The Spring Garden Fair

Our very first spring garden fair, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Detroit Garden Works, is this weekend.  I do feel a little sheepish, making such a fuss about having become a teenager.  But the optimism that comes naturally to a gardener is a pretty big umbrella.  As much as I expect that the brown bulbs I planted last fall will eventually produce plants with gorgeous flowers, I expect to keep on providing the gardening community with a place that respects their interest. I am pleased with our teenage history.  We hung lime green dancing stars in the lindens today-recycled from a fundraiser we did for the Children’s Center in Detroit some years ago.  The mission of the Children’s Center is to help educate kids, and encourage them to work hard and do well.  Their efforts are aimed at helping kids to be properly equipped to have productive lives that make a contribution to their community.  This optimism I like.     I spent the day attending to all the last minute details.  Of course we have a few cut flower arrangements.  After all, this is a party. 

Most of my pots of bulbs planted last fall are still green; the spring has been very slow in coming.  But outside, there are signs of life.  My crocus patches at home are beautiful right now.  The weekend promises warm weather-the first we have had in many months. No gardener will fault me for my green foliaged bulb pots-they understand that nature is a big fluid situation. They will come back for the show-that date is yet to be announced.  

I will admit that many of the spring containers I planted up for this event have been in a greenhouse for some time.  Spring in Michigan can be so variable.  Last year, the spring was early, and moderate.  It might have been the most beautiful spring that has ever been my pleasure to witness.  This spring-where is it?  I think it might be arriving tomorrow. We have a great weather forecast for the weekend. 

I have planted lots of containers at the shop, and all of the window boxes- just for spring.  Though our spring has the potential to last only days, I prefer to focus on the potential part.  The only days part-I refuse to be bullied.   

I am not willing to give up planting pansies and violas over a worry about how many days they might last.  I am optimistic that everyone will benefit from a big dose of spring-I know I do.  What nature delivers to its winter weary population is welcome at my place.

Lettuce in flats-the promise of the good that is to come. Should you read this blog regularly, you know I plant lettuce in pots as it is beautiful.  I am not much of a vegetable gardener.  But I do eat lettuce most every day.  On those days when Buck is too tired to make a salad, he’ll fix me a mess of greens, and dress them. Like most gardeners,  I need the greens.   

Vernissage is a French word referring most usually to the opening of an art exhibit.  It was the title of my first blog post April 1 of 2009.  Spring-it is the opening of an art exhibit that will go on and enchant for the next 7 months.  I hope to see you at the opening.  Should you live far away-we still have a community.  I will keep you posted.  I hope to hear from you.  Gardeners everywhere are about to celebrate spring.  Come round, should you have the chance.

Sunday Opinion:The Romance Of Possibility

The very same Louise Beebe Wilder whose book on rock gardening (Pleasures and Problems Of A Rock Garden) I mentioned in last Sunday’s post, also penned several lines about gardening that are among my most favorite.  “In her own garden, every woman may be her own artist without apology or explanation.  Here is one spot where each may experience the romance of possibility”.  No wonder it is so often quoted by gardeners and garden writers alike.  “The romance of possibility”  so succinctly describes the source of that compulsion which makes every gardener put a shovel to soil-again and again-season after season.  I suppose there are those people who have gardened, and walked away, but I do not know them personally. I do know some for whom indulging that shot at romance is on hiatus. A new child, an imminent move, an illness-these big things can tie one’s gardening hands.  I myself am shuddering at the thought that this year I must see to a new roof.  Worse than the expense, the thought of the damage threatening my garden -I don’t know how I will cope.   I can save ahead for the roof,  but I despise the idea of regrowing or replacing my roses, or some boxwood crushed by the three layers of shingles that have to come off and down.  But as I see dealing with this come November, and today is the first day of spring, I choose to think about the possibilities.

Some possibilities involve an investment of time and imagination, and not so much money.  My blocks of limelight hydrangeas were almost seven feet tall when they bloomed last summer.  I barely trimmed them last March; I wanted the height. In August I could see the mass of flowers towering over my yew hedge. It is possible for me to cut them harder, and keep them lower-what would this do?  I prune one client’s hydrangeas to 20 inches tall out of the ground-her  four foot plus plants do not obstruct her view of the lake.  My hydrangeas span a considerable drop in grade; could I prune such that the eventual height of each block will be the same?  Would they be better, two feet shorter?  Would I like to give this a try?

For the past 5 years, I have been pruning a pair of palibin lilacs on standard rather hard after they bloom.  The heads have gotten so large, they are always on the verge of out of bounds.  It has taken every bit of five years to change their shape from a giant ball to lower and wider ovals.  This shape I like better. But those ovals are not uniform all the way around-have I the nerve to pollard them? Pollarding a tree heads back all of its branches breathtakingly close to the primary trunk.  Though I love the look of pollarded trees in European cities and gardens, I am a little faint of heart, subjecting two of my own to this treatment.  They never seem to mind how hard I prune-they flush out again without any complaint.  It is a possibility on my mind, pollarding the lilacs.  In my own garden, pollarded trees like I see in books about European gardens-it would no doubt be a romantic experience.

Though our winter has been very mild this year, my Helleborus Angustifolius survived the mild winter with very little damage-but their giant stems were flattened by the weight of the snow.  As they bloom on last year’s growth, I cannot cut them back.  Shall I trade them in for some orientalis cultivar whose tattered leaves can be pruned off in March, as the flowers push forth from the soil on their own fresh stems?  I have quite a few years invested in these giant hellebores, but they really do not like this climate. Should I decide to cut my losses, is there something else that would compliment my beech ferns even better?

All of the elements of my fountain garden seem to be working well, and growing fine.  But something seems to be missing-what is it?  Do I need a new fence?  Should I stain my old fence black?  Does my fountain need something?  If so, what?  This has to be the most exciting part of the first day of a Michigan spring-what are my possibilities?  As I am only thinking things over, I can let my imagination run wild. My imagination gets a little frayed come September, but a long winter has set me to longing to be out of doors, tinkering.    

Other years, my spring has been much more about repairing winter damage than romance.   One winter, ice and snow brought an entire hedge of 14 foot tall arborvitaes to its knees.  The only possibility at my disposal-have it tied back up, look after it, and hope for the best.  This was three years ago; perhaps this year it will look its old glorious self again. Splayed out and winter burned boxwood took its share of time and effort, as did the cleanup of wind and ice damaged trees.  My spring plans-dashed.   

This winter though, has been very grey, very long, and quite benign. A little romance seems to be right around the corner.