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Four Days in Maine

May 2, 2012

Forsythia blooming in my Maine garden - April 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek This past week, I took advantage of my three-day-a-week teaching schedule to go home to Maine for a long weekend. Four cool, sunny days provided great conditions for spring clean-up in my Maine garden.

Because of unseasonably warm weather in March, spring was considerably further advanced than it was when I was here a year ago at this time. The trees were already beginning to leaf out, there were buds on the lilacs, and the forsythia in the front yard was in its full glory. Many spring flowers were already blooming, including wild blueberries (Vaccinium augustifolium) and strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), bluets (Houstonia caerulea), and white violets (Viola blanda).

Spring blooms in my Maine garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Top – wild blueberries; Center (left to right) – bluets, moss phlox, white violets; Bottom – wild strawberries

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The herbaceous perennials in my flower beds were also much further up out of the ground than they were last year at this time. You can see the difference by comparing this image of my back garden after spring clean-up in late April of 2011:

The back garden in late April 2011 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)  … with this image of the same flower beds in late April of 2012:

The back garden in late April 2012 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)Being at home also gave me an opportunity to check on the new Serenity Garden. Although I missed their flowers, I could see that crocus and Iris reticulata bulbs had come up and bloomed. I could also see new growth showing on most plants, including (happily!) the Actaea ramosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ that had looked dead in the fall.

Deer-browsed hosta eaten down to the ground in the Serenity Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) It wasn’t surprising to see that deer had been browsing on a number of plants in this garden at the edge of the woods, including viburnum, heuchera, and that deer favorite, hosta. Hosta nigrescens, at the back of this flower bed, had been eaten down to the ground. I plan to install a kinetic sculpture in this part of the garden that I am hoping will spook deer who try to browse here, but I haven’t had a chance to do so yet. As temporary protection, I snapped together a couple of versatile “garden grids” (from Gardener’s Supply company in Vermont), arched them over the hostas, and covered them with some mesh fencing.

Some temporary protection from deer damage for vulnerable hostas in the Serenity Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

After four enjoyable and satisfying days working in my Maine garden, it feels good to have spring clean-up done; I expect that these plants will have grown by leaps and bounds by the time I get back there for the summer in a few weeks.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2012 12:01 am

    What a shame about the hosta!

    I’ll be planting out some hosta from my mother’s garden this weekend, and I’ll definitely have a look at what I can do to protect it from the deer… (“Not much” is probably the answer, but at least our deer come into the garden a lot less during spring and summer, perhaps because the area of holiday homes becomes too busy in the summer months.)

    • May 7, 2012 10:52 pm

      Soren, I knew planting hosta right at the edge of the woods was risky, but I think this will be a temporary setback. With some protection, I expect the hosta to grow new leaves; and I’m hoping that when I get my new moving garden sculpture installed, it will help keep the deer at bay.

      • May 8, 2012 12:09 am

        Hostas can be hardy little creations; last year I managed to kill off a supermarket hosta by planting it in full sun in the Ambitious Border, but this year it has returned and is looking healthy as you like.

        As for the deer, I suspect I will choose to define them as my “moving garden sculptures” and just enjoy them and accept the cost.

  2. May 3, 2012 6:59 am

    My hosta bit the dust from the freezing cold….the deer ate many plants I was not prepared for…your garden looks much like mine….wonderful

    • May 7, 2012 10:55 pm

      Donna, I hope your hosta stage a comeback and put up new leaves once the weather warms up. I was surprised that the deer ate as many plants in the Serenity Garden as they did last fall, especially that supposedly ‘deer-resistant’ viburnum. I guess the deer didn’t read the plant catalog ;-).

  3. May 3, 2012 1:32 pm

    What a difference between this year and last. Amazing seeing a picture of how much growth there is. We’ve been talking about how fast spring is progressing this year but your photo really illustrates the point. Glad you had such a lovely vacation in your garden and are now prepared for the season to come.

    • May 7, 2012 10:59 pm

      Marguerite, Looking back at my garden records, we seem to have been alternating late springs and early springs in the past few years. 2009 was cold and miserable right through June and into July and the only thing that grew fast in my garden was weeds. Spring was early in 2010, and I already had siberian irises in bloom on May 15. In 2011, by contrast, everything was behind schedule, and my garden didn’t really hit it’s high summer peak until the end of July. This year is shaping up to look more like 2010, although I think recent cool temperatures has slowed things down a bit.

  4. May 3, 2012 2:42 pm

    The deer really keep us guessing, don’t they? As soon as I find a way to protect one thing, they develop a taste for something else that they had never bothered before. So far, they have skipped our hostas (fingers crossed).

    • May 7, 2012 11:03 pm

      Ricki, This is very enlightening. I had been assuming that hosta was a favorite food for all deer everywhere; it’s intriguing to think of them as having regional cuisines! I have learned from experience that woodchucks (a.k.a groundhogs) have individual tastes and what gets repeatedly eaten to the ground by one year’s resident woodchuck is completely ignored by the next year’s.

  5. May 3, 2012 8:24 pm

    The weather seems to have accelerated our growing season in many areas. Some of my tomatoes will be ripe in a few weeks. They have already formed. It has certainly been strange. Your garden grids look as if they are very effective.

    • May 7, 2012 11:05 pm

      Michelle, OMG, tomatoes already!! In Maine, the traditional frost-free date for planting out tomatoes is not until the end of May. The garden grids are great. They come in sets of four as flat rectangles, but you can bend them into curves. I originally bought them as plant supports, but I’m learning that they also can serve a multitude of other purposes.

  6. May 4, 2012 12:40 pm

    Your Forsythia is a knockout! I’m really impressed at the difference between your 2011 and 2012 garden. It has been strangely warm and mild for most of the country this season, and it’s impressive the difference it’s made in plant growth.

  7. May 5, 2012 6:51 pm

    Your photos of your beds in 2011 and 2012 really bring home how weird the weather has been. Also made me remember how much I like gardening in PA.

    • May 8, 2012 9:07 pm

      Clare and Carolyn, I just heard on the news tonight that the past 12 months have been the warmest on record in the U.S. I can believe it, and it certainly shows in both my gardens.

  8. jessiegoes permalink
    May 5, 2012 10:34 pm

    It really occurs to me that this living situation that you have going on is almost perfect for a gardener… only in a few places in the US would prime time gardening start mid May after school lets out.

  9. May 5, 2012 10:35 pm

    Sorry, that above is me…wordpress is being extra annoying lately and refusing to use my regular ‘id’.

    • May 8, 2012 9:11 pm

      Hi Jess, I knew it was you. WordPress and Blogspot have been having a big communication problem lately. About half the time, I can’t leave comments on Blogspot blogs using my WordPress open ID, but have to switch instead to my Google login. I think you are right that the problem is mostly on the WordPress end; I think the number of blogs they’re hosting is exceeding the server capacity, creating time-out problems.
      It is true that Maine is a perfect location to garden primarily during school vacation months! I’m going to have to find a new season-extending garden fix when I retire in two years and lose my Gettysburg garden.

  10. May 6, 2012 3:03 pm

    As a fellow Maine gardener I too can appreciate this early Spring! Isn’t it wonderful to get out there and dig in the dirt WEEKS early?!

    We have many of the same plants in out yard. I also love hostas, but the deer always make them part of their midnight snack … I can’t wait to see how much your garden has grown on your next visit!

    ~Kelly

    • May 8, 2012 9:14 pm

      Kelly, Thanks so much for visiting. I’m always happy to “meet” other Maine garden bloggers. My deer problem isn’t too bad because there’s still lots of natural habitat for them in my neighborhood. When I’m there full-time, just going out and walking around the garden every day and leaving my scent seems to keep them away. But in years like this, when everything’s up extra early, I knew the hostas would get eaten. Now that I’ve added protection to these hostas at the edge of the woods, it will be interesting to see if the deer move into the parts of the garden closer to the house to feast on their favorite food.

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