Monday, March 21, 2011

Make Way for Gardeners!

After a tortuous winter of snowstorms that obscured the landscape for months at a stretch, today, March 20th at 7:02PM, we pass the Vernal Equinox, officially entering Spring. As if to celebrate the occasion, the first of our Artichoke seeds (Imperial Star, sown in pots indoors,) broke ground today. The sense of hope that lay dormant beneath the snows, stirs again. Visions of fresh lettuces dance in ones head. The Galanthus is approaching full blossom and Crocuses decorate the ground like splotches of spilled, pastel paint.
After weeks when one could not have gardened if one wanted to, shortly, it will take all one can do to keep up with the gardens demands. I admit, I didn’t do all I should have to put the garden to bed last fall. There were competing concerns. Now, one hastens to remove the stalks of last years crops, leaf matter needs to be worked into the soil, and compost laid on, to nurture the coming seasons crops. I do have an excuse, not that that one is necessary. On January 31st, of this year, we lost our beloved Irish Terrier, Jasper, after thirteen years. The months preceding his demise we devoted to securing his comfort. Now, he will no longer supervise our weeding from the shade of the Japanese maple. No more will he patrol the garden to chase away bird-killing cats. It is a wonder that the sun remains in the sky!
Still, Spring is all about renewal, for the landscape outside, and for us, inside. With that in mind, now is the time to cut back ones Buddleia, almost to the ground. Likewise, fruit trees should be cut back and shaped to allow for light and good air circulation. Ones reward for these efforts will be new growth, more flowers and bigger fruit than ever. In the potager, last week I made the first of what will be several sowings of Spring Peas (Progress # 9), by St. Patricks Day, for luck. This will be followed shortly by Spinach, another cool weather loving crop.
In the woodland garden also, signs of Spring are everywhere. Despite the snows and the nibbling of deer and ground hogs, the Hellebores (Lenten Roses) have spread and are sprouting blossoms. Likewise, the Hamamelis, (Witch Hazel) one of the earliest trees to blossom, is more floriferous this year than ever. Here in zone six, keep an eye out for Spring Ephemerals like Sanguinaria Canadensis (Blood Root), Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily) and Tussilago farfara (Colts Foot).
2010 marked the fifth year of the potager at Penrose Bungalow. In honor of the occasion, I am preparing a book, The Potager at Penrose Bungalow, An American Garden, A World of Ideas, that is (mostly) a photographic record of the first five years of our experiences establishing this garden. I have written an introduction that puts this undertaking into context, and John Peters contributed a foreword that illuminates the sources of inspiration that guided his choices in the garden. Look for word of its publication in the coming weeks.
If you haven’t started your garden, well, what are you waiting for?! If you have, tell me what you plan to grow this year, and why. What are your taste buds yearning for?
Keep gardening!

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