Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some like it cold

It’s easy, during spring, to forget the long, cold winter. This past one was particularly miserable, the coldest of my personal experience, though not a record breaker for the region.

The plants haven’t forgotten, though, and some are going out of their way to remind us. But instead of what I expected—missing perennials, damaged shrubs—they are thriving in a manner never before seen.

Apparently some species need a deep-freeze to best recharge themselves; a long, hard freeze, of the type we haven’t seen in many a year. That must be why the lone tulip in my garden, which was there before we arrived fifteen years ago and has faithfully put out one perfect lipstick-red blossom each year, suddenly became two perfect blossoms.

Likewise, my languishing daffodils doubled in size. They didn’t go so far as to double their blossoms, but when they came up this year, several weeks late, there were a heck of a lot more of them. And the lilacs are going nuts!

All the perennials that predate our residency are huge and lush this year: bleeding hearts, bergenia, peonies (not yet in bloom, but some of the smaller ones that held back in the past have sprouted buds); and the undomesticated plants—wild strawberries, heal-all, dandelions, violets—have carpeted the lawns. Lily-of-the-valley has become a plague. And the grass got up to our knees before we had a chance to mow it.

The only casualty I’ve spotted is the rugosa rose. What started as a single plant from the nursery mushroomed over a decade into a hedge the length of a car, taller than a person. But this spring, the entire heart of it is gone, and only the youngest offshoots survive. Drats on that: Not only is the loss disappointing, but those things are evil to prune.

It will be interesting to see how the fruit trees and bushes fare later in the summer, after several years of bumper crops following mild winters. We’re off to an iffy start with vegetables, too. No late frost, thankfully, but it’s been cool and wet for weeks. I think all the grass seed we strewed over a torn-up area has washed away, and the veggie seeds are either waiting for June to germinate or have just rotted in place.

I remain as stymied as before about how our ancestors managed to survive in this climate. If we had to rely on our own crops with a three-month growing season, we would surely starve. It’s too bad that cold-loving ornamental perennials aren’t food producers. Then we’d have something to cheer about during winter’s frigid months.