52 Weeks in the Garden: Week 8 – Anticipation

Spring is slowly coming to Cherry Creek. Temperatures fluctuated within a seasonable range this week, but grey skies returned. A couple of inches of wind-driven snow fell overnight Thursday, but was nearly melted when I walked the gardens on Saturday morning. I looked closely at the ground and along branches for signs of new growth. As much as I’m craving spring’s arrival, I know that too much growth too soon can be disastrous in the garden. We are far from being safe of damaging frosts.

The Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) still shows now signs of breaking dormancy. A look at its base, however, revealed the small sprouts of Narcissus (Daffodils) breaking through the mulch. I planted more than 1,000 new bulbs last fall, and purposely noted the variety names but not the planting locations. Already, I’m trying to guess which varieties will emerge first, creating an intense element of anticipation and surprise in the garden.

Once I saw the daffodil shoots, my eyes were keen for more color among the brown mulch. I found the shoots of peonies and tulips, but what brought the biggest smile to my face were the tiny rosettes emerging from the base of Hylotelphium ‘Matrona’. When I chose this plant as one of the main characters in this weekly garden series, I knew it was one of the earliest perennials to break dormancy. Its thick, succulent foliage is more hardy than other herbaceous plants, making it less susceptible to late frosts.

Not to be outdone, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ continues to push toward spring. Slowly, its buds swell and new buds emerge along the stems. Of all the shrubs in the landscape, I’m most worried about ‘Blushing Bride’. I’d love for this shrub to bloom to its full potential in this first year, and that means blooming from old wood. If the buds from last fall end up frost damaged, the shrub can resort to blooming on new wood, but the show won’t be as grand.

As I write this, we’re under a severe thunderstorm watch, the surest sign that spring is right around the corner.  The anticipation that brews in the air before an approaching thunderstorm is not unlike the anticipation that I’m feeling for spring in the garden. Of all the years I’ve been gardening, I’ve never felt the need for spring more than I do this year.

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