The end of May marks the unofficial and meteorological end of spring—a great time to reflect on garden lessons of the previous three months. No matter how many years of gardening experience a person has, there are always mistakes to learn from, notes for next year, and new techniques to try.
So, here’s a list of lessons I’ve learned this spring. They obviously won’t apply to everyone’s gardens. But they will apply to my southern
Wisconsin garden just about every year, and I need to remember:
1. No matter how mild and spring-like the first few days of March, don’t get too excited that “spring has arrived.” I do this every year, and then winter makes several additional appearances through March and April. This year, the pattern was exaggerated with an especially cool April, which basically seemed like a repeat of March. In mid-March, when I participated in Hanni’s “Hope Grows” meme, I said I was looking forward to foliage. While the buds broke around mid-April, we didn’t see decent foliage until a couple of weeks later.
2. Consider setting out a video camera to document the swift changes in the garden in early May. Perhaps because of the cool April, all the plants seemed to burst into bud and bloom within one week when May hit. Seriously, I’d look out the window morning and night, and there was so much change in just a few short hours. The Ostrich Ferns unfurled from fiddleheads to full growth in just a few days. I wish I would have taken pictures of the same plant each day for a week—very dramatic!
3. Keep the mulch on the Hellebores until the end of March. I’ve never pulled the mulch off as early as I did this year. It’s my own fault. But after reading about Hellebores emerging on other people’s blogs, I was terribly excited to see them. Sure, they were under the mulch poking through the soil, but I shouldn’t have raked off the mulch so early. And then my hubby stepped on one of the plants…and we had an extended spell of very cold, snowy weather. They looked bad—so bad I couldn’t even look, and I certainly couldn’t blog about it. I feared they wouldn’t make it.
4. Then again, don’t worry about the Hellebores. After all that abuse, they’re thriving! I even see quite a few seedlings growing under the parent plants. Seems I’ve found the perfect spot for Hellebores in my garden—protected by a stone wall, in a spot that gets morning sun and shade the remainder of the day. Still, I think I’ll remove the mulch a little later next year.
5. Keep looking for garden surprises. I discovered two new plants in the garden this year—Bloodroot and Red Trillium—that may have been here every year, but I just hadn’t documented them before. I’m amazed every year by volunteers, reseedings, and other movement within the garden, but it’s especially delightful to fine a new plant that I’ve never seen or noticed before.
6. The color will come. It’s hard to believe that a brown, gray, and seemingly barren landscape in early March will transform into a plot of rich color and lush growth in May. But it happens every year. I looked out in the garden through most of March and April and thought, “I really need to add some early-spring interest to this place.” Well, I do need to plant more spring-flowering bulbs, and maybe add a touch of color with some accessories, and perhaps plant some Red Twig Dogwood. But it’s so incredible how the same garden can look barren in March and lush in May. I should have taken more pictures of the blah March landscape to show the transformation.
7. Capture more plants throughout the stages of their seasonal growth. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I bothered to tramp out into the woods in early spring to capture photos of emerging plants. Generally, in the past I only photographed plants at their peaks of bloom or full foliage. But it’s fascinating to document a Mayapple from closed umbrella to ripening fruit, or a Hydrangea from empty twigs to full bloom with colorful foliage.
8. Be patient with oneself when the real gardening starts. This is the first year I’ve blogged during the growing season. Every planting season is busy, and this year my daughter’s high-school graduation is just around the corner. I’ll be back hanging out in the gardening blogosphere after the big party in late June. Dear readers and blogging friends, please forgive me for slacking off a bit lately.
And finally, enjoy little moments of gardening peace. That’s the toughest lesson of all. I’m getting better at this one, though, as the years go by. In the midst of all the fun and not-so-fun chores and responsibilities, I try to stop periodically and take a glance at the lush green garden out back or catch a whiff of the Dwarf Lilac about to bloom.