Anxiously Awaiting Spring!
Sometimes life seems like a winding road with an uncertain destination. Every turn in the road seems to yield a myriad of surprises. My introduction to gardening was one such pleasant surprise. Like so many, I had preoccupied myself with the hectic grind of the work day and occupied my leisure time with other hobbies. In short, I had never taken much time to smell the proverbial (or literal) roses. My wife helped to engage my mind towards the botanical realm when we purchased our home of the south side of Lexington. At her urging, we procured and installed two trees immediately. Thankfully, she had the foresight to envision the incredible landscape that our home was to become, and that maturing trees were critical to that vision. Secondly, she began to install a vegetable garden for us to enjoy (and work to maintain– ha ha!). Though my wife was the primary caretaker of the garden, her pursuits sparked a growing enthusiasm in me for enjoying gardening and learning about plant life.
Through a serendipitously obtained position as accountant and office manager for Dave Leonard Tree Specialists in 2009, I was able to accelerate my learning process. What a way to jumpstart my new hobby! Those who have met Dave know him to be a vivacious and enthusiastic promoter of anything involving tree canopy, and his enthusiasm influenced me to no small degree. Since my employment with this firm began, my wife and I have installed over 20 trees to add to the original two we planted eight years ago! It has been wonderful watching our landscape mature into its adolescence. We are now able to gain relief from the hot sun above our patio thanks to our ‘October Glory’ red maple. And the other trees growing in both our front and backyard add to the year round interest. In fact, having covered an evolving tree canopy (in spades!) we have turned our attention to shrubs and other flora and fauna, much of it native to our bluegrass region. It is the intent of this blog to share with you the many curiosities, delights and disappointments (hopefully these will be rare!) that my garden affords me. Hopefully you can learn and laugh right along with me!
With so much time, effort and resources invested in our increasingly dynamic landscape, my wife and I cannot wait for the daffodils to awaken from their winter hibernation. Daffodils are somewhat sentimental to our household. They are one of the few “legacy” plants that were installed years ago in our yard before we purchased our home. In fact, they were installed so long ago that the original garden bed had been long overtaken by turf. Sadly, my inattention caused me to run them over with the lawn mower on more than one occasion before my wife spotted them and saw fit to rescue them from my callous absentmindedness. My wife, an artist by both nature and by trade, was able to repurpose these tenacious little fellows by using them to line the walk approaching our front door. By alternating these flowers with clumps of liriope, she was able to create a truly cheerful approach to our front stoop. These early spring bloomers are just now beginning to emerge and in just several weeks will be in full flower providing a treat both to us and to passersby.
Landscapes in our area are not typically known for winter blooms. This leaves many of us to yearn for spring. But, that is not to say that our yards are devoid of winter interest. Below are some of the things that we have in our garden or that our neighbors have utilized.
• Winter aconite(Eranthis hyemalis) – These are another very early bloomer. These were given to me last year by a gardener near Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate. They had proliferated nicely in both her beds and even her turf, so she had plenty to spare. I had forgotten about them until, true to their name, they emerged a month or so ago and then began to display their vibrant yellow blooms. Though native to southern Europe, some have had luck with them here in the Bluegrass. They really perk up a mostly dormant landscape. Note: I have spoken to award winning garden designer John Michler of Michler’s Florist and Greenhouses (located at 417 East Maxwell Street in Lexington, and he has said that he has had a difficult time getting these plants to establish well. I guess I just had some luck!
• Hellebore (Genus: Helleborus, I am not sure what cultivar I have…) – These evergreen plants certainly do well in my yard and I have since noticed them in many more local landscapes. Ours is looking a bit scant at present due to a late fall division and relocation of our hellebores (did I say that our landscape was dynamic? My wife LOVES to relocate our plants from time to time!). If you want lush foliage and flowers when not much is in bloom, then consider these.
• Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) – this Kentucky native has become one of my favorites. I loved the first one of these that we planted so much that I had to plant 2 more! They have wonderful blooms that seem to last quite a while. Their leaves make the plant feel really lush in the spring and the summer and the fall foliage is excellent. In addition, they have really neat exfoliating bark that you can observe in the winter. There are many cultivars of this species, even the ‘Pee Wee’ variety that grows to only 3 to 4 feet tall.
• Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas) – My neighbor has one of these planted in their front yard. My wife and I really enjoy it when it is in bloom as we walk our dog about the neighborhood. These are another early bloomer. The one in our neighbor’s property has its flower buds about ready to burst into color. Perhaps this week…