A Winter’s Garden in April

Chafed Hands

I have just come in from a garden much different than the one I will be talking about in this week’s post. There are so many tasks to complete in the spring garden. I leave all the dead growth as is until winter releases its grasp. I like to imagine that by doing this, I am providing the resting plants blankets of sorts. When the frigid temperatures arrive, the once lush green dies and the stems turn all shades of golden yellow and brown. When the snow falls (of which there was not much to be had this year), the stems break and the cozy blanket is formed. Come spring, all this dead growth is in the way and must be cut back not only to allow for the new growth to poke through but also to beautify the garden a bit.

The dead growth may provide a sort of beauty in texture when contrasted with the white of the snow of winter but in the spring garden, it is an eyesore. And, so, the work continues. It seems that no matter how much I trim back (asters, mums, roses, borage, tansy, cone flowers, mints, etc.) there seems to be so much more left. I am getting there though – or at least I like to think I am. I guess I could be ruthless and just grab everything, yank it out, bag it and then smooth over the dirt but this is not my style. Further, if I were to do this, I would run the risk of ripping out the new seedlings (when it comes to self-seeding annuals) or (and I did this today by accident) rip out the new growth of a perennial. I was cutting away some gray, decaying borage when I grabbed a hold of what I thought was a dried borage stem but it was my globe mallow! I ripped it clean out and I noticed the tiny leaves at the base. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. But then I wondered what the plant actually was. It had a longish, horizontal stem. “That’s right! The Mallow” When I bought it, it had a long horizontal stem so I planted the whole thing along that horizontal edge in hopes little babies would spring from it. Well, my hopes have been realized but since it was completely unearthed, I hope I did not cause it too much harm. This is a VERY hardy plant so I am hopeful.

The borage and the mallow

I have a very funny way of working in the garden. I will clear a bit but then I notice a pot that needs to have the soil churned. Once I get it cleared of old growth and roots and have all the soil within smooth and ready for planting, I grab some seeds (borage and mints are a favorite), remove my gloves and create my little rows with my bare fingers. There is nothing like the feel of cool, freshly prepared garden soil. I will often bury my hand deep within a pot searching for rogue root balls from last year’s annuals and then bring a whole handful to my nose where I then I inhale deeply. The aroma is so glorious! With my gloves still off, I will often notice some rogue dried plants that need clearing so without putting the gloves on again I will grab them all and break them up. This results in some very chaffed and cut up hands. I currently have some raspberry hairs in my fingertips not to mention the borage hairs. It’s okay though as this is all part of being connected to my little bit of earth so therefore no complaints. Well, the hairs are irritating if I am being honest. I have some wonderful gardener’s scrubbing soap that I bought from Botanical Interests. It is textured with poppy seeds so I will pause this post for now to really scrub my fingertips in hopes of getting some of these plant hairs to dislodge.

I am back and this exercise was pretty successful. Most if not all of the embedded hairs appear to be gone. This is a great soap!

Spring Snows

I have learned over time to not underestimate Mother Nature during the spring months in Colorado. We can enjoy a week of beautiful weather in the mid 70’s and then, in an instant, it can change. The mercury can drop 30 – 40 degrees and then instead of the April rain showers, we get snow – heavy, wet snow. This happened a couple weeks ago and instead of stressing, I just let nature take its course. Usually I would be in a panic – “What about the daffodils! They will break! And the tender foliage emerging… The snow will flatten and ruin everything!” Well, let me just say, this storm did damage many a daffodil and yes, there were some plants completely flattened by the wet snow but they are bouncing back and in the end, my blood pressure was none the worse for wear.

I need to move beyond the tendency to mollycoddle my garden. Either the plants will survive or they won’t. With this concept in mind I really need to steer clear of plants that are not meant for my region. If I stick with natives (or hardy plants capable of surviving the unpredictability of the Colorado climate) I will have a much easier time of it. Not only would these types of plants adapt to our dry weather but they would also have sense enough to leaf out when they should and survive accordingly. Like most gardeners though, I am often tempted by all the beautiful plants on display at my local nursery but I am resisting these temptations this year. I mentioned in an earlier post I am growing a lot of my own plants from seed this year – hardy vegetables and annuals. This coupled with my existing water-smart perennials, I should be able to enjoy the garden more without fussing over it as much and worrying about hail, dry weather and the like. As time goes by, I will convert the entire garden to water-smart, xeriscape and other hardy varieties of plants and MAYBE, I can get to the point where I don’t even have to run the sprinklers. As I think of my pending water bills I realize how nice that truly would be.

For anyone trying to make something out of a little bit of earth – whether as a gardener or as a farmer, we find ourselves at the mercy of nature. Drought, hail, winds, late snows, early snows, sudden frosts, extreme heat, pests, opportunistic ‘weeds’ and the like can test the patience of a saint. And yet, through it all, we continue, we persevere, we learn and in the end, it is WE that adapt.

I thank you very kindly from my heart for reading the posts on this blog. It is my strongest desire that after you read my words, I have inspired you in some way to make something out of a bit of earth. A bit of earth – this reminds me of Mary Lennox in the ‘Secret Garden’ thus I will leave you with these words. Until next time, many blessings and Happy Gardening!

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”

In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.

“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?”

“To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.

He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.

“Do you–care about gardens so much,” he said slowly.

“I didn’t know about them in India,” said Mary. “I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made little beds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different.”

Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.

“A bit of earth,” he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”

“May I take it from anywhere–if it’s not wanted?”

“Anywhere,” he answered.

And now some photos from a winter’s garden in April

Broken Daffodils

Snow Melting on Rocks

Spruce and Shadows

Grasses in Snow

Daffodil Survives Snow

Stairs of Snow

Terracotta in Snow

Melting Snow Droplets

Rudbeckia Seed Head

Spruce and Ice

One Comment

  1. Eve 25 April, 2017

    How nice it is to see all the snow….. in a photograph!! Here in sunny southern Arizona, my flowers are at full speed ahead! Love your blog, Benjy!!

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