20 February 2008
Potpourri: A melt, buds, and books
What a difference a few days makes. This was the scene here last Monday--and again on Wednesday. Then the rains began. We had a rain, a freeze, a pause for a couple of days, more rain, and then just a bit of a break.
Hard to believe that five-foot drifts could disappear to almost nothing in spots, but that's the nature of winter these days in my fair province. We could also have those drifts back--or worse--in a few days. It's no wonder we get a bit winterweary, crabby, gloomy at times. Then suddenly the sun comes out, and we're almost giddy with relief, even though we know the respite is brief.
This is also a hard time to get excited about the gardens, because everything looks so messy. Detritus from perennials breaking down, from the dooryard being plowed time and again the past few weeks, stuff that has been hiding in the snow, all emerges and clutters what looked so quietly pristine while wrapped in clean white snow. However, if the weather holds for a day or three, I might make a bit of attempt for pre-spring cleaning. Longsuffering spouse gets to rake the gravel off the grass...but we'll wait til we're surely finished with plowing. April, for sure!
A walk around the yard yielded some surprises, despite the grunge in beds. Normally, a wallflower surrenders by late fall, driven into mush by the frosts, the cold, the snow, the rain...but look at this! Either this plant has become a mutation, or its buds have freezedried...or it's still planning to live and bloom.
Now, today I was doing a bit of catchup reading and was lost in complete and utter hellebore-envy, when I went to Frances of Faire Garden's post about her hellebores. Regular readers have heard my lamentations in the past about my troubles with hellebores; they grow beautifully for me, come through what normal gardeners have for winter, start to wake up--and get slammed by one of our later rain/snow/cold sessions, and turn to mush. I put one more plant in last spring, under my hamamelis 'Diane', and wasn't feeling too optimistic about its survival chances. So imagine my surprise when I found that so far...the plant is alive and well.
And what's this? Can this be...buds? On MY hellebore? Could this be the year? (Hope springs eternal...)
Now, my question to those of you who do well with hellebores: if YOU lived in an eccentric climate where spring plays with our affections until well into May...with wild fluctuations in temperature, all kinds of precipitation, and other crankinesses...would you mulch this plant now with straw or evergreens to protect it from what's coming?
And now for something completely different. Remember in my last post I said I had other authors I wanted to recommend, especially when it comes to colour? Well...lest readers think I'm only crazy about British/European designers, here's a pair from the US I can really get excited about. Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra have collaborated on a few books, and I have two of them. The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer is just how I love my books: a cheery, encouraging, and down-to-earth talk that demystifies the art of planting perennials, whether you're planting for seasons, for problem sites, are a beginner or a perennial addict--or are all of the above! Nan, of course, is one of the great team at Gardening Gone Wild, and also maintains her own site at Hayefield; I don't know Stephanie except from her books, but these are the kind of writers that make you feel like you're sitting at a table, sipping tea and talkin' plants with them, not being talked down at.
And their most recent collaboration is perfect for those of us who love to lengthen the gardening season: Fallscaping! Thanks to this book by Nan and Stephanie, and also thanks to other great writers who inspire like the Netherlands Piet Oudolf, I'm learning all kinds of intriguing ideas for using foliage, late blooming perennials, and other plants and planting combinations for autumn gardening. I haven't finished this book yet--other books are in the queue for reviewing for publications that pay the bills--but if you've ever wondered how to avoid the latesummer meltdown and keep your garden looking terrific well into winter: go buy Fallscaping.
And now...this just in...it's snowing again! The good news is, we were able to get Leggo My Eggo and Jenny the donkey-from-Mars outside today to stretch their legs, after nearly a week in the barn, because the ice finally melted enough that they could go play. We've still got weeks of weird weather to go, but we'll make it. We always do!