By Kristen Smith
The landscape has already changed so much in just the first few weeks of spring. Magnolias have boomed and faded. The early blooming Daffodils have already come and gone, and my Forsythia shrubs have also finished up. I love these popular staples of spring, but I also love the less glamorous, fleeting native woodland treasures that emerge this time of year like Trout lily, Bloodroot, and Jack-in-the Pulpits. I also love the type of plants that offer a surprise once you get to know them a little better, like the flowers of Chinese Wild Ginger. These bloomed about a month ago in my garden. I find it so exciting to dig beneath the foliage every year to be sure the flowers have returned once again. I love the foliage for its deep green leathery texture and evergreen nature. I’ve planted a patch of it to fill in and cover the small strip of ground between our foundation and the driveway. It seems happy in this location.
Tulips are blooming now. I rarely plant them, but appreciate the mass plantings that can be viewed this time of year at local public gardens. I like trying some of the species Tulips. ‘Red Riding Hood’ is a nice variety and has reliably returned in my yard for three years. I love its striped foliage which continues to add interest even after the flowers have faded.
Grape hyacinth is so common, but one of my favorite spring bulbs. The color is so vibrant and vivid. It is striking even from far away. I’ve planted a few clumps along our entry walkway.
Our poor lawn is a constant challenge, particularly in the front yard. Before we moved in there was a huge tree on the corner of the property. We’ve hacked it back as much as possible to level out the ground. The entire lawn is now soft and spongy with the decaying roots below. In the fall we get a nice crop of mushrooms along the lines of the old root system. The crop is so fruitful and large that I think our neighbors wonder if we are growing them on purpose. Onion grass is another bane of the lawn. It is an endless and tedious job trying to remove it every year. It pops up everywhere- in the lawn, in the beds, between the pavers. It drives me nuts! Some evenings I buckle down, go outside and remove the clumps one by one, being careful I haven’t left any bits behind to grow and shoot up next year–strangely sometimes I enjoy these moments of mindless labor.
Each year I make plans to dig out the beds further and further. Sometime I joke that the entire front lawn will eventually become a garden with no grass. I’m sure it wouldn’t bother my husband since he won’t have to make up excuses on why he can’t mow! I think this year I may be lazy and try covering prospective new areas of the garden with newspaper, throwing on some topsoil and waiting to dig until the fall or next spring. I panic about our very root filled earth. We have many mature trees surrounding our property, though none actually on our property. Gardening can become very discouraging when you get so excited to plant something only to strike the shovel as hard as you can into the ground just to find that you’ve dug out about ¼” of ground.
The north side of our house is complete shade. Emerging now is probably one of my favorite shade plants, Hackonechloa macra ‘Aureola’. It looks good ALL THE TIME. I cut the foliage back in late winter since even the spent foliage adds some interest along the driveway throughout the winter.
It is time to start thinking about getting some veggies going. The bed has been prepared and now it is just a matter of getting the seed planted and watered in. Carrots, Beets, Spinach, Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes, and annual flowers will be in the ground this year, hopefully sooner than later.