Skip to content

More Seasonal Confusion

May 24, 2012

My academic year ended with commencement ceremonies on Sunday, and I was on the road north to Maine early Monday morning. This was not the pleasant, leisurely trip back through spring that I experienced last year, but a grinding combination of rain, fog, and construction delays that made me grateful to arrive 12 1/2 hours later.

Before I even unlocked the house or began unpacking the car, I took a quick look around the garden, curious about what I would find, since plant growth was so far ahead of normal when I was last here three weeks ago. What I found was the same kind of seasonal confusion that has characterized my Gettysburg garden this spring.

In many ways, plant growth and bloom seemed weeks ahead of schedule.

Pink rhododendron blooming on back slope (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The rhododendron that was just beginning to open its first buds last year at this time was already fully in bloom and spilling its pink blossoms down the back slope.
The lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) that were just beginning to bloom a year ago were well past their peak this year, with flowers already fading. Fading lilac blooms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Geranium maculatum album (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) At the front of the house, the flowers of Tradescantia, Geranium maculatum album and Geranium sanguineum – more characteristic of June than of May – were already in bloom.
In the back garden, the fence border was already lush with growth, making it much more difficult to carry out the plant relocations that I had planned for this spring. Fence border, looking very lush for May (photo credit: Jean Potuchek
Lawn or hay field (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) And the grassy area between the back garden and the serenity garden looked less like a lawn overdue for its first mowing and more like a field ready for haying!

But in the midst of all these emblems of late spring, I found signs of an earlier season in the patches of pink moss phlox (Phlox subulata) blooming underfoot and in one branch of forsythia flowers still looking fresh. Even in Maine, where spring tends to come late and all at once, finding forsythia and rhododendron blooming together is strange.

Late forsythia blooms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) I wonder what combination of seasons it will be next week.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 5:54 pm

    I hope you enjoy your summer in Maine. I’m looking forward to seeing how your garden grows.

    • May 27, 2012 9:54 pm

      Thanks, Mary. I love summer in Maine; and now that school is out, I’ll have more time for photographing and writing about my garden — so look for more frequent updates!

  2. May 24, 2012 6:07 pm

    Turn your back for a moment and the garden comes up with all kinds of surprises. Looks like yours gave you a nice welcome home.

    • May 27, 2012 9:58 pm

      Ricki, The garden was a very welcome sight. I must admit that, as my trip nears an end, I always experience a little frisson of concern that some disaster may be awaiting me — even though I know that if there were really a disaster, my neighbors would have called me. (The concern probably dates back to the year I arrived in May to discover that mice had gotten into the house and made an incredible mess. Ugh!) This year, though, no disasters — just full foliage and beautiful blooms. 🙂

  3. deborahelliott permalink
    May 24, 2012 7:58 pm

    Enjoy your Maine garden! Signs of spring arrived at least a month early here this year, in January! I think we had two days of winter. The good news is that summer is arriving on schedule. I was afraid it would be a month early, too!

    • May 27, 2012 10:02 pm

      Deb, How nice that your almost nonexistent winter gave you an extra long spring rather than an extra early summer. I think a similar thing happened here in Maine. Although plants are still ahead of normal bloom times (some by 2-3 weeks), they’re not as far advanced as they were in 2010, when I had siberian irises opening on May 15. (This year, the first one opened today.) The chief sign of the largely snowless winter here is how dry everything is. Both the vernal pools in the woods and the river near my house are at levels more typical of July than of May. We’ve been getting quite a bit of rain, and I can’t complain because we really need it.

  4. May 24, 2012 8:55 pm

    Oh my, that sounds like a long drive! I hope now you’re home you can have a chance to relax a little. You can always call your lawn a meadow! It’s been a strange spring for many I think. Even here. Some things are blooming off schedule, others aren’t blooming much at all as it’s been a relatively dry year. Honestly, I’m starting to forget what ‘normal’ weather is.

    • May 27, 2012 10:10 pm

      Clare, It is a long drive — sometimes longer than others. It’s about 600 miles, and I do stop for a couple of meals along the way. The shortest I’ve ever made the drive is 10 1/2 hours and two memorable (not in a good way) long drives were 15 hours each — once going south in January in freezing rain and freezing fog and once coming north in March in snow. The latter drive was made even more memorable by the fact that I had a student with me. She was planning to skip class to get a ride home to Maine for spring break with another student until I said, “But you don’t have to miss class; I’m driving to Maine right after class and you can ride with me.” This, of course, put her on the spot and she could hardly refuse. I felt bad about it afterward because if she had left earlier with her friend, she would have gotten out ahead of the snow. Being stuck for 15 hours in a car with a tense, increasingly irritable professor had to be a particularly exquisite form of torture for an undergraduate!

  5. May 25, 2012 6:02 pm

    Hi Jean
    2 gardens may be double the work but double the joy, too! I look fwd to seeing what’s in your “northern” garden.

    • May 27, 2012 10:12 pm

      Astrid, I agree about the two gardens increasing the joy. My Maine garden is my main garden :-), and my small garden in Gettysburg extends the garden season so that I don’t have garden withdrawal when I have to leave Maine in August to go back to Pennsylvania for the start of the school year. There’s lots more to see in my Maine garden, and I’m looking forward to sharing it.

  6. May 25, 2012 8:29 pm

    I was thinking of you Jean as I looked around my crazy garden. My garlic already has scapes, the lettuce bolted, and the daylilies are blooming with creeping phlox, alliums and columbines…we went from a freezing April to a warm May to a very hot May with summer heat…what is next?

    • May 27, 2012 10:17 pm

      Donna, I guess one advantage of everything being early is that my CSA will start it’s season early. Garlic scapes are usually an early season offering, and tonight I was finishing up garlic scape pesto in the freezer from last year. Daylilies and columbines are not yet blooming in my garden, but the first of the siberian irises and Biokovo geraniums have opened, and I noticed the first bloom on a neighbor’s huge clump of Hemerocallis flava when I went for a walk this morning. I keep hoping that what’s next is some more normal weather, but I may just be kidding myself.

  7. May 26, 2012 11:41 am

    I can’t get over that you still have forsythia blooming! Glad the early warmth this year only made you miss a few pieces of your garden. And quite possibly, this year, before you head back, you’ll get a longer time to enjoy the the late bloomers.

    • May 27, 2012 10:19 pm

      Jess, I still had forsythia blooming when I got here last year, too, but everything else was 2-3 weeks behind where it was this year. These forsythia blooms were particularly bizarre because the shrub had mostly already leafed out. I took a closer look, and it turns out that all the blooms are on one branch that got broken in some winter storm — which presumably delayed its development. After the blooms finish, I’ll prune it off.

  8. May 26, 2012 9:50 pm

    I hope we can get together again this summer in Maine. There must be more great gardens to visit or maybe we can go on a garden tour.

    • May 27, 2012 10:20 pm

      Carolyn, I would love that. Let me know when you’re going to be up. Meanwhile, I’ll try to scout out some garden possibilities.

  9. May 27, 2012 2:07 am

    Hello Jean! I wonder if somewhere in between you and I there is a garden having a ‘standard’ season. We have had an autumn that was very much more like winter, so goddness knows what winter is going to decide on. Still, I’ve been enjoying looking at your pictures of blooms bathed in sunshine 🙂

    • May 27, 2012 10:22 pm

      Heidi, It’s great to hear from you. I, too, wonder if anyone anywhere in the world is having a “normal” season this year. I fear that all this seasonal confusion is a consequence of global warming and may well be the “new normal.” I’m glad I can provide you with some summery spring blooms to help ease your way through your wintery autumn.

  10. May 27, 2012 11:20 pm

    This has been a very strange year for bloom times. I have been wondering what summer will have in store. Excessive heat seems like a good bet. Drought too. We have been having periods of no rain and plants have been blooming for such short periods of time as a result. I too am thinking the insects will be numerous with all the early arrivals. Maine would be a lovely place to have summer. People often assume our area is cool and comfortable, but it is always so humid. When I returned from NC, the weather here was oppressive, much more uncomfortable than PA or NC.

    • May 29, 2012 10:31 am

      Donna, I’ve been worried about drought, too, since the winter was so dry — but I heard a report on Maine Public Radio yesterday saying that winter snow has less impact on summer drought conditions than people assume, and what will really matter is how much summer rain we get. (It’s pouring today, so that’s a good sign!) Fortunately, although temperatures have been warmer than average, we’ve missed the real heat that has hit so much of the east and mid-west. The insects are out, though — especially ticks and mosquitoes.

  11. May 28, 2012 9:57 am

    Welcome back to your summer home and garden. It was amazing that the snow was gone so early this year at our cottage in Naples. Just planted our tomatoes…no frost for awhile. If I had been brave, they could have gone in a week earlier. Back home in New Hampshire, our orchard bloomed an entire month early this year. Enjoy summer!

    • May 29, 2012 10:39 am

      It’s nice to be home, Karen. Have you already transplanted yourselves to Naples? I planted my morning glory seeds on Sunday (my equivalent, I think, of your planting tomatoes). I know what you mean about how early the snow was gone. When I was here in mid-March, the snow was melted, the frost was gone from my dirt road, and I was out in shirtsleeves in 70 degree weather pruning shrubs! I can believe that your orchard bloomed a month early. The same thing happened in Adams County, Pennsylvania, which is a big apple-growing region. By the time they had the annual Apple Blossom Festival (first weekend in May), it was about 6 weeks too late! Unfortunately, cold weather after the trees bloomed meant some loss of fruit.

  12. May 29, 2012 8:31 am

    Hello Jean, I was also thinking how long the drive is from Gettysburg to Maine. I have driven a couple of times from Aberdeen to London taking about ten hours, not so keen to do it now. Have a great season in your main Maine garden. Weather here has also been a bit strange. Winter was mild, March was hot, April and early May was cold, sort of Summery at the moment..

    • May 29, 2012 10:45 am

      Alistair, I used to do that 600-mile drive much more frequently than I do now. There were years that I drove up for long weekends, spending two days driving and two days in Maine! At some point, I decided that I had enough money to budget for plane fare and rental cars; and now I only make the round-trip drive twice a year (the long Christmas break between semesters and summer). I don’t think I’ll miss those long drives when I retire from teaching in two years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: