Just around the corner


Though the garden remains covered by snow, several days of warmer temperatures are forecast for this week. Time for winter is running short on the calendar, and finally there is evidence that this long season of cold might be coming to a close. While it’s likely that the snow will melt in a few days, it’s doubtful we’ve seen that last of cold temperatures, and March is quite often a chaotic blend of winter and spring.Snow covered spruce in mid February

I put little stock in the planning of January, when everything seems possible, and from which few plans ever seem to be implemented. But, from these winter daydreams I’ve purchased a few oddities by mail order from a firm that specializes in plants that have little commercial appeal, and which are impossible to find in the garden center. With delivery scheduled for early April, planting conditions should be nearly ideal, and I’ll rejoice if all are successful. This year I’m determined to insure the small plants’ survival by first potting them into containers to grow on until their roots are more established, and of course this should give me adequate time to figure where they will be planted.

As I’ve walked through the frigid garden I’ve noted a misshapen dwarf spruce contorted by the heavy snows and ice storms of recent years, and now seems an appropriate time for its inevitable removal (that has been considered for several years). The spruce has grown tall enough that it obscures a view of the origin of a stream that was constructed to be seen from the kitchen window, so whatever goes back into this spot must grow no taller than knee high. Perhaps I’ll be happy with something even lower, but in fact, there’s little need to even consider what will replace the spruce until it’s been chopped out. In April I’ll look again, once I can see the clumps of daylilies and hostas that were growing at the base of the old spruce the last time I checked. If the spruce has not overwhelmed and shaded them, there will be the start, and then I’ll hope to be inspired how to replace the massive evergreen.Forest Pansy redbud new growth

The December ice storm felled a huge swamp red maple, which narrowly avoided the house, but unfortunately crushed an aged ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud. Most of the branches of the maple have been cut, but thirty feet of the trunk remains, arching over the garden where Oakleaf hydrangeas, camellias, and hellebores are threatened if I make too much of a disturbance when the removal is completed. Though the redbud had grown thin with age, it remained a centerpiece, so selection of a replacement seems critical. Of course, the replacement is not critical at all by comparison to the most trivial of human tragedies, but I will agonize more than seems necessary until a new plant is chosen as a focal point.Huge leaves and blooms on Oakleaf hydrangea in mid June

And, this is why I pay little attention to the dreams of January. Certainly, perusing catalogs of perennials and the winter editions of garden magazines is not wasted effort, and occasionally pages that are torn from a magazine featuring next season’s treasures are referred back to, and a purchase is actually made. But, for me, winter planning is more a device to get me through until spring, and more results are derived from a stroll through the garden on a March afternoon with the sun on my back and daffodils and paperbushes in full bloom.Mini daffodils in mid March

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