Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Flowers for the Faithful

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You said, take a few dry sticks, cut the ends slantwise to let in water, stick them in the old silver cup on the dresser in the spare room and wait for the touch of Easter.

But a cold wave protected the snow, and the sap’s pulse beat so low underground I felt no answer in myself except silence.

You said, winter breaks out in flowers for the faithful and today when I opened the door the dry sticks spoke in little yellow stars and I thought of you.

–James Hearst

I ran across this poem while visiting Cedar Fall’s Hearst Center last week and fell in love with it …  “winter breaks out in flowers for the faithful.”  What a lovely phrase!

Are you full of spring fever?  For gardeners, the final weeks of winter can be especially painful when we want so badly to get outside and see the sun shine.  I can hardly contain my excitement when I leave my house each morning, with the sun shining and fresh air smelling so good.  A few days ago, I excitedly asked someone if they could smell the soil working … he looked at me as if I was crazy.  Clearly he did not have spring fever!

I’m anxious to get outside working in the gardens.  Many of you must be too, because I’ve been getting questions about spring work in the gardens.  Our flowerbeds might still be asleep, but there is plenty to do to keep busy! 

Here’s a list I have come up with so far.  If you have other good ideas, please pass along!

  • Do you have a compost pile?  Now is the time to start turning regularly.  And if you do not compost, this is the month to start!
  • What new plants are you going to incorporate into your garden this summer?  Now is the time to plan!  Good garden design considers color, form and texture … not just what plants are “pretty”  and priced right at the garden center.   For a design refresher, stay tuned for next week’s blog.
  • See weeds?  Pull them now … it’s never too early to start!  Now is also a good time to put down mulch.
  • Spring cleaning doesn’t only happen indoors.  To hit the ground running in May, clean out your garage now.  All tools can be cleaned, sharpened or replaced.  You should also wash out all pots or containers you will be using.  It might be tempting to reuse last year’s potting soil, but please don’t!  For the health of your plants, begin each new season with fresh potting soil.
  • Repair fences, trellises and other structural objects before neighboring plants begin growing.
  • If the soil is not too wet, spring is the time to divide and transplant perennials.  Giving those plants extra room will encourage more lush and healthy growth this summer.
  • It’s a messy job, but must be done: get out the latter and clean out those gutters!
  • Prune dead or damaged branches to promote healthy trees and shrubs.  Now is also the time to prune for size control and form.  But remember, many spring flowering trees and shrubs bloom on old wood.  Spring flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned for size and form after bloom(still ok to remove dead and damaged branches now) .
  • When your flowerbeds have dried out, “top dress” with compost.  If the flowerbed is already established, do not dig up the soil.  Doing so will only disturb the established ecosystem … nutrients in the compost can easily worked their way down into the soil on their own.
  • Remove stakes and relax wires installed on last year’s planted trees.  To develop more resilient plant material, it is best to allow some sway.

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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