Monday, February 16, 2009

Early Cuties

There’s something so endearing about the earliest flowers. Yesterday out in my garden, while I was kneeling down to clean up some leaf litter, I came across a little clump of snowdrops that had seeded themselves into the gravel near the greenhouse. Nose to nose with their tiny white flowers marked with green, a thrill coursed through me. Life is back in the garden!

Then I got an e-mail from my friend Michele who wrote, “The snowdrops in my front garden are tugging at my heartstrings.” All over Portland, no doubt, gardeners are exulting in the first flowers.

It’s the same when red peony shoots push through the soil and announce that they’re back for another season of sumptuous flowering. Even those first stems hinting at what’s coming in another few months is enough to make our hearts beat faster. It’s the eternal Yes! that we want to hear whispered, over and over, telling us that the plants lying dormant beneath the earth have only been waiting to reappear and delight us with their marvelous colors and scents.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Thrill of False Spring

It's early February and these last two days have been our "false spring" with temperatures in the 60s, sunny and glorious. I'm in heaven. I know it will rain again, but not yet! Birds are very active too, exulting in the warmth, and the suet feeder is covered with little bush tits every day.

Cutting off last year’s hellebore leaves is so satisfying—while I’m doing this I’m face to face with the newly opening flowers. I tip the pendant blossoms upward with one finger and look right inside them—some white, some pink, some burgundy, some freckled with darker splashes of color. So many hundreds of tiny hellebore seedlings sprout at the feet of the mother plants, it’s hard to find safe places to tread.

Now is the time to cut back the big stands of ornamental switch grasses too—Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Dallas Blues.’ I whack them back with long-handled loppers and pitch the spent tan stalks onto a big tarp, to be dragged to the compost pile. In my mind’s eye I see them rising up again, ‘Shenandoah’ with red tinted slender blades and ‘Dallas Blues’ with broader blue-green foliage.

Sedums too are ready to cut back, ‘Matrona’ and ‘Vera Jameson’ are already pushing up little succulent rosettes. I snip off the old stems and marvel at the signs of new life already arising in February. Everywhere I look the garden’s pulse is quickening.