|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.
|The first day of spring 2012 (left) and 2013 (right)|
|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, 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