Finding myself back in Savannah this week, I had some time (thanks in part to a 1.5 hour flight delay) to look back over the last month.
April is when spring officially arrives in the Hudson Valley. The beginning of the month brings a few hints of life in the otherwise brown and muddy landscape. Bits of green here and there, bulbs rising a couple of inches out of the ground, and the forsythia in bud, all promising to soon erase the winter, and with it the last vestiges of my (self diagnosed) seasonal affective disorder. From there, things progress rapidly, each week bringing different plants to life or into bloom, and marked changes in the appearance of the garden. One of my favorite times is late in the month when the mature trees first push out their new leaves. For the next few weeks, one can walk through the woods or a park, and look up through the brown branches at a chartreuse haze lightly filtering the sunlight. This April was a bit different than most. It began much warmer than usual, was abnormally dry in the middle, and ended on a cool and damp note. Although the weather pattern paralleled the same trajectory as one of my typical romances, the results were much more aesthetically pleasing.
My daffodils were in full bloom by April 1st this year, and peaked a full two weeks ahead of schedule. They put on a spectacular show as usual, but a few issues have arisen.
I had some clumps of dead elm trees removed from the woods last year, leaving some large threadbare patches in my spring carpet of yellow, orange and white. I will plant more daffodils to fill in these gaps come fall, but the challenge is to remember where exactly to plant, after the green tops of the existing ones have died back, leaving no trace of their location. I have tried a couple of methods over the years, with varying degrees of success. On my first attempt, I took detailed pictures of the empty patches when the daffodils were in bloom, so I could have a reference in the fall. The only problem was, everything looked quite different when the ground is covered with dead leaves. Even with a tree trunk or two as reference points, finding the borders of the daffodil-less areas was difficult. Two years ago I tried putting stakes in the ground to mark the edges of the areas, low enough to avoid catching a mowers blade. I hit the tops with orange spray paint for easy visibility in the fall. Either I put them too close to the ground, which swallowed them over the summer, or my well-meaning mower removed them. I never did figure out what exactly had happened, but again, a lot of guesswork was involved. Last year I finally found a better method. I marked the edges of the daffodil areas with left over invisible fence flags from dog training days. They work wonderfully. Even though I may still lose a few to my lawn mower, he won’t remove them, thinking I might be creating a number of small, irregularly shaped Chihuahua runs on the property. At least enough make it to the fall to give me a good idea of where to plant.
I was also grateful this April to discover that the squirrels did not eat all of the scilla bulbs I planted the previous fall. Based on my initial results, I plan to add a thousand or two this autumn.
I had an event at my house on April 14th, and asked my handyman Jim to get the fountain up and running beforehand. He came and started working on it, but soon informed me the pump had a crack in it, probably from being so old. I took a look at the pump before going to buy a replacement. The crack looked suspiciously like something made by man, but it was probably time for a new one anyway. A few trips to the hardware store and the fountain and frog were spitting away in time for the event.
In mid-April, my annual sweet peat mulch delivery arrived. Always one of the happiest days in my gardening year, I can hardly start to begin spreading the velvety brown mulch on my beds and under plantings. That feeling of joy will only be eclipsed by my sense of satisfaction when it is all spread and the pile, having become an eyesore, is gone weeks later.
The peonies sprang up like weeds, and one tree peony actually produced a bloom at the end of the month, a rarity in April.
Meanwhile, back in the Woodland garden, April brought some pleasing discoveries in the recently reclaimed areas. A small patch of bluebells were living in their dell (not where I ever remembered it being). I am making a point to;
- 1. Plant more this fall , and
- 2. Finally look up what a “dell” actually is.
Nearby, a gaggle of ostrich ferns I had long ago given up for dead made an reappearance. I was finding all sorts things!
Perhaps April’s best gift was the status of the four Hurricane Irene surviving trees I planted in the Woodland garden last fall. The cherry tree is thriving. The two dogwoods, though from a distance still just look like sticks, are sprouting leaves upon closer inspection.
Sunny von Redbud however, appears to be a lost cause. I won’t pull the plug just yet though.