APRIL blew in with gusty days as the March lion roared out… now it’s already halfway through the month and I’ve just found time to sit and write. So much to do, to uncover, to trim, to plant and to just enjoy the warmth of a sunny day spent in my garden…
After a few days of sunny warmth my old-fashioned lilac bush near the back woods has already started blooming. There were only a few blossoms but I could not resist cutting them to bring inside for a bit of springtime. The fragrance is indeed heavenly and with each whiff I am back once more to that first morning spent in a tiny Provencal village. Early morning, sun streaming into the room, the scent of lilacs drifting through the open bedroom windows, a gentle delicious wake-up…I hear Jeanine calling from the garden, basket full of lilac blossoms in hand, seeing me hanging out the window, my face buried in the blooms, she smiles…’Hurry, croissants and cafe’ are waiting downstairs!’
One must have lilacs to enjoy in a garden…however brief their bloom time, it is worth every step on the shovel as you plant. Of course, having more than one lilac bush is even better…many more blossoms to pick and fill the house with fragrance. I choose to grow purple lilacs which symbolize the first emotions of love! Last early spring I found a new very hardy lilac variety…a re-blooming lilac called ‘Boomerang’…I brought 2 of them home and planted in different spots in my garden. For almost 3 months there were fragrant blossoms on the shrubs…I was gobsmacked and thrilled! This season I will track their blooms to see how they last…and make notes in my garden journal, of course! You do, right??
April and the scent of spring abounds! Especially on my front porch…shown here is a bloom on my Chocolate Vine or as some say…Akebia. This vine swirls and curls around the porch railings taking over until I chop it back, after the hundreds of blossoms fade, to show it who’s boss! The strong chocolate fragrance is enhanced on a warm day, especially with a bit of direct sunlight. Blooming started a while ago during a week of warm days…and even though the weather turned ugly and night temps dropped to freezing, it suffered not! This is certainly a vine I would recommend to all who have the space and a fondness for chocolate…
The sweetly scented lavender bloom intrigues Cerise and she has fallen, again…she is lost in the foliage and fragrance of early spring blooming wild blue phlox [divaricata]…one of my favorites for a semi-shade spot. Loose clusters of blooms spring from leafy creeping shoots at the base that spread quickly into large clusters. The foliage remains green year round…even piled high with 2 feet of snow this winter!
Easily divided and replanted, wild phlox will grow in almost any soil that has sufficient moisture, this spring beauty just needs a great spot to be planted and let it go…From just three 4″ pots planted years ago, I now have large patches of this wild phlox spreading in the front woods around several soft pink azaleas…creating a glorious spring display that attracts butterflies.
Coffee time will help with inspiration…hopefully. I’d much rather be outside playing in the garden. Mother Nature, however, has decided otherwise. No sooner had I gathered my gardening trug and slipped on my boots when I heard the sound of thunder rumbling in…Looking out the window to the back porch and garden beyond, I saw that massive gray clouds had rolled in bringing a spring rain that soon began to fall, just the kind of all-day soaking rain that is perfect for the garden. SLOW & steady! Terrific, no watering to do for a while, glad I got the new rain gauge put out so I will know how much moisture my garden gets today…and keep track in my garden journal calendar.
Back to the coffee…Brewing aside, a good cup of coffee starts with the beans. I use ONLY organic coffee beans, and grind my own Dark French Roast every morning. And, I use either a French Press or Chemex for the brewing process. This type of brewing is obviously for folks who appreciate strong, rich coffee with a distinctive taste. The French Press results in a fresh, deep-flavored, robust-bodied cup of coffee…The pour over Chemex produces a distinctly bright and clean cup of coffee. Dark roast beans are chocolatey brown or shiny black with an oily surface and an intense caramelized sweetness. Viennese, Italian, and European beans are other good dark roasts available in most upscale markets.
Coffee at hand, laptop open and notes somewhat organized, sitting at my table looking out to the garden…Back to writing…awwww, dadgum squirrels! Even in the rain the little yard rats still jump on and hang from the bird feeders, including those touted as squirrel-proof! Where is that air-gun??
More scents of spring…add even more fragrant plants to your garden…my personal favorites include…Jasmine and Sweet Autumn Clematis vines for a trellis or pergola…roses, lavender, gardenia, lilac, pink honeysuckle, rosemary, peonies, phlox, dianthus, Oriental lilies, iris, and annual sweet peas. There are many more fragrant blooms but I need to stop. Oh, wallflowers and stock…Try this gorgeous combination for color, constant bloom and lovely fragrance…the clematis is ‘Nelly Moser’ and the rose is one of my favorites that will grow and bloom all season, ‘New Dawn’…love, love, love it! And heliotrope…oh…and…
Let’s dig in and set to work, speaking figuratively, of course…after making coffee, one is usually faced with the quandary of what to do with the grounds, simple. USE THEM! For many years I have encouraged my gardening friends to throw them in the compost pile or add to the soil around acid loving plants, especially blue hydrangeas, gardenias, hollies, and roses…they provide a nice JOLT of nutrient and a great aroma while working in the garden…Don’t you just love the smell of fresh coffee in the morning?? I have also discovered that placing the grounds around the base of plants will help protect them from slugs and snails!! Guess they don’t appreciate a good brew…maybe they prefer beer.
*Make sure you have trimmed your lavender and any other silver/gray foliage plants such as Nepeta or catmint, Russian sage, artemisia, and clean-up any brown foliage on the underside of lamb’s ears; also trim any thyme that has brown stems. NOTE: I always include silver artemisia varieties when designing a garden. Their magnificent, whisper-soft foliage complements nearly all other perennials and pulls together colors within a planting scheme. Stunning in combination with blue, lavender and pink blooms. HOWEVER, they thrive in hot, dry, sunny growing conditions especially a south facing slope in loose or sandy soils…like a rock garden. Once established, they need very little moisture. Heavy clay or ultra rich soil, overwatering and lots of humidity are usually a death sentence for these beauties!!
*Foliar spray liquid seaweed after a rainfall to boost plant & foliage health and give beneficial insects a bit of super food juice, especially ladybugs.
*Cut back butterfly bushes as they do bloom on new wood.
*Fertilizing the garden for me means spreading a layer of my great compost around the base of plants…especially those that bloom continuously. Cleaning out the chicken pen will provide good fertilizer for roses and the nutrient rich material could also be used when starting a new compost pile…or simply giving a ‘boost’ to a sluggish pile.
*Instead of a harsh, synthetic cleaner, use baking soda to clean birdbath bowls that might be covered in winter scum! Works great! GIVE BIRD HOUSES A QUICK CLEAN OUT…make them ready for new or returning tenants!
Enjoy spring, till next time…