For the most part, March isn’t an exciting time for Hayefield and its environs – color-wise, at least. The first subtle signs of spring in the neighborhood usually appear the the nearby woods.
That looks like a rather clinical approach to maple sugaring, doesn’t it? I suppose it’s a bit more sanitary than these open metal buckets, but its nowhere near as picturesque.
I think the two different styles belong to different neighbors. The clinical ones show up in the woods in a beautiful bit of wetland that’s barely a quarter mile from here, a 5-acre parcel of land that is part of the headwaters of the Hazelbach Creek, and that is permanently protected from development.
The swampy part is known as Peeper Pond, and the reason for that is deafeningly obvious this time of year. I grabbed a bit of video with sound (it’s on YouTube at Peeper Pond ~ Milford Township, PA), but as the frogs hush quickly when they know people are walking around or when cars drive by, it’s hard to get the full effect of how amazingly loud they can get. Besides the high-pitched peepers, there are loads of other frogs chirping and clucking and otherwise making quite a racket.
Though there’s plenty of water in there now, yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) has taken over the open part by the road, so there’s hardly any standing water by July. I guess that’s enough for the frogs to breed there, though. It’s also enough for the very earliest bloomer in the neighborhood: skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).
Another quarter mile along, past the metal sap buckets, the road cuts through another, wetter bit of wetland.
The frogs sing here too in spring, and later on, there’s lots of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata) to look at.
So anyway, when I moan about how wet the soil is around here in winter and spring, I’m not kidding.
I don’t have enough water for frogs, thank goodness, but the soil tends to be seriously soggy from the time the ground thaws in late February until early to mid-April.
It amazes me that any normal garden plants put up with it, but they do. Among my earliest bloomers are the winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis). They started on February 16th…
…and are just about done by March 15th.
The leaves of the snowdrops (Galanthus) have been up since mid-January, but they didn’t really open until about a week ago.
‘Golden Starlet’ winter heath (Erica carnea) started flowering last October, so I’m not sure whether to count it as a late bloomer or an early bloomer. The ‘Snow Bunting’ crocuses, though, are definitely early, opening fully just a few days ago.
Helleborus dumetorum is the earliest hellebore to bloom here, but it’s pretty subtle.
The showier Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus) on the south side of the house just started to open. Most will wait for another week or so: too late for the March Bloom Day.
As you may have noticed in some of the other pictures, I’ve started bringing some of my garden ornaments back outside for the season. And now, it’s about time to remove the crystal drops that have decorated the contorted hazel outside my office window for the past few months, since its own catkins are taking over the show.
I’ve enjoyed watching these sparkle on sunny winter afternoons. I can’t take credit for the idea; that goes to my friend Jackie. You know how some people have a knack for having interesting adventures? She is one of them. In this case, she found an old cardboard box in a parking lot and discovered that it was full of antique chandelier parts. Despite her efforts to find the owner, they were never claimed, so she used them to decorate her golden elm tree and sent me a picture. I thought it was so terrific that I immediately ordered some cheap modern glass drops to recreate the effect here.
I also took advantage of a few dry days this week to plant out some of the bulbs I had stored in the basement for the winter.
A few years ago, I would have said it was crazy to plant cannas and dahlias in March around here. But I took a chance around this time last year, and the plants grew so much more vigorously and bloomed so much earlier than after the usual May planting that I thought it was worth trying again. I’ve heard stories of these bulbs overwintering outdoors in the Philadelphia area, so I figure they should be all right in cool but non-frozen soil for a few weeks, since they haven’t started growing much. Just look at these rhizomes of Canna indica ‘Purpurea’.
The ‘Oakhurst’ pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa, above) is just barely starting to grow, while the ‘Lucifer’ crocosmias (below) are definitely shooting up. In years where I’ve waited until after the last frost date to plant, both of these have been very unhappy sitting in the basement.
The planting done, it was time for the first harvest of the spring, and boy, did I gather a bumper crop:
…over a hundred plastic labels from now-gone annuals and perennials. Some of them were from things that I don’t even remember planting. And one was from a perennial that I know died at least 6 years ago. Well, it’s a relief to not have them littering the garden now.
The front garden is all tidy and pruned and ready for spring, and the side’s just about done too. The back is my next area to tackle, including this problem path.
For some reason, it washed out badly this winter, so it becomes a small stream every time it rains.
My gardening budget doesn’t allow for purchased paving this year, and I’ve used all the native flat rocks I have access to for other areas, so I decided to experiment with something I have a lot of: alpaca fleece.
No Duncan, I’m not going to shear you and Daniel quite yet; it’s still too chilly for that. I have a huge sack of your fleece left from last year, and it smells a bit mouse-y because I left it in the barn too long, so I may as well use it in the garden.
I remembered seeing a picture of a path made out of wool in an old issue of Gardens Illustrated, and I thought I’d give it a try.
Granted , it’s not a natural-looking pathway, but it has a wonderful feature I hadn’t even considered prior to spreading the fleece.
As soon as I was done, I had the irresistible urge to take off my boots and walk on the fleece. And oh my, it was so amazingly soft, you can’t even imagine!
Nothing less than this would ever entice me to go barefoot in March. Thank you, boys!
Well, that was fun for a March Bloom Day, even with minimal blooms. For now, most of the color has to come from the sunrises, but there should be more flowers by next month. To see what’s going on today in other gardens all around the world, check out Carol’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens.