Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Welcome Spring! Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 15, 2012

March 10, 2012 - a surprise storm 

Spring arrived early in New England.  This is usually the time of the month when I am anxiously waiting for the last of the snow to melt and for the first signs of spring to appear.  Last year at this time, we were still digging out of one of the snowiest winters in recent memory - more than 9 feet (almost 3 meters) of total snowfall. Ten days ago, we awoke to a wholly unexpected four inches of fluffy snow that almost completely melted away as we thought about shoveling over breakfast.  It was the second such snowfall in as many weeks, and accounted for most of the snow we saw this winter.

This past weekend, we were outside in spring and summer clothing, enjoying temperatures that soared into the 70's F (20's C ), far above the norm for this time of year. With temperatures expected to top  80 degrees F (26 C) today, it's hard to believe that we are only into the third week of March.

The snowdrops weathered the snow quite nicely.
Compared to past years, the crocuses, hellebores, and snowdrops are blooming more than a month ahead of schedule.

The snowdrops first appeared during the last week of February and were covered with snow in the last storm.  When I was photographing them again this week, I noticed for the first time the way the center of each blossom is a beautiful layered rosette of white petals edging in green. With their faces looking down at the ground, I never looked closely inside the blossom before!
I never studied the faces of the snowdrop blossoms before, which are angled down toward the soil.
The daffodils will opening in a matter of days.
Clumps of miniature iris are blooming very early.  Usually they bloom much later, at the same time as the miniature daffodils which are planted in the same border but which have barely started to show buds.
Over the past two winters, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of squirrels and chipmunks and the beds are dotted with the openings to tunnels dug by the voles burrowing through our gardens.  Last spring we noticed a significant decrease in the number tulips and daffodils, evidence of winter feeding on our bulbs. This spring, the amount of bulb loss is even more concerning.  Where we ordinarily had large clumps of crocuses, scarcely a handful remain and some clumps have disappeared completely. 

An opening to a tunnel created by a burrowing vole.  In some areas of the garden, the tunnel network is so extensive, the ground actually feels spongy.  At right, now that the perennials are beginning to sprout, they make a tasty treat for chipmunks and voles.  This was a newly awakened hosta, whose tender shoots made a tasty salad for one garden visitor.
The best known harbingers of spring, most of our clumps of crocuses have been decimated by the voles.  We'll plant more in the fall, but we'll need to address the rodents this summer.
The honeybees have returned.  The hellebores have been alive with them from dawn to dusk, a most welcome sight!

The mauve and aubergine hellebores opened earliest and have been blooming since the beginning of the month, through two snowfalls, in fact.  The lime green ones are now budded and ready to open, and the white ones opened on the 17th.
The miniature hyacinths seem to be the one spring bulb that the voles have avoided.
This past weekend we filled all of our planters with perky pansies.  Another spring fixture in New England, usually we don't plant these until the end of April.
The rich mauve were not available, but the blue is definitely eye-catching.
The koi came out of hibernation and started schooling this week, which occurs once the water temperature in the pond is a consistent 50 degrees.  We'll start feeding them Cheerios in a few days if they remain active.  For now, they are feeding on the algae which remained in the pond and grew over the winter and early spring.
The star magnolia and yellow magnolias have plump buds.
Although the star magnolia usually opens well before the saucer magnolia, this year might be different.  Several of the saucer magnolia buds have started to open already, about 6 weeks ahead of schedule. With the leaves having fallen, we were able to see a nest that sat in the top of the saucer magnolia.  Hopefully, it will be reclaimed by another family of birds this spring!
In New England, lilacs can usually be counted on to be in bloom for Mother's Day.  They are already beginning to leaf out and buds are already formed and beginning to develop.
Like the lilacs, the cherries are budded more than a month earlier than usual.  We usually see the tree in bloom at the end of April. I won't be surprised to see the tree in bloom before the end of this month.

Whether it's from the effects of global warming, sun flares, la nina, or other variables, the mild winter and early spring, though most welcome to those of us who love to garden, may also lead to a variety of other issues we will need to contend with in terms of insect and rodent population shifts. It's hard to think about negative consequences, however, as I listen to the birds singing through the open doors to the patio where the temperature has now reached the 80 degree mark.

As a native Yankee, even though I am delighting in this glorious respite from winter, I still recall snowfalls well into May and I am not forgetting the age old warning not to plant tender annuals until "all danger of frost is past".  April Fool's Day is less than two weeks away and it would be just like Mother Nature to follow this blissfully summer-like weather with a spate of frigid weather and perhaps even yet another snowfall.  With that in mind, we are limiting our planting to pots and raised beds that can be easily protected if the weather changes dramatically. 

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is the brainchild of Carol, who blogs about her gardening escapades at May Dreams Gardens. Like me, Carol is a lover of spring (May in particular) who invites gardeners to record the blooms in their garden every month throughout the year on the 15th of the month. You can read more about it on her blog where you can also find links to tens of dozens of other gardens who celebrate their gardening blooms each month with Carol. Click here to visit Carol's fabulous blog!


  1. Isn't it something to have all that snow one week and all of the blooms managed through it and others have gone on to bloom.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. This has been a truly bizarre winter. We got more snow at the beginning of March than we did all winter long! But it melted quickly and the hellebores and snowdrops sailed through two snowfalls none the worse for wear!

  2. Hi Cathy. All those pretty crocus blooms. I love your hellebore blooms. The miniature irises are just beautiful.I hope you do not get anymore snow days. Have a terrific week.

    1. Lona, we feel the same way - no more snow! The reality, however, is that it is still very early in the season and we could still have a surprise freeze and snowfall. To that end, while we are pruning and cleaning the beds, I am only planting in tubs and urns, as I can bring those into the garage if the weather turns on us. (Hard to imagine since it was well into the 80's today!)

  3. You are having problems with reducing numbers of bees on your side of the pond aren't you? Very noticeable over here too, unfortunately.

    Talking of ponds - ours is bright green - poor fish living in an emerald world.

    1. Helen, I just read a news brief that attributes at least some of the die-off to insecticides, which has long been my theory. In terms of harbingers of the health of the environment, I consider frogs and bees akin to the canary in the coal mine. That is one reason we are so environmentally conscious here. I'll be reposting our garden protocol this weekend.

      As for your emerald pond, is this the winter algae growth? We have a modest amount of algae which the fish eat in spring. The pond will be cleaned and refreshed in another month or so.

    2. And yes, die-off, referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder, is a problem here as well. I do believe that there may be multiple causes causing a similar phenomenon, including some viral or fungal contagions, but to not dismiss insecticides as a possible issue is short-sighted, in my humble view. BTW, the US EPA has not yet banned the insecticide that the Italian study has linked to this problem. They claim that they have as yet to find a link to it here.

  4. Beautiful blooms! I especially love the snowdrops and the irises. Too bad the snowdrops hang their heads. I suppose the bees get to see their beautiful blooms. I know it's unusually warm there, but i do hope you don't get a late freeze that would hurt everything that's beginning to bud out. Your koi look very happy!

  5. Holley, even if we get a late frost or snowstorm, the weather changes so rapidly this time of year, except for tender annuals, everything should actually be fine. Pansies tolerate a bit of snow as do most of the spring bulbs. And when we get snow in April or May, it usually melts within a day or two.

    The biggest problem we see this time of year is that the snow tends to be so wet, there is damage to tree branches and it can heavily damage the branches of shrubs as well. This can be especially severe if the trees are leafed out, as the leaves hold a fair amount of heavy snow adding to the load. I'm crossing my fingers hoping for clear sailing through May.


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