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Spring Clean-Up

May 2, 2019

April crocusesApril was the month for spring clean-up in my garden. I do little garden clean-up in the fall. Autumn is a busy time of year for me, with garden projects to be completed and firewood to be stacked; so, unless I have some disease or pest problem that demands action, I take in garden furniture, containers, and plant supports and leave the rest for spring.

Several inches of new snow in the first ten days of April delayed the start of spring clean-up, but by mid-April, flower beds were emerging from under the snow. As they did so, I got to work cleaning them up. (Because I live and garden on very sandy soil, I don’t need to worry about soil compaction from working in wet garden beds.)

deck border before 2019 deck border after 2019

I find spring clean-up a very satisfying activity. You start out with a messy tangle of stems, debris and matted leaves and end up with areas of bare soil and fresh shoots of new growth.

back slope before 2019 back slope after 2019

After a long winter, that new growth is a welcome sight. I never get tired of the lovely pleated new foliage of Lady’s  mantle (Alchemilla mollis), or the fresh mounds of green leaves on Geranium and Heuchera. The new foliage of Allium and goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) foretell flowers in the weeks to come, and the new growth of daylilies (Hemerocallis) holds out the promise of high summer.

new spring growth

Best of all, though, spring clean-up reveals a hillside of flowering crocuses.

side slope crocus blooms

Finally Spring: GBBD, April 2019

April 18, 2019

March crocus PickwickI’m even later than I normally am for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Blooms are sparse in my mid-April garden, but spring has finally arrived. In Maine, it is usually April that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. As fellow Mainer Gary commented on an earlier blog post, April in Maine is “like a battle of two seasons.” In the first half of April, it can seem as though winter is winning that battle, and I can begin to wonder if spring will ever come. By the second half of April, though, spring is ascendant.

This year, the first ten days of April brought a series of small snow storms that re-covered any garden areas that were free of snow. This is what it looked like on April 10.

april 10 snow

Less than a week later, however, temperatures had gotten up into the sixties for the first time in more than six months, and the snow was melting fast.

melting snow 2019

fading foundation crocusIndeed, the early-blooming clumps of Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ by the south foundation of my house (photographed at the top of this post when they were at their peak) are already fading. Happily, though, many more crocuses are yet to bloom.

crocus budscrocuses emerging

spring cleanup back gardenIn the back garden, I have begun spring clean-up, revealing hyacinth buds about to open and new foliage of Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis).

hyacinth buds 2019 new alchemilla foliage

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s happening in gardens where spring has truly sprung.

April Snow

April 3, 2019

April snowI woke up this morning to fat snowflakes in the air and a coating of wet snow on surfaces and plants. It wasn’t a surprise. This snow was forecast, brought to us by the outer fringes of a huge subtropical storm hundreds of miles out to sea.

It was also not a surprise because April snow is normal here. There have probably been Aprils in which we didn’t get any snow, but I can’t remember one. Last year, I noted our last snowfall of more than an inch on April 6. Two years ago, we woke up to more than a foot of new snow on April 1.

But, unlike the snow that falls in December, January and February, which typically remains on the ground until spring, April snow is evanescent. The sun is strong at this time of year, and daytime temperatures typically get up above freezing. This snow was only about 1 degree Fahrenheit away from being rain, and it had already begun to melt by mid-morning. By noon, the sun was out, the temperature was in the mid-forties, and all traces of the morning’s snow had disappeared.

By the time I went out for a walk in mid-afternoon, the temperature was in the fifties, bird song filled the air, the just-returned robins were flitting around looking for nesting sites, and the crocuses blooming along the foundation of my house had their open faces turned up to the sun.

open crocus

Turning Toward Spring

March 22, 2019

spring equinox houseThis past Wednesday was the spring equinox, the day when the sun is directly over the equator and sheds its rays equally on all parts of the globe. For the next six months, those of us in northern latitudes will have more hours of sunlight than those to our south; and those hours of light will get increasingly longer from now until we reach the summer solstice in June.

I woke up on the equinox just in time to see the sun rising through the trees due east of my house. The first rays of the rising sun painted a rosy stripe across the snow in my back garden, followed by a glowing patch of sunlight on the kitchen wall.

Although spring has not yet arrived in Maine, there are signs everywhere of the turn toward spring. In my driveway and along my dirt road, ice is giving way to mud. The snow is melting from the roof, and the snow banks at the top of the driveway no longer tower over my head.

driveway ice to mud driveway snow banks equinox

At both the front and back of my property, patches of open ground under the trees are growing larger day by day.

equinox bare ground1 equinox bare ground2

As if on cue, the flowers on my indoor amaryllis bulbs are fading and my potted cyclamen plants are going into dormancy. equinox crocus budsBut the equinox also brought this sign that their beauties will soon be replaced by those of outdoor flowers: the first buds on Crocus vernalis ‘Pickwick’.

As the earth turns toward spring in its track around the sun, my mind is also turning toward spring. I’m finding it more and more difficult to focus on those not-yet-completed winter projects as my head fills with plans and dreams for this year’s garden season.

Spring Is in the Air: GBBD, March 2019

March 16, 2019

March garden under snowIn mid-March, there isn’t much sign of spring on the ground in my Maine garden, which is still hidden under a blanket of snow. But we’ve had a series of days with temperatures well above freezing, and spring is in the air.

A closer look reveals some subtle signs of spring on the ground, too. The foundation at the front of the house absorbs enough heat from the sun to melt the snow. And when it does, new green growth appears underneath.

March foundation melting March new green

Meanwhile, indoors, my impatience for spring flowers is being assuaged by blooms on my potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs. ‘Charisma’ is blooming on the living room window ledge. It is a special treat on sunny days when its red freckles, streaks, and picotees are backlit by the sun.

Charisma flowers 2019 Charisma close-up

In the bedroom, this flame-colored flower greets me when I wake up each morning. I especially love the way it glistens in the sun.

Flame red amaryllis 2019 flame amaryllis close-up

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see blooms from gardens where spring has already sprung!

Garden History Update

March 7, 2019

Morning on the patioRecently, I realized that it had been six years since I last updated my History of the Garden page – and a lot has happened in those six years. Today I’ve revised that page to reflect all the work of the past six years, especially the addition to my house and the creation of the new front garden. This was a great way to use my garden energies while I wait for spring to arrive, and it’s made me eager to get started on the final phase of my front garden project.

Winter-Blooming Divas: GBBD, February 2019

February 17, 2019

Mid-February in Maine is still winter, but with a promise of spring. The world outside is snowy white, but the days are becoming noticeably longer and the sun stronger.

Lavender and white cyclamenNevertheless, it will probably be another six weeks before the first flowers bloom in my garden. Until then, I’m dependent on my flowering houseplants for floral color and joy. My faithful, cool-loving cyclamen do not disappoint, blooming on and on through the long months of winter. And yet, because they are so reliable, I can take them for granted and let them be upstaged by those dramatic, demanding, winter-blooming divas, the potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs.

I have ten pots with amaryllis bulbs, and they demand a lot of attention: weekly fertilizing after they bloom, being packed away in the dark for eight weeks to force dormancy and then brought out into the light to wake them up, and as much warmth as I can provide for them. (They do not love my cool Maine house.) In a good year, after considerable time and attention, I may get flowers on three or four of them – just enough reward to keep me in their thrall.

red amaryllis bud 2019 charisma bud 2019

A month ago, I was celebrating the appearance of the first flower bud on one of those potted amaryllis buds. In the weeks since, two more buds have appeared and grown. Last month’s bud has now opened, and I am currently being romanced by the stunningly beautiful blooms of Hippeastrum ‘Apple Blossom.’ As these flowers fade, a set of flame red blooms will open on another plant. And these will be followed in March by the aptly named flowers of  Hippeastrum ‘Charisma.’ The performance of these divas brings joy to my winter days.

apple blossom 2019

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see other gardeners’ February blooms.