Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Suddenly Spring.... Part 1

Winter seemed to drag on and on, teasing us with 8-24 inch snowfalls followed often immediately by 40 - 50 degree F days and snow melt.  Still, during the coldest weather, much of the garden slept under a generous snow cover, a welcome change from last year.  Our garden suffered tremendous damage when unprecedented warm weather kept the ground from freezing.  The resident moles and mice enjoyed a generous buffet of rose and hosta roots, echinacea and other perennials, and almost all of our crocus and tulip bulbs.  The cost to replace the lost plants was staggering.  (A total of 26 roses, almost a dozen hostas, most of our echinacea, and nearly a thousand bulbs was lost to the critter buffet.)

Spoiled by such an early spring a year ago, when I flipped over the calendar on the first of March this year, I was ready for some color.  Last spring, the snowdrops and hellebores had already been in full bloom for a week when I photographed them on March 9th.  This spring, it was the end of the month before we saw even our first hints of color.

The calendar said that spring was officially here on March 23rd, but it was another full week before spring truly arrived in this little corner of New England.

When I photographed the garden on March 30th, the snowdrops were blooming but the hellebores had barely poked their heads through the detritus of last year.   But once they started to wake up, almost overnight, they were standing tall, their cheery faces open to the sun.

This year, for the first time in several years, we have crocus popping up everywhere, singly and in large clumps.  Over the past few years, the mice and voles had eaten the many hundreds of bulbs that we had planted many years ago.

Clumps of purple, yellow and white giant crocus had slowly diminished and by last spring, except for a rare single bloom here and there, they had all but vanished from our garden. And replanting had proven futile.  After the passing of our cat, Frieda, the voles had claimed the garden as their own. 

This past fall, having finally gotten some measure of control over the critters that had been damaging the garden during the winter, we replanted many of the bulbs.   When we finally decided it was safe to replant, it had been too late to acquire the giant crocus I favor.  Since the smaller variety was in plentiful supply, we opted to try them to see if in fact we had the upper hand and we were not disappointed.  Planting nearly a thousand bulbs acquired at an end of season sale, our minimal investment blessed us with loads of springtime color this year, something we had been missing more and more over the past three years.  And it gives us the confidence to plant more of the varieties we love this fall.

Here in New England, April flowers brought May showers.  Despite unseasonably cool temperatures  and a lack of early spring showers, the several late season snowfalls were apparently adequate to meet the needs of all of the early bloomers and since the beginning of April, there has been a steady rainbow of color.

April 9, 2013:  Within days, the hellebores were blooming en mass.
April 9, 2013:  The last of our original purple crocus.
April 9, 2013:  We breathed a sigh of relief when the first crocuses pushed through the soil.
April 9, 2013:  The miniature iris are often one of the first things to bloom, but even these little gems took their time showing their vivid blossoms.
April 9, 2013:  Miniature Hyacinths sprouted en masse.
Mid-April, 2013:  The forsythia is in full bloom, as are the cherries and creeping phlox.  The hellebores have continued to grow and bloom, and daffodils and grape hyacinths can be seen poking out from behind other perennials as well.
Mid-April, 2013: The saucer magnolia was stunning, and beat the star magnolia by a full week.
Mid-April, 2013: A gorgeous saucer magnolia blossom, sprinkled with raindrops.
Mid-April, 2013:  Usually the star magnolia is the earliest of our magnolias to bloom.  This year, the star was the johnny-come-lately, blooming a full week after the saucer magnolia, with the blooms opening at almost the same time as the leaves.  Although the tree seemed heavily budded weeks ago, the bloom seemed lackluster and short-lived this year, possibly due to the weather.
Mid-April, 2013:  Usually not in full bloom until a week or two after the saucer magnolia, the buttery blossoms of  the yellow magnolia Elizabeth opened even before the saucer had reached its peak.

Late April, 2013: Usually the daffodils are a week or two or more ahead of the tulips.  I plant them together because they give extended color in each spot when they bloom sequentially, but even more than that, I hope that the daffodils will discourage the voles from eating the tulips.  When we planted these bulbs last fall, we mixed an assortment of bulbs in pink, yellow, and white blends, planted 15-30 bulbs together, and left it to luck to see what would bloom in each clump.
Late April, 2013:  An assortment of pink tulips grown together makes a bouquet too beautiful to cut and bring indoors.

Late April, 2013: Tulips and daffodils are abundant throughout the perennial and cottage beds. The grape hyacinths, which had been blooming for weeks, were still in bloom for World Hyacinth Day (May 7th), although the common hyacinths were a few days late for the party.
May 8, 2013:  The grape hyacinths have been blooming for weeks, the perfect early spring  ground cover.  We have them planted around most of our spring flowering trees.
May 8, 2013:  Although we have lilac varieties that bloom early, mid, and late spring, the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, is going to be in full bloom for Mother's Day this year, right on time.  Since I was a young child, I've always associated Mother's Day with lilacs.

The color parade continues.  Tomorrow, for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, I'll post photographs of the garden as it looks this week.


  1. Such a joy and a pleasure thankyou for sharing your beautiful garden .

    Been a long time coming but worth it to see all the Spring blooms again.

    Here in Scotland its been and still is a long cold winter everything is late to bloom this year.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by. Yes,s it has been a LONG winter, especially since spring seems late. A few things are a bit later to bloom, but many, like the lilacs, are right on time, and some others are a bit early!

  2. I'm glad to see your garden looking so great after the winter! This has been a tough winter here at Oak Lawn and the losses from rabbits, a January rain followed by immediate freeze and resulting rot, too much snow, etc. numbers between one and two thousand dollars... it becomes necessary to discipline oneself into considering it all as opportunity for change... looking forward to seeing more of your gardens in your upcoming posts... Larry

    1. Larry, we had such tremendous losses last year, I can definitely empathize with your frustration. Our change was to add more roses to the perennial beds, something I had been hesitant to do. I wish you the best in putting things back in order. Yes, it is quite costly! We are finishing up the replacement of damaged plants this spring. Thanks for stopping by -- we'll be watching your progress as well!

  3. Your gardens are putting out lots right now. It's been such a slow Spring start that I am appreciating anything that is happening here.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  4. Cher, it has been very slow in coming this spring. But finally, it's so pretty - I am more motivated to get out and get some yard work done. We'll get a lot done this weekend. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. So many places need the Weather Repair service, there must be quite a wait. I'm glad you replanted the bulbs.(Might need a new cat too.) Lovely images. I do wonder why here in western Oregon, where we rarely get hard freezes, the underground animals don't destroy all the roses and bulbs. And what do your underground animals do when it DOES freeze? All very opaque and mysterious to me Cathy but I'm so glad you know how to deal with it!

    1. Linnie, so delightful to see you on our blog! These particular critters don't hibernate (maybe your varieties do??), but when food is less readily available, they dine from their stockpiles but they don't procreate. That helps a lot in terms of damage. After the devastation we experienced last year, we finally had to replace said kitty.... stay tuned for an update on the Mouse Patrol..... Happy Spring!

  6. Great to see your garden this spring in such beautiful bloom....the voles here do damage no matter what we do...they live with lots of snow on the ground or not....I think they love lots of snow more like the garden does....

    1. Donna, So wonderful to see you! I must say, we have had great taking back our garden from the voles with a combination of methods: solar powered ultrasonic repellers (24 of them), cats (2), and neurologically impaired Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (1).

      The repellers work as advertised, but their recommendations for coverage are wildly exaggerated. They claim that one repellar will cover 75-90 sf. I have one thing to say about that - not in this lifetime, not in this garden. have put them roughly every 20-25 feet with at least one in each of the main beds. That took care of about 85 percent of the problem. I also took a huge chance and left them in the ground during the winter. They wintered over in place very nicely and worked all winter for us. (After all, that is when they are doing the most damage... the voles, that is.)

      The dog, Spencer, chases them into the swimming pool and jumps in after them to catch them. He can't outrun them but he figured out that he can out-swim them.

      And the cats take care of the rest. The girls are amazing. It took six months to prepare them properly so they'd remain in the yard, critical for safety. Many a naysayer told us that they would never learn to hunt if their mother didn't teach them. Our vet gave us excellent guidance and they come in to use their litter box, a real plus as we don't have to worry about buried treasure in the gardens.

      We have had absolutely no vole or mice damage with this new regimen. WaHoo!!

  7. Cathy & Steve

    Thankyou for the joy and pleasure of your garden it so beautiful.

  8. Hello Cathy and Steve, Glad to see things looking up after losing so many plants, must be very disheartening. So good to see you back blogging again, I don't bother much with blotanical now so off to make sure that you are on my blog page. .

    1. Hi, Alistair, The only thing missing this spring is the elusive frittilaria! Last spring was such a disappointment with the vole damage but this spring is definitely making up for it! Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  9. We are lucky not to have the moles and voles because we had similar erratic weather this year. You had much loss. Your gardens are beautiful with the tulips, Muscari and Magnolia. Your photos are beautiful too. Spring flowers and great photos go hand in hand, don't they?

    1. Spring is definitely my favorite time of year in the garden. The colors are magnificent! We have finally gotten control over the moles and voles, but it's been a challenge!

  10. Your gardens are beautiful. I just learned about planting daffodils to keep the moles and voles away and have passed that tidbit along to my neighbor. I have a lot of daffodils and didn't realize how they were helping my other bulbs.

    1. Now when we plant bulbs, we mix them in with the tulips. It was very effective this year, as our winter was milder tahn usual, even though we had more snow and a few hard freezes.

      Everyone told us we were fighting a losing battle given that we abut a huge meadow which is a natural breeding ground for the critters, but we've convinced them to stay away. The difference between last spring and this spring is amazing. Thanks for dropping by.


Thank you for leaving a comment for us. We try to reply to each one here on the blog so feel free to ask questions and we will respond. Do be sure to subscribe to the comments so you will receive our reply by email. Otherwise, you can email us for a more personal, detailed reply to a query.

Spam Alert: Spammers, our spam blocker keeps most of you out and the few that slip through with inappropriate links, we immediately delete so you probably shouldn't even waste your time.

Everyone else, do have a great gardening day!