House & Home

Finding Hope in the Garden

One sunny, promising day, I walked around my yard, envisioning the garden I have been planning all winter. Lilacs, peonies, lavender, iris and hydrangeas edging the yard. In the center a raised- bed vegetable garden with deer fencing, topped off by a small rose garden in the middle. Bringing me back from my dream, there they were—four purple crocuses growing outside of the garden wall.

A real sign of spring. Then, as more snow was predicted and some fell, the crocuses closed their petals, bundling up against the cold. I know they will come back, but I am impatient for spring, like so many other East Enders. Colds and flu and snow have worn out their welcome.

I was thinking of some ways to encourage spring. Then, I started to remember simple things I have done in the past to bring spring indoors. One activity that’s very rewarding is forcing flowering trees or shrubs to bloom in water indoors. If your neighbors have fruit trees or forsythia, ask for their trimmings. Bring the branches inside. I prefer the long slender forsythia branches. If you’re cutting your own, look over each stem. You’ll loose much of the bottom of the plant in the container of water, so look for long thin branches that have many buds at the ends. Note that if you have to cut the tops or sides of the branch, it will look odd because it leaves a stump in your arrangement. I prefer branches that feather out to the end of each stem. When you have gathered your bunch, cut the stems vertically, allowing more water to flow into the stems. Put them in a vase of water immediately so the cuts do not seal over, which will keep the water out. The same process can be done with cherry branches, peach, apple or flowering quince.

Another simple spring booster is to plant some seeds indoors and tend them. Put them in a sunny window, remember to turn them as needed, so they will grow straight. Rejoice when they appear, water them very gently so you don’t knock the seedlings over and kill them. It’s best to dribble water on the soil next to them.

You can always splurge by buying fresh flowers, but a pot of Narcissus Tete-a-Tete, mini daffodils, with tightly closed petals, will allow you to follow their development and anticipant each change. Their name means “a conversation between two” because of their tendency to face each other looking like they are talking with each other.

If you can’t get out and walk, sit in a window on sunny days, looking at photographs of beautiful gardens.

If you can walk, enjoy the plants emerging from the ground in your neighborhood. Last year, my first spring in Sag Harbor, I was missing the garden that I had created and tended for 32 years. I was consoled by admiring the flowers emerging and growing in other peoples’ gardens. I especially loved finding an old rose peeking out of a privet hedge. I was tempted to liberate the plants growing mostly hidden in places that looked abandoned.

This fall, to insure spring for me, I planted several big pots that sit on my doorstep. I hid tulips in the middle of the soil and planted pansies, small cabbages and small mums on top. I loved the idea of tulip bulbs waiting in their wintery grave to resurrect into gorgeous shades of red and pink. I also hoped that by planting them in pots on my doorstep, I could defend them against deer.

I have been checking them each day, like an expectant parent. Finally, this morning there was one 1/4 inch tulip leaf poking above ground. I eagerly greeted this small miracle. I can’t wait to see the pansies revive and the tulips bloom.

In my experience when spring starts it comes very rapidly. Savor the anticipation.

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