Grateful for Gardening
Sunshine pushes leaves up out of their stems, leaves that have been slow-motion reaching though dark soil in their sprout form, and then color bursts forth. It’s truly a miracle, it’s sacred, it’s magic. We are in the stage of green being my (everyone’s?) favorite color. The fuzz, a chartreuse haze, becomes visible as buds cover the canopies over the river and streets. Oh Spring, fill our city with a color, any color, god, other than beige and brick and other neutrals of those dingy boring months after we’ve tired winter and no wonder is left, only waiting.
Sowing seeds began, for me, last week of February, and I still was late for many things I planted (like rosemary, anemones, sweet peas and pansies). But only mistakes will teach me, so, next year I’ll adjust. About a month ago, I made the horrible mistake of over fertilizing and killed 1/3 of my seedlings. I grieved. And then a week later, I reseeded some and came to terms with the rest. Several farmer friends generously offered some of their extras, which warmed my heart. It was the most replied-to story ever on my Instagram, which surprised me and warmed my heart. I think there’s a collective loss happening right now, and though everyone’s experiences are so vastly different (as in, some people are losing family members, some people can’t feed their kids, and then others are mourning the loss of a $30k event they’ve been planning for a year or the weekend routine of eating out…), my little seedling loss really struck a chord. It was humbling to have that response.
But – the seedlings that remain and have since popped up are in the process of being “hardened off.” The indoor conditions are warm, constant and windless. Outside they can get a sunburn, the breeze will knock them over right quick, and they get chilled! So you introduce them to the real world gently. An hour or two in the shade of a few calm 65 degree days; three hours in dappled light or a small breeze, etc. Take a week or so to get them acclimated. Most annuals want a 50 degree night at least which tends to happen about mid-May. So I schlep them in and out, upstairs and down, again and again.
Since March 13, I’ve been living with my partner, Christopher, at his house because I have a roommate who also has a partner, so for distancing sake, we arranged it like so. His house is on a small city lot, and for some reason this block doesn’t have an alley, so an enormous shared driveway eats up the north side of the property. But, in the past 2.5 years we’ve been together, he’s given me full reign of what space there is, and man, have I crammed a lot of plants in!
We’ve built new raised beds each season and this spring I’ve already been renovating existing areas to make room for foxglove, hellebore and roses (free from a FB group!). There’s a large evergreen that’s trimmed up about 10 feet high so the sun shines under it pretty nicely. Previously it’s been an overgrown hosta farm, bug not on my watch!! A: Any sunny spots deserve sun loving plants. B: Hostas have their place and are reliable and pretty where nothing else can grow or you have mass amounts of space to landscape.
Here though, my goal is to use every square inch as creatively as I can to have a cutting garden all season long. I dug out each monster hosta and left about 20% so there’s still that established ring of green tufts around the tree, but now there’s also room for my preferred plants. I can’t wait to see how different it looks come summer. And, some rando driving past the house last week was overjoyed by the huge load of free hostas. Win-win.
The other perennials have been waking up, too. In bloom are rhododendrons (Chris’ favorite) and a forsythia we planted two years ago. I’m dying to have a magnolia and quince or crabapple, but space is pretty limited and I can’t splurge on those anyway this season. Bee balm has spread like mad from the little clump planted in October, phlox, foxglove, veronica, iris, astilbe, peonies… they’re all up! Baptisia, to my delight, is coming up; it was totally eaten by rabbits and I thought done for, but it comes up like a hosta? I guess? The ferns are unfurling. Lilac bushes are green and flowers are budding.
In our zone, 4b, May 15 is not the soonest you can plant. If you want to get into it, there are lots of cold-tolerant plants. Flower-wise, I’ve got ranunculus, anemone and sweet peas a few inches tall (all started from seed/corm in Feb/March). Purchased annual pansies, snapdragon, ivy and ranunculus are in bloom. The plants can tolerate a freeze, though you may lose the flowers in bloom at the time. My nigella and marigold seedlings have been outside for a while, now, too!
The tulips have come and almost gone! Just one variety remains to bloom. I am saving many of them for Mother’s Day orders but have been enjoying playing with some in the meantime. Akebono is an early, double tulip in yellow with the most faint and magical lines and speckles of red.
The cold-tolerant, annual vegetables we have are sugar snap peas, kale, lettuces and broccoli. They are all happy in the cool temps and can handle a frost, too. I’ve never grown broccoli, and we got a broccolini type I think? We’ll see if we get anything to harvest! Our perennial strawberries are flowering, the grapes (rabbit-chewn, ugh!!) are budding, but the asparagus hasn’t poked up yet.