Some Aprils starts chilly and end warm; this year there was just a very gradual warming trend and slowly, ever so slowly did the perennials come back to life. First there is solid much in all of the beds, then a nose or two from hostas peek up. There is a bit of red from peony stems as they reappear and grow while fern fronds unfold ever so gracefully.
A little rain fell; no really, very little rain fell. At first it didn’t seem to matter that much. The ground was still pretty saturated from winter precipitation, but as the weeks went by an occasional thorough soaking from a hose was needed to make up for lack of rain. When it finally did rain, the entire garden immediately perked up. Somewhere in mid April the Hellebores were at their best. As they are blooming in all their splendor I make my way through the garden trying to see which were best. The yellow blooming varieties, in a somewhat understated yellow when compared with daffodils, were a favorite, but some of the “winter jewel” varieties with their ruffled double flowers were equally pretty. Today there are so many different varieties of Hellebores around that it is hard to pick a favorite. Then, when conditions are right, these sturdy, long lived perennials reseed themselves with abandon and all you have to do is wait a year or two, maybe three, and watch these babies bloom.
Clematis, those nice mostly climbing vines which occasionally go into a complete faint and die back to the ground, were also slow in reaching up for the sky. Clematis vines fall into three categories; those that bloom on the “old vine” and which are pruned immediately after the first flowering in spring; those that can be cut to the ground in spring and which bloom on all of the new growth in late spring, early summer and those that bloom from the old stems developed over the previous year as well as on new growth. My double entry into the garden has a riotous combination of all three types of clematis and each spring I struggle to figure out which ones need a light pruning, a complete haircut or no cut at all. Some years I get it right, some years I am a bit off. Sometimes a vine will go into that complete faint, leaving a withered skeleton behind which is eventually covered up by others. But, sooner or later, and this year a month or so late, my entrance drips with flowers, small and large, and I know there is much more to come. A clematis seedling, and they pop up all over my garden each year, was put at the trunk of my corkscrew hazelnut (aka Harry Lauder’s walking stick). Now in its third year it is blooming its heart out and making its way up to the top of this shrub. However, my poor corkscrew hazelnut sustained some serious winter damage and the lack of rain apparently made matters worse. It is very slow in pushing out leaves and some major branches seem to have died back completely. While this shrub always looks it best in late fall and winter when the twisting branches can be seen without the leaves, seeing this shrub in April with nary a leaf on its branches is a bit of a shock, especially when the rest of the garden is covered in green. For now I hold my fingers crossed most branches will recover and I won’t have to do major pruning on this majestic shrub.
As always, winter can wreak havoc in a garden, but so can a spring storm, heavy rain or lack of rain. I take it as it comes. A lack of water can be remedied from the hose. Something that doesn’t make it through the winter opens up room for something new, or for new varieties of old favorites. It’s a garden; you can do whatever you want and that’s exactly what I do.