Wouldn’t you think I would be an inveterate reader of prestigious garden books? Those tomes written by the great English designers at whose altars we bow on bended knee? Think Penelope Hobhouse, Rosemary Verey, Gertrude Jekyll.
You noticed. I know you did. I have faith in you. May 17th the leaves unfurled, the air smelled like spring, the ground said “go ahead, plant peas”. Here we go. Really, it seems like a late spring but it isn’t, its somewhat usual if there is a usual, a normal. Whatever we want to call it, spring is here.
This isn’t our first cold spring. Granted, it’s been a long time since we got to experience one of these. But here it is and we all need to face the challenge.
Cecilia, the 12 year old “grand,” spent two hours in the greenhouse with me. We transplanted annual starts that had been broadcast and were ready for a larger home. There is a batch that she will take to her own garden when the timing is much more conducive to outdoor life than it is now.
Sunday, April 8, was the day. It actually felt and smelled like spring. We’ve made it.
Trees. They are somewhat problematic. Their size, the years it takes to reach maturity, placement. They take thought and, to some extent, money. You don’t want to be hasty when the time comes to make a decision to replace, say, the gorgeous old spruce that succumbed to the spruce aphid infestation that struck them a couple of years ago. But there are those of us on the cusp of making just such a decision.
If you tell yourself enough times that our environment needs the snow — that the skiing is excellent, that spring will arrive at some point — then, hopefully, you will bear up under the weight of March.
I’m sorry to take the zippity-do-dah out of your step, but February is not spring and March is on its way, introducing itself either as a lion or a lamb. Its exit can be equally interesting. And — this IS the Far North. Most of us are here by choice, so get on your skis and make the most of this gorgeous weather and our lovely, groomed ski trails.
Red twig dogwoods. If you don’t have any of these, take action. The are readily and locally available. Be thinking about where you want to put them. The three planted in the east garden have gotten rather huge: 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide. That’s a lot of real estate. But the glory of their red branches is not to be underestimated. Be sure to pick a spot where you can see them from inside the house. They will give your late winter attitude a boost.
Until next year …
This would be an ideal time for you to pick out a spot on your lawn and turn it into a vegetable patch. Seriously. Now.
In spite of the rain we took off in our camper and drove the Denali Highway. Goodness. Gorgeous fall colors although we were too late for blueberries of which there are miles and miles of them. If this is a trip you have yet to take, do consider it. The road is gravel/mud and quite rough; the lodges are minimal so a camper is a good idea. Wildlife was few and far between. Hunting season was in full swing so we think the animals were driven back from the road. But we did see trumpeter swans, one family had six cygnets which must be some kind of record. Northern hawk owls, robins, Canada jays, ravens and a shrike rounded up the count. Interesting. We also observed spruce expanding their boundaries from tree line up the mountain sides. We have read about this but the evidence was clear. Changing climate.
It’s been so long since we had a blue sky. What a relief. I’m waterlogged and a tad grumpy and faced with way too much chard. While I was musing on this state of affairs the cranes made their collective decision to leave. And what an exit! I’m fortunate to garden because I am usually outside when the migration is in full swing. Today I got to share the experience with my book club. Excellent company to view a natural phenomena. What a day!
I’m a reluctant harvester, but harvest I must. After all, that’s the point of raising vegetables. The chard is getting its umpteenth cutting. We will be eating chard until the end of time. All this from a 3-foot square planted from seed. The stuff just won’t quit.
Friend and neighbor Sharon Baur has a delightful greenhouse. It is the perfect size for a small family. Really, how many tomatoes do you need? She and her husband, Marvin, harvested a lovely tomato (of course, she can’t remember the name of it) and made the one and only BLT that they will consume this season. And its gorgeous. If you too have dietary restrictions, toss them aside for one wonderful splurge and let that be a homemade BLT. Inside her tiny greenhouse are a couple of tomato plants and a gorgeous bell pepper “Tequila Red.” Really, who could ask for more?
We are now deep into the growing season and the vegetable harvest is well underway. All of the Romanesque cauliflower is in the freezer and the broccoli (Packman and Arcadia) continues to throw side shoots. The slugs are shy this season, possibly waiting for serious rain to start, so the lettuce is still in good supply.
Every growing season the garden is a different story. We gardeners never know what is going to thrive or stall. This year I have Magic Fountain delphiniums that have doubled their projected size. Needless to say, they don’t fit where they are planted, much to my chagrin and the lilies that are being crowded. If I had any inkling this was going to happen I would have divided them this spring. But no. So there they loom, a formidable presence in what would otherwise be a serene setting.
I have a new tool and I think I may be in love. It is a torch that I can use standing up to burn the plants growing in the stone pathway. I am finished, done, over, not ever again, weeding between these pieces of slate that we “harvested” along the highway near Hope. John called it “subsistence rocking” at the time. These rocks have broken off the main face and fallen into the ditch. Keep your eyes open if you are interested in creating a stone path. But, more important, get one of these torches first. They are locally available.
I stepped out the door this afternoon and the air was thrumming. The sound was somewhat like a chorus toning. It took a few minutes of intense listening to determine that the entire prunus virginiana “Shubert” was covered with honey bees. Covered. They definitely added an aural dimension to my day.
Where to start?