I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The ten day forecast says spring will arrive on Tuesday, so if you’ve been dilly dallying because of the snow I suggest you get ready to hit the ground running!  It is April after all, and although our weekly and sometimes daily snowstorms might hint otherwise, I do see a 70F day approaching and then no below freezing temperatures for the next week…. as long as we wait until Tuesday of course.

hellebore in the snow

Monday morning and the kids began the first week of April with a snow day.

Most everyone has been complaining about the weather but I always like to remind these buttercups that we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the whole ‘April showers’ thing was probably dreamed up by some idle poet wasting away another gloomy English morning on a sofa by the window, waiting for the sun to make an appearance.  Come to think of it this cold and gloomy, precipitate-rich spring weather is what I imagine spring in the UK and Pacific Northwest to be like.  It’s excellent weather for growing things like moss and liverworts but less entertaining for the gardener.  Even if it does keep the winter flowers like snowdrops in bloom for what seems like forever.

galanthus nivalis

Some late, almost completely white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) still looking good in spite of the on again off again snow cover.

Now would probably be a good time to pat myself on the back for not going as far overboard on the snowdrops as I usually do.  You’re welcome.  Even though it’s been one of the longest seasons ever, with not too-much heavy snow and zero single digit arctic blasts, it’s been cold and dreary and I just don’t enjoy taking pictures when it’s so miserable out.  That and I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook through the ‘Snowdrops in American Gardens’ FB group.  That probably helped as well, and probably saved many a reader from straining an eye muscle from too frequent eye-rolls.  I don’t know about elsewhere but optic strain seems to be a problem in this house when I mention snowdrops.

leucojum vernum

A snowdrop cousin, the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) coming up in a damp corner of the yard.

I will round out the season with one last mention of snowdrops.  Two years ago I found an amazing clearance deal on bulk snowdrops and planted about 300 Woronow’s snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii) late in the season.  As fate would have it, great joy is often tempered with tragedy so of course they were nearly all destroyed by a brutal freeze just as they were coming up that first year.  This year it’s been better though, and a few of the survivors are actually strong enough to put up a flower.  Green tipped snowdrops are always a pleasant find and there are only a few green-tipped woronowii, so finding this one was a real treat.

green tip worowonii

Woronow’s snowdrop, aka the green snowdrop, aka Galanthus woronowii, with strong green tips and some extra green on the inner petals.  Woronowii are often a little boring, so of course I love it 🙂

In between snowstorms I’ve been ‘that guy’ trimming back perennials, cleaning out beds and hauling mulch on the day before six more inches are predicted.  To be honest I started in February when we had our first warm spell, but it was only last week that the far end of the front border finally lost enough of its snow cover that I could finish up.  For those who don’t already know, my mode of attack for spring cleanup is trim it all back to the ground with the hedge trimmer, rake most of it onto the lawn, run it all over with the lawnmower and bag it up for mulch.  As a finishing touch I cut the lawn real short and bag that as well so that everything looks obsessively neat and green and ready for spring.

chopped leaves mulch

The least professional part of my cleanup is when I lug the chopped leaves over from the neighborhood dump at the end of the street, and spread them out across the bed.  Another man’s trash…. plus it covers all the twigs and debris that I didn’t care enough to rake off.

Not to rub my garden cleanup obsession in too much but I actually finished the last of the spring cleanup yesterday.  It doesn’t all look pretty, but at least there will be no dead stalks and dried weeds to bother me in May.

narcissus rijnvelds early sensation

A mulch of the chopped debris from out front will keep the weeds down in back.  It’s just fine for the first daffodil, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, flowering for the first time that I can remember.  Usually it’s usually too early and the buds get frozen off in February.

All the cleanup has distracted me from seed starting, of which I’ve gone overboard with this year.  The cold left me inside way too long and I’ve been up to just about everything else except the starting of tomato seedlings which should have sown two weeks ago.  I’m sure I can find one at the nursery if things get desperate.  Much better now to focus on the unnecessary native southeastern NA fern spore dust which has miraculously done something over the last few weeks.  I spend way too much time admiring the green fuzz inside a baby food container, but to be honest I still can’t believe the dust I sprinkled on top had done anything.

growing ferns from spores

I think I have ferns!  Not to gloss over millions of years of primitive reproduction but the spores grow a green fuzz and the green fuzz does the sex stuff which results in new fern plants.  I suggest searching for more on the topic in case I’ve become too technical 😉   

I’ll leave you with even more evidence of snow day idleness.  Coleus plants ready for new cuttings to be taken, and way too many succulents.  I started even more a few weeks ago and still have absolutely no plans for what to do with them, so we’ll see where this ends up.  Maybe they can go outside Tuesday even though that does nothing to answer the question of what to do with them.

succulent cuttings

Succulent cutting in the winter garden.  They’re another thing I spend way too much time looking at.

In the meantime enjoy whatever weather comes your way and I hope spring has either found you or is well on its way.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn too nice though, I still need to start a few tomatoes…. and plant some pansies, since I may have bought some pansies 🙂

26 comments on “I Think I Can, I Think I Can

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I don’t think I could hear too much about galanthus even though I only have two varieties. I do love them but I am such a futz at ordering online. I might never get any more but I love them.
    As to fern fuzz…how exciting. I can’t wait to see how they develop. I haven’t ever noticed them fuzzing and reproducing.
    All of those succulents. Maybe you can sell them and purchase something new. Or donate them to be sold for a charity. Or just sit back and watch them grow, Grow, GROW.

    • bittster says:

      Funny but in just a few days the snowdrops just seem like a distant memory. Things are still cool ad quiet but the snowdrops seem long gone…. but the succulents are still an obsession! I was repotting last week and tried moving a few outside on the warmer days. There’s hope!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    You have been quite busy! I like your method of using everything to make a mulch. I was reading about biodynamic gardening this morning and it is all about using leaf mold/manure that is at least a year old that has bacteria and fungi galore. They sequester nutrients, carbon, etc. for the plants to use. Cool stuff.
    Maybe you ought to have a plant sale with your extras to offset the cost of your garden habit. 😉 I give my extras to the garden club for their annual May sale. Although, now that there are these Asian worms, garden club shares may be a thing of the past. Just one more thing to make us crazy.

    • bittster says:

      I have been leaning towards organic gardening over the years. That and no-till, but the second might be a result of laziness more than anything else… so far the garden is looking better than ever!
      The whole natural gardening thing is so much more complicated than most people give it credit for…. well maybe that’s wrong, since I’m sure many people know it’s super complicated, but I always get caught up on the fact we’re trying to increase fertility, add organics, etc, but there are so many other ways that the North American soils originally worked. Here many plants originally adapted to fungal earthworm-free soils. Barring major global climate disasters that won’t ever be the case again, so all this fertility adding is actually unnatural for this region… ok I’ll stop now, but it’s interesting you’re into it as well!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        It is really complicated as we know so little about the microbiome and how the whole system works together. We can only try to learn more and work forward from here.
        I’ve been experimenting with a ‘lazy’ gardening approach on most of my beds. It can look messy, but luckily, I don’t live in a community that dictates curb appeal!

  3. Here’s hoping the warmer weather will actually appear here this week as forecast. Have not been able to get near the snowdrops in the back garden, so don’t know what they might be doing or not. The snow and cold cut short the ones by the house. Can’t get over all those plants in your “lab.” And the fern dust project is too cool. I did see a couple of my Worronii before the last snow. Love those geen tips.

    • bittster says:

      Well…. I’ve been following along with you and your weather and it doesn’t sound like you’ve seen the big warm-up yet… Isn’t it frustrating!? At least we have a bit of color, but I’m getting a little tired of seeing sunny, beautiful days yet still dealing with morning show showers and icy roads!

  4. It got down to 13°F this morning and never did get much above freezing today. I don’t see 70 in my forecast but I see a couple of 68s which are almost as good. Too bad there’s also rain forecast for those days. I hope you can make some money selling surplus succulents. If you can pot them up in a trough you just happen to have laying around, you can sell them for a lot more. If you don’t have any hypertufa laying around, maybe you can find something retro or fairy gardenish at a garage sale and use that. I always have great ideas for how other people can make money.

    • bittster says:

      I may try and sell all my plants and see if I can start filling the piggy bank with some Hawaii money 😉
      I would like to sell a few. A gardener down south of me used to have an annual plant sale, and I thought it would be fun if I could do the same… I just don’t know if anyone would come 😦
      -but then even if the plant sale is a bust, maybe forcing a few garden tours on visitors would make up for it!

  5. Christina says:

    Frank, this is becoming a habit!!! You mention your purchases in the last line of your text. ever mind, I don’t mind how much you spend and a few pansies can’t have cost very much! I really enjoyed reading about your clear up. I think your spring may properly arrive before mine, which is still one day on and 3 or 4 off.

    • bittster says:

      I am trying to sneak in purchases here and there. Maybe readers won’t look at the math too closely if I do it that way 😉
      Sorry about your wisteria. I removed mine because three years in a row there were late freezes which killed off all the flowers, but then again we are very exposed here to whatever weather rolls through. I can’t wait until the tulips start though!

  6. Chloris says:

    I notice you don’t say how much your pansies cost. Not that we are counting.
    I am impressed by the fern spore trick, I’ve never done that.
    And all those succulents; are you starting a shop?
    I am impressed by your clean up and all that mulch. Enjoy your spring when it comes.

    • bittster says:

      I may become a traveling succulent salesman going door to door peddling kalanchoes… or I’m sure I can push them off on someone. I began repotting the mother plants last week and realized I already had way too many before I started propagating… but then when has that ever stopped us.
      I bought even more pansies Friday. They were even cheaper so obviously there’s no rush in making any hasty budget confessions just yet.

  7. hb says:

    So what does your winter do to the chopped leaves etc you place on the bed? They decompose? I have no sense of what happens in your vastly different climate that has cold and moisture. Stuff doesn’t break down fast here, it just dries out.

    The snow drops are lovely and your succulents are perfectly well grown so your skill is considerable! I must rely on a mostly forgiving climate.

    • bittster says:

      I always consider the opposite when I look at the soil in your pictures. I look at the dried leaves and twigs and and wonder why they won’t just decay away! Here the chopped leaves will be gone by midsummer and the weeds will be able to fill right in unless I cover it with plants or something else.
      My succulents will at most fill a five by five foot area if placed all together. I bet you you would consider that a cramped spot for for some of your bigger treasures!
      I’m surprised by how fast some of them actually grow when they get a little space and moisture. I never really paid as much attention to them before.

  8. Cathy says:

    I missed everyone’s snowdrops this year (due to not blogging over the winter), so you could have gone on a bit more! As a substitute I whipped over to your snowdrop pages – and wished I hadn’t because I never seem to add to my existing three (although I always plan to buy at least 2 more every year). I couldn’t see anywhere to comment so will bore everyone on this page by asking if your ‘Sam Arnott’ seems to take a rest every year or so? Mine does – and it really, really makes me anxious (silly!). This year I had only one flower (it’s quite a large clump), so am obsessing quite a lot. I love your spring clean-up routine! I guess you have small, early things (like snowdrops) planted away from those areas? Those succulents are so sweet – and incredibly colourful.I would spend a lot of time looking at them too!

    • bittster says:

      I’m hoping to be able to update the snowdrop pages this summer once the heat finally returns and I can get my fill of sun and warmth, then I might be ready to go on and on about snowdrops again 🙂 -right now (for the first time ever) I’ve actually had my fill… although I did get a twinge the other day thinking about what a wait it is until next season!
      My ‘S. Arnott’ blooms every year but it’s a young planting and still has plenty of space to multiply in to. Most of mine flower very well each year until they get a little crowded, but not all of them fall off after that. Maybe I’ll see the same if mine ever get around to clumping up. Actually I do have a double which seems more intent on multiplying than it does on blooming. ‘Hippolyta’ was dug this spring and evicted from the garden after there were again no blooms on a fairly thick clump.
      So far I can keep the earliest spring growers in their own areas. I try to get those spots somewhat in order in the fall so that I don’t have too much guilt when they have to come up through a mess in the spring. There are plenty of other springtime tasks to feel guilty about neglecting, but the guilt is so much lighter when there are snowdrops to enjoy!

      • Cathy says:

        Interesting about the Sam Arnott … I only planted 6 bulbs originally, so they are definitely not ‘bulked up’, unfortunately. I just hope this year was an off year and I have more flowers next. And the foliage is less this year too. But on the other hand a patch of G. nivalis that was poorly blooming last year has been wonderful this year. Thanks for reinspiring. My original plan was to add 3 new every year – but they are so EXPENSIVE! Yes. Something so perfect like a snowdrop refocuses the mind on what really matters in the garden (and it’s not the jobs!!!)

  9. I like the Leucojum vernuum. I have lots of L. aestivum blooming right now. The tall inflorescences and long leaves are nice, but there’s something to be said for a short compact plant like the L. vernuum.

    Good work on the ferns!

    • bittster says:

      Leucojum vernum seems less ‘leafy’ than the summer snowflake, and I do like those little tidy bloomers! I wonder how they’d do for you, I’m not sure if I’ve seen them grown further south but I can’t imagine they’d be that fussy.
      The oranges are looking fine. I have a small grove since I wasn’t able to toss any of them, they do look a little disgusted by the weather though. Probably for the best that they realize early on they’ve been exiled to Siberia.

  10. Everyone always complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Who said that? Anyway, we’ve suddenly got spring-like weather, but then it’s supposed to snow over the weekend. I like your approach to shredding garden debris but unfortunately I have a push mower – I hate power mowers. I’ve actually given in and hired someone to do the spring clean up. So I’ve spent the last six weeks sending harassing emails asking when they’re going to do our property.

    • bittster says:

      I saw a clip from some news station where the police came in to arrest the weatherman. Maybe that’s a start…. accountability!
      I have love hate relationship with my mower. It zips through most everything, but I need to change and take a shower afterwards since I hate the smell of the exhaust on me. The change and shower probably aren’t the worst thing though, sometimes the yard isn’t the only thing in need of some tidying up.
      Having a competent crew come by and do in a few hours what would take you weeks…. and remove all the debris as well… absolutely worth it in my opinion.

  11. Lisa Rest says:

    Congratulations on the cleanup! I haven’t even started. But now I’m thinking I’ll risk uncovering the rain barrels so I can harvest some of the rain and gamble on the two days when we get just below freezing temps. I’m also in a quandary about where to scatter some seeds. Looking forward to almost all the surprises…

    • bittster says:

      Cleanup is nice, but honestly I kind of like a natural garden as well. I guess it depends on the garden. I have a friend who only scatters seeds and does extremely well by that method, I’m thinking about moving in that direction since the guilt of unplanted pots is so much heavier than a few seeds in an envelope!

  12. Do the two days of summer that we just had (Friday and Saturday) count as “spring”? 😉 Of course we are now going to drown (“How long can you tread water?”) tomorrow (the 16th) if we don’t get struck by lightning from the thunderstorms. But… it won’t be snow!! 😀

    • bittster says:

      Ok, a week later and maybe we’re good now. The two days were more like summer, and I hope we see it again some time soon, but to be honest it wasn’t as springlike since then….

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