Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Around the Corner

February is always filled with surprises. Early in February chilled winds blow through our evergreens reminding us that winter is not finished with the Pacific Northwest. By mid-month we usually begin to see traces of sunshine again, days with bright, warm light filtering through the green boughs. Vitamin D in its natural form awaits me as I approach the courtyard of our home to bask in the light which for months has shone itself in someone else's gardens.

We spent some time in our gardens on Sunday, walking through to examine new growth, welcoming the green stems and leaves peeping through the mulch. A beautiful purple crocus had opened, the first of the season! Many others are close behind, and the lenton rosebuds should open within the week. Heather shimmers in pale pink and lavender throughout the gardens as it spreads in horizontal clumps.

We pruned the roses growing against the courtyard wall and were delighted to see the dwarf irises breaking ground in front of them. We love these tiny lily-like yellow flowers that bloom in profusion among hyacinths and tulips each spring. Our early blooming mauve rhododendron is budding. It blooms with the daffodils and the purple and rose tulips nearby making a beautiful lavender and pink swath across the front of the gardens. The silver gray leaves of the dusty miller, a perennial here despite our garden zone of 7, form beautiful contrasting color to the shades of pink.

I can hardly wait for the George Tabor azalea to bloom. I spent 1 full year trying to get this azalea along with its cousin, the purple Formosa, shipped here. They are grown in southern climates and are found no where here in the Puget Sound region despite the temperate winter climate we have. A local nursery was finally able to arrange shipment of both, a task made difficult by the strict shipping regulations mandated in the west in an effort to prevent Sudden Oak Death, a disease spread via woody stemmed shrubs. Only nurseries which have been physically inspected by the USDA and certified as compliant with regulations related to Sudden Oak Death are allowed to transport shrubs in and out of the area. I have enjoyed my George Tabor so much that I want 8 more and hope the local nursery can assist me once again. The blooms look like orchids, pink with magenta throats.

Our spring garden project will be to lay the flagstone pathway through the woodland garden area. We purchased the stone last year but found no time to lay it before the damp chill of late fall forced us to retreat to our recliners and fireplace. This pathway has its challenges since it winds among huge evergreens with tangled roots above ground in many places. Consequently, we will be unable to dig out the path and will have to lay it above ground and fill in around it with sand and mulch, raising the level of the gardens in that area. This pathway will lead to a bench on one side of the woodland gardens and to a seating area with a small table where we can have tea or late, summer morning breakfasts at the other end of the path.

Soon the palette of spring colors will splash itself across the landscape and move quickly through the cycles which bring summer to our home. Bulbs will burst open in shades of purple, pink, yellow, lavender, white, red, and blue. It begins with the L-shaped bank of the courtyard as the candytuft opens in white and joins the blue lithodora blooms. Beyond it a magical show will begin, first with primroses, lenton roses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. Next we'll see the dwarf irises and hardy dwarf tulips open in yellows and oranges followed by the early rhododendrons. Daphne O'doro's fragrant white blooms will perfume the air as will the Tea Olive shrub we've planted in memory of my uncle. We are drawn to the aromatic fragrance and pause often to take it in.

Huge clumps of purple heather form a background to spring blooms,and later to the bearded irises. These irises, many 30 inches tall, will grab our gaze along the pathway as they line the walk along the sunny trail. In mid May the azaleas and rhododendrons will bloom in masses of pinks and purples throughout the gardens. One blood-red rhodie demands our attention, and we will admire it until its last bloom falls. In late May the hydrangeas will throw their huge mopheads along the pathway shadowing it in pinks, whites, and blues while tall stalks of Asian lilies reach 5 feet tall across the path. Finally the perennials, dressed in every color on the wheel, will burst open in a fiery colored river that moves along the rocks and fills in all the empty spaces in the gardens. These blooms mix with more silvery-gray dusty miller, clumps of blue fescue, and the silvered thin leafed lavender plants with their swaying stems of purple flowers. Rich, green ferns contrast the textures of the gardens and bring a lush, almost tropical look. No wonder we are gardening addicts! How could anyone resist such results? It is a quick fix for those of us who suffer the color deprivation of our long, drizzly winters. And, this show doesn't end until October!

Spring, we are ready for your renewal!

"Spring has again returned.
The Earth is like a child who knows many poems..."
Rainer Maria Rilke
Sonnets to Orpheus, XXI

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