February planting


If you thought February is when the gardener has nothing to do but wait for spring, that would not be correct: February is planting time.


Early spring :)

The groundhog didn't see his shadow and we're looking forward to an early spring! At least according to Phil, who is right about half of the time. It's warm, though, maybe he's right. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Every year in the middle of winter my otherwise serene living room turns into a wild jungle, and for two blessed months I live inside a miniature greenhouse. It's not all fun and games, of course, and between the water and dirt spilling on the carpet on my side, and the lack of appropriate lighting and the mold promoted by the excessive humidity of the starting trays on the plants' side, come April I look forward to moving the little sprouts outdoors, and they do too. For now, however, their presence is nothing short of bliss.

Because the tomatoes tend to develop too fast and grow leggy and chlorotic if they get more than six weeks indoors, I always make the mistake of planting all the seeds late, and when the last frost passes I have to transplant outside small and wispy perennial seedlings that subsequently have trouble adjusting to the transition. Compared to the little cocoon of their starting tray, the vastness of the garden feels way too harsh for the little plants.

If you ever planted annuals and perennials together, no doubt you noticed that the perennials, programmed for longer life, are neither in a hurry to germinate, nor eager to sprout every one of their seeds. They take their sweet time to emerge, three weeks, four, even longer, during which the wise gardener keeps watering bare dirt, nervously chewing on his or her fingernails and feeling more and more inadequate as time progresses. At the end of this nail biting period, rarefied seedlings sprout. They are never vigorous and fast growing like the ones in the picture, and the gardener spends another couple of weeks wondering if they're going to grow big and strong or give up the ghost. The few triumphant plants that decided to grace the seed pods hesitate for a few days longer between growing leggy and forgoing the opportunity altogether.

When the fittest specimens finally start to develop, it's usually time to plant, and what looks like a strong, healthy start in the seed pod suddenly appears tiny and helpless in the barren dirt, still dry in the chilly spring, easily overtaken by any annual that sprouts in its vicinity, be it flower or weed, and looking for any excuse to check out.

And this is why this year I decided to give the perennial seedlings an extra month, which starts right now.


Warm sunshine


Maybe the groundhog is right after all, the temperatures have been in the fifties and sixties in the last five days, and last night, when it rained, I saw lightning and heard thunder.

After the rain cleared we're looking at periwinkle skies. The sun is shining, it's warm, and it suddenly makes me remember what spring is like, what summer is like, and the fact that they are going to be here soon. I'm giddy.

Maybe this year, if we're spared the traditional April hard freeze, the magnolia is going to bloom again, and the trees will keep their blossoms long enough for me to take some pictures.

The blades of spring bulbs are already out, and in a burst of enthusiasm I decide to trust them that winter is winding down. I miss daffodils!

There is a humid scent in the air, a smell of humus mixed with a delicate fragrance I can't identify, tree blossoms maybe, or primroses, a fragrance which, quite frankly, it is very unlikely at this time of year.

I haven't gone on the spring garden tour yet, to see how the perennials are faring at the end of awinter, the plants are still asleep under their thin winter blanket of barren leaves, the ones that fell after the snow.

The young hellebores I transplanted in barren areas of the shade garden have grown so big I can't believe it. Just in case you're wondering if hellebores grow from seed, the answer is try and stop them! The thing is, none of the young ones bloomed yet, so I don't know if they came true to the original breed. The mommy is a White Spotted Lady, it will be interesting to see what the offspring looks like.

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