My garden | 03.27.11

It’s officially spring here at Cherry Creek. Although the temperatures have been more wintry than warm at the end of this twelfth week of 2011, the garden is undeniably breaking bud into the new growing season. The plants have shifted from dormancy into active growth. The buds on trees and shrubs have begun to emerge through their protective scales, revealing that most refreshing of colors: spring green. Bulbs have sprouted all over the garden, and the basal foliage of some perennials has begun to grow.

Narcissus (Daffodils) at base of Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

At the base of the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) in the northwest border, the familiar shapes of Narcissus (Daffodil) shoots emerge through the mulch. I planted these daffodils last fall, so I’m interested to see how they look up against the flaking bark of the tree. The neighbor’s Silver Maple (Acer saccarhinum) is dropping flower buds all over the ground, perhaps as a result of the consecutive days of sub-freezing temperatures. Maybe this will mean fewer maple seedlings throughout the garden this year.

Flower buds on Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

From the ground, the redbud itself looked dormant. Finding this hard to believe, I bent one of the lower branches down for closer inspection. On the terminal ends of the branches, the tiny, purple flower buds have begun to break.

Tulips with Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in background

In the driveway border, the Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ looked similarly dormant, so I decided to focus on the bulbs coming up around its base.  The curved, red-tinged foliage of tulips (a combination of ‘Triumph’ and ‘Purissima’) reach skyward with the brown branches of ‘Blushing Bride’ in the background.

Emerging leaves on Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’

As I rose from the tulips, I noticed a flash of green coming from the base of the hydrangea and thought it might be a weed. But it appears that leaf litter insulated the basal leaf buds, creating enough sustained warmth to initiate bud break. In northern gardens, H. macrophylla is notorious for breaking bud too early and getting hit by early spring frosts. I may pile leaves around the base to give them some extra protection until more seasonable weather returns.

Basal foliage rosettes on Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’

The third character in our 52-week story — Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ — has no doubt emerged from its winter nap. Along with other sedums in the garden, including the popular ‘Autumn Joy’, ‘Matrona’ has sent out a healthy set of basal rosettes that seem impervious to the cold. Its blue-green foliage complements the nearby blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’) perfectly.  I look forward to the aftermath of spring rains, when the rosettes will form bowls that collect large water droplets.

Our forecast calls for a few more days of colder-than-normal weather, but by next weekend we should be back in the normal range for this time of year. Despite the nip in today’s air, most of the garden is breaking bud and getting into the full swing of spring.