mardi 21 février 2012

Violets and crocuses, together

Survivor Violet on February 16

This is what my eye spied, walking back up the garden stairs with my dogs and the plastic bin filled with the day's wood for the stove. A single, lovely violet bloom below the yellow chamomile that finally ceased producing flowers of its own during the sudden freeze in February. Somehow, it provides enough shelter, together with the yew just to the side, to allow this naturally sown violet to go on, even as everything else that isn't supposed to flower in the winter has finally succumbed to winter's late, brief appearance.

I have looked for the common crocus, and I have seen nothing, though. It occurs to me as I write that this could very well be due to the deep layer of linden leaves I never cleared out of the planting beds. I shall have a look under them and see if there are crocuses in valiant but obscured flower.

I am back, and there are.

Nasty, vulgar Dutch crocus

I will never be so lazy in the fall again as to fail completely to rake. I did, however, have some sort of notion that if I left the fallen leaves in the flower beds, they would make some sort of mulch to turn into the ground in the early spring, once I chopped them all up. A lot of work, if you ask me, and not very practical since there are so many bulbs in among the perennials. They shouldn't be, but someone put them there a long time ago before I ever thought to come here, and I haven't had the heart to remove them.

Or, I have just been lazy about that, too, because I could have put them in the lawn and let them naturalize.

Or, I could have were there still a lawn to speak of, not having raked last fall.

This year, it would be "common, nasty Dutch yellow crocuses", as someone on Twitter called them the other day, in the dirt where the lawn formerly was. Actually, @plantmadnige, or  self-described "UK based garden writer & journalist, naturalist, photographer, traveller [sic], film buff, Wagnerite and angry old man" Nigel Colburn said "Nasty, vulgar, frowned-upon Dutch yellow crocus in my garden. I love every cell in their gorgeous egg-yolk bodies."

I stopped a little further down the terrace, on the other side, and picked some damp leaves up off what was sprouting below. Blades of another sort of crocus' leaves pierced the leaves closest to the soil, which I hoped were sending nutrients down into it in their earliest stages of decomposition.


The condition of my back today, however, reminds me that I had a very good reason, or at least an excuse, for not doing the raking. I had forgotten all about it, until I returned to the wood stove with another bin of firewood from down in the bottom garden and turned the top half of myself to the right to begin to bend and place it on a chair. The Fourth of July, Bastille Day, and Guy Fawkes Night fireworks went off simultaneously in my lumber region, accompanied by a nasty noise. I gasped and thought "Shit! Chamonix!"

My son and I are leaving on Thursday for our annual trip to Argentière to ski les Grands Montets, and I am not sure I will survive the car ride now, let alone ski anything, let alone walk our two Labrador retrievers, Rapide, who understands my suffering and empathizes, now that I am approaching her in age in dog years (we were contemporaries when we got her), and Fia in the La Moraine forest, if this doesn't go away. Fast. Skiing is still probably a bad idea, even if I do it on painkillers and with my teeth gritted, which sort of defeats the purpose and takes away all the pleasure.

I hate myself now for all those years of hauling heavy stuff up and down the garden stairs, to the car and the dump. I was foolish in my later youth of 40-something. God help me and my garden. My dog is doing better, but she's smarter.

On my way back from photographing the crocus, I happened to look at the little Aztec Pearl choysia plant in a pot on the stairs, and there was another violet, in bloom. Despite the plummeting temperatures Sunday night, after the warmer weather last week.



It fascinates me, because the larger plants in the pots on the landing at the living room French door disappeared in the frigid temperatures, while these, which planted themselves there from their seeds, born by the wind and the birds, are thriving, even under the sparsely branched and leaved choysia plant. I will never fully understand, but Nature never fails to enthrall and impress, even in my garden, and it is nearly impossible to kill anything, but grass, as hard as you might unwittingly try.

You'll just have to pay with the extra clean-up for the effort.

Update: Katie Sayers-Raschdorf, a former colleague and landscape architect, now with the New York City Parks and Recreation department, and the person to whom I can directly trace the origin of my blog, when the emails that began "Dear Katie, what do I do now?" as I worked in my garden in the earliest period became my "Dear Katie Garden Updates", as in "Dear Katie, look what I did today!" and, finally, The Sisyphus Journals, burst my bubble.

Here is how she did it: a Facebook comment, and here is what it said:

"They like is cold. Are you getting snow? Maybe throw something over them so the snow doesn't sit on top, but other than that, they will be fine in the cold. And if they do get snapped, deadhead them and they will come back around."

She is always right. Like when she says that all you have to understand, if you are an architect not prefaced by "landscape", or a plain old garden variety one (couldn't resist the pun), is that you plant trees with the leaves up. The violets that have bloomed could not receive a blanket of snow, protected by the plants above, while those that withered were in pots, covered in mounds of the stuff.

So, there is no magic in that; it's just the way of the violets, but, Dear Katie, how do you deadhead a brown and withered plant? I'm guessing it will come back from the roots.
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