The old stalwarts of spring

It’s that time of year when we start to find out what’s coming back in the garden. Tufts of new growth pop out from the crowns of perennials as they break their dormancy. The usual suspects were up as I walked the garden this morning. Narcissus, Geum, Iris, and Sedum. They’re the ones I’d expect this early — the old stalwarts of spring with tough foliage that can stand dips below freezing.

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A sprig of spring

We woke to a snow globe of a day, wet flakes stirred into a frenzy by the trailing winds of the nefariously-named bomb cyclone. It made my decision to retire my winter coat for the season a bit short-sighted. On days like these, where the tease of spring is retracted by Jack Frost’s last gasps, it’s wonderful to come home and see the hope of a new season. The first vine of the Clematis starts I have growing on my kitchen sink has burst forth with a green only found in plants just born. This one is a C. jackmanii, so I think I’ll call it Jack Jack for now. Once its purple blooms grace the garden fence later this summer, I’ll give it a more regal name.

Our first inkling of spring

The march of the daffodils has begun. The length and warmth of days has slowly increased, enough to trigger the energy within the dormant bulbs to activate. I’ve lived long enough to not be surprised by the bright green tips emerging through winter’s brown, but each year I feel a joy as if I’ve never seen them before. An old friend, reincarnated, perhaps.

With less than two official weeks of winter left on the calendar, the daffodils’ arrival is the first sign of renewal. I haven’t yet added hellebore or witch hazel — the usual harbingers of winter’s end — in my new garden, so, for now, the trusty old daffodils will serve as our first inkling of spring.

Fall colors in the garden

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As we enter November, fall color is deep and plentiful after a week of cool, wet weather. Whether the sky is overcast grey or brilliant blue, the reds, oranges, and yellows pop. The weight of the rain brought many leaves to the ground, creating a carpet around and over our gardens. Perennials may be on their way into dormancy, but they’re refusing to go without one last show of gold.

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Presence over time

IMG_9271It’s interesting how those of us in four-season climates talk about the plants in our gardens — in terms of how long they’ll last. Annuals come and go in one growing season. Perennials come back every year, but mostly lie dormant below the ground in winter. Trees and shrubs — we think of them as the bones, the stalwart foundation, that last for years, perhaps a lifetime. We cherish them for their presence over time, rather than their value in the moment.

We do the same for people, don’t we? Read More

Bring out your dead

Frost took out the tender annuals this week, so it was time to do some cleanup. I walked through the garden, throwing the wilted carcasses of coleus, impatiens, and begonias into the wheelbarrow with the the voice of Monty Python’s cart master in my head.

Bring out your dead.

Bring out your dead.

I may have imagined one tougher than average coleus protest.

I’m not dead. I don’t want to go on the cart. I feel fine.

Pluck. Toss.

You’ll be soon dead in a moment.

Perhaps these thoughts are best left in my head, but I couldn’t resist sharing a little garden humor as the season comes to an end.

Harvest light

I spent most of this beautiful weekend laying six yards of mulch to define new beds and borders for next phase of our landscape redesign. On weekends when I’m focused on working in the garden, I sometimes forget to stop and enjoy it. This afternoon, after a shower to clean the layer of mulch off myself, I took a quick stroll with my camera. I wanted to catch the harvest light in the garden — a quality that only occurs this time of year. The angle trending south. The warmth that belies the chill in the air.

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My favorite corner of the garden

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The office garden has become my favorite corner of the landscape. It was the last garden I designed this summer, the one that kept calling my name even though I knew the days were too hot and my budget too thin.  I wonder if it’s because I saw it all the time, through the home office window, while I enjoyed my morning coffee, or grilled on the back patio.

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Oh, ash, we barely knew thee

I remember when I took my first walk around the garden the day of the home inspection. I stopped at the ash tree in the right of way, thinking, I bet that’s ‘Autumn Purple’, my favorite cultivar of Fraxinus americana. Even though the branches were bare in early spring, I could imagine the striking fall color — purple with yellow undersides.

I also knew it was only a matter of time before that voracious little bug, the emerald ash borer, would be carving its subway tunnels under the bark, depriving the tree of water and other nutrients.

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