Monday, April 13, 2009

Away with the Gray...Spring has Sprung!

liriope dusted with snow

A few weeks ago we had our final snowstorm. Looking out my front porch the masses of groundcover liriope looked more like a dirty dust mop than anything else. The weather in a four season State starts having fits of start and stop as it goes from one season to the next. We will get a day of the new season and three or four days of the old season until the next season is fully in swing. I say four season State because I grew up in LA where tulips and daffodils bloomed in January or February and the weather went from cool to warm to hot to mild. I now live in a four season State. Each is different from the other and regardless of how good or bad one season is from the other, they change roughly every three months. In this part of New Jersey, winters are not very hard but the gray lingers for a long time. The Delaware River Valley seems to have its very own weather pattern that is accentuated with torrential downpours, fog, gray, wind, snow, more gray, some awfully close to hurricanes windstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, and did I say more gray!

Bella Italia was the theme this year theme

Then there is Spring. The great season of Spring! Around here it falsely starts with the Philadelphia Flower Show created by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and a cadre of talent that occurs in early March (this year spring arrived on March 21) and has a historical pedigree like no other event in the country. Ten acres of concrete are turned into every imaginable garden or floral display conceivable. The Flower Show started in 1829 and has been held pretty steadily ever since. This year more than a quarter of million people saw it and at it broke the record for a single day admission on March 7 with more that 48,000 individuals coming to smell the posies.

The reality is that Spring come a little later and we normally endure four to six more weeks of gray.

a Calla Lily languishing against my gray snowy window

When Spring finally arrives it begins the best season of the year for me. Everything comes alive, from bulbs to trees. The daffodils and crocus come up in major drifts. Daylilies that were nothing but buds and roots underneath the mulch appear to become full size plants while you are looking at the daffodils. Overnight, we go from twigs and open space to green and greener. The brown mulch gives way to an assortment of natural groundcovers. My favorite are the wild violets that come up in my swamp by the thousands. Barely two inches tall when they start blooming, they carpet everywhere there is space. Each year many reseed themselves other grow from gnarly root clusters. Although some people consider them weeds, I find them delightful and helpful in controlling weeds that don't produce much. Few real weeds can establish themselves in a sea of violets. They grow so much capitalizing on the March and April showers. In summer they slowly die back and by fall only the most established clumps remain.

assorted violets carpet
If an elephant is the most important of animals because of its size and presence, then flowering trees are the equivalent for flowering plants. Easter has brought a plentitute of flowering pears, star and saucer magnolias that look like unreal creations because of the quality and the shear number of blooms. How can plants produce so much bounty for what is so little time. The monarch of blooms is the cherry. Delicate in flower color and size with elegant shimmering trunks the cherry is indeed worthy the acclaim it receives. The Japanese rightfully celebrate its blooming with festivals and go en masse to view the blossoms cascade like snowfalls.

I have not been able to grow one of my own due to the swampy nature of my garden but have often placed them in projects. No one ever complains. The following is a twelve-year-old planted about four years ago. It belongs to my friends Julia and Rich who await it brief but wondrous yearly show.

Prunus yedoensis
Before they stop blooming stop and look at a flowering tree, regardless the one, you will be glad you did.


  1. Yeah I wonder when will the gray end. We have many more weeks to go up here in Madison. Enjoyed your comments Bill Martin