of kismet when I'm moaning over the sad remains of some costly specimen.  Because dead plants are  definitely part of the gardening deal.