An April Day

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day. ~ Robert Frost

bentdafWPSpring has arrived with great hesitation, or perhaps I only greet it this way. Warm days abruptly end in snow or frost, pouring rain soaks the ground and triggers green growth which is then stopped short by another deep freeze. I’ve never witnessed such extreme disruption in the garden. Although many of the early daffodil blooms hang to the ground in surrender, other growing things, especially ones native to this area, are coping with the dramatic and abrupt changes and reveal their beauty to the eye.  I must admit to a deep uneasiness – will this scenario continue in the future as we grapple with climate change? How will the creatures who depend on pollen and other garden foods at crucial times cope or even survive? Here’s what the National Wildlife Federation has to say about gardening for climate change and the problems that changing bloom times create between pollinators and the plants they depend on.

AprGrdnarchWPNevertheless, each day brings new growth and beauty. The hellebores continue to spring back after the worst conditions and a few sleepyheads are just beginning to bloom now. Bird song is a constant soundtrack to my journeys through the garden and a pair of robins follow me around as I expose the earth while digging up dandelion roots. The first blooms on the weeping cherry that survived sudden sub-zero temperatures are nuzzled by a native bee desperate for spring pollen. Tiny wind anemones and grape hyacinth bloom amid the warm rock walls. Foliage in shades of green and red rises up from the ground, displacing the last of the fallen oak leaves that blanketed the beds all winter. Now is the time for cleaning up the garden, trimming roses and shrubs, and planting seeds indoors in anticipation of summer. Prolific rains have created vernal pools and streams through the woods and spring peepers have been singing their high chweeps of courtship on warmer evenings.

Shades of pink and rose – click on any photo to see a larger image or trigger the slide show (all photos ©Lynn Emberg Purse 2017, All Rights Reserved).

Spring blooms in white, yellow, and purple.

But days even earlier than these in April have a charm, – even days that seem raw and rainy . . . There is a fascination in walking through these bare early woods, – there is such a pause of preparation, winter’s work is so cleanly and thoroughly done. Everything is taken down and put away . . . All else is bare, but prophetic: buds everywhere, the whole splendor of the coming summer concentrated in those hard little knobs on every bough . . . ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “April Days,” 1861

A special thanks to The Quote Garden for a seemingly endless source of literary inspiration.

Four and Twenty Hours

In the spring, I have counted one hundred and thirty-six kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

It is typical March weather – one moment full of sunshine and flowers, the next filled with snow. A few days ago, the early morning sun on a mild day lit up the glowing green of moss and the soft colorful blooms emerging everywhere. The forsythia was finally in full-tilt bloom, the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) was covered in tiny gold bubbles, and the Japanese weeping cherry was about to burst into flower. I spent a peaceful afternoon in the garden, cleaning up beds, pruning shrubs, and listening to the lively bird song coming from the woods.

By evening, fierce winds brought winter’s return and by the next morning, wet snow clung to every branch and twig, transforming spring into a sparkling white wonderland.

The snow was wet and heavy and bright blue skies warm with sunshine threatened its demise and a quick return to spring.

But that was not to be. Within a few hours, the north wind swept through once more, creating a white out effect as it whipped the loose snow into milky clouds and froze thin layers to branches. whiteoutWP

Today, it is bitterly cold and the world outside the window is bleak once more. In a week or so, March winds will carry spring back again, an event I eagerly await. What is March weather like in your part of the world?

Anticipation

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size. ~Gertrude S. Wister

Winter comes and goes these days. February has embraced all of the seasons in a few short weeks, from bitter winter to balmy summer. Earlier in the month, January’s snow melted into the ground and a thick fog rose overnight, transforming the woodland into a mysterious world of gray and black.  forestfog

Later, the sun appeared and burned away the blanket of fog, revealing the bold architecture of oak trees stark against a bright blue sky. (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Temperatures continued to warm last week until many early flowers burst into full bloom while shrubs and trees began to swell with buds and leaves. The black and white and gray of winter was suddenly sparked with color.

More hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) flowers open each day, a few weeks earlier than usual. Many have self-seeded and spread under trees and shrubs; a few are named varieties. A favorite is the almost black double flowered ‘Onyx Odyssey’. The unusual green flowers and uniquely patterned foliage of the fetid hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) punctuate the edge of the woodlands.

The temperatures have plunged once again and gardeners can only hope that the early growth won’t be damaged by the return of winter. But the anticipation of spring has begun. (Click on any photo for a full size version; all photos ©2017 Lynn Emberg Purse)

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. ~ Barbara Winkler

Visiting Gardens

Creativity is contagious, pass it on ~Albert Einstein

One thing gardeners love to do is to visit other gardens. It is a chance to see how others  create beautiful spaces and inspire the rest of us to tweak or refine our own gardens. Inspiration and fellowship all in one package – what a great idea! This summer, I will be joining dozens of other garden bloggers from across the U.S., Canada, and the UK to visit gardens in the Washington D.C. area.15977491_1381982131833368_2823875859792622106_n

Garden Bloggers Fling is an annual gathering of garden bloggers to visit beautiful gardens and make connections with like-minded folks, an event I’ve been wanting to attend for the past few years. Tammy, one of the organizers of this year’s fling describes it as “three and a half days of gardeners gabfest.” Gentle encouragement posted by fellow blogger Jason at Garden in a City tipped the balance for me, as well as an image from a gorgeous rose-filled Franciscan monastery  garden on the tour.

There is nothing better than visiting gardens to discover new ideas and gain new inspiration. Knowing first hand what a challenge it is to prepare your garden for visitors, I am always grateful to those who open their gates to us. Here are two gardens in Pittsburgh that are worth visiting.

Choderwood is a hidden treasure in the eastern part of the city, located next to an industrial site and hidden behind a long stretch of high fence. A bold gate marks the entrance to the B&B sited above the Allegheny river. Ornamental gardens, quirky structures, scenic river views and a charming kitchen garden complete with chickens combine into one of the most unique gardens I’ve ever visited. A popular place for weddings, B&B guests can also stay in small boats on the river in season. How cool is that?

Want a shot of color in the middle of of a long gray winter? Get your color fix in this urban landmark destination for garden visitors worldwide. Randyland is the brainchild of artist Randy Gilson, who bought a crumbling home in the North Side of Pittsburgh years ago. On a shoestring budget, he transformed his house and garden with paint brush and plants and went on to help establish neighborhood community gardens that have changed lives.

Dreaming of the garden season is in full swing here – I’m starting seeds this weekend and my wish list for new plants is growing longer by the day. Are you planning any garden visits this year?

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation ~ Voltaire

At the Heart of Nature

Every New Year must be celebrated at the heart of nature – in the middle of a forest or by the side of a lake under billions of stars – because it is nature who has made our existence possible! ~Mehmet Murat ildan 

It is probably no surprise to anyone that I consider the heart of nature to be in the garden. The day after Christmas was so mild that I spent it quietly potting up all of the bulbs that didn’t get planted in November. A few days later, I managed to rake the last layer of leaves from the garden paths so that their patterns would emerge under the snow. Winter is here in fits and starts; snow covers the ground today but rain is predicted for tomorrow. On this last day of the year, Angel and I are snuggled up on the sofa, looking over the photos of the garden this past year.

PollinatorSignThis was the year that the property became certified by the Penn State Master Gardeners as a Pollinator Friendly Garden, a landmark step in my efforts to create a haven for wildlife in general and pollinators in particular.  With the help of my niece Carly, an untended garden bed along the road got an extensive  makeover and was filled with native plants to further support pollinators.

toursignWP

In late June, 500 visitors meandered through the garden as part of the Town & Country garden tour to benefit the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. I worked 6-8 hours a day, six days a week for two months, to prepare the garden for close inspection. I realized as I was writing the garden description for the tour booklet that I had always thought of this garden as a “garden in the woods” inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods. The trees that surround the house and garden are an integral part of the landscape and are beautiful in every season.

After all the visitors were gone for the season, the plants on the hillside garden were temporarily moved to make room for a new pair of handsome stone walls.  I look forward to seeing them covered with blooms next season.

Other echoes inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? ~T. S. Elliot

The gardening year really begins in the spring, fresh and full of potential.

Memories of summer bring to mind an explosion of flowers amid warm days.

Autumn arrived with a new palette of colors.

The calendar year begins and ends in winter:

Tomorrow brings a new year, full of the hopes and ambiguities of an unknown future. I wish all of you a new year of joy and I hope that you spend some of it in the heart of nature.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice . . .
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~ T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets: Little Gidding”

(All photos [except pollinator sign] in this blog post ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).