Home & Design

Green Acre #145: Embrace the Season

A small front yard can pack a big punch with a springtime display like this one. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

SOMETIMES YOU come across a scene that makes you catch your breath, and you realize it’s such an easy thing to copy.

This is how I felt catching sight last weekend of a tiny front yard in front of a neighborhood row house, densely packed with a mix of salmon and buttercup-yellow tulips. A red-leaf maple was the only other ornament. A tiny front yard helps in this matter—less turning, fewer bulbs.

All you need is a strong arm, or a strong arm you can borrow or cajole into turning the soil, a great deal of soil, but then it’s not your arm.* Lasagne helps, I’ve found, though you have to make your own pasta. You also need a few bags of tulips. They needn’t be exotic: Costco bulbs will do—40 bucks and you have a masterpiece.

Of course the display is ephemeral. A few warm days and the flowers go poof. But with the weather chilling down just as the tulips lofted their lovely heads, this sight should extend for a joyful week or so. Many pieces of luck were and are involved.  

From pink canopy to pink carpet. So goes life with a Kwanzan cherry. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

As in: It’s also good to have a railing around the garden as a big-footed postal person, or some such, would certainly tromp across the bulbs as they emerged, ruining the display.

When the flowers fade and fall, I hope the tulips will be yanked and disposed of, leaving a blank canvas for a summer show. I wouldn’t bother trying to save the bulbs; they look like dreck as they wither, and the chance of them returning is beyond iffy.

Next year will be easier, if these gardeners choose to repeat the performance. The soil will have been prepared so the new bulbs can be planted with a trowel. Pleading arthritic fingers and offering another lasagne might bring more semi-willing assistance.

This tulip display reminds me of another I saw a decade or so ago. A long narrow garden leading to a row house the color of a hacienda roof, a delicious pinkish red. The tulips were planted so densely the green of the leaves wasn’t visible. It was a visual swoop, drawing the eye from the retaining wall at the sidewalk across the yard and up the front of the house, as if the facade were reflected in a rippling mirror.

The homeowners never did it again, such a pity.

Spring came in a little too fast for me this year. I am shocked that the roses are already budded. Our long-ago neighbor, an old codger named Bob, told me the roses always start to bloom around here on Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, if you need reminding, and for years that was so. Until this year—30-odd years on—when everything has been nearly a month earlier than usual.

I would have liked to appreciate the daffodils for just a few more days. But I’m pleased no real cold snap came along to nip the hydrangeas, among my favorite flowers.  

It’s been so warm that I checked the weather forecast last week and, finding no warning of anything approaching a freeze, I gave in to My Prince and allowed the toting of the tropicals outside to their summer home, although they’re huddled in groups in corners so the pansies and tulips—and soon the allium, which border the little pond—can be rightly appreciated.

So far so good—though there was one year when we had a light snow on April 21st. This year the only snow I see are the flurries of delicate pink petals drifting across the back garden from the Kwanzan cherry, a 30-foot-tall tree that spreads its massive limbs like a fabulous garden umbrella.

Chag Pesach samech, a joyous Easter, and a happy, peaceful Spring to all.

Now, onward to summer.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

*Baby pointed out a great gift for the handyperson around the house, a bulb auger attachment for your electric drill. Now that’s a cool tool for planting a field of tulips, or any bulbs, in untilled soil.

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” embraces spring flowers as much as she can, wherever she can.


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