It’s just past mid-May and we are once more stuck with lower temperatures and rain. This week we received over 2.5 inches of rain and there is more in the forecast for the next three days.
Last week we spent a few very nice days in Holland. Holland, Michigan, that is. Each year they hold their annual tulip festival and we certainly admired them all over town. Holland also has the one and only Dutch windmill bought from the Dutch Government and brought abroad to the USA. It was originally built in 1761 and brought to Holland, MI, in 1964. It has been fully restored and is now a working windmill in a pastoral setting among (of course) the tulips and many other blooming plants. Once the tulips are done blooming on Windmill Island Gardens they are removed and replaced with annuals, which will give the gardens an entirely new look for the remainder of the seasons.
When we returned home I found myself in possession of a large cardboard box full of live plants; my long awaited delivery. I spent the next few days on hands and knees in the garden digging holes. Right now most of these new plants, a lot of them daylilies, don't look like much. They are a bit yellowed from being in a box and they certainly would appreciate sunshine to grow and perhaps, throw out a flower or two. I also got new hostas, a few miniatures, a few large hostas and a few of the "mouse" series. I don't know which "mouse" hosta came first, but I started my mouse addiction with blue mouse ears, followed by mighty mouse, sun mouse, church mouse and now monster ears. There are currently 50+ varieties of "mouse" hostas so I still have a way to go if I want to collect them all. As I walk through the garden now I am amazed how lush everything looks after some warm weather followed by rain, rain and more rain. There is one bright spot in the garden where low growing thyme has spread like a small carpet, hugging rock and cascading between them. Most of the time it is a rather bland, just green, ground cover, but when it blooms you can't miss it.
What a difference a day, nay, a week to ten days makes. We went from cold and gloomy to a bit warmer with sunshine and my garden shows it. The noses of the hostas are reappearing, the snowflakes are up and out in full view and the yellow magnolia bloomed; short but magnificently. Despite my worst fears even the Cercis Canadensis, or Canadian redbud, bloomed. The birds may have rubbed off the blossom on the lower branches, but the upper branches were a sight to behold.
As I am starting to make the rounds again at the local nurseries I suddenly find myself enchanted by a new color; yellow. I have never been a fan of yellow, other than maybe for daffodils in early spring. I once put in a small yellow garden in honor of my mother who absolutely loved any yellow flower, but my taste ran from pink to blue. However, in this new garden I have introduced shrubs which either bloom in yellow (witch hazel and forsythia) or are green and yellow colored year-round (Hinoki Cypress and Goldthread Cypress). And then there is my ‘Rising Sun’ Cercis Canadensis which has yellow/orange/green leaves. Suddenly yellow seems to be everywhere and I like it! The other day I picked up multiple 12-packs of buttery yellow snapdragons and then went back for more. I lined the path in the butterfly garden with them and plan on using the remainder along the bed next to the driveway which is also home to ‘big smile’ daylily with its lemon-yellow flowers. I sowed seeds for creeping zinnia (which bloom in yellow) and with some luck, in the same beds, I will have seedlings from last year’s (yellow) Melampodium.
In a few more days I can finally bring out the coleus I have been growing in the basement for months now. The larger varieties are already over a foot tall and will go in the backyard slightly behind and in between the shrubs. The smaller varieties will be dotted around the garden in the various beds. Next week should bring a flurry of activity to put them all in the ground.
Meanwhile, The Spouse and I have been busy making lawn disappear. The corner of the front yard where I planted shrubs last fall has been “papered over” (with heavy duty contractors’ paper) and we put down several inches of mulch on top. Now all I have to do is find outdoor furniture and we will have a cozy new sitting area. It will give me an opportunity to sit down with neighbors when they catch me as I am working out front. Besides, one can never have enough spaces to sit in the garden, if only for a different view!
I am anxiously awaiting delivery of plants, ordered many months ago. One supposedly is already on its way; the Fed-Ex website shows the labels were printed but stubbornly refuses to tell me where the package is. Please don’t be lost in transit! I drooled over the pictures of the plants as I was picking them out of the catalog; I don’t want to wait another year for delivery.
And so, this spring I mulch with the assistance of the under-gardener, acclimatize seedlings and plants grown in the basement to their new homes outdoor, dig holes for plants bought or prepare beds for seeding. There is so much to do as the weather turns better and I finally find myself in my element again; dirt under my fingernails, a sun-kissed face and the occasional ache from this labor of love, my favorite kind of exercise.
Spring, oh spring, where art thou?
I made it through January. February wasn’t too bad, but March just crawled and took forever to end. As we entered April things didn’t look much better and we were again on the receiving end of a snowstorm. Now we have temperatures in the 40s and still occasional snow. Nearly mid-April and 14 states are under winter weather advisories with some cities or towns in the northern states getting up to two feet of snow.
On a Friday we made a trip to Cape May in NJ. On the way down trees were just getting a slight haze of color. Once we got to Cape May the weather turned warmer and temperatures climbed into the high 70s, low 80s (although not quite that high in Cape May itself). By Sunday on our return home the wind blew fiercely, it rained, and it was raw. But oh, the sights on the way home. Suddenly white and pink blossoms had erupted, and greenery abounded.
Last week I planted some lily bulbs at the end of the garden. Much to my delight, the soil was just wonderful. Without much effort, the spade bit into the crumbly soil and I carefully laid the already sprouting bulbs in their new homes. It won’t be long before they will peak out of the soil and in another month or two their fiery orange blooms will grace my garden. My small Magnolia tree is starting to open its first blooms after those two warm days and much to my delight, yes, the flowers will be a magnificent yellow. We still have some cold, dreary and damp days in the forecast but everywhere I look in the garden I can see signs of life. Get set, ready, GROW!
With below normal temperatures stubbornly hanging around this late March there isn’t much to do in the garden. Instead I dive into my gardening books and make a trip down memory lane looking at pictures of the old garden. I also come across an old book; my “poetry album” from the mid-1960s. In Holland just about every girl had such an album and family and friends would write short little poems in it, preferably writing something about you. One of the poems I memorized decades ago. It was written by my uncle, my mother’s youngest brother, who always spent a lot of time with us when we were little. He died in a plane crash at 32 when I was 11 and I still miss him. Another poem was written by my fourth-grade teacher, Miss. Staal. She was a wonderful teacher even though I wasn’t a very good student. The windowsills of her class room were full of plants and I got to water them most weeks. Before summer vacation started each of the students got to take a plant home and brought it back when school started again. She was a woman with whom I forged a friendship after leaving school and I continued to visit her during my trips to Holland. She even met The Spouse one year, heartily approving of him! These days when we go to Holland we always make a trip to my home town to say a prayer over my parents’ grave and to visit her grave as well as she is only a few rows over from my parents. Her poem (loosely translated) reads as follows:
Befriend small things.
A flower in bloom,
a dancing butterfly.
Befriend small things
and you will be happy.
Funny how something written almost fifty-two years ago are the words I continue to live by and yes, it does make for a happy life.
A few days ago I hung out my "Welcome Spring" flag at the front door with the optimistic, albeit misguided, hope that spring would arrive soon and would be glorious. Today, March 21st the first full day of spring, brought us… 8+ inches of snow. It started last night and now, at 5 pm, it is still snowing. Shoveling will have to wait till tomorrow. There may be warmer weather in the forecast, about a week from now. I know, I know, better weather will arrive and we will all the happier once it gets here. But it sure isn’t coming fast enough for me.