Hopeful Anticipation

The Hellebore hybrids are consistent early performers that really show off when early spring temperatures moderate.

We are several weeks into spring 2021, and so far, no surprise snow storms! Actually, we have even had a few days when it felt like it was the middle of May. Oh it’s so easy to get giddy when the skies are calm and blue and the temperature reaches 70F. Still, this New England gardener has had more than a few stinging memories of drastic temperature swings, when garden and nursery plants were nipped in the bud (literally and figuratively).

Jeffersonia dubia taking in the early morning sunshine on April 8th.

This unseasonal warm spell we just experienced did push growth on the earliest blooming perennials, and buds of many trees and shrubs have begun to swell (in our protected front garden our Katsura Japanese maple is beginning to leaf out weeks early). Except where voles and chipmunks have unearthed and/or eaten roots of choice Epimedium and Hakonechloa, it looks like there are fewer overwinter losses. The chipmunks especially love creating their tunneled habitats in the stone wall raised beds that Chris has built around the property. We’ve come to resign ourselves that we just have to share the gardens.

Chipmunks’ burrowing tunnels exposed the roots and created air pockets around dwarf Solomon’s Seal and Epimedium, and we are not sure who to blame for the gnawed below the crown of the Japanese Forest Grass.

One thing that has us already concerned is that 2021 has been unseasonably dry here in southeastern Massachusetts. You may not be experiencing a lack of precipitation in your region, or have no need for concern yet, but with last week’s warmth, we already began dragging hoses around to soak our planting beds.

This leads to the question, “What type of growing conditions should we plan for this year?” Last summer was horrifically dry for us (at least our succulent collections were happy).  Although there is still  time to catch up on rainfall totals, it would be wise to add a protective layer of compost/mulch on garden beds to help conserve moisture. Also, selecting adaptable but more drought tolerant native plants is advice that no one could argue with.

Aster ptarmicoides (Upland White Aster), native to the midwest, is a durable plant for the front of the sunny border.

Gardeners are optimists. In April,  we anticipate regular rainfall and kind growing conditions for the year ahead. That being said, those of us who have been at this for a while know to have a backup plan in place in case our positive outlooks become challenged. Yes, that adaptability thing…plants, human expectations…it is key in being a happy gardener.

How did your garden fare this winter? What are you most hopeful  for this season?

8 thoughts on “Hopeful Anticipation”

  1. Low rainfall in midcoast Maine, too. Festuca glauca crowns nibbled to nubbins. It was the first time for that. Lots of vole action, I think. I am definitely planting for unpredictable conditions and more drought. I enjoy the research. There are so many amazing tough-as-nails and adaptable perennials to choose from!

  2. Low rainfall in southern Wisconsin as well. We finally got almost two inches in three days at the end of last week but nothing in the coming 10 day forecast. Tonight’s low is supposed to get down to 32°F and some more low to mid-30s this week. Very worrying. I clipped a number of branches when our neighbors lost an Arborvita during the first Dec. snowstorm to cover plants should we get a late frost. And this isn’t really late, just everything is so early.

  3. Thanks for this report, Linda. I think too many of us assume that we are all set with irrigation in the early spring, but precipitation totals can be so spotty, even within zip codes. It’s good to have a rain gauge and keep notes.

  4. Alas, Astrid, the other creatures we share our surroundings with can do some serious damage to our treasured plants. And I do enjoy their activity, like the red squirrel who filters through the sunflower seeds that spill from the birdfeeder. He is there every morning at 7am. For the most part, we just accept it as part of gardening. We do allow one of our cats to prowl the garden, and he does what he can to terrify the poor critters. The birds are on to him, and squawk loudly whenever he comes out the door.

  5. I dread these early-spring warm spells. All my bulbs bloom and finish in 48 hours!

  6. My carex and liriope was all “pruned” by the critters, probably rabbits. I am hoping my combo of liquid fence and dried blood will encourage them to seek lunch elsewhere.

  7. All of my fruiting plants here in the Boston area – amelanchiers, sour cherry tree, ribes odoratum, aronia melanocarpa, and lowbush blueberries – are incredibly bountiful this year. I don’t know why.

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