Saturday, February 23, 2008

February Garden Tour

In the NC Piedmont, spring begins in February. It's still cold more often than not, and snow is not uncommon, even into March, but the worst of winter seems to be gone when the calendar turns to the second month. Afternoons are longer now; it is still light when I arrive home from work, and the pleasant temperatures invite a walk around the garden before supper.

In the front bed, the hellebores are heavy with white, pink, and purple blooms, and the daffodils, like golden butterflies in their cocoons, are counting the days until they receive the word to spread their yellow wings. At their feet, the Stella d'Oro are just emerging, like the green lances of tiny soldiers digging their way out of an underground cell.

Beside the front steps, they hyacinths are up. I moved them last fall from the other side of the walk, and was certain that there were only three, but now I count five. Perhaps I missed two when I dug them up, but I suspect that the garden gnomes have been at work.

Beneath the cherry tree is a Winter Daphne that my mother, the Hellebore Queen, bought for me last fall. She warned me that Daphnes are quite particular about their soil; they do not like the red Carolina clay, and are prone to die suddenly for no reason. Their fragrance in February is so lovely, however, that I felt it worth the risk. My neighbor, Amanda, has one that is thriving, and so perhaps there is just a bit of competition involved as well.

In the backyard, the first yellow blooms of Forsythia appear on brown stalks. I debate whether or not to cut one and take it inside to open in the warm house or leave it alone and enjoy it from the kitchen window. I decide to leave it alone for now.

The backyard garden is a project-in-progress. Numerous plants in black plastic pots sit around the yard waiting to be planted: three Jane Magnolias to go around the swing, a Japanese Maple for the Winter Garden, three Endless Summer hydrangeas for the Birdbath Garden, two Summer Snowflake Viburnums to attract birds to the Back Border, and a white Camellia that does not yet have a home.

Looking at these new plants, I remember a vow I made last summer not to acquire anything else that needs water until and unless our drought situation improves. I don't normally think of myself as having an addictive personality; I dislike both alcohol and tobacco, and I have better things to do than play computer games, but there is always a justification for one more plant. I would say that at least this particular addiction keeps me off the streets, but that is not literally true, seeing as how I frequently prowl the streets of my neighborhood in search of bags of leaves and grass clippings to use as mulch.

In the middle of the yard, a garden hose is stretched out in roughly the shape of a Y, outlining the borders of a future flowerbed, where Teresa's fountain will go. The hose has lain there for months, and every so often I notice that the shape does not seem quite optimal, and so I go out and move the hose into a slightly different configuration. At some point I will need to decide on a shape and start digging; I am going to need that hose in the very near future.

My eye traces the outlines of my new curvy beds that I made last fall, and I imagine what they will look like in May when everything is green and blooming. These beds are the first large-scale gardening project I have undertaken, and I am exceedingly pleased with the design. The green ocean of grass has been reduced to a stream, snaking around the S-curves of the beds, drawing the eye on a meandering path toward the back of the garden where the Jane Magnolias will one day form a stunning mass of pink blossoms.

"The works of a person that builds, begin immediately to decay; while those of him who plants begin directly to improve."

---William Shenstone
"Unconnected Thoughts on Gardening (1764)


Gina said...

david - sadly, we still have snow on the ground.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Gina, Maybe you could pack some snow in dry ice and send it to me...That's the only way I'm going to be able to water my plants if we don't get some rain before long.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

It's wonderful to see that it's Spring somewhere! Buying plants is the healthiest addiction I can think of. (Exercise addiction is bad for your bod, healthy food addiction is bad for your soul.)

Carla said...

Here's how to treat a Daphne to make sure it won't keel over on you. Buy it on a discount table, where it looks dead for all intents and purposes. Let it sit pot-bound for 5 years, watering it only when the soil looks combustible. It will bloom happily and reliably. Whatever you do, don't take an identical Daphne you bought at the same time, loosen its roots, put it in the precise location in your garden where a Daphne is said to do well. If you do, and it dies, then you will be scared to death to ever plant the other one.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a delightful stroll through your early spring garden David. I too like your grass paths. I can't wait to see the Magnolias atthe end of your path.

I don't think plant collecting is a bad thing. At least you aren't hanging out in the pool halls.

Valerie said...

Great blog! Thanks for sharing.

Annie in Austin said...

I like the way your mind works, David - letting the hose make outlines while you decide where to dig, and deciding that certain plants are so beautiful they'e outside the rules.

May your dreams start coming true and may you get enough rain so that May is green.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

(It took a long time but we finally put in a fountain, too.)

Mary said...

Put the last photo aside and compare it to one you'll take in late June from the same spot.

I can't wait to see it.

Let's keep praying for rain. We are only 1 inch below normal for the month of February!

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Mr. Mcgregor's Daughter, I think you are what's called an "enabler!"

Carla, you sound as though you speak frome experience. Couldn't you find any other rules to break?

Right, Lisa--that's what I keep telling my wife.

Hi Valerie, thanks for visiting. Come back again.

Thanks Annie--I still haven't moved that hose. Maybe I could just buy a new one to use for watering.

Will do, Mary!

Melanie said...

Thanks for the tour, everything looks so GREEN :-)

thepowerguides said...

I do love the quote
"The works of a person that builds, begin immediately to decay; while those of him who plants begin directly to improve."

---William Shenstone
"Unconnected Thoughts on Gardening (1764)

I have never heard that before and it sums up those who have a love of gardening better than anything

Steve From
The Power Gardeners Guide

thebench said...

If you like Hellebores especially those with Green flowers - You have to see the Heronswood Nursery collection which includes Helleborus x hybridus 'Phoenix'. Masses of olive green flowers with a burgundy margin bloom in early March.

Carolyn gail said...

I don't trust a man that doesn't drink :)

Fess up : You're a plant addict and for this there is NO cure.

I like your quote. My husband is the builder and I'm the planter.

Spring in February. Sigh. It's two months or more earlier than us. Love reading about it though.