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Early Spring Encore

April 30, 2013

maine forsythiaIn my Gettysburg garden, just north of the Mason-Dixon line, spring is well underway. The crocus blooms are just a memory, the forsythia has dropped most of its blossoms, and the hyacinths and daffodils are looking shriveled and faded. The moss phlox (Phlox subulata) has begun to bloom, and the bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are strung with heart-shaped flowers. On my walk to work, the flowers of magnolia, pear and cherry trees have been replaced by flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).

But a trip home to my Maine garden, 600 miles to the northeast, this weekend was a chance to experience early spring all over again. I arrived in time to see the last fading flowers of crocus and Iris reticulata,

maine fading crocus maine dwarf iris
to see new flowers on Hellebores, maine hellebores

and to see the forsythia and hyacinths just beginning to bloom.

maine forsythia opening maine hyacinth blooms

There are fat buds on daffodils, and the foliage of bleeding hearts is just emerging.

maine daffodil bulbs maine bleeding hearts foliage

This was my annual April trip to Maine for a long weekend of spring clean-up in the garden, and the weather really cooperated. I had three days of sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures in the 60s (F). I raked fallen leaves, removed old stems and spent foliage from last year, and got to see the new green growth underneath it all. (I find the spring clean-up transformation of flower beds one of the most satisfying of gardening chores.)

circular unkempt circular cleaned
fence border unkempt fence border cleaned
blue&yellow unkempt blue&yellow cleaned
Before and after images of (from top to bottom) the circular bed, the fence border and the blue and yellow border.

serenity protectedThe Serenity Garden at the edge of the woods has proved to be an irresistible temptation  for hungry deer in spring. Because I’ll be away for the next three weeks as tender plants emerge, I set up a system of supports with netting to discourage browsing on deer favorites like hosta and Bowman’s root.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 2:52 pm

    How interesting to have two gardens at different stages of growth! I’m going to be googling Bowman’s root, because I’ve never heard of it. Happy May!

    • May 5, 2013 10:16 pm

      Cathy, Bowman’s root is a North American native perennial with clouds of delicate white flowers in summer. (At least that’s the theory; I’ve never seen mine in bloom, since the deer ate it right down to the ground last spring). It’s botanical name was formerly Gillenia trifoliata, now Poteranthus trifoliata. Another common name for it is Indian pysic.

  2. April 30, 2013 4:16 pm

    I love the idea of going through two springs with the stages staggered, but the thought of managing two gardens is very overwhelming.

    • May 5, 2013 10:18 pm

      Jason, I’ll only be doing the two-garden juggle for one more year. When I retire next spring, I’ll give up my Gettysburg garden to live full-time in Maine. The Gettysburg garden is very tiny, so it really doesn’t take a lot of time.

  3. April 30, 2013 5:00 pm

    Does experiencing two springs, also mean twice the spring cleanup? 😉 I agree, tidying up the garden after winter, although sometimes daunting, is so gratifying when it’s all done. I hope those dastardly deer leave your young plants alone during the next few weeks. I just had to cage a Fremontodendron that two young bucks decided to gnaw on yesterday. They ignored it all winter, and then suddenly…chomp!

    • May 5, 2013 10:21 pm

      Clare, Since my Gettysburg garden is so small, it’s more like 1 1/4 times the spring cleanup :-). I caged my “deer-resistant” viburnum in the fall since it got hit so hard last spring. When I get back to Maine in 2 weeks, I’ll get to see how well my netting strategy worked.

  4. Astrid permalink
    April 30, 2013 5:05 pm

    Double the work with 2 gardens but double the pleasure as well. Especially since they don’t bloom in sync – you get to see all these little beauties twice 🙂

    • May 5, 2013 10:22 pm

      Astrid, Definitely double the pleasure — especially at this time of year, since spring is a much nicer season in Pennsylvania than in Maine.

  5. bushbernie permalink
    April 30, 2013 7:59 pm

    How wonderful that you get to see Spring starting twice over in your two different gardens. It sounds as if you had quite a time out in the garden in Maine. So rewarding.

    • May 5, 2013 10:25 pm

      Bernie, It was so great to get four days in a row of perfect gardening weather. I spent about 5 hours a day out working in the garden, and by the time I had to go back to Pennsylvania, spring cleanup was done. (I’ll still need to weed and mulch when I get back there in a couple of weeks; the weeds weren’t really up yet at this point.)

  6. April 30, 2013 8:45 pm

    How lucky you are to be able to experience spring twice in one year (every year!) And how lucky we are to get to experience it with you.

    • May 5, 2013 10:29 pm

      Very lucky! I’ve had this second garden for ten years now and it is such a source of pleasure — especially in spring, which is the best season in the mid-Atlantic states.

  7. April 30, 2013 9:41 pm

    It must be so nice to get a chance to have a second spring. I hope your deer fence works; what an act of faith to leave the garden for 3 weeks!

    • May 5, 2013 10:33 pm

      Sarah, I do enjoy my extra-long spring. Because I’ve been living in my Maine house only part-time for over 20 years, I’ve pretty much always had to leave this garden while it is in bloom (especially in late summer, when I have to return to Pennsylvania for the beginning of school). I, too, hope the deer barrier works; I’ll know soon enough.

  8. May 1, 2013 1:41 am

    One of the things I like about hiking in the mountains is that as the snow melts out you can experience spring until June. It is about that time that the meadows then are filled with the most beautiful wildflowers….Surprisingly I really enjoy the act of getting the garden ready for spring. It is a lot of work, but it just has the most amazing feeling. Hopefully that is true for you as well.

    • May 5, 2013 10:35 pm

      Charlie, Yes, elevation would provide another way to extend the season. I remember how surprised I was when I lived in California just out of college that latitude was so much less important than on the east coast, but elevation so much more important.

  9. May 1, 2013 2:18 am

    The Daffodils are only just coming into flower here and the Bleeding heart is only just peeking through the earth. Strangely the Lily bulbs I left out in the ground all winter are shooting up – I’m amazed they made it through the winter.
    I imagine you are really looking forward to that next step in the life of your garden.


    • May 5, 2013 10:37 pm

      Linda, It sounds as though your garden is at a very similar stage of development as my Maine garden. Lily bulbs are cold-hardy in Maine, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are for you, too. It’s always a special treat when something you didn’t expect to make it through the winter does (and provides some compensation for all the times when plants we thought would make it didn’t appear in spring!).

  10. May 1, 2013 8:27 am

    I also garden in two totally different climates and have just been to my garden in th Swiss Alps for the annual clean up…and was greeted by 50cm of snow but never mind, I got started and could soon enjoy spring flowers which have long disappeared in my French plot.

    • May 5, 2013 10:40 pm

      Annette, I guess what you can do in the garden is pretty limited when you’ve got that much snow on the ground. Yikes! My garden in Maine is pretty reliably snow-free by the end of April (although I did find icy remains of snow banks along the sides of the driveway when I went up in late April 2010). I hope you are able to get back to your Swiss Alps garden to see the flowers when the snow melts.

  11. May 1, 2013 8:00 pm

    I agree, this is just the nicest time of year in the garden, all sorts of promise peeking out of the ground. Good idea putting up those nets on the new garden bed. Deer could really do some damage on those still very new plants.

    • May 5, 2013 10:44 pm

      Marguerite, My favorite part of working in the garden at this time of year is the absence of black flies and mosquitoes! By late May, I’ll have to wear a full suit of armor netting when I’m working outside.
      The deer really did a number on these plants last spring. It was the first year for this flower bed, and everything came up extra early without me there to protect it. I was prepared to have them eat the hostas, but was surprised by other plants that got badly browsed.

  12. May 2, 2013 8:14 am

    Well well Jean – you are lucky to be off on hols, but you will miss developments! It all happens so fast at this time of year doesn’t it. Everything is looking great – and your deer defences look very sturdy. My parents have the same on going attrition in their garden – and lots of improvised guards! Happy gardening, and enjoy your spring, Ursula

    • May 5, 2013 10:47 pm

      LOL, Ursula — not exactly off on holidays. My holidays were the long weekend I got to spend in my Maine garden. Now I’m back in Pennsylvania grading end-of-term papers and exams. When I’m done with that, though, my long summer holidays will truly begin and I’ll head back up to Maine for a lovely 3-month gardening season there.

  13. May 2, 2013 9:08 am

    The counter-seasons business is always a joy now… we watch our gardens go to rest as you watch yours awaken! Enjoy your last Gettysburg summer! 😉 (BTW – I recently pointed a new blogger to your Windows Live Writer post. still the best!)

    • May 5, 2013 10:48 pm

      Jack, I’m happy to return the favor of providing you with new blooms as your gardens begin to go dormant. (I’m amazed by how many hits those Live Writer posts still get. A lot of people with PCs already have Live Writer loaded on their computer and just don’t know what it is.)

  14. May 2, 2013 6:11 pm

    How exciting to experience spring twice! Enjoy each blooming moment!

    • May 5, 2013 10:50 pm

      Kevin, I am enjoying each blooming moment 🙂

  15. May 2, 2013 8:08 pm

    Jean how fortunate to have spring bloom twice…I love the thought of that. I do hope your barrier keeps the deer out of your garden.

    • May 5, 2013 10:52 pm

      Donna, One of my retirement plans is to leave Maine in late March or early April each year and spend 2-3 weeks in parts of the country that are actually having spring. As you know, winter gets really old by April; it’s a good time to get away.

  16. May 4, 2013 7:19 pm

    Suddenly, overnight with heavy rain, spring is over its peak here and the deep greening of summer has begun. Everything is incredibly verdant, but I will miss the spring blooms. I was thinking this afternoon that I wish I could see it all over again! You are blessed to see two springs, but two springs worth of work…I am not sure about that!

    • May 5, 2013 10:53 pm

      Deb, That turn to summer usually happens in Gettysburg in late May, just as I’m headed north to Maine and a return to spring. It is a delight to get this prolonged enjoyment of spring.

  17. May 9, 2013 1:53 pm

    Hi Jean, I love seeing “before” and “after” pictures of border clean-ups an re-vamps. It gives a tangible sense of progress. I’m looking forward to seeing these in full flower this summer.

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