When crocuses and daffodils start to fade, primroses take the baton and continue running, coloring our garden. I’ve been planting different colors of primrose in our garden for the last few years and continue to look for new colors every year. There are many types of primrose but not many are hardy enough for our USDA zone so my choice is a little limited.
What I like about primrose is that they are pretty and low maintenance. Once I put one in the garden they tend to thrive being fed only once a year, in spring, and with a little mulching. The only potentially deadly problem for primrose, at least in our garden, are the slugs. Since they are low to the ground and tend to like moist soil, it’s easy to reach for the slugs. They can make a clump of primrose disappear in a few days.
The orange and purple striped ones were devoured by the slugs. The green one is still budding, not yet open and we’re hoping the slugs miss it too. For a couple of weeks or so, we have a very welcome primrose color all over our garden.
I find April to be a very uplifting and romantic month for me. Leaves sprout and start to unfurl, seedlings are pushing themselves through the soil to the surface and early flowers are blossoming. Birds sing loudly to make their territory known and start their courtship. Some birds have already built their nests. Aside from these life-affirming activities, the Academy of American Poets also designated April as a Poetry Month beginning in 1996.
Many great writers and poets have taken an interest in nature. Many of them are favorites of mine such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, John Donne and who could forget Shakespeare and Rumi. There was even a book on Shakespeare’s Gardens published last year that I immediately ran out and bought.
The Poetry month also reminds me of my mother. We would go out to the market on the weekend in search of plants invoked in poetry to add to our garden. I still do now but mostly the most fragrant ones. What flower is more apt for the Poetry month than the Poet’s Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum).
And the ode to it by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)*
Twas midnight-through the lattice, wreath’d
With woodbine, many a perfume breath’d
From plants that wake when others sleep,
From timid jasmine buds, that keep
Their odour to themselves all day,
But, when the sun-light dies away,
Let the delicious secret out
To every breeze that roams about.
Walking through a garden, any garden, relaxes me and raises my sense of marvel and my envy of nature. Nothing can duplicate what one has seen at that moment even just an hour after. Nature gives us art, poetry, philosophy and most of all is life sustaining. Those who understand these facts will always try their best to preserve nature, but those who don’t will always try their best to destroy nature for profit.
Ruining the environment doesn’t stop at the border and the effort to slow this self-destruction rests on our shoulders, the ones who love nature and see poetry in every path we take through nature. As Shakespeare put it ‘One touchof nature makes the whole world kin.’ (Troilus and Cressida, Act 3 scene 3)**
Today is the official first day of spring and feels like it too. Spring flowers bloom, birds start clearing their territory and look for nesting spots. Not much to describe; just happy that spring is finally here.
I love spring time. There is a lot of work to do in the garden in spring in order to keep up with the fast growing plants but it’s the best time of year, in my opinion anyway. When the weather gets gradually warmer, plants follow accordingly and they are much easier to keep up with. This year the weather has been temperamental. It has gone up to 80° F for a few days then dropped down to low 40° F. When the temperature hit 80 degree, plants in the garden shot up really fast only to be stunned by a suddenly cooler temperature later. I have to put down a plan to widen the walkway. That entails moving some plants out of the way. It will have to wait until next year since the plants are now too tall for me to safely transplant them.
We lost some plants we really love to the harsh winter but what’s left in the garden hasn’t disappointed us. Color and scents throughout the garden.
I’ve been so happy with the temperature climbing up and the ability to see green again. I started to clean up the garden, pruning roses and feeding plants. Happiness, it seemed, was short lived. The rain that started on April 15th turned to snow overnight and dumped two inches on the ground. The temperature has dropped down below freezing. I felt guilty for removing all the leaves covering the flower plots last fall as winter protection for plants and a refuge for the good insects. Now they will have to deal with more cold nights unprotected.
I haven’t removed the extra bird feeders yet so the birds have their food supply and shelters still available to them. I think they’re happy that I’ve removed the leaves as it gives them easy access to insects and worms. A few more cold nights and then the temperature will climb up again. Hopefully, nature can make up her mind this time around.
After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden. As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in. The arugula is always the first to come up.
I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly. I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them. I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels. The roots will sprout out in two nights. I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them. I don’t have to worry about hardening them. If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now. I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.
Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up. Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy. I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad). I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend. Garlic is looking lovely at this time too. I have already fed them once.
Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again. They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet. I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.
Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.
Spring is finally here, though a little too cold for April. There are plenty of things to do in the garden and most of them are time sensitive. Cleaning up dead stalks, feeding, pruning, training, mulching, starting the seedlings…they all need to be done at certain times in order to be done correctly and to be good for the plants. Two days off from work, from dawn to dusk, seems to be too short a period of time to get them all done. Something has to go on the back burner.
I started seedlings like tomato and chili pepper at dusk and working into the night. After pruning, training and feeding the roses, I have other perennials that are waiting in line to be pampered. Then I sow cool weather vegetable seeds like arugula, radish, carrot, chard, kale and sugar snap pea in the garden. After all these chores, a good hot shower and a glass of wine, then I sleep like a baby. As much as I love to blog I have no physical energy left, though I remain mentally clear and calm and want to share what nature is providing me. So I apologize for not updating this blog in a more timely fashion. Call it planting season time requisition, for lack of a better term.
Here is one of my new acquisitions this year: a Blue Zebra Primrose (Primula acaulis ‘Blue Zebra’). It’s a lovely addition to my primroses.