One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Of course, we knew while enjoying last weekend’s balmy temperatures, that it wasn’t meant to last.  So early in the season, how could it?   All we could do is what we did:  make the most of the weather and accomplish all that we could in the sunshine.

Our warm sunshiny skies clouded over as the new week began and the latter part of the week brought a return of those heavy rains that signal Spring for year-rounders on the Cape.   As an extra bonus, on Friday, those rains turned to snow, lasting just long enough to torment us by turning the newly-greened blades of grass white.

The snow did not last, but the cooler temperatures stayed with us into the weekend.   But no matter, there’s  lots going on out there in the chilly garden.   The chill in the air seems only to encourage the primroses, which are blooming quite merrily alongside the newly-arrived violas.

The photographer in me would like them to be more perfect and pristine looking, but the season the primroses favor is hard on them.  Their flowers are occasionally a little raggedy around the edges and, after the rains, sometimes speckled with a bit of dirt here and there.   But they are little miracles of color and happiness – how could one not choose to follow along that primrose path? – and I’m fascinated enough to get down on my knees for a good close-up look at them.

These little guys were all wintertime purchases, enjoyed on the windowsill and planted out last spring.   Except for still wanting to bloom in January (the blue one up above did just that under snow cover, you might recall…), they’ve adapted well to their new environment and are happily adding their voices to the chorus of the other early bloomers, the crocuses and soonest daffodils.

The cool temperatures have seemed a cruel joke on My Gray Pal, who was so excited to resume the Walkings last week when it warmed up.

This week, he has been eager to go out each night when I get home from work, but also as quick to return back inside after a taste of the wet grass and cold wind.   I know he’s a little disappointed about this, as he spends so much time in the window, looking out on the world and wanting to be out there, ruling it.   But his season is  yet to come.

And while he waits upstairs, I bundle up and wander around for a prowl without him.   If I don’t, who will those little violas smile at?  I stop in one of the gardens I planted last fall and pull away a bit of leaf and stick debris from the winter and get a nice surprise.

The year-old lupine I’ve nurtured from a lone seed harvested from the Fort Hill colony of lupines has survived the winter and is right where I forgot I’d planted it.   I’ve always loved the lupine foliage, both their dark tones and the way the palmate leaves sometimes collect a bit of rainwater or dew in the center where they meet.

The lupin(e) is a legume, so one of the side benefits of having some in the garden is that it extracts nitrogen from the air and fixes it – as ammonia – into the soil, thus fertilizing it for other plants.

Excess nitrogen in our environments (largely from the over- and oft indiscriminate – use of commercial fertilizers for lawns and gardens) is a big concern, causing algae blooms that have harmfully altered both fresh and saltwater environments.   So I think it’s comforting to know there are plenty of plants designed to improve the soil for its leafy brethren.

There’ll be more to say of lupines later in the season, when their spotlight moment arrives.   Meanwhile, there are other discoveries, like this thick forest, a veritable legion of bee balm seedlings in the fence garden.   There are so many and all so close together.   When I have an opportunity, I’ll see about carefully separating and replanting some of them, to spread around a bit more.   Hummingbirds love those pipe-y red flowers and frankly, I’m fond of them, too.

On the southern side of the house, a pair of peachy hyacinths are preparing to bloom at the feet of a colony of daylilies.   Planting spring bulbs at the feet of daylilies always seems like such a clever and tidy idea.   The early bulbs keep your attention when the daylilies are just getting going with leaves and such.  And as they grow and start to arch out over their closest neighbors, the daylily fronds hide the fading foliage of the spring flowers.  I can’t take credit for this particular plant configuration, but I’ll happily duplicate it elsewhere.

The new suet feeder on the deck has become a featured stop for a variety of birds now that its been there a while.   Now Mister Purrypants is thrilled about the new entertainment and is all “Ssssh, and get out of my way, my story’s on…” whenever a bird appears on the porch.   I sometimes hear him sitting on the bureau, talking quietly to them.

There’s a chickadee or two, of course, and lots of the smaller woodpeckers.   One of the latter showed some surprising agression toward one of the former the other day.   It was surprising to me, but then I actually have no idea what that smug little black-capped fellow might’ve been twittering about.   It might’ve been something pretty unflattering about the woodpecker’s mum.

There’s a pair of starlings who visit a few times a day.   They are obviously a couple, though I’ve not tracked them to see if they are nesting somewhere nearby (thus far there is no nesting happening on the underside of the deck, which means we’ll hopefully get that replaced this spring, too).   Although as a horde, the starlings can be a bit much (and expensive at the bird feeder), I do enjoy watching these two when they stop by for a bite to eat.

The greens you see in the bottom of the photo are the pine boughs which doubled as a Christmas tree for me (or at least its fragrance) back in December.   I’ve got them stuck in an empty nursery pot and they make a nice waiting area when the feeder’s already occupied.   (And yes, I’m keeping a careful eye that no one nests in there, either.)

We’ve also spied a pair of wrens, who sing their pretty little songs while picking up the little bits of suet that fall onto the deck below the feeder and for the first time, this weekend we saw a pair of tufted titmice stop by for a nibble.

Knock on wood, we remain undiscovered by the squirrels.  I’m sure this can’t last, but so far, they seem far too busy with devising Wile E. Coyote style plans for getting into the big covered feeder in the side yard.

“Now voyager, lay here your dazzled head.
Come back to earth from air, be nourished,
Not with that light on light, but with this bread.”

“Here close to earth be cherished, mortal heart,
Hold your way deep as roots push rocks apart
To bring the spurt of green up from the dark.

— May Sarton


Comments on: "The Garden at March’s End" (5)

  1. Lovely photos of spring on its way.

  2. It looks as if you’re off to a great start for spring. I’m looking forward to seeing your garden grow.

  3. No flowers up here yet, but it’s 80 degrees! Very unusual. Oh and saw a robin yesterday too.

  4. Hey Bud!

    We’re still in FL, but love seeing your Spring emerge! I just got a Canon Rebel XTi and a 55-250 lens. It’s exciting, but confusing??!?!?!? Boy,… do we have to talk!!!!?!?!?



  5. Lots of moody blues and purples in your springtime mix, like the plants knew cool, wet weather was on its way. I hope you were spared the worst of the storms I was hearing about. It’s cool out this way too, though of course “cool” is relative. No snow, but some plants are late to bloom. It looks like we might still be celebrating spring once the season gets going in colder climes. A long, cool springtime: There are definitely worse things in the world!

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