Earliest. Cleanup. Ever.

The title says it all.  Nearly all the snow has melted, jackets were thrown aside, and for a glorious weekend we enjoyed obscenely nice spring temperatures and sunshine.  I didn’t even do the responsible thing and wash the car first, I went straight for the clippers and rake and tidied winter away from the front yard.  With flowers bursting up out of the soil it was the only logical thing to do.

first snowdrops

The first snowdrops and the bright yellow of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

I’m not one to hem and haw about “is it too early” or “can I uncovered the perennials yet”, I just dive right in as soon as the weather gives me the chance.  Sure it will probably get cold again, but I find that covered or not they’re going to start growing anyway.

galanthus nivalis

The earliest of the common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) came up completely as the snow melted Saturday.  I think they look even nicer coming up amongst a nice groundcover of hardy cyclamen.

I’d love to assault you (again) with far too many snowdrop pictures, but for now will limit myself to just three.  I do want to have a few readers left for the other 11 months of the year…

galanthus wendy's gold

‘Wendy’s Gold’  is one of the “yellow” snowdrops.  The color is exceptional this year, and just as bright as today’s sunshine.

After a downright miserable snowdrop season last year, this year (all three days of it so far) is shaping up to be outstanding.  With the usual optimism of a gardener I’m positive that last year’s arctic blasts and heat waves, combined with downpours and hail, will not repeat.  I see nothing but idyllic temperatures and sunshine, even though it is about a month early.  But just in case, I’ll keep watering the winter garden since it’s coming along as well.

forced hyacinth

A few of the hyacinths I forced this winter.  Not bad for a bunch of clearance bulbs.

The indoor snowdrops are mostly over, but the cyclamen are going strong and the primrose are promising a nice show as they send up flower buds.  Miraculously I’ve managed to see my Primula auricula through the winter and bring it back into flower again under the lights.  I managed to grow this from seed (somehow) and I’m afraid it’s literally led me down a primrose path to membership in the American Primrose Society.  Now for a third year in a row I’ve ordered more seed and just in case you’re brave enough, the society has just opened up this seed exchange to non members.  Click here for a link to some of the best (and cheapest) primula seed available in the US.

primula auricula

Definitely not the fanciest example of an auricula primrose, but it’s my very own (and most importantly I haven’t killed it yet).  The fancier versions come in rich reds, blues or greens with larger flowers, bicolor blooms… all with that cool white-powdered center.

I’m excited again about the primroses, but Cyclamen coum are still a favorite.  Their numbers have dropped a little due to someone not being the most capable cyclamen grower, but I have plans to turn that trend around.  I’ve been going and dabbing pollen from flower to flower in the hopes of getting a few seeds to form, and if all works as planned there will be a new batch of these coming along in no time.

cyclamen seed forming

Unpollinated flowers will wilt and fall over, pollinated flowers will curl up and tuck themselves down close to the ground to form a seed pod.  I think this is one of the most curious traits of these little plants.

As the cyclamen set their seeds and the other flowers join the show I’ve decided to bring a few of the forced tulip bulbs under the lights to see what they can do.  Tulips indoors are a first for me, but with the way our weather’s going the ones outside will be nearly open anyway so it’s no great loss if failure strikes.

forced tulips

In typical fashion bulbs have been carelessly stuffed into a too small pot, and although I don’t anticipate any overwhelming demand for this less than attractive photo, in my opinion it looks extremely promising.

And we will see where this season takes us.  It’s a freakishly early start to spring but even in a normal year there’s plenty of unfortunate weather to go around, so a beautifully warm weekend in February isn’t the worst thing.  I guess we will just have to enjoy it while we can, and of course I’m fine with that.

24 comments on “Earliest. Cleanup. Ever.

  1. Christina says:

    That is an interesting thing about cyclamen, isn’t it? so you know your job of pollination has been successful, I don’t think I new that. enjoy your spring while you can, that’s what I say.

    • bittster says:

      Yes I don’t think the cyclamen seedheads will curl down if they’re infertile, and it’s an interesting look with all those little curls down there near the corm.
      I am enjoying the warm spell. We will see if it lasts and more importantly if there’s some as yet unknown cost…

  2. I decided not to even consider cleaning up the garden so it looks pretty rough. Too scary to think this could be the start of Spring.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, spring in February is a new one to me as well.
      I’ve become lazier and lazier when it comes to spring cleanup. The mower is my best friend, and if it doesn’t get sucked up with that then it probably won’t bother me much leaving it where it fell…. but then again I don’t have honeylocust pods here 😉

  3. We still have snow on the ground, except for one strip of earth sandwiched between the house and a stone walk, facing southwest. And I have my first bloom thanks to that favorable microclimate, a spring-blooming colchicum, Colchicum munzurense. It beat out the snowdrops in that same bed. And congrats on keep the auricula alive. I tried it myself once and failed.

    • bittster says:

      Well about the primula…. I’ve been starting seeds for two years now and can count on one hand the number of plants which don’t look as if they could die at any minute. They just don’t like the dry summers here so don’t be too impressed by my one survivor!
      I saw your first spring colchicum, nice! -but I think you need more snowdrops. We’ll talk 😉

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Amazing that you have spring blooms already. I don’t know as I would trust the weather at this point, but who knows? I certainly don’t have to test it as we still have a foot of snow on the ground. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I don’t trust this weather either, but it’s a matter of seeing how hard the hammer drops when cold returns. Was it worth it? Right now I’m sure it is!

  5. Cathy says:

    A great attitude Frank – make the most of it and enjoy it while it lasts! We might be getting one of those warm days soon, so keeping my fingers crossed and gardening equipment at the ready!

  6. Amy Olmsted says:

    What a welcome and bright sight for the winter weary! Your indoor garden is wonderful too! Thanks for the plug of the American Primrose Society!! I am busy filling seed orders. Your auricula is so sweet and I know you’ll treasure it!

    • bittster says:

      thanks Amy. I have a few primrose coming along under the lights, but they’re so pitiful I don’t think I’ll bother posting pictures… unless I do… they are so bright and cheerful that even a single flower holds up to the bleakness outside!

  7. rusty duck says:

    You’ve started the season off with real style Frank. Now I’m looking out of the window at my uncleared plot and feeling very guilty. We’re in the middle of a deluge though, is that an allowable defence?

    • bittster says:

      You have nothing to feel guilty about, deluge or not! I consider this early season gardening to be tire spinning and nothing when compared to the adventures ahead. I’m sure you’ll have your share this year as well, just make sure you keep away from the ones involving rehabilitation!

  8. Lisa Rest says:

    Had the same thing going on here with the weather and although I didn’t do the work myself the garden crew showed up and wasted no time flattening my entire yard. I know I should have faith, but the way it looks now I will be surprised to see what comes back. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Bah! I wouldn’t even worry a minute. I’ve cleaned up flower beds with a lawnmower and nothing even batted an eye. A friend burns his beds (either intentionally or through carelessness…. which is somewhat frightening) and with the exception of a few early bulbs which get singed everything does just fine.
      Just think of all the “I should really get on that” guilt you have avoided!

  9. Ian Lumsden says:

    “Wendy’s Gold” is a good snowdrop and your little clump looks great. My early snowdrops are just beginning to go over and the crocus and narcissus are coming out. For some reason the cyclamen coum are not so evident this season. Odd how things go.

    • bittster says:

      The cyclamen are only just now starting to show, and after two years of harsh bud killing winters I think this will be a decent spring… unless something else comes along, but isn’t that always how it goes?

  10. Congratulations, Frank, on an outstanding start to the gardening season. We enjoy the same weather here and didn’t even clean the car! Crazy weather — now it’s thundering! P. x

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t it great to get that first cleanup started? The weather may still argue with spring but at least this is a step forward. -the car is still dirty btw 🙂

  11. Chloris says:

    Wonderful to have an early start on spring. I love your Wendy’s Gold, do you have any more yellow ones? I am very fond of Spindlestone Surprise.

    • bittster says:

      I do have Primrose Warburg, another yellow which seems very happy here. I think Avon has now lumped this and Spindlestone Surprise together as the same cultivar so it must be halfway decent if it’s been introduced twice!
      I’m giving sandersii a try next year. I hear it’s a fussy grower and being that I’m not a fussy gardener I don’t hold out much hope, but anoraks are not known for making sensible decisions.

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