The daffodils are in bloom, and the spiderwort I planted last year
– the spiderwort I thought was dead – has miraculously sprouted
again. And with that, my hope for all of my garden has re-sprouted
again, too… but it’s still a delicate, fragile thing, my hope. Each
seedling I see sends it soaring. Each deer-clipped stem cuts it
back down. I try to stay grounded, literally, looking at the soil,
thinking about worms, but then I see another sprout and I’m lost.
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Yesterday was the perfect spring day. The first warm day after a long cold spell, I could smell not just grass, but even new leaves, opening by the millions. As evening came, and the spring peepers picked up again where they’d left off, the crabapple and chokecherry blossoms released their delicate perfumes.
Today spring’s gentle return continues. The buds on our arrowwood viburnum are full to bursting, while our single, lonely daffodil has finally been joined by others.
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Our first daffodil of the season is in bloom. The rest are sprouted and budding, but not quite ready yet. Our warm April caught all the plants by surprise and got their juices flowing, but last week’s cooler temperatures put everything on hold. Now today, the first day of May, we have snow showers mixed with quick glimpses of glaring sunshine.
Even in the middle of this chill I can’t resist planting something. I put peas in the vegetable garden, and a native white water lily (Nymphaea tuberosa) in the pond. The water lily is a test – to see if the ducks and geese won’t eat it to death – before I commit to any more plants in the pond.
Elsewhere in the garden…
- ferns: fiddleheads uncurling like seahorses’ tails
- rhubarb: pinkish eggs split open to reveal a golden-reddish-greenish leaf un-crumpling
- “creeping charlie”: bright lavender jewels sparkle in a bed of dark, fleshy leaves
- saskatoon serviceberry: silver leaves enfolded in prayer under a spray of white-bud chalices that catch the dew
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The chokecherry tree is in bloom, just days after Jenny and I had to thin it drastically, to try once more to rid it of its chronic case of black knot fungus. It’s painstaking work, dipping the blades into rubbing alcohol after each cut, and we’ll have to burn the infected branches, but the tree looks much better without it.
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I see Lake Minnetonka this morning, whipped by a cold wind into stiff peaks. The sky above echoes the chop in the water, clouds in hard clumps, gradually greying into a flinty overcast. A few icy drops splatter now and then on my sleeve. After weeks of frost-free, almost balmy weather, our high only reaches the low fifties and our low will drop below freezing.
I keep warm digging in the garden, transplanting a blueberry and planting a viburnum in its place. It takes a long time, turning manure and peat into the heavy clay soil, and removing all too many rocks. But I’m conscious of taking my time. I don’t want to harm the blueberry, and I want to give them both the best possible new homes that I can.
It pains me to move the blueberry, but I want the bigger screen of a viburnum at the edge of our yard, and blueberries in the sun in front of them… two more blueberries to move, and one more viburnum to plant, but not today.
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My first plants are in the ground. A serviceberry tree (Amelanchier x grandiflora) and a wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana “silver mound”). The serviceberry planting was two years in the making: picking just the right location, the right tree, lightening up the heavy clay soil, and now, with delicate white blossoms already open, placing it in the ground.
The wormwood was just the opposite: an impulse purchase this week when I was buying composted manure and peat moss. I liked the foliage, and we had an empty hot, dry spot where some hostas used to be (I moved them last fall to a shadier location).
I think it’s a good mix, to balance long-term garden planning with momentary lapses in discipline :-). You need to have a long-term focus, especially for bigger, longer-lived plants like trees and shrubs. They don’t take well to transplanting, and soon enough they’re too big to transplant anyway, so it’s important to be sure about what you’re planting and where. But for the rest, the instant gratification of a green, leafy plant in the ground early in spring is all that matters. I only hope it’s tough enough to take the frost that’s bound to come before we’re done with spring.
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Today I broke in my new hori-hori weeding dandelions, and even the smallest plants had roots 6 inches – 8 inches – deep. No wonder dandelions do so well – they invest almost all they have in invisible roots before they spend much of anything on frilly green leaves.
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Over the past few days, the heat and humidity rose along with the spring-singing frogs, a gradual crescendo building (almost) to a climax, but we were denied the rain. Only a few flickers of lightning and distant thunder early yesterday morning, and it was gone.
The frogs are still here, though, and if I close my eyes, it’s summer, and hot and green and lush… frogs bring dreams of plenty. The ice is off our pond, and I find wild geranium sprouts, irises, daffodils, sweet woodruff and chives. Budding treetops bathe in a red-gold copper sun. And still the frogs sing, sing us to sleep – to push out of the mud a little further tomorrow.
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Really, there’s not much I can do. I try to cajole my garden into growing, but it knows much better than I when it’s time. So I rearrange mulch, or poke holes in the ground with my pitchfork (until it hits ice 6 inches down). When I’m done, and frankly feeling a little discouraged, I turn around and see something as simple as these pussywillows, big and fluffy and acting like they’ve been here all along, and I know everything’s going to be alright.
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A smoldering green fire comes up from the roots. A few days above fifty, a few nights without frost, and it begins. It starts first with moss, then tiny green shoots pierce matted dead grass… then a leaf, here and there, still clenched tight, pushes aside all the dead, seeking light.
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