Despite cool temperatures, March is dragging the garden (kicking and screaming against its will, it seems) into spring. On Saturdays’s gray morning I was convinced on first glance that the day was too inhospitable to undertake the garden chores that surely must be accomplished within the next few weeks or disaster will strike. Rain seemed imminent, and recent days have been uncomfortably cool, so I was content to sit it out and concentrate my efforts on another day when the weather would be more pleasant.
There is limited time once temperatures become suitable to work outdoors before perennials and grasses begin growing, and if the old foliage is not removed there is a mess that makes the labor doubly difficult. If piles of leaves are not raked and shredded, perennials growing beneath are likely to grow weak and spindly. In past years, I’ve neglected late winter weeds until after they’ve flowered and scattered thousands of seeds, so that many hours of additional labor are required. Having suffered the pains of neglect too many times, I’m motivated to get on with the chores so long as there’s not a reasonable excuse to delay for another week.
Giving up on this dreary day, I relaxed to read the newspaper from front to back. But, by late morning the sun broke through the heavy clouds for a few moments to catch my attention, and I noticed on the thermometer that the temperature had risen above fifty. Perhaps some work would be accomplished after all.
Lately, I’ve noted that early spring flowering plants are tardy by comparison to recent years, and in fact I read yesterday that the peak flowering of the renowned cherry blossoms in D.C. has been moved back another week, into early April. Typically, I’m not one to quibble with the weather, but I’ll admit to becoming impatient with the delay in warm weather arriving. So, I was pleasantly surprised to go out into the garden after spending a few too many hours in the office this week.
‘Okame’ cherry (Prunus x incam ‘Okame’, above) was in tight bud a week ago, but today this early flowering cherry is nearing full bloom. ‘Okame’ will often begin to flower late in February or at the start of March. Occasionally, the blooms are injured by late frosts, but the small flowers are much less at risk than larger magnolia blooms that arrive at nearly the same time. ‘Okame’ is not commonly planted, though its early blooms and moderate size compared to other wide spreading cherries should substantiate wider acceptance.
I’ve lamented the late arrival of ‘February Gold’ daffodils (above), and finally they are beginning to flower in mid March. This isn’t unheard of, but in recent years they’ve flowered much earlier (sometimes even in February, which the name implies, but is rarely the month when they flower in my garden). Other daffodils show only the slightest amount of color in this cold natured garden, where I herald flowers that have often been blooming for weeks in warmer area gardens.
The last of the crocuses are flowering in the front garden (above), when I figured that all had already bloomed, and I supposed that the purple ones must have been carried off by squirrels. In some gardens crocuses seed and spread with abandon, but not in this garden, and here again is a lesson that spring flowering bulbs should be planted in numbers no less than fifty, or even a hundred. Otherwise, the results are disappointing for years. Some year, I’ll heed this excellent advice when making my purchases in early autumn, but I’ll enjoy this small bunch of purple flowers for now. I will also opt for earlier flowering types when purchasing in the future, since the small crocuses are more appreciated when there are fewer other flowers.
The day’s labor is more worthwhile by taking a few occasional moments to enjoy these flowers, and the pieris and edgeworthias that are tardy, but now beginning to show some color. Temperatures are forecast to be cooler again for the coming week, and no warm days are forecast through the end of the month. So, spring will continue to creep along, but the work accomplished on this Saturday, and the flowers are encouraging.