Winter’s retreat reveals signs of life in the garden

To the relief of all, the snow has finally receded, and around here a real mess has emerged from the drifts.

It certainly doesn’t look like much of a garden at this point, but a fast weekend recon trip showed there’s more out there than first meets the eye.

A little over two weeks ago, the temperature was in single digits and the snow was mounded high.

I wasn’t expecting to see soil, much less plants, before Tax Day. But now, even with a carpet of winter-fallen debris, it’s easy to spot the usual suspects.

Our daffodils sport 6 inches of foliage and their flower buds are clearly visible.

The tips of the tulips are also showing, and in the front garden the mat of scillia has pushed out of the mulch.

The little blue flowers aren’t open yet, but their unfurling is only days away.

The crocus should rival them, but the ones I spotted have had all of their buds and most of the leaves gobbled by rabbits.

No matter how desperate, the bunnies won’t touch the dozens of reddish-green allium sprouts popping out of the clutter.

I have clumps of ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Ambassador,’ and their flowers tower over the spring perennials like grape lollipops.

Their foliage is ephemeral, so I depend on the still-dormant shrub clematis and phlox to crowd into the empty spaces.

In the warm micro-climate next to the city sidewalk, the tansy is already a mass of ferny, lime-green foliage.

I’m not sure if ours is a weed or a perennial since it self-sows and flops in flower.

It takes sharper eyes to discover other signs of revival.

Push aside the tattered remains of last year’s growth and there are new green leaves on the yarrow, and sprouts are showing on the rhizomes of the short spring iris as well as reblooming ‘Immortality.’

Both look healthier than the beaten sprouts on the nearby daylilies. The daylilies broke dormancy in early January, and even with the snow cover, the wind and frost damage on the little leaf tips is obvious.

The furry, protective scales have cracked on the swelling flower buds on the star magnolias, and the clumps of ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum have new green shoots nestled under the protective blanket of last year’s growth.

There are signs of life in the forget-me-nots and marsh marigolds in the bogs at the pond’s edge as well.

After discovering all of the surprises hidden under the debris, I headed for the evergreen clumps of hellebores growing under the trees.

Although the plants are famous for producing down-facing flowers, they bloom so early in the year their blossoms are always welcome. Clumps of ‘Ivory Prince’ have more than two dozen fully-formed flowers waiting for the ideal day to open.

The plants are considered evergreen, and with the snow cover this year the existing leaves look fresh.

‘Ivory Prince’ flowers face out instead of down - they’re the first flowers I bring indoors.    
    Of course, the best sign of spring I found was in the vegetable garden.

Not only have the buds on the currants and blueberry bushes started to swell but the first big, red sprouts on the rhubarb glow like beacons.

They’re the most welcome discovery of my exploratory jaunt.

Rhubarb is a favorite in our kitchen and a tasty sign that life has returned to our garden for another year.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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