View from the Garden: Hallelujah! Spring Has Come to the East End

toomler Collection: iStock
Lilacs for spring. Photo credit: toomler/iStock/Thinkstock

Although I’m willing to declare that spring has arrived, with trepidation in light of the cold weather of late, plants and birds seem more confident. As I uncover plants during spring cleanup, I find that many have already begun the season, evidenced by cautious but determined new growth. We have been teased by crocus and snowdrops and though daffodils seem to give assurance of warm weather, don’t let them fool you…they can live though a surprise spring snow!

I was recently walking with a client through her just-cleaned garden. The stalks and other residue of last year’s plants were gone, leaving little indication of the garden’s coming exuberance. Having purchased her property during the winter, she has no image of the garden in full display and so experienced the newly cleaned garden as almost barren ground. This garden is large and densely planted but does look barren at this time—unless one knows what to look for.

So we took a tour. Roses that looked like skeletons of their coming selves showed their tiny buds, which will grow quickly and will eventually become flowering shrubs by June. We found fat buds of hydrangeas lurking on branches that looked dead. I pulled back just a little earth from the crowns of peonies and there were the plump, red shoots. Only a few daffodils were blooming but I pointed out that there are many more coming. Leaves of early tulips are just poking up above the surface. We saw new leaves of chionodoxa, muscari, camassia, large alliums and nectaroscordum just beginning to show.

We moved mulch to see hosta buds “lying in wait” and the gnarled heads of ferns waiting to uncurl their fronds as soon as possible. Many perennials showed their first growth hugging the ground and we saw the small, delicate first leaves of oriental poppies. I pointed out a place where a huge display of crocus would soon happen. And that is just the beginning. She will have a lot of surprises in the future!

Don’t assume that because there’s no indication of life that a plant is dead. I leave stalks and stems in the fall just so I know where every plant lives. If no life is apparent when I do the cleanup, I leave short stems to mark the place. Some plants sprout new growth later than others.

In my own garden, the daffodils that have been in bud since January have bloomed. This is an old clump so when it finally does bloom, it BLOOMS! I planted 100 new daffs last year and eagerly await their presence. Over the years, I have planted early, mid, and late-blooming daffodils so I have them in bloom for as long as possible.

Single crocus, muscari and chionodoxa plants show up in strange places each year…not where they are supposed to be. I think the squirrels move them. No matter where they live, they all make me commit to planting more of them in the fall—one can never have too many of these small delights. And each spring I’m determined to order more daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs. There’s no better way to begin the season.

Some plants were lost this year due to extended periods of ice sitting on their crowns. Some gaura did not make it but some planted in very protected areas did. And don’t count it out too soon. It sprouts later and from wood that might look dead. I plant it knowing it may only be an annual. I like gaura so much that I will plant it again wishing that it was stronger. I’m waiting to see if the Hardiness Zone 8 ligularia that has survived for several years, with much care, will return.

As I toured the garden today, I saw baby digitalis, hollyhocks, lychnis coronaria and mullein. The camellia and lilac buds are swollen and getting ready to pop. And a very sweet corylopsis spicata…winter hazel…has just bloomed.

Dahlias, gladiolas, lilies, spring-planted vegetables, pansies, ranunculus, new shrubs and more are at the garden centers. It is beginning to look
like spring. YEAH!

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant.

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