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Green Acre #420: Spring Awakening

All Summer Beauty Hydrangea, from Breck’s nurseries.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

I’M TAKING an early spring inventory of the back 40 (feet). This requires a very short stroll from the foot of the porch steps  to the garage door, a charming small building that resembles a cottage . . . just don’t open the door. The pebble path that divides two flower borders winds along, like a dry streambed, which was the intention. It hurts bare feet; I’m just reminding myself to put on shoes.

I don’t recall planting a Euonymus japonicus, an evergreen that (theoretically) has small white flowers and red berries around about fall. Clearly I did, as Picture This, my gardening app, tells me that’s what this clump of green is called. I have a problem with labeling, expecting my brain to remember, which it doesn’t. Though I distinctly recall thinking: Of course, I’ll remember! Who could forget?

Neither do I recall planting aster in the pots that flank the garage door but, again, I must have.

More massive than ever, the Kwanzan cherry tree is covered with buds. There are even some little flowers on the lowest limbs. This is doubly odd because it usually flowers from the top, where it has a clear view of the sky, and it’s also at least two weeks from its usual flowering date. Unlike the Tidal Basin’s Yoshino cherries, the Kwanzan is a late bloomer. 

Oddly, my hydrangeas, Phyllis and Alice, usually so reliable, look more than a little bedraggled. I don’t know what this is about. They look at each other across the path and are rather a feature, so this is disturbing.

Phyllis, who’s a lovely pink when she blooms, has a lot of dead stems and a dearth of buds. There won’t be much of a flowering this year, I fear, though there’s a mass of fresh green at her base, which may do something in another 12 months.

Alice, who’s white, fared better, but she’s younger. Phyllis has been around for nearly 40 years, Alice just three. Does this mean anything? I’ll whack off the dead stuff and fertilize both plants. It’s a bit earlier than usual. My friend Bruce, who has the most splendid hydrangeas, swears by a dose of Miracid at Thanksgiving and another at Easter (just so he remembers). I missed the fall feeding for some reason. Hmpf. 

On Friday, the weather is supposed to be drizzly so the food will seep more quickly into the soil; less effort for Mother.

The earliest of the tulips are blooming, a little too red for my preference, but they look jolly enough. More are coming, but not in the abundance I expected, and much of the foliage is ratty. Squirrels? Possibly—little devils are always busy out there. Maybe the cold snap we had a few weeks ago? Also possibly. Maybe not enough of a chill altogether, could be. But it’s been as cool as the fridge most nights; that should be enough, shouldn’t it?

Well, the ferns beside the pond are fine, though the raccoons, it seems, got hungry and made off with all but two of the feeder fish we deploy each year. Raccoons like fish. Raccoons love koi. That was an expensive mistake, therefore feeder fish, 10 for a buck, the motley souls one feeds to one’s pet anaconda. But they’re colorful and fish-like and should be pleased at the bucolic, if abbreviated, life we offer, though they never say. 

I’m amazed that the kiwi grew over the winter; shouldn’t it have been dormant? I was thinking we’d need to move it into the back corner, to the left of the garage door, to fill a gap, but it seems to have decided to do that all on its own. It appears to be 7 feet tall, or thereabouts. Maybe it will fruit? Actually, I don’t care if it fruits, I don’t much like kiwis, but it has delightfully scented flowers, so if it would just bloom. I bought it in bloom, so I know this can happen. That was eight, nine, 10 years ago . . . 

The pittosporum I planted last spring seems to have buds, but this Southern beauty, so intoxicatingly fragrant when it blossoms, has fooled me before—a mass of new growth, and then nothing but more leaves. Like a false pregnancy. I’m not holding my breath. 

Not sure about the asparagus fern. My app said it should survive even if temperatures dip below freezing on occasion, and it was stringy-looking but green through the winter. Then came that last cold snap. 

But the honeysuckle is dancing along the fence, the never-blooming wisteria is beginning to green up, and oh! The orange trumpet is climbing the neighbor’s wall, which runs part of the way alongside our yard. It’s about time we got some blooms—it takes three to five years, they say. I think we’re hitting five. When you plant invasives, as I do, despite ample warning of . . . their invasiveness . . . they’d damn well better put on a show.

You listening to me, wisteria? Nah, didn’t think so.

Close up to the back porch, the Don Juan climbing rose, a finely scented variety, and the mock orange beside it, are both growing green and lush. They were both quite sad last year so I hacked them way back, which always takes a few years off my life as I find it traumatic. The plants appear to be grateful, though.

Unlike the fish. 

One thought on “Green Acre #420: Spring Awakening

  1. Tom Pogue says:

    Very entertaining article, Stephanie! Hope you are doing OK. Our yard is also putting on a show but I could never tell you what’s what, either from a scientific perspective or an affectionate one. Best news is a Mama Turtle Dove is making a nest in the big tree out front. She goes back and forth gathering nest-building materials for her construction site midway up. A Blue Jay seems also to be taking note, but I hope for the best. Spring always does give us hope for the future. Best, TP

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