Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Woodland wake-up

This early in April, the little patch of open space across the street seems still asleep. But the morning knocking of woodpeckers in the tree canopy, the rumbling of passing trains, and the leaf-crunching footsteps of an occasional rambler suggest that spring has started to wake up.

On close inspection, early ephemerals can be spotted popping up on the forest floor.  Clutches of wild Northern white violets are scattered over the damper areas. Why are they so much lovelier than their invasive purple cousins?  Is it location (lawn vs parkland)? Or size (scrubby vs. robust)? Or just familiarity (ugh, another weed vs. native novelty)? 

Northern white violets (Viola pallens)

A bit distant and, thankfully, easier to spot, are several spreads of naturalized spring squills. Not native, perhaps, but most welcome during these chilly days.  Judging from the amount of territory that they have colonized, the first bulbs must have been planted decades ago.
Spring squills (Scilla siberica)
Of more recent vintage are the clumps of daffodils that my husband tends along the road verge opposite our house.  Late season purchases of discounted bulbs from the local big box store, augmented by a spring application of 3-5-3, help to spur these along. Every year that they return and bloom is an achievement given the onslaught of street salt, highway mowing, and flower pluckers.
Daffodil "King Alfred"

Perhaps rows and rows of yellow flowers will someday form an audience, like these springtime spectators watching crew races along the river. Ah, yes, it is time to wake up!

April rowers on the Charles

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

On the chilly cusp

To welcome our early Easter (and our holiday guests), I set out a big pot of tulips and pansies by the front door.  The weekend was blessed with sunshine and mild temperatures and, for just a few days, spring was quite electrically in the air.

Well, that's pretty much over now.  We are teetering on the cusp between the seasons: above freezing temperatures during the day but sub-freezing temperatures at night. 

The  Farmers' Almanac publishes a nifty little guide to frost for gardeners, including some handy terminology.  

Light freeze: 29-32 degrees F.  Tender plants killed with little destruction of other vegetation

Moderate freeze: 25-28 degrees F.  Wide destruction of most vegetation with heavy damage to fruit blossoms and tender semi-hardy plants.

Severe freeze: 24 degrees F and below. Heavy damage to most plants.

Of course, the degree of damage depends on the frost duration, micro-climate, altitude, and the other elusive factors that account for gardening's unaccountability.

Although pansies are tough little fellows, a severe freeze will turn their foliage. They are happiest when the night temperatures are around 40 degrees and the day hits 60 degrees.  That's actually our average temperature this time of year . . . well, other years, that is. Tulips fare slightly better in these chilly circumstances, with little effect until the temperatures slide down into the low 20's and below.

So, as we're looking at moderate freezes over the next few nights, it's fortunate that this pot can simply heaved a few feet off the front step and into the warmth of the front vestibule. It's hard to believe that our average last spring frost is April 7, less than a week away.  Get shining, sun!