Last week, the sun shone for an entire day, and we were all very, very happy.
Actually, that is a total understatement, for, in fact, we were all hysterically gleeful. We kept putting our faces to the sun. We wore our summer clothes the next day. That turned out to be a big mistake, for the weather had cooled again, and there were passing clouds that made us chilly.
However, on that blissful, sunny day, I hope that all gardeners got a chance to just be in their gardens — whether that is just a collection of pots on the condo or apartment terrace, a p-patch plot or their home garden.
There is much to be seen and smelled in our spring gardens. The daphne fills the air with its scent, and I dare you to bring more than two cuttings inside. Indoors, the daphne scent lingers heavily. The specie crocuses lean toward the sun and open wide, only to close up again on our rainy days.
The regular crocus aren’t so smart, and they tend to just get beaten down to the ground in the rain. They look soggy, yet their blooms are much bigger than the specie crocus. You choose the look you want, but I will admit that the daintiness of the specie crocus varieties enchants me more than the big cultivars.
The old-fashioned forsythia plants in our neighborhoods carry forth the idea of a golden orb on the dark, cloudy days of late March. It is getting more and more difficult to find good forsythia bushes in our gardens. Yes, it is true that it is an unwieldy shrub, with not much to recommend it except for its sunshine-yellow blooms during March. However, if you prune out about one-third of the old growth each year, you will have achieved in three years a much more handsome shrub.
I fear that soon we will not have the pleasure in our neighborhoods of the glorious forsythia. As the gardens change hands, I have observed how quickly the shrub is removed entirely.
Plants of tradition
Much like our old lilac bushes that are another unruly shrub that could be made beautiful with thoughtful pruning. By removing the lilac bush, we are losing an important ethnic heritage in our communities. Within the Scandinavian communities, there was the tradition of having a lilac bush by the back door. When the great migration of Scandinavian people came to the Northwest, they either brought a lilac plant or cuttings from their bush back home. Now, we don’t see as many lilac bushes.
Another Scandinavian tradition is the birch tree. Visit the cemeteries in Norway, Denmark or Sweden, and there will always be a stand of three birch trees. Even the newly designed and built cemeteries continue the tradition.
In the Puget Sound region, the birches planted by our forefathers are getting old and weak. Also, people don’t like the sticky goo that falls from their branches. But there are varieties of birch trees that do not spit the goo. We could be replanting.
Some of our neighbors have recently made stunning groves on their property. I thank them for the beauty they have added to our neighborhoods.
The sounds of spring
On the next warm, sun-filled day you will probably hear — if you stand very still — a soft, popping sound. That is the buds on our deciduous trees and shrubs popping out of their shells. The first time I heard this sound I was stopped in my tracks. It couldn’t be, could it?
There are also many others sounds in the garden these days: All the mating cries are quite amusing and extensive, but the roar of blowers less so.
Isn’t it wonderful to be back out in our gardens, even in spite of noisy annoyances? Just to stand there and bask in the sunshine is pure delight. Slowly, the sun softens the tight shoulders, and we lean down to pull all those fresh weeds. We find the delicate blooms on the Shortia plants. We see the fattening buds on our rhododendrons. The ever-marching forward drifts of the ubiquitous dicentra have thrown out their tender, yet vibrant, new shoots.
Later, we dream about this year’s surprises and delights, for it is still too early to worry about disappointments.
MADELEINE WILDE is a longtime Queen Anne resident.
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