My front yard is full of blooms right now. Salvia and several varieties of penstemons create tall spikes of purples, blues and pinks. Coneflowers are getting ready to bloom in the next week or two. In front of the display (theoretically) are verbena and candytuft. Except that over the years, the salvia, penstemon and coneflowers have spread via volunteers, and now there are tall spikes in front of the verbena, and crowding up to the edge of the walkway. If I were a more disciplined gardener, I would pull up the offending plants and exert discipline in my garden, to keep the tall plants in back and the border plants in front. I know this in theory, but I have trouble digging up healthy plants, so I wait.
Right now, I have said that I will wait until the plants are done flowering, then I will reshape some of the perennial bed. This is a great idea, but I think I said the same thing last year, and then I never followed through with tough love on the offending plants. Maybe if I had a good place to move the flowers, it would help, but I am definitely running out of space in my garden.
Does anyone want some salvia and penstemon? They are great low-water perennials, free to a good home. They have been loved by their previous gardener, but might need a bit more discipline.
When I look at my little field of poppies in my back garden, I have to smile. Their exuberance symbolizes everything that I love about flower gardens. The wow of a bright splash of color, the buds that seem tight one day and then pop open in the warmth of the spring sun. I was away for 9 days and I came back to a rainbow of colors in my garden. My perennials had fared better than I thought they would with our crazy spring cold snaps. These wonderful days of spring and early summer fuel my flower addiction and I greedily want more of each treasured flower.
Last week I was in DC for my daughter’s graduation, then we took some days of rest and relaxation on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The warm humidity there meant all the greens were very green, and the flowers were in full bloom – peonies, roses, iris and more. But what surprised me about the gardens in the area we were staying was their restraint. Perhaps it is the east coast personality, but if I had the expanse of yard that they had, I would not stop with 2 rose bushes and a batch of iris, I would have large sweeps of flowers breaking up the expanse of lawn. While the yards were lovely, many of them lacked an exuberant celebration of color.
This weekend I am savoring the beauty of my garden, sipping iced tea and gazing at my poppies.
Two weeks ago, when it was snowing on May 1st, I drafted a blog post but didn’t publish it because I was just too discouraged. Now, it looks like spring is winning! The moisture of April and early May along with the sunshine of the last week has caused many spring perennials to burst into bloom. Right now I am enjoying blue flax, verbena, candytuft, basket of gold, creeping veronica, mat daisy and more. And I am encouraged that some of the plants exhibiting frost damage might bloom. My iris patch has several buds visible, even though the foliage was severely nipped by the April freezes. And I am holding out hope for my lilacs. This morning I sniffed a neighbor’s lilac which has just started blooming, and my lilacs have buds that look alive.
The change of seasons is inevitable. We don’t control the timing, but eventually winter ends. This is great news for my garden, where all the possibilities have been stored up and are now bursting forth. It is also good news for my soul, because even in a winter season, there is an inevitability of spring coming, just not always on our time schedule.
I did a huge amount of garden cleanup last weekend, projects that I would normally space out over several weeks or even a month, but since the weather had always been bad on my days off, and I was away a few Saturdays, there were lots of “must do” chores. But the cleanup was a joy because I could see the buds coming out, under the weeds and dead foliage from last year.
I am looking forward to my little field of poppies blooming in the next few weeks – the buds are heavy with possibility.
Get outside today and enjoy the fact that spring won!
It’s been a rough few weeks in the garden, with wild temperature fluctuations, wet heavy snow and bud-nipping cold. And today is warmer (above freezing) and the snow is melting into the greening grass. During weeks like this, sometimes it feels like spring won’t actually follow winter.
That same feeling has been present in my circle of relationships over the last few weeks, as I have shared tears with those struggling with circumstances outside of their control. Will spring actually come?
And the global news has also caused us to question – with mind-boggling events that cause worry and weeping. Will spring actually come?
As I felt the sun warm my skin today on my walk, and saw the buds of daffodils and tulips struggling to stand upright, I knew. Spring will come, it most certainly will. But we can’t control exactly when. Winter into spring. Then spring into summer, and summer into fall. Each follows the other, even if storms seem to interrupt the cycle.
Spring will come. The flowers will turn their faces toward the sun and gain strength from the moist soil, and spring will come.
I’m not sure which of my flowering shrubs, trees or perennials will bloom this season – since they have all been nipped by our unseasonably cold temperatures. Snow in April is not unusual in Denver, but several nights of low temperatures in the teens the last few weeks are unusual and potentially damaging for spring blooms. But as the snow has melted off my grass, the dandelions have definitely survived the cold. The fate of the rest of my spring blossoms will need to unfold, literally, over the next few weeks. I guess my garden chore today is digging dandelions, since I don’t like to use poison.
However, in addition to my dandelions (which I would not have mourned had they died), I was pleasantly surprised to find two creeping veronica plants blooming. I had planted six new plants last summer, but our dry fall and winter took their toll (and I didn’t water enough). I know this isn’t a great success rate, but they are in my parking strip area where plants need to be tough to survive and where I do very little supplemental watering. So finding them alive and blooming this morning was a great encouragement.
The rest of my survey of the garden left me uncertain. There are buds on the lilacs, but I can’t tell if they are frozen or alive. The iris and daylily foliage is showing definite signs of frost damage, but hopefully the blossoms will emerge. The candytuft looks healthy and ready to bloom. And of course, my pansies also survived the snow and are looking perky and moist along my front walkway. And I am hopeful that my tulips which were broken down by the weight of the snow will straighten toward the sun and bloom.
This spring is going to be a mixed bag in the garden, but I am going to celebrate each blossom, knowing how precious it is. And I’m going to try to take the long view and know that there will be future springs as well. I am working on content for a retreat on “seasons of the soul” and I have been exploring the soul dimensions of winter-spring-summer-fall. One of my fundamental assumptions is that we experience all the seasons of the soul, but we can’t control the progression or timing, only our reaction. So I will choose to celebrate each blossom.
I have been in several conversations recently with friends who are new homeowners and who are also new to Colorado gardening. So for these folks, I am going to list my favorites. I would still recommend waiting a few more weeks for perennials and until mid-May for annuals. Shrubs and trees can be planted now (well – maybe in a week – our forecast includes some low temperatures this week). All of these varieties do well in our dry climate but will need watering to get established. Many of these have shown up in this blog in previous posts, but I thought it might be helpful to put all these together.
- Oregon Grape – there are varieties for the Rockies – nice evergreen foliage, small flowers and berries. Can plant either a regular size shrub or a creeping version.
- Sand Cherry – nice flowers and burgundy leaves
- Forsythia – great yellow flowers to welcome spring
- Lilac – old-fashioned or dwarf varieties
- Barberry – distinctive leaf color and berries in winter
- Creeping veronica
- Mat Daisy
- Hardy ice plant
- Candytuft – white blossoms on evergreen foliage, nice compact plant for the front of a flowerbed or border
- Basket of gold – alyssum – yellow flowers and gray foliage
- Iris – stately and old-fashioned – ask a friend or neighbor for some transplants
- Coreopsis – several varieties – reliable yellow flowers throughout the season
- Blanket flower – daisy-like flowers – yellow and orange varieties – keep blooming all season
- Day lilies – lovely succession of blooms, even though each only lasts one day
- Salvia – many varieties of sage – lavender shades – hardy spike-like flowers
- Penstemon – mostly pink, purple and lavender, but other colors as well – spike-like flowers – drought tolerant
- Lavender – takes a few years to establish but hardy and fragrant
My preference is to select a few varieties and plant them in groupings of at least 5 – 7 plants for a mass of blooms. For shrubs, plant 2-3 for a cohesive effect.
Starting a perennial garden takes a few years – so a few annuals in strategic locations will help fill in color – cosmos, marigolds, annual salvia, petunias, zinnias, moss rose.
With watering restrictions this summer, I would suggest limiting the number of new planting areas to a few strategic zones. Then in the fall planting season you can fill in additional areas with perennials on sale.
One online nursery that has great information and planting ideas for our area is High Country Gardens.
Enjoy creating beauty in your yard – and don’t get discouraged by weather set-backs. It can be tricky gardening in Colorado, but it is also very rewarding. As I reviewed my list, I kept thinking of more favorite plants – poppies, yarrow, flax, own-root roses … so many favorites. Start with a few, then add one or two new varieties each year. That way gardening in Colorado can be a lifelong adventure in learning. And by the way, all these pictures are from my garden in past seasons.
The forecast of 6-12 inches of snow along with low temperatures of 9 degrees (Fahrenheit!) seem disastrous in the short-term, especially since the warm weather of the last week has encouraged the leafing out of many plants and the blossoming of trees. The likely scenario is that fruit trees will have frozen blossoms (such as no peaches this summer from my tree). In addition, trees, shrubs and perennials will be setback in their spring growth. Nothing much we can do about that scenario.
A friend asked me this weekend if I was going to cover anything in my yard; but I can’t really put a dome over my whole yard, and the harsh wind that is blowing now even before the snow would uncover any attempts I might make at protection. The one protective attempt I might undertake is running a load of laundry tomorrow night when I go to bed. Sounds odd, but my dryer vent is near my peach tree at the side of my home, and perhaps one dryer cycle might save a few blossoms from freezing. I don’t think running the dryer all night is worth the energy consumption, but surely I can find some laundry to make one cycle worthwhile. If it doesn’t work, at least I will have clean towels in the morning.
I picked some bouquets yesterday so I could enjoy the now in my garden – sweet-smelling hyacinths are now gracing my dining room table, along with grape hyacinths and daffodils. And I cut a branch of peach blossoms for my kitchen counter. I’m not sure what will happen tomorrow in my garden, but I can enjoy the flowers of today.
In addition, over the long-term, having gardened my little urban plot for more than 15 years, I know that most of my plants will recover from this setback. And I can hope that the snow does fall to insulate plants, and that the cold isn’t quite as cold as the forecast predicts. And I can be thankful that today I have a garden plot, and that tomorrow, whatever the weather, I hope to rise in the morning in my cozy home. There will be more April days to garden, more rain, more snow, more wind, more drought, and more flowers. I’m choosing to focus on the flowers.
In urban gardens, first impressions are important. Since our spaces are small, the impact of a few strategically places flowers or shrubs by the entryway can make a great welcome. Last weekend, I enjoyed walking around the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington DC, seeing what urban gardeners there did with the few feet of space they have between the sidewalk and their front door or gate.
The difficulty of a small space is that it is hard to plant a progression of color, as you can do in a larger perennial garden. However, a few strategically placed grouping of annuals that are updated for the spring, summer and fall seasons, can add interest to a small space.
Learning how to have impact in a small space will also be helpful for those of us in Colorado who are facing watering restrictions this year. A large pot with a few bright flowers may be a better investment of water, than spreading annuals throughout your landscape.
It is a gray Friday morning, launching the first weekend of spring and the weather forecast is for rain and snow this weekend. Sounds gloomy for those of us who are gardeners and want to be out digging and getting the garden ready for spring. But we should celebrate the weather – because here in Colorado we desperately need the moisture. I was up in Summit County cross-country skiing this week and was saddened by how little snow was on the ground, snow that would fill Dillon Reservoir for our summer water supply. The water departments are considering restrictions for the summer. For all these reasons, a weekend of rain and snow is the best thing possible for our gardens.
I did snap a few pictures of spring blooms in my garden earlier this week – pansies and dwarf iris. If we get the predicted snow, the dwarf iris will probably be done with their blooming, but the pansies will emerge again from a blanket of snow to keep blooming until it gets too hot and dry. I planted the pansies last fall and they came back nicely this spring. You can also plant pansies this spring, or just put a few in pots on your porch to enjoy for the next few months. The dwarf iris are along my sidewalk and I love how bright they are and how they are different from the usual crocuses, tulips and daffodils. I have planted more each year to fill in spaces in my garden. Also, since they are short, they are less likely to get broken by snow, although the ones that have been blooming for a couple of weeks will probably be finished off by the snow.
If you want an indoor gardening project this weekend – making Easter baskets from live plants is fun and the nurseries will be glad for your business on a cold weekend. You can see pictures and read about my baskets in a post from a couple of years ago. I was inspired by memories of my mom’s Easter basket she would make for a centerpiece, usually just digging some plants out of her yard to put in a basket, then replanting the next week.
It’s March, and soon we will be shifting from thinking about gardening to actually gardening. And my garden blog will go from dormant to more active as well. Definitely a season of hope – and since we had such a great moist snow in Denver last weekend, I am more hopeful for something other than brown this spring. As the snow has slowly melted into the earth, my pansies are looking happy and moist, and I’m sure there are some early bulbs that will start poking out of the ground in the next few days, encouraged by the moisture and the warm sun.
Meanwhile, the bulbs that I forced indoors during the winter are blooming and reminding me that spring is near. I crowded bulbs into pots in November, watered them and put them in plastic bags in the back of my refrigerator. Over Christmas, I had to move a couple of pots out of the fridge to make room for seasonal food, but I put them in the cold garage. I pulled the bulbs out of the fridge in February and I have been enjoying a succession of blooms for several weeks now.
About the same time I was pulling my bulbs out of the fridge, there were forced bulbs on sale in the grocery store and nurseries. I had to stop and wonder if it was worth the effort of forcing them myself, or if I should just buy the pre-potted blooms when I need a winter pick-me-up? But I have to say, part of being a gardener is finding satisfaction in doing the activity myself, not just outsourcing the work. That’s why I dream, plan, dig, weed, coax and celebrate blooms. Because I was created by a God who is Creator, and in his image, so I love creating as well. Perhaps that is a good thought for spring, that in some small ways, my creative efforts will reflect the beauty of the Creator.