Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Unfurls

warm earth
smells of spring
flowers are a party dress

I inherited several many herbaceous peonies when I bought this place. They’ve got to be at least 50 years old…every year I find they've spread further into the grass. I find it interesting that one of them is quite short and fat, even the shoots are much thicker and more squat than the other peonies; the leaves are wider and the plant has flowers before the others are even fully budded out. I’ll show how different they are, as they continue to grow this season. Sprouts; Peonies are a lot like potatoes; they totally disappear in the late fall (I leave the cages on them just so I know where they are later!). Under the surface, there is a big tuber with eyes, they’re called, which send up shoots every spring. These are about the most care-free, least time-consuming plants; they require nothing from me, really. Later, they will have ants crawling over their flowers, which eat the sugar that weeps there. The ants don’t hurt the plant at all, in fact grandmothers used to say your peony flowers wouldn’t open, unless it had ants.

Raspberries are another pretty care-free plant that I totally enjoy. The patch I have is a bit overgrown with grass and is not staked at all, but it offers up the most delectable red berries twice a year; a huge crop in the summer and again later in the fall. I harvest the ones that the birds don’t get and spread them out on a cookie sheet. I put them in the freezer for an hour or two and then pour the frozen nuggets into a bag that I can dig into when I feel the need for a sweet snack. I don’t mind sharing my bounty with the birds at all, I get so much pleasure watching them all year; it seems paying for the entertainment is the least I can do.

Bleeding Heart disappears in summer heat, but returns in early spring. I’m so tickled to see this plant…and the one I bought with it. They look to be a fragile looking, fern-like plant, but they’re really quite hardy. They prefer a cool spot and some shade but the variety I planted flowers like there is no tomorrow; pretty pink heart-shaped flowers…each with a pink tear dripping from its pointed edge. I love the green leaves and beautiful red stems.

A tiny sedum in pink glory. What a lovely little ground cover this plant is. It needs little to no water from me and protects the earth in a blanket of pink-edged green. Need more? This plant will darn near root itself if you just throw a piece anywhere. I like that about it...ease of use! And look at that color...we're talking leaves here, yanno.

The almost shocking blue of Grape Hyacinth; this little bulb is available in many shades of blue; from a pretty deep purple to a clear white and a few bi-colors to boot. They are funny little plants that do look a bit like clusters of grapes when they first appear, but as the flowers mature, you will find they look more like tiny little bells. The bees love them, too.
Purple Smoke Bush sends out leaves along its slender twigs, not unlike Witch Hazel I think. I have a large, a VERY large dog; male. I am always tickled to find my new shrubs each spring...a few have succumed to my dog's watering efforts. By summertime the small bush will be a Purple Haze.

Evergreens get into the act; this one is a Dwarf Mugo Pine. While I won't have to do so with this particular pine which stays under three feet tall, I understand one way to slow the growth of a pine is to break it's 'candles', as the new shoots are called, in half. I may experiment with this as I continue fleshing out my yard. I'm planting for wildlife...and need more evergreens.

This plant is a Columbine I discovered growing near my front door. It self-seeded in a pot, which I rather appreciate and it appears to be coming back again. Yes, this is the kind of gardening I do; plant once and come-again types take so much less work. I like that about a plant. Mine are yellow, just like the wild ones that grew at my cabin.

The Vinca is already flowering; it’s such a sweet, well mannered plant that just keeps on trying. My big ol’ dog enjoys laying on it; it offers a soft, cool bed. Well, perhaps it doesn’t offer that and endures a struggle under it is more the case.

There were several very old apple trees in this big yard and I wince to admit I cut down two of them the second year I lived here. One was a large tree with a beautiful silhouette, that must have been 100 feet tall and a canopy at least half that wide. Someone pruned badly, which hardly mattered; the apples were mealy and not very tasty…except to the wasps and the bears. Every fall this town is invaded by at least a few bears, some-times as many as thirty. The last year this tree lived, I picked up five nearly-full 30-gallon cans of apples off the ground...two weekends in a row! Not only do I need to beat the bears (no, I don’t believe in baiting bears nor punishing them for showing up when we do) to the bounty, but if one leaves them too long they rot and offer the wasps a drunken banquet. I had the tree cut down.

The other one I cut down was actually a 5-1 grafted tree that usually I like; in fact I’ve given more than one as a wedding gift or house-warming present. But this one was old, diseased, broken…and about three steps outside my back door. It had to go. I am a firm believer in insisting the plants and animals one keeps earn their keep. Okay, if one doesn’t eat them…then they should at least entertain or beautify our world; and they should be low-maintenance. There, I said it. I’m heartless…and lazy. I love the 5-6 I have left, and do not spray them…ever. While the apples are too big for the birds and attract the damn tree-rats (no, I’m not fond of squirrels), they do feed the bees and butterflies and are drop-dead gorgeous in the springtime; aren’t they?

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