Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.
– Lilly Pulitzer, American fashion designer
Although the temperatures are going to drop this week and rain is expected on Tuesday, the past six days have been lovely. In February, we typically get a spell of warm weather in the upper 60s and sometimes even low 70s (in degrees), making you chafe in your tightly woven turtleneck sweater and want to change into cotton t-shirts. Our false spring coaxes our two massive magnolia trees in our backyard to blossom and drop their pink and white petals, which will become a gummy, rust-colored mess when the late winter rains drive our false spring away.Despite the beginning of my son’s baseball season and indeed a weekend of baseball practices, clinic, and meetings, we as a family spent a few hours Sunday afternoon pulling weeds mostly in our side yard. It reminded me how I used to have time to tend to my garden, pulling weeds on a regular basis, ridding plants of snails, pruning judiciously, and clipping spent flowers. When I moved into David’s house nearly 17 years ago, I became smitten with gardening. The previous owner, who was the first owner of the house, was an avid gardener who had planted bluebells for the spring and Mexican poppies and dahlias for the summer and early fall.
We sought to make the garden our own. We ripped out the poppies, dug up the bluebell bulbs, tore down his black widow-infested homemade sheds, and in the front yard pulled up the boxwood hedges, diseased pine tree, and juniper bushes. I grew to love dahlias and planted different varieties to the tune of 22 types, mostly in the side yard. I experienced a Zen sense of calmness and accomplishment after spending weekend hours in the yard. At the end of the day, I would stretch out and survey the neatly tended garden with great satisfaction. I imagined it was not unlike the admiration my father experienced when he surveyed his vegetable garden on summer evenings.
When we moved during the major house remodel, we put all the dahlia bulbs in planters and tubs and transported them to our rental. Once the house was completed, David and our good friend Ricci laid down a flagstone path and erected an iron fence and gate in the side yard. The tall column fountain, which David and I gave to each other as a first Christmas present after we got married, was installed, and we commenced planting the bulbs in the amended soil.I added pottery and potted plants, and other kinds of flowers. Three different bird baths and two bird feeders joined a winged angel and fairy statues and wire and clay suns with whimsical faces hung on the fence. One winter we planted a variety of short and tall-stemmed tulips, and calla lilies have sprung up in unexpected places. While the calla lilies are thriving, the tulip leaves are shouldering up from the soil during our false spring.
One of the things I especially enjoy at the height of spring and summer is clipping flowers and greenery and making massive arrangements and doing so without caring about how much time it’s taking. Even more so, I enjoy giving out the arrangements I make. The last few seasons the late spring rains have shortened the season and made the flowers not as prolific as they used to be, so I can’t make the two or three arrangements a week that I was accustomed to doing.
A few years ago, we donated a season’s worth of weekly bouquets, which averaged about 14 weeks from late May through early September, as a bidding item for our kids’ elementary school annual auction event. I would make the arrangement, sometimes two, deliver it to the winning bidder’s porch, and pick up the previous week’s vase. It is an easy, no-cost donation that earns money for the elementary school – and now our middle school. So as gardeners’ flowers start to bloom and school auctions are being planned and set with spring dates, consider donating a weekly bouquet. Help your community – even if you don’t have children in the local schools. As our February false spring comes to a close, survey your garden. Make sure it’s being nurtured and ready for optimal blooming. And then share the beauty of your garden.