The Give and Take

So spring is here.  Maybe not spring for non-gardeners, because I have yet to see the flipflops and tank tops come out, but for a couple hours Wednesday they could have and that’s promising.  Of course we’re not out of the woods yet, but each day the light is longer, and each afternoon the sun shines stronger, and every day there’s something new sprouting up in the garden.

corydalis solida

My favorite patch of Corydalis solida.  They started as named forms, but with seedlings popping up all over I’m less and less confident and less concerned each spring as to who is who.

The last two afternoons have been warm enough to almost feel hot (up to 78F Wednesday) and that can be a shock three days after snowflurries were flying, but so far the plants are taking it in stride.  A few more days of this and things will all begin to fade and droop, but so far we’re not there, and so far the forecast looks promising for a return to digging and planting weather as opposed to porch sitting and iced beverages.

seedling hyacinths

Being a little on the odd side, I always look forward to this very uninteresting patch of hyacinths flowering.  They’re mostly seedlings of the bulbs I moved out a few years back, but I love the slight variations which have shown up from the original pink planting.

The rainy, colder weather in early April (without any more brutal arctic blasts) has made for an excellent hellebore season.  I’m again telling myself I need more of them and have been out there counseling last year’s batch of seedlings to grow faster.

hellebore flowers

Some nice yellow seedling which hold their flowers outwards a little more.  There’s a picotee seedling in there as well, which is nice, but it hangs its flowers much more.

There are some amazing newer forms of hellebores out there these days, and they’re so much easier to find than just a few years back.  That doesn’t mean I’ve gotten my hands on them yet, but at least there’s a chance.

hellebore flowers

A plant of ‘Onyx Odyssey’ not being very showy but being very cool with its glowering attitude.

My biggest problem with new additions is convincing myself that a few older ones need to go.  Sometimes it’s too easy to get attached to plants just because…

hellebore flowers

A nice springtime blend of colors on these seedlings.  I don’t think there’s much hope they’ll ever be divided even though they should have been divided…

Ok, for the most part I don’t get too attached to plants, even the annoying ones which you fuss over for years and then they still don’t amount to much.  Maybe if I keep telling myself that I can finally pull those washed out, muddy colored hellebores on the side of the garage.

hellebore flowers

Nothing muddy or washed out here.  These are doubles from the Winter Gem series.

I won’t even bore you with the less exciting hellebores.  They’re actually pretty nice, but when you need space you need space!

hellebore flowers

More seedlings.  These qualify as ‘nice’.

Somewhere else in the garden is short on space and that’s the winter garden.  A couple weeks ago I tossed all the succulents out from under the growlights and into the cold, as well as a few other things which don’t mind flirting with 32 degrees and a little frost.  The amaryllis can handle a mild frost, and it’s about time they stopped overcrowding my indoor space.

hardening off plants

It’s still about a month until our last frost date so I’ll be quite busy if another freeze rolls in, but a few flurries?  a bitter wind?  These plants will just have to get over it.

If worse comes to worst I’ll throw a sheet over them for a night or two, and if worst comes to tragedy it will free up a few pots and I just won’t tell anyone that I killed yet another batch of plants 😉

coldframe overwintering

The cold frame, ahem ‘Sand Plunge’, did an excellent job last winter, and even my Sabal minor palm seedlings overwintered with just a few burnt leaf tips.  

I wish I could say the garden, yard, and house have all emerged from construction projects as well as they’ve survived the winter.  Progress is slow and our ‘guy’ is just a two person crew with other jobs always coming up.

garden construction

The massive piles of soil are off about half the lawn, and I was able to dig up and rake off all the stones and fill which would have smothered the grass.  You can see it’s a little yellow and lumpy, but at least I can roll a mower across and not throw up a rock every couple inches.

Sometimes the other jobs come up as little surprises here.  Last fall just a small slice of the front garden had to be moved for the work to get started, and now last week just a little more ended up in the cross hairs.  “We have to figure out what’s gong on with that sewer line” is how it all started.

garden construction

A lot of dirt can come out of just two small, but really deep, holes.

“Wow that’s weird, the line has to be here somewhere”

garden construction

Maybe you can make out the top of a ten foot ladder to the far left of this photo.

My only request was to be careful around the little weeping spruce, and since the excavator liked the small magnolia he tried to save that as well… but apparently bunches of tulips and daffodils, roses, iris, hellebores and clematis, do not make the ‘save’ list.  Oh well.  As I was watching the excavator rip up the quite hefty root ball of the rose ‘William Baffin’, and saw the teeth of the scoop slice through the iron roots of the giant reed grass I thought better him than I.

garden construction

The next afternoon.  More soil scraping, rock raking, wheelbarrowing, and lawn uncovering and it doesn’t look nearly as bad.  

Hmmm.  What can I replant there?  I suspect enough things will come up that I really don’t have to even consider adding anything, but it might be good to get new plants just in case.

Actually my new budgeting theory calls for a plant tax on all major construction expenses.  Kind of like a cost of doing business, and here’s how it works.  $2,000 for a new bathroom vanity?  A 5% plant tax means $100 bucks goes over to the gardening budget, and I think that’s a very reasonable rate.  Between the new vanity and the sewer repairs I was able to visit three nurseries over the past week and added a bunch of plants I have neither the time nor space for.  It was fun and I don’t even care if they don’t all get planted.  It’s kind of like not finishing your dinner when you go out to eat I guess.  Sure you paid for the side of fries, but why get all guilt ridden when they go cold and you just send them to the trash?  At least unnecessary plants can be enjoyed on the driveway for a few months until they finally dry out one too many times 😉

It wouldn’t be the first time.  Just enjoy spring, we’ve earned it!

16 comments on “The Give and Take

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    The construction work is dragging on and you will have a lot of work to get the garden back in shape again but it will happen – and you will have plenty of plants on standby it would seem! 78C = 25C the temperature at which Irishmen melt!

    • bittster says:

      It’s been one step forward, two steps back with the garden recovery, but I’m sure I’ll get there… eventually 😉
      When it warmed up and I was out there digging and raking, I thought to myself ‘gosh, I think this would melt Paddy’, especially after snowflurries a few days before!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        I am happier with temperatures around 20C – warm and comfortable but not too taxing. This morning is more typical, overcast, dull with a light mist.

  2. We are entering construction season. Before the street gets torn up, new gas lines are being put in and our will get updated because a neighbor is switching to gas. We’ve talked to the the city forester and the utility to try to keep the work away from our big old oak as much as possible. Then the entire street will be dug up from June or July through Oct. for new water and sanitary sewer lines. We need them, so I can’t complain but I am going wacky as each new group of flags appears in my front garden. So I am completely sympathetic to your project. Your dirt looks lovely compared to mine at the moment. I ordered lots of plants and shrubs before we knew about the construction, so it will be an interesting season for sure. I still have my first Hellebore plants that have been divided and moved. Impossible to get rid of some of the first favorites.

    • bittster says:

      Ouch. In terms of damage risks to the garden I think you actually have it worse than I do. A clump of daffodils or a patch of hellebore can come back over a year or two, an old oak may suffer damage or decline for years after a wayward backhoe does something wrong. Good luck, and I hope it’s all finished up this summer.
      I found someone who might want a few hellebores and I feel fine with getting rid of them that way. But I still have to keep one or two of the ‘old guys’ 😉

  3. Construction workers just don’t feel the same about plants, do they? My heart was in my throat reading about all the plants that didn’t make the save list. Gardening is full of trials and heartbreak.

    • bittster says:

      I’m endlessly insulted by construction workers who hold back the questions and comments they must have. I think even more insulting would be if they don’t even notice anything. I guess I shouldn’t ask!
      Your daffodils were one of the clumps beheaded. I thought they were goners but noticed today that they’re sprouting right back quite vigorously… but I suspect the flower stalks were all beheaded. they’ll be back.

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    If this was my yard being dug up, I would not be as cool as you, Frank! I’m glad you see it as a buying opportunity, seems a healthy response to me. 😉
    Beautiful hellebores and corydalis. I hope mine self-sow the way yours do. I would welcome the abundance!
    Happy Spring!

    • bittster says:

      I was convinced I’d lose nothing special, but over the last few days I found a smaller witch hazel which I forgot was under all the dirt, a clematis I remembered was there, and well… other things… but on the other hand I found them once, I’m sure I can do it again!

  5. The Hellebore look GREAT as do the cactus and succulents! I hope they fixed the sewer issue so you can work on the bare area. My plants are still outside and they are giving me dirty looks. It is just about time. Thanks for sharing!

    • bittster says:

      Sadly the bare area will stay open most of the summer, but next year 🙂
      Cold is forecast for tomorrow night. I’ve got to decide who comes in again and how much effort I’m willing to put into it!

      • I am trying to keep the potted plants inside as long as possible without them rebelling. Normally, I put them out as soon as possible then wind up having to brig them back inside. When I lived in Mississippi I would take plants out on the front purch during the day and bring them back in at night. One of the sunroons had a door to the front porch, so it was fairly easy. I am sure some of the locals thought I was insane. I was a Yankee to them. 🙂

  6. Pauline says:

    Love your Corydalis and hellebores. I’m glad you are seeing your construction work as a planting opportunity, must have been hard though seeing your garden torn apart. Hopefully by this time next year it will be beautiful once more.

  7. Cathy says:

    I admire your attitude about the construction work. I would be a nervous wreck! But you are right, it does make new planting space. 😉 The hellebores are all lovely and make the late winter /early spring bearable, but that very dark one would probably not jump into my shopping trolley although it is rather striking. I love the yellow ones with a pink tinge – I have some creamy yellow ones that fade to pink and it is a lovely effect. The Corydalis are so pretty. I must find some for my garden too. 😃

  8. Deborah Banks says:

    So sorry to see and hear about all the losses. The hardest may be your lovely dirt that is now under a few feet of clay.. That construction tax needs to be more than 5% to cover a few loads of composted manure.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Sounds like the Construction Tax is going to benefit your garden. What big messes you have had to deal with. I am glad you can keep your sense of humor through all this. I am afraid that I would be undone. This spring weather has been a wild ride and it doesn’t look to be improving much in the near future. The garden doesn’t care as much as I do so I might as well settle down. I have plants to move for a project we are doing here this summer. Not looking forward to the project but will be happy with results no doubt.

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