Finally, my favorite time of year has arrived. Actually, it’s right before my favorite time. My FAVORITE time of year is when everything in the garden begins to bloom. Things bloom from May through October, and the beginning is my favorite. Everything is full of promise, nothing is overgrown yet, and nothing requires too much care (i.e. no excessive watering because of the suffocating heat). Right now, we’re in the stage right before that: I’m still cleaning up from fall and winter and preparing the garden for blooms. I love sweeping away the bed of leaves to see fresh, green sprouts underneath. Things are beginning to bud and those tiny little bright green leaves I’m seeing everywhere just make me want to scream with excitement. It’s been a dreary, gray (mostly white, actually) winter, and I’m so happy to see spring.
“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”
I first mentioned our garden in this post, but that was before anything began it show its face this season. Now, I want to show you a few photos of what’s happening lately outside, what things looks like now and what they’ll look like soon. This will be an ongoing series as things grow and blossom, so if you love gardens as much as I do, keep checking back!
My first blooms of the year have already come and gone. They’re what pops up first and goes first, pretty little crocuses. See the bee going in for the pollen?
They also must be tasty too, because rabbits usually eat the flowers before they finish blooming. I only have a few scattered around the perimeters, but a neighbor down the street has them lining their whole walkway and it’s such a great pop of color against the just green grass.
Here are two of the other early bloomers that are sure signs of spring – daffodils and forsythia. They are bright yellow and stand out among the just sprouting surrounding plants. Daffodils are easy because you just plant the bulbs in the fall and let them do their thing in the spring. They require no care. You can cut them and bring them inside as they bloom, or leave them outside to enjoy. My hometown also happens to be famous for its daffodils. We even have a Daffodil Festival every year, and the big park in town blooms bright yellow for a few weeks at the end of April.
One of the best things about forsythia is that you can force the blooms inside before they open up outside. Just trim a few branches before the buds open, put them in water and let it sit for a few hours. Then (this is the important part) trim the ends of the branches under water every day. Do this (and change the water) daily and you’ll have bright yellow blooms inside before they open up outside! You can see mine opened up in the background of a few photos in my Easter post from three weeks ago.
Elsewhere around the yard…
Bleeding hearts are some of my favorite flowers (I say that a lot, you’ll notice). But these are so cool, because the name is entirely appropriate. Those little red buds, when they mature and open up, actually look like bleeding hearts dangling from a delicate vine. They also come in a lighter, fringed variety that we have in another spot in the yard. They thrive best in acidic soil and a shady spot, so they’re underneath the pine trees in our yard, along our back garden wall. They’re next to an azalea bush, which also prefers acidic soil.
Mums are a great, versatile plant. They provide lush, green foliage in late spring and summer and the autumn blooms are great pops of color once everything else is dying and wilting in the fall. This little guy wasn’t even supposed to come back (he was in the “annual” section for a $2 last fall at Lowe’s) but here he is, showing his face again. I’ll take it.
These blue beauties are called Muscari. They remind me of little fairy flowers. This is a super close up photo, but they’re actually really tiny little bells. They make a cute bouquet on a kitchen windowsill if you have enough to cut.
These are tulips a few weeks ago, the buds were just beginning to peek out from the foliage.
And here they are about to open up. Tulips come after the daffodils wilt, so I like to plant them near each other so once one goes the other is ready to bloom. We have a lot of oak trees around our yard, which means a lot of acorns, which means a lot of squirrels. Squirrels love to dig up bulbs in the fall so they can be a bit of a crapshoot. I’ve read if you plant garlic bulbs near the tulips they’re less appetizing to critters but I haven’t tried it yet, and I’ve certainly lost a few bulbs to the “rat with cuter outfits” as Carrie Bradshaw refers to them 🙂
My faaaaavorite. They don’t look like much now, but those red shoots are…..can you guess? Peonies! Everyone’s favorite Trader Joe’s bloom, am I right? These are the bright pinkish red variety, but we have the baby pink tissue paper ones right next to this bush. They produce new growth every year (meaning they don’t bloom from the old stalks) and let me tell you, those little red shoots poking out of the ground are some of the first things I look for come spring. They’ll be in full bloom in June (and if I miss them because we’re in San Francisco I might shed a tear).
This guy fooled me last year. I was convinced it’s furry, funny looking leaves were a weed until I asked my aunt (my living, breathing garden bible) and she said it might be a poppy. I had been ready to pull it up but left it alone and lo and behold, she was right. This produces bright orange blooms with a dark purple center. They don’t last very long, but I remember last year I waited (what felt like) weeks waiting for it to open so I could finally see what it looked like. I wasn’t disappointed. I remember I shrieked when I came home from work one day and it had popped open (yes, plants make me shriek, that’s the kind of person I am).
Okay you’re probably like um, that’s one tiny leaf. What even is that? Well my friend, that is a hydrangea leaf. And I’m most excited to see that this year, probably more than any other plant (don’t quote me on that). You see last year, we had a “polar vortex” which is fancy talk for an extremely cold winter. And then, it warmed up earlier than usual, then got really cold again. So almost every plant was completely out of whack. Perennial plants are used to a cold winter, depending on the zone, and then spring usually warms up slowly until we get to summer. Last year’s inconsistent weather meant confusion for the poor plant babies, and I ended up with three hydrangea blooms total for the entire year. Compare that to the year before, when we must have gotten close to a hundred, and I was so disappointed. We have three good size hydrangea bushes and they produce the most beautiful, deep blue and purply blooms. I’m crossing my fingers and even my toes that this year we’ll get blooms like the first year.
Something to note about hydrangeas is that they bloom from the old wood, meaning you shouldn’t ever cut down the stalks once they’re done blooming. They look like dead sticks at the end of winter, but trust me, they’ve got lots of hidden magic stored up in there. Don’t cut them down!
These are going to be pretty yellow lilies, in front of a picket fence in our front yard. I love watching these grow taller every week until they bloom. We have a similar variety in red in the backyard around our pond.
In our backyard, we have a few areas with day lilies. These are orange and grow taller than our other lilies, looming over the ground and only opening during the day. They aren’t good for cutting, but I think it’s pretty cool that the blooms open and close every day and night. Plants are so smart.
This isn’t even close to everything happening in the yard right now, but it’s probably enough for now. There are still roses, astilbe, columbine, lily of the valley, lady’s mantle…plus all the annuals I haven’t planted yet. It’s a lot of work taking care of everything but the rewards are plentiful and speak for themselves. The garden gives back to me every day not only with beautiful bouquets but it teaches me patience and that hard work pays off. Last year I had a major bout with poison ivy (hopefully won’t make that mistake again!) and ran into a few snakes (still shuddering about that) but so far nothing so exciting this year. I still have to do a lot of maintenance on our pond, plenty of clean up and trimming plus planting to do, but all the leaves, buds, and greenery already has me in the spirit!