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Here it is, six weeks later, and some seedlings have s-l-o-w-l-y begun to sprout. The spinach has been up about a week and a half and is only now putting out second leaves. This past week some carrot and kohlrabi sprouts began to show.  At least this give me some hope for the seeds remaining underground—they might spout yet. So okay, up here in north central western Michigan, you can plant as soon as the ground can be worked, but the results, like the weather, might be mixed.Six wees to sprout? Really? Kale, a very cold tolerant plant has shown no signs of germination, neither have the beets, radishes, or Swiss chard. It might work out better for me to plant some of these in late August and grow them through the fall, and just wait until about now to put other seeds in the ground. On the other hand, the annual seeds of camomile and parsley are all over the garden! They have literally turned wild and are competing with the Veronica peregrina, in other words they’ve joined the weed community. I don’t really want to pull any of them out. Perhaps the veronica would make a good ground cover on the walkways between the growing boxes? Gardening is an adventure and an experiment!

My daffodils. scilla siberica, and hyacinth  are all blooming, and in the wild, so are the Amelanchier trees, so I can state spring is well underway here. Doesn’t mean we won’t have more snow! However, the blueberry plants from White Flower Farm arrived last Friday and I planted them Sunday. Hope they survive.


Narcissus 'Thalia'

Narcissus ‘Thalia’

Daffodils are another harbinger of spring flower; and as a symbol of hope and rebirth, the flowers are often used in Easter arrangements, but they’ve been used much longer than the Christian religious celebration. Archeologists have found Daffodils in ancient Egypt’s tombs and funerary wreaths. Is it any wonder so much lore surrounds these flowers?

The botanical name ‘Narcissus’ shows another symbol of the flower: unrequited love. In Greek myth, Narcissus was the vain young man who spurned the Nymph Echo; then while taking a drink from a pool of water, he saw himself and fell in love with his reflection – a lover who could never return his love.

Certainly many daffodils could represent the image of vain, self-indulgent youth, especially those with the look-at-me yellow flowers, or even those with more subtle colorings and shapes. Yet, if ever there were a Narcissus that represents the mythical young man of Greek lore, I would choose the daffodil ‘Thalia.’ The beautiful, pristine white flowers arch downward as if seeking their reflection and, according to Allan M. Armitage, are along with other daffodils in the triandus class, “Often called the angel’s tears daffodil” (Herbaceous Perennial Plants. Varsity Press, Athens, Georgia.1989. Page 421). Thalia’s scent is certainly heavenly, and the scent is noticeable from far down the garden path, no need to get your nose in the middle of these flowers. They are vigorous bulbs, increasing each year and making an ever more impressive display, and they are very hardy.

Another piece of lore claims that receiving a single daffodil brings bad luck. I received luck. While recovering in the hospital many years ago from a nearly fatal automobile accident, a co-worker brought me a 5# tin can filled with at least fifty bright yellow daffodils. For a depressed patient, her gift gave a piece of spring, sunshine to brighten a hospital room, and certainly hope for recovery. I did, and think of her with every daffodil I see.
yellow dafs

Gardens bring both the gardener and the viewer great joy. A few moments looking at a garden filled with a riot of color feeds our souls with cheer and hope. There is no other word for it. A well-designed garden can bring inspiration, sooth the wounded spirit and calm the angry one. Even a single plant in full flower in an otherwise barren yard can make us believe in goodness and that life will outlast the greatest disasters. Yet most gardens are doomed unless under the care of professional gardeners in a major botanic garden. Like all life, gardens are ephemeral moments of glory, because when the garden moves on, nature takes over.

Once the garden is left untended, the environment changes. Only the strong will survive. While nature is a magnificent, and an awe-inspiring force, it is merciless and can devastate an untended garden.

Gardeners delight in growing plants from all over the world, some of these non-natives can outgrow anything in the local habitat and become unwanted menaces. Others only survive because of the gardener’s diligence, and disappear along with the gardener.

Sometimes, however, the remains of long ago gardens can be recognized. One reminder is often the jubilant daffodil. They mark homesteads that have disappeared in time. By their very nature these non-native spring flowers endure.

About fifty species of narcissus are known, coming from Europe and North Africa. Because all parts are poisonous, most predators and insects leave them alone. They grow in full sun or full shade, and while some prefer to grow in warmer climates, most are very hardy. In the right site, they seem to last forever, a monument to the gardener who once grew them, and to the “Once upon a time” ephemeral nature of gardens.

Perhaps spring is here. The crocus are blooming! Finally! Actually, they began blooming last week, but now they’re all out–yellows, purples, and white; and the earliest yellow daffodil should bloom today. This part of Northern Michigan may even have temperatures into the 70’s by the end of the week. Pessimist that I am, I feel like there must be a weather shoe about to drop on from somewhere, bringing a foot of snow or ice, or some historically unnaturally low temperature. Hope not.
I love the yellow crocus (C. ‘Yellow Mammoth’) in the soft green of the groundcover Veronica pictinata. The veronica was green as the snow and ice melted off it. Is that not wonderful? It also blooms with tiny blue flowers later in the spring. The other crocus photos show leaves of other plants beginning to emerge from the brown of soil and last fall’s leaves. It makes me want to garden, but digging in the soil right now is dangerous. Who knows what valuable plant I might dig up? This year I’m going to make an even better plant map so I know what’s planted where! And this fall I’m going to buy more crocus.

I never kept a garden journal until about fifteen years ago when I kept losing track of what was a plant and what was a weed. (Time flies, it took me a moment to realize what year I started. What a surprise to realize how many years had passed.) Journaling came about after I’d ‘weeded’ several expensive perennials from their growing spots. I decided I needed a method. My memory wasn’t good enough.

Labels don’t work. Kids, dogs, cats, deer and gardeners trip over them, pull them up to look at them, break them putting them back or place them on the wrong plant. They just don’t work for me.

So my first journal experience began when I started drawing maps. When I planted something, I noted its name and location on my garden map. It worked! Then I became a flower show judge and needed to keep track of botanical names for entries into horticulture classes. So I created a list to add to the map.

When I move to Michigan I started a new garden. I wanted more information! So now I keep a diary of what, when and where — what I buy, when I bought it, where it came from, where I plant it and all the particulars about the plant’s growing needs. Then I started keeping track of when plants bloomed, when they finished blooming, what grew successfully and what didn’t. This extended into winter when I started keeping track of snowstorms and conditions in the garden.

After eight years I don’t know how I ever gardened without a journal. Now I know what cultivar is where (if I remember to put it in the journal — consistency is important!), when I planted it, a photo of the plant, and notes about where I’d like to move it, how often it needs division, etc. I can even cheer myself by checking in my journal to know when something is due to bloom! In the winter months I like to pour over my journal to see what I’d like to add and plan ahead for the coming garden season.

So here’s my method. On my computer I have a garden diary broken down by month/week of the year. Under each week I make yearly entries about what I planted and where, what is blooming or finished blooming, what needs to be done. I have a notebook with maps. I name my gardens (orange ledge, yellow ledge, fruit-herb garden, vegetable garden, heart garden, white garden, window garden, circle garden and the green garden. You might notice I’ve divided my gardens by color and use type. That doesn’t mean other colored or type plants don’t end up in each garden, it’s just a guideline for what predominates. I have a map of each garden and where each plant is placed. Often photos of the plants are taped onto the margins of the map. This lets me see how other colors and plants will fit into the garden as a whole.

That’s it! Fairly easy, but you might find a better method for your needs.

Narcissus 'Mondragon'

Narcissus 'Mondragon'

I love this variety. The orange and yellow are so vibrant.



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