Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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The First Day of Spring

Leonard Messel magnolia in bloom
A Leonard Messel magnolia in bloom on the first day of spring

Spring officially arrived in Chicago today with sunglasses, shorts and a sudden surge of flowers.

With a high temperature of 85 degrees, it felt more like a day in June than March. That was especially true in the garden where my magnolia burst into full bloom several weeks ahead of schedule and my weeping cherry tree started budding out.

Buds on a weeping cherry first day spring
Buds on a weeping cherry tree
Crocuses, a sure sign of spring, have already vanished thanks to the seven-day heat wave. Daffodils that were just poking their heads above ground last week are now resplendent in their yellow finery. And the flower buds on my tulips are starting to swell.

Unfortunately, it looks like this garden party may be about to end.

Colder temperatures are forecast starting Friday, with highs only in the 60's. That will be a welcome relief as it has never been this hot this soon in Chicago before.

I'm just hoping the night-time temperatures won't dip below the 40's now expected. If we get frost, all of my spring flowers will be little more than a memory.

Of course, that also may be true even with the cooler temperatures, which would still be above normal. All of my spring bloomers will be finished in a week or two at this rate. What will sustain me for the 90+ days remaining until summer officially arrives?

Guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope that some spring bloomers will be available for sale at my favorite nursery in the weeks ahead. It was too wet in my garden this past weekend to work on my spring clean up so I will definitely need some inspiration in order to finish.

Let's see....I still have to cut down last year's dead foliage, pick up the dried leaves, remove the chickweed, dig out the Queen Ann's lace that blew in from my neighbor's yard, finish the edging, spread the compost, prune my hydrangeas, start my vegetable seeds....

Hyacinths daffodils first day spring
Hyacinths and daffodils in the garden on the first day of spring.

By Karen Geisler


  1. Hello Karen: Happy Spring! I've just started receiving your Blog via my e-mail at work and am enjoying it very much. In my home garden in Westchester County, NY (Zone 6), we have had extremely mild and warm temperatures this March. In a very sunny spot, I also have yellow daffodils and purple hyacinths planted together and they have been in full bloom for several days and all 7 of my Spirea thunbergii "Ogon" are now in full bloom, as is the large swaths of my groundcover, Vinca minor, and the Forsythia are bursting into bloom. Everything now blooming are weeks early, so I, too, worry that the big bang will be over by the first week of April and I won't have my usual April color to look forward to. I hope that our weather returns to more normal temps and that my perennials awaken at the correct time and I can enjoy the Peonies and Iris in May, as usual. So, for now, I will enjoy my early show of blooms and buckle down and get to Weeding - the weeds have already exploded everywhere!
    Happy Spring & Happy Gardening. Mary Murphy

  2. Hi Karen: The chickweed is absolutely everywhere this season - even in areas that I had thoroughly weeded last Fall and heavily mulched. I agree that it must be due to the extremely mild winter temps.
    I luckily inherited several Peony shrubs when we bought our house in February, 1999. The original owner of the house (who died in 1998) was also gardener, so I was very pleased to discover many wonderful perennials and shrubs on the property when we moved in during the early Spring of 1999. I believe the Peony cultivars are "Vivid Rose" (a deep pink that really smells like a Rose) and "Festiva Maxima". I adore Peonies, but had never had any before and was very lucky that when I divided them all to spread them around that I replanted them correctly and every one single one bloomed in the Spring of 2000, and have done so every year since. :-)

  3. Festiva Maxima is the first flower I ever remember smelling as a child. I love it! Would like to have Vivid Rose, but I'm running out of full sun now that my trees are starting to get bigger. Otherwise, I'd have a lot more....Here's hoping the weather returns to more normal temperatures so we'll have the peonies to enjoy at the usual time.

  4. Karen: Here is a description of Peony "Vivid Rose" from Nature Hills Nursery:
    Paeonia 'Vivid Rose', is a very popular late blooming variety. It produces double vivid, shimmering pink flowers and has an enchanting fragrance. With a strong, sturdy, growth habit, it is a vigorous grower and excellent performer. A standout in flower! The vivid rose description refers to the scent rather than the color of this plant. It smells more like a rose than a peony. As a bonus, it makes a superior cut flower! All of our peonies are widely adaptable to most soils across the country. They bloom in mid to late spring and have very large, colorful blooms that stand out in the spring garden. Vivid Rose Peony can handle dry to moist sites, and do best in full sun but can handle some light shade
    P.S. I also hope that the temperatures cool down and return to normal for this early part of Spring. When I arrived home last night (3/22), the yellow daffodils and purple hyacinths I spoke about previously had already started to wither from the heat - :-(