Lucy stopped me yesterday and said "Thank you for spring." For a brief moment Gentle Reader, I was tempted to say, "You're welcome." However, in that brief moment I was very busy thinking. I know Lucy didn't really mean to infer that I was responsible for spring. I don't think she was thanking me for the fact that the gardening adverts on the TV and radio are announcing spring's arrival. Coming to the end of that briefest and may I say most ponderous of moments, I realised that I wasn't at all sure what Lucy meant and that I had best ask her for clarification. However, a nanosecond before that, my mouth responded, "Whaddya mean?" Such is the duality of the garden communicator's life, GR. We can write some good but when it comes to spontaneous conversation, we're a sorry lot.
"Your crocuses mean spring to me." Lucy lives across the street and has the misfortune of gazing upon a sorely neglected estate-mine. But...last fall I was able to plant several hundred of these vibrant heralders of spring and they put on a beautiful show. Only two colours were used- royal purple and saffron yellow- in large clumps and the simplicity of that scheme rewarded us with a resplendence that gladdened the winter dulled spirit.
I'm not one to receive compliments gracefully; in fact, if you were around me long enough, you'd realise that I seldom receive them at all. I do like them, though. I will take a long time to determine if the compliment was sincere- or merely polite convention- and if the former, I will repeat the actions that generated the positive comments. So in that vein, since I know Lucy is a wonderfully generous and sincere lady, I spent some time in determining what I could do to ensure the same compliment comes my way next spring.
The way to do that is to have early and continuous colour in the garden beginning early spring. The trick to knowing what will work in your neck of the woods is to tromp through your neck of the woods. Look around for little spots of colour, they could be wake-robins in the copse or a forsythia on the verge. These are plants that have adapted to your area and will bloom around the same time next year. Take notes. Repeat your walk every few days and you'll see quite a list developing. It will include bulbs (snow-drops, crocus, chiondoxa, muscari), perennials, (wake-robins/trilliums, ground phlox, pasque flower), shrubs (forsythia, witchazel, cornelian cherry, prairie dawn viburnum) and trees (magnolia- saucer and star, redbuds.)
It's important to visit your local nursery and garden centres but there is a caveat. Some places grow their plants in the ground on site. There is absolutely no doubt about the accuracy of the timing of those blooms. Some places overwinter much of their stock (especially the larger nurseries) and augment that inventory with new material from either specialty growers in warmer climes or from their own production facilities in the western part of the province. If you walk the aisles in these places you may see the same plant presented in several sizes. Overwintered plants might just be waking up and the imports will be well on the road to bloom. Still other retail outlets import 100% of their stock from other growers. Often a temporary sales opportunity for a large chain, these plants will almost always be in flower when they are offered for sale. Gentle Reader, if properly cared for, there is no reason to believe that any of these plants won't bloom in your garden next year. The caveat is that the time of blooming might be a titch off.
Lucy? The tulips are just about to open and the buds on the deciduous azaleas are fair to bursting. Don't be sparing with the next compliment.