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."

Archive for the ‘crocuses’ Category

Best Anticipations: An April Garden Report

I don’t look forward to Earth Day anymore.    Two years ago, I went for a walk on a sunny morning in late April and discovered a days-old development newly carved out of a patch of woods by the bayshore.  Lots for Sale.    The splendid yellow bulldozer still lingered on the scene, the air still toxic with the fumes of the macadam cul-de-sac.

Then last spring, I turned on the radio and heard about an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the start of a summer’s long environmental crisis in that part of the world.   This year, Earth Day is still a week or so away and we have sewage plant disks that will linger on our shorelines probably as long as that pesky little radiation problem in Japan will be a devilment over there.    They sent work crews down to the Cape last week to clean up the disks, but there are still plenty to be found.    If I’d gone for the close-up, I have no doubt you’d find half a dozen in this photo below.    Hidden pictures, anyone?

Fortunately, April is also about rebirth.    Everywhere you look, there’s a slow motion fireworks display getting underway, with bright colors bursting out of almost every corner of the landscape.    Nature’s cycle begins anew, growing fresh green over the scars of the past and rewarding the faith of gardeners everywhere.

In the last week we seem to have turned a corner with our weather.   Our temperatures are just a little warmer, now.  This past weekend, we slept with windows open for the first time, the peepers in the surrounding wetlands singing us off with a springtime lullabye.   Oh, what a treat!

Pansies have appeared on the landscape, too, on plywood display racks in front of nurseries and groceries and garden centers everywhere.

A hanging basket of assorted colors was my first purchase this year, but just the thing to encourage me out onto the deck to re-install the first of the shepherd’s crooks.

Similarly, it was purchasing a whole flat of pansies in a range of purple-blues and tiny violas in yellow for contrast that got me to start raking out beds and cleaning up the lawn.   There’s an extra layer of thatch to be teased free after last year’s droughtiness, but the raked spots green up so nice, it’s worth the effort.   The robins stalk my progress, digging worms out of the ground where I’ve been.  Cardinals sing down the sun as I rake.

It feels so good to be outside, to be finding everything coming back to life:   the tulips that will be blooming before long, the heliotrope which will tower shortly thereafter.    All the perennials are lush and green looking, as I clear away the debris of last season and the leaves which gathered through the winter’s storms.  I think it’s fun to put on the yard’s happy face at the start of the season, as I consider all the possibilities that lie ahead.
The signs of the season are all around us.   All of the different blackbird varieties have now returned, their presence noted in and around feeders.  Last weekend, a convention of raptors was spotted overhead in our yard, seven or eight of them.    They were up pretty high and we weren’t trying too hard to identify them, but the likeliest suspects are red-tailed hawks, ospreys and/or turkey vultures.    Down on the ground, chipmunks are beginning to scamper about, cautious of the danger overhead, but eager to find food.

This young flicker has been advertising his baser instincts by jackhammering against the vinyl siding right behind where I sit at the computer each sunny morning this week.   You’d think this would give him a wicked headache, but this is how his people attract the attention of a pretty young girl flicker.  There’s a whole family of flickers visiting the yard this spring, in fact.   I’ve seen one or two in the past, but they have apparently found something to bring them back here with their growing family.

You can be sure that I am not the only one who’s noticing the change in the seasons.   Spring (and no doubt the scent of all those birds) has most certainly gotten into to the nose of my roommate and we have been re-introducing after-dinner walks around the yard into our evening routine this week.

My pal Badum is always happy to get out and do a little exploring, but especially so at the end of a long winter (but not all thaaaat long, as we did manage one of these walks one surprisingly-warm day in early January).   It’s fun to see a different side of his personality when we get outside and I try to stay out of his line of sight, when possible, to give him the authentic “I’m outside on my own” experience.   I sometimes suspect he’s as pleased to have some protection from that large birds we now-and-then see overhead.

Anyway, it’s mostly about him finding the kind of grass he likes to nibble on best.   Once in a while, tho, something catches his eye, like the black cat he spotted lurking in the woods at the back of our property tonight.    Fortunately, he didn’t bolt, since he might easily have escaped the harness and I used that…and the falling dark…to justify the end of the evening’s explorations.

Still, it is loads of fun to get out there and see the world through his eyes.   I never know just what it is we’ll find.   For instance, it was the Gardener’s Cat who pointed out the wild white violets which were quietly starting to bloom at the feet of our aging catawba tree.    Amusingly enough, he seems not to have a clue that a family of squirrels have been seen building a home inside.

“Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.

It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.”

~ Charles Dudley Warner

Around The Corner

First things first:  THIS might be my new favorite song.   I can’t think of a reason why it shouldn’t also be yours.  Let it play in another window as we go.

It’s been a cold week.   Oh, there was plenty of bright golden sunshine, but punctuated with gusty winds and low temps and the usual spring blend of rain, snow and sleet to mush it all together into general Grossness.

Anyway, it’s nice to have the crocuses to draw my focus down to the ground, so that it’s easier to see that – while the general landscape of the neighborhood is still dressed in those dull earthen tones of late Winter – there’s a change happening down at our feet.

While I was looking up close at the crocuses, I discovered that there was a forest of newly-sprouted sweet allssyum seedlings beneath the protective canopy of last year’s dead allyssum plants.

I couldn’t be happier that I’ve got this plant growing there so nicely with so little encouragement from me.

It does encourage me, however, and my mind’s already begun to whirl a little with ideas and plans for what to do this year as Spring becomes Summer.

I also have to explore more of the other beds around the house and see what charms the season might be working there.   I’m interested to see if last year’s sunflowers make a comeback on their own for 2011, as the calendula did last year from a 2009 planting.

In another part of the forest, the heliotrope appears likely ready for division after this spring’s blooming.   It seems a surprise that it’s twice the size it used to be, but it’s also another of Life’s mile markers – it or rather, we, have been growing here for just about three years, so the heliotrope’s right on schedule.   I love how it presents all purply-red from the early spring frosts, before turning it’s lovely green as our days warm.

As the song says, just around the corner from the Nest I’d seen a whole bunch of Spring, with this pink heather blooming in the same yard where a great colony of early daffodils have been singing their golden song since St. Patty’s Day.   So this morning, I went off for a walk to see it close-up.

Aside from these early trumpets of gold, crocuses are the dominant bloom on the landscape, although there are surprises to be found here and there.

Several small patches of purple in someone’s lawn turned out to be wild violets, which was a happy surprise, indeed.

I also found a few Glory of the Snow.    I’m tempted to say they’re my favorite, but I realize – as you must, too, by now – that every plant is my favorite.   On this topic, you can be sure I’m not real objective.  But I’m fond of their true blue color and their delicate, short-lived blossoms and the way they create puddles of color in a place where they’ve been allowed to grow for a while.

The bay as seen from Rock Harbor today was greener than it appears in this image, another one of those signs that the season is well underway, even if it often seems not quite so obvious.   The wind off the bay was a little sharp, but also less so than its been recently.

And on shore there’s crocuses.   Lots and lots of crocuses.

“…I know what they told you in the press,

but people, Spring is just around the corner.”

Richard Julian.

Sadness and Blessings

Already it is the middle of March.   Saint Patrick’s Day.    And what astounding reminders we have had this past week about not taking for granted the many blessings in our lives, about how it turns out we are often luckier than we even realize.

At this point, I can’t imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t seen at least a little coverage of the dreadful happenings in Japan.   A historically monstrous earthquake, followed quickly by a devastating tsunami would certainly be misery enough for anyone.   And now there’s the additional harrowing concern about failing nuclear reactors upstaging the rest.  Our planet weeps.

I know some people who tell me they simply can’t look at it or read about it anymore.    Some already bore a heavy cloak of sadness for one reason or another, and seeing footage of the disaster is too much for them.   Many others have reached their saturation point, they’ve just seen too much; I understand that, too.

I sort of overdosed on the news cycle ten years ago after 9/11, so I do try to keep myself exposed in measured doses and turn off the TV or radio after a while.  Usually I find reading the news is informative but maybe less of an assault on the senses.   I think it’s important to stay in touch with what’s going on, what’s happened, but to keep in mind that too much can have its own impact on a person, and not just leave the telly on to loop bad news over and over again.  That just wears on the soul.

But I also find some folks seem so eager to glance away and not think about it, who don’t seem to appreciate that being able to look away is a luxury.   That the people who were not crushed by collapsing buildings or swept away by waves, those people can’t look away.   They had days just like ours, with work and families and shopping and homes and housekeeping and so on just before their world turned upside down and they have now found themselves, in some cases, with none of that…and not even much in the way of food and water.

How lucky are we who have our meals and our homes and our families.

Ugh.  So serious.   And fittingly so:  terrible things have occurred.

One of the amateur clips I saw online of the earthquake was from a guy who was walking through his house filming as it happened, sort of dashing about, his shaky (understandably!) camera showing everything in the rooms he passed through, and generally revealing rows and rows of planted flower pots just about everywhere the camera swung:  lined up by windows, or along one side of a hallway, or on one side going down the steps.  I couldn’t help but laugh; here was someone who makes my indoor gardening seem like an occasional hobby.  In hindsight, I think he wasn’t dashing through the house panicking about the earthquake, but was actually just trying to keep up with the watering.

And watching some of the video footage of the tsunami, well, that’ll give anyone who lives on Cape Cod the creeps if they think about it for very long.   No wonder we look away – it doesn’t take long to see some of ourselves in the scenario.  And that’s too scary to think about.

It’s still winter there in north eastern Japan and Mother Nature laid a little snow atop their sorrow this week, too.  Even overlooking for the moment the uncertain business about the nuclear reactors, there’s a bitter harvest for them this Spring.

May a thousand flowers bloom where their tears water the earth.

Spring is coming on strong here in the Nest this week.  This African violet has presented buds and begun blooming just in the last week and this morning, my old amaryllis began to bloom in the early morning sun.  In fact, my “Thanksgiving” cactus – with the yellow flowers – is preparing to bloom again, as is my eager Christmas cactus at the office.

Now that we’ve sprung ahead with our clocks for Daylight Savings Time, it’s quite a treat to have more sunlight after work.    After the long dark winter, I almost feel like a thief for sneaking out of the office when its still so very light!

Woo hoo, I’ll happily take it and run…or at least walk, as we’ve done to the beach several evenings this week.   And the signs of Spring are mounting outdoors, as well, with the moss getting all freshly green, robins digging worms,  the red-wing blackbirds congregating like strange chattering and singing leaves in a bare treetop as the sun goes down.


“Carpe diem!

Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day;

live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have.

It is later than you think.”

Horace, 65 BC – 8 BC