AGAIN I am struck by the pale milky blue scilla, S. tubergeniana, and you really should plant a few next October, since they are cheap as any bulb and appear to be utterly permanent, coming up year after year to brighten the end of February and much of March.
It starts blooming down in the leaves that were shed last fall by the big oak, and after a few days it stretches up and before it's done you have stems almost a foot high, packed with little outward-facing pointed bells. hWhat pleasure the flowers of late winter bring.I see that I have oddments of crocuses I never planted, and am not sure whether they have seeded or whether the 4 million squirrels dependent on my household have scattered little cormlets in their indefatigable excavating for acorns.
The thick conical points of hostas have begun to appear above earth, and the "Ballawley Hybrid" megasea or bergenia has made an offset.
It's odd you never see references to the beautiful new leaves of the bugbanes, or cimicifugas, such valuable creatures for fall in shady spots, with their long stems of two or three feet, studded along the last foot with tiny white flowers. But the new leaves, now just a couple of inches high, are curled and cut like some super parsley. They look somehow like bear paws.
Hardy waterlilies have sent up new leaves below the surface of the pool, and some of these are now the size of a hand, but they will not float on the surface until danger of severe frost is past. When the waterlily pads start floating on the pond, you need no longer fear ice. Though, of course, we have grim cold days up here even in late May.
It certainly would be fine if some public-spirited government, finding itself with nothing to do, would throw up a little range of mountains just to the northwest of the capital. It would save us many degrees of cold, and gardenias, which just barely do not make it here, would just barely make it.
Which is quite a difference.
Tree peonies leaf out early, the rich red buds starting to expand early in early in March. They can be damaged by sudden drops into the 20s; hence, the sound advice to plant them where they do not get early morning sun, that might thaw them too suddenly. They should also have shelter from wind. But needless to say, if you have them facing east (or young plants in large pots, as I do) then you have to run out and cover them or lug them into the kitchen if they are in pots.
The same is true of clematis vines if you have brought sprouted ones that you have potted, intending to plant them outdoors in mid-April or (even better, if you can manage to take care of them all summer) in early October.
It does strike me sometimes that nothing in gardening is particularly laborious or difficult, it's just that there are several little trifling details that always need tending to, such as not forgetting to bring in the clematis pots.
Last year I thought a couple of beardless irises growing by a circular tank were rowing rather vigorously and was pleased. These proved to be some gladiolus I had forgotten and, in truth, Iris ochraleuca and I. ocrhaurea weree being rather smothered by them, but I did not notice this until September. It is with some relief I see the irises are up, after all, and this year the gladiolus are going to go.
At one point I thought the feathery or maidenhair-ferny foliage of a meadow rue (Thalictrum glaucum ) would look good by an upright yew on the walk. So it did. But the yew has grown and there isn't really enough room for the meadow rue, which flops lavishly to the east to escape the yew. Theoretically, all you do is transplant the meadow rue, but this is easier thought of than done, when the space is only a few inches between the yew and the walk. I do not want to upset the yew roots. Probably I will just worry about it a few years and do nothing.
The nandina berries lasted till mid-March. I do not have enough of them to make it worthwhile for the birds to remember. If you have masses of nandina, you may enjoy the pretty sight of several colorful birds clearing them off in the space of one week.
One of the temperamental waterlilies, almost never grown nowadays when gardeners want the bravest show for the least work, is Nymphaea gigantea. Hans Conard, the monographer of waterlilies, observed in 1905 that it barely got through the summer in Philadelphia, for it needs a long season and much heat to show its full beauty.
I have always been willing to leave N. gigantea alone since, after all, there are at least two dozen tropical waterlilies as showy, and much easier to grow. Unfortunately, a friend of mine grows it well in New England, unaware he is boasting even to try it. So of course, if he can grow it in Connecticut, it is my Christian duty to grow it here.
Unfortunately it must be started from smmall tubers kept in 80-degree water in an aquarium so that it has a nice head of steam when you finally set it in the pool in June. There is no point fooling with it at all if you don't give it a real head start.
So I rigged up the aquarium and started several in pots in late January. Needless to say there is not enough space, and it is driving me mad turning the heating element on and off every few hours to keep the temperature within reasonable bounds. Probably it is costing thousands; I have announced I do not want to hear about the electric bill. Of course you can get aquarium thermometers and thermostatically controlled heaters, but I don't have them and that's that.
When his waterlily sprouts, it has leaves like a pickerel weed, pointed like an arrowhead. They are transparent, delicate lovely. While you are admiring them they start shooting out brilliant green leaves that give you an excellent idea how it got the name gigantea . In among the giganteas is N. heudlotii from Africa, with flowers smaller than a dime. It does not like the giganteas much.
It really is not necessary, when you cn barely find time to clean the brick walk twice a year. to go in for labor-intensive projects. I do not think, however, that gardeners are notable for cost-efficiency studies or for sanity.