week 5: hellebores, salamander eggs, and other timely teachers
JUST WHEN I WANT to give up, the hellebores convinced me otherwise—reminding me not to rush things, and that the right moment for everything would arrive in its own time.
I was fighting the cues: wanting to get on with cutting miles of clean edges between turf and beds despite sodden soil (answer: don’t!) or rake some grassy areas that are still plastered with leafy, twiggy winter detritus but likewise still soft. Again: no can do, without pulling up the lawn.
As much as I want to make it all “just so” in time for Open Day next weekend—maybe I can’t.
The orientalis hybrid hellebores (Helleborus x orientalis) know about timing, often refusing to bloom for a couple or few years from transplant time until they settle in—when the gardener is all the while wondering what they did wrong (probably nothing).
Even once established, they wait and wait in a year like this recalcitrant one to arise and open, weeks after my “usual” hellebore moment. They finally got on with it last week (one photo of a little section of them, top of page).
They remind me to be not just patient but also adaptable, and those hybrid Lenten roses are that, too—blooming here mightily in my Northern garden in sunny spots, not just shady ones. The slate-colored clump below is one such example, with 50-something blooms (some not open yet when the photo was taken).
More on how hellebores work is in this interview with the late Judith Knott Tyler, hellebore breeder and author—who taught me to think of them like peonies: a bit slow to get acclimated (keep an eye on watering in the first year or two), then long-lived, and asking not much more once they do than an annual tidying of old foliage and maybe some compost.
I have been cheered on in recent days by the first Narcissus, another stoic that will outlive you, provided it is not asked to grow in shade or wet soil, or tortured by having its foliage cut back until it ripens and withers on its own, usually around July 4 here. (More on flower-bulb success at this link.)
The twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) that had barely arisen all pink and baby-bird-like last week is in its next magical incarnation now (above). Across the yard, the annual battle over bird boxes–tree swallow versus bluebirds–was playing out noisily. And the winner is: tree swallows (as every year).
Another hopeful sighting: clumps of spotted salamander eggs in one of the garden pools, and a very fat (presumably egg-filled) female bullfrog spending some days now at poolside.
There was not quite so much cheering when a local bear visited the other afternoon, refusing to be dissuaded even at the sight of me. Where is that damn air horn I am supposed to be carrying with me when outside? All my fault, really: I had been putting out a bird feeder by day and carrying it in at night, but even that is not caution enough. That breaks my birdfeeder rules, which say no food after April 1 at the latest. But it has felt like winter (and I so enjoy the minions).
I got to watch while he mauled the feeder pole, and eventually trotted off to an open spot to lie down with it as if it were a pet toy and he the family dog, licking and gnawing until every last morsel was extracted.
What’s going on this week in your corner of the universe? Do tell.