Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Signs of Leaf

When the last of the snow from the "Blizzard of 2017" finally melted or was washed away by this week's heavy rain, MH rushed out to walk the property, gimpy knees and all, to put fertilizer on the lawn.

Fading white crocus - April 1, 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
He was not alone. Several men I saw - and it is usually men, either homeowners or hired - were doing the same or using leaf blowers to push off last year's detritus. It must be some sort of innate call of the wild.

I, meanwhile, took a walk around the garden and found - once again, despite my neglect - signs of life, although in most cases these were more signs of leaf.

I am currently rereading the letters of garden writers Katharine White (for the New Yorker; she was the wife of E.B. White) and Elizabeth Lawrence (for the Charlotte (NC) Observer). Their intense discussions of flower borders, little bulbs and the wreckage in the gardens caused by weather or failing bodies that just can't keep up seems even more relevant to me now than the first time I read this, several years ago.

Glory of the snow - April 1, 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
So, inspired by them, I, too, walked the property, eager to see what was doing well and what was not.

We had a warm February and that had started some plants growing way too early. Then the cold and snow came with March, and many of the plants went into suspended animation. The yellow crocuses hung around quite a while but the snowdrop came and went. Small narcissus started blooming but several of the larger daffodils caught mid-bloom when the cold came looked bedraggled. Before the blizzard I cut them and put them in water inside, to prolong their life. I did the same with a couple of branches of forsythia, another early bloomer.

Now, more daffodils are growing; more of the white, pink and purple crocus have appeared; and a little blue glory of the snow reminded me of its existence once the snow melted. But some of the daffodils in flower are much smaller than they should be. The leaves of the butterfly bush I rushed to cut back in mid-February as they proliferated are now dried up and I wonder if they will grow again. The forsythia looks very poor and the quince buds are still waiting for the weather signal to open. Same with the dogwood buds.

Budding dogwood - April 1, 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
However, all the rain has started the ornamental onions, the bleeding heart and the lilacs growing, the irises are getting taller, the tulips that had stopped growing have restarted, and all of these should open on time.

The birds have also been active. Goldfinches visit the feeder, the males just starting to show their breeding yellow feathers and black "cap" on the head. Cardinals and titmice are singing up a storm. Robins are everywhere. I walked along the Whippany River the other day with MH and we counted eight phoebes, a very early migrant. More birds will be coming north once things warm up, the trees leaf out and the bugs start flying. 

I would love to put in more early spring bloomers for the color but, except for the daffodils, they can be eaten by hungry deer, which have been browsing on my lawn for whatever little bits of grass they can get since the smaller shrubs are behind netting, along with the budding azaleas. It takes a lot of effort to kneel down and put in plants, particularly when dealing with deer netting.

Daffodils with newly growing bleeding heart at left (Margo D. Beller)
Neither White nor Lawrence mention deer, although White mentions red squirrels and other critters getting into some of her flower beds over the Maine winter. Lawrence despairs of bringing order to unruly beds. I'd love to have that problem of too many flowers. But while I inherited my grandfather's affinity for plants, I don't seem to have his stamina, at least at present.

What I do have is a huge desire to buy plants and put them in pots, both inside (where I have many flowering plants crowding my one sunny window sill) and out (behind netting). In my garage are boxes of canna roots and one dahlia I did just about everything wrong on and yet it flowered. I have seeds I have collected from vegetables and flowers. One of my friends has pepper seedlings growing on her window sill. She put hers in during the warm spell. Mine went into soil when it turned cold and have yet to come up in their pot.

I discovered this lenten rose (helleborre) flower on the morning of April 1, the first time the plant has flowered in years. (Margo D. Beller)
Luckily, I have more than enough seeds to try again and wait for those signs of life, or leaf, to remind me of rebirth and renewal.