When I read Anne Raver's New York Times story about spring gardening in a heat wave, I was reminded how in spring, more than in any other season, the timing of garden chores is so very weather-dependent.
I'd just come indoors for a hot cup of tea, chilled from wrestling with old lily stalks and digging out an overgrown clump of miscanthus, and settled down to read "The Race Is On: Early Spring, Early Planting". Raver writes that everything is ahead of time on her side of the country; the crabapples are about to bloom at her Maryland farm. And she's sowing seed for sunflowers, zinnias...she's feeling behind on getting her summer flowers started!
I slogged back out to finish pruning back the epimedium. If you don't get the tattered leaves cut away before the tiny flowers appear on their wiry stems, it's difficult to avoid damaging them..unless you garden in bifocals, which is something I haven't quite come to. Yet.
Same with the autumn ferns; cut the old foliage down too late and you risk injuring the tightly curled, newly emerging fronds. Search as I might, I saw little sign of new flowers on the epimedium or fresh fronds on the ferns; the fat snouts of Hosta 'Sum and Substance' are barely poking out of the still cold ground.
I've never pruned my roses or hydrangeas so late in the season; it seems wrong to cut them back while the temperatures are still dipping below 35 degrees at night. Still, the sun was out, I need to get on to fertilizing and mulching, so the hydrangeas are clipped, the roses beheaded, the lavender sheared back, and, finally, the garden is looking as tidy as it can before I spread a fluffy, dark layer of feeding mulch (at least a month behind schedule). And hopefully get my sweet peas in the ground so come June I can pick bouquets like the one above...
Raver writes "And I long for those chilly March days of yore, when I gardened in a sweater. These days, the race is on to get the peas planted soon enough so they can do most of their growing before the mercury climbs into the 80s." It had been 77 degrees at her place the day before, and she'd heard a bluebird singing.
At least her article made me wonder, as I snuggled back into fleece and headband before heading outside, if it was better to be faced with the uncertainties of heat too early, or be thwarted by yet another chilly spring...