Sunday, March 17, 2013

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Hurry Spring!

Red tulips in blue vase
These will be the only blooms in my garden this year on the first day of spring.

T.S. Eliot was wrong. It’s March, not April, that’s the cruelest month, at least for Chicago gardeners.

Some years, winter quietly slips away, allowing crocuses, daffodils and tulips to burst forth in a cacophony of color. Last year was like that, with record high temperatures in the 70s and 80s.
“In like a lion, out like a lamb,” as the old saying goes.
This year, though, the lion came and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon. The first day of spring is just 48 hours away but we have snow on the ground with more forecast tomorrow. Most of my flower beds are frozen solid. Night-time temperatures are expected to dip into the teens later in the week.

Hyacinth and daffodils
The first day of spring 2012 (left) and 2013 (right)

Magnolia blooms and buds
Magnolia blooming 2012, buds only in 2013

We've obviously been spoiled by mild winters the past two years. Waiting for spring seems more like waiting for Godot. What’s a gardener to do?

I’ve mostly been dreaming about what I want to do in the garden this year. Much of it will be damage control. Last summer’s drought killed one arborvitae and damaged two other trees in my garden. My weeping cherry tree also wasn’t looking too good last fall.
Will there be other victims? I’ll just have to wait until everything starts leafing out. I’m especially concerned about the plants I put in last fall. We had some very cold days in the first part of winter with no snow to protect them. I normally would have planted them earlier, giving them more of a fighting chance, but I was too busy doing the weeding that I had put off because of the summer’s high temperatures.
For now, I'm sharpening (and resharpening) my garden tools, buying seeds, looking at plant catalogs and doing some online research.
Of course, despite the whacky weather we get in the Midwest, I want it all: loads of color, long bloom times, hardiness, drought tolerance, sustainability and, oh yes, the ability to flourish in compacted clay soil. Is that too much to ask?

Once I make up my mind, though, I'm full of indecision. It always drives my husband and son crazy this time of year.
How are you bidding your time? And what are you planning to add to your garden this year? Milkweed and rudbeckia are on my short list so far.

Red tulips an blue vase on snow
Red, white and blue

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!

~Thomas Blackburn, "An Easter Hymn"

For a look at what was blooming in my garden last year on March 20, check out The First Day of Spring.

By Karen Geisler


  1. I feel your pain. This morning everything's covered in ice out there. I'll bet, however, that under your snow your bulbs are beginning to poke out. Mine are.
    To fight off my frustration at one 'wintry mix' day after another I'm going in big starting veggie seeds indoors. Someone long ago had given me one of those fancy four-tiered growing racks and I hauled it out of the barn for duty. What fun to have dozens of little green shoots to fuss over!

    1. Good for you. I was going to start some veggie seeds but I noticed the rabbits have already bitten off all the tips of the fothergilla I planted last fall. I don't think any vegetables would stand a chance against these marauders, at least not without some raised beds and heavy-duty protection.

  2. Tulips sitting on the snow are gorgeous!! :O)

  3. Spring is near!! Keep your head up! :)

    1. Thanks. Guess we were spoiled last year. At least it looks like I'll have more time to do my spring clean up this time around.

  4. I am with you wanting spring not snow. Love those tulips. With the crazy weather last year there were hardly any tulips blooming... but we had blooms for spring. I will be adding spice bush and lots of native grasses. I also plan to add more milkweed and try to save some of my seed to keep spreading it in the meadow as I get rid of thistle, teasel and Queen Anne's Lace.

    1. Good luck getting rid of the Queen Anne's lace. I had a major invasion last year from a vacant house next door and it was real pain. I have seen Queen Anne's lace on at least one list of butterfly plants though.

  5. I don't think I've lost anything to the weather, but all the rabbits are extra hungry with the long winter. They have done more damage than usual, and may have killed a young witchhazel.

    1. I think my fothergilla is a goner, courtesy of the rabbits. Thought I had time to protect it, but they were too quick for me. Hope your witchhazel pulls through.