“BLOOM WATCH has begun at the Tidal Basin,” the Washington Post has announced. We might expect blossoms in three weeks, they say. Early again is the threat.
“When is the last frost date?” My Prince asks, hugging to his chest the sago palm he has lifted from its winter pedestal in the front hallway.
“April 21st, in the city,” I tell him, “NOTHING can go out yet.”
“But it’s 70 degrees,” he says.
“Put it back,” I say, and he does, grunting with the effort. The cast-iron pot the plant lives in is not weightless.
March is upon us and I’m already polishing my spring umbrage, which along with global warming is arriving earlier each year.
He’s already gone and clipped Margot’s buds—again.
Margot is one of two hydrangeas that straddle the path to our charming carriage house, also known as the garage. The Prince leaves Margot’s companion plant, Phyllis, alone, and she blooms like a champ.
Margot is named for our 94-year-old German friend, who brought it as a dinner gift many years ago. Margot, as I may or may not have mentioned before, is the friend who visits a secret spa in some Alp or other for several weeks each fall where she fasts and hikes and saunas and comes back 10 years younger. “You vouldn’t like it,” she gutturals.* That’s an aside.
Margot, the hydrangea, completely outgrew her narrow border a few years ago, sprawling her heavy pink (I think, it’s been so long) blossoms onto the river rocks that line the path. A deep and rich new hole was dug a couple of feet back and she was carefully moved. She hasn’t bloomed since.
The first year that was understandable, as she was in shock. Last year, in a fit of I-don’t-know-what, my beloved took it upon himself to prune her in March, destroying any chance of blossom. Hydrangeas, in case you do not know this, bloom on buds set the previous fall.
“Did you prune her?” I asked in what I imagine was a completely calm tone of voice.
“No,” he said, though I noticed a delicate beading of moisture on his bald crown. “Certainly not,” he said, “It must have been . . . an animal.”
One with scissor-sharp teeth,” I sallied. “Those are clean cuts.”
He skittered away in a huff, which is a picture—skittering and simultaneously huffing.
The other day, still in recovery from my near-death experience having my hip replaced, I limped down into the garden and limped back up, step by painful step, to where he sat with glasses slithering off his skinny Irish nose, pondering the Sunday paper. Drawing myself up to my full five-foot-four on one side and five-foot-four-and-a-half on the other, I said, “You clipped her AGAIN?”
“No,” he said.
“Liar,” I said with absolutely no drama, as I do: “There will be no flowers again this year, might as well yank the plant and throw it out. Add it to the trash heap, she’s completely ruined.”
That was another aside, the part about his pruning the hydrangea, though come to think of it, don’t you do it either.
My entire point here being: Never mind the weather report; it’s too early to put your tender plants out—and too early to plant anything except pansies and other spring stuffs. Next week we’ll talk about making things a little prettier while we wait for the cherry blossoms to bloom.
* Not a word but should be.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” reports from her urban back 40 every Thursday.