THE GARDEN CALENDAR
THE YEARLY CYCLE OF CHANGE
True confession: I am a collector. I’m not obsessed to the point of having to scour for rare finds but I have small collections of various objects. (Our daughters will someday have to deal with this when I move on to the next chapter. Sorry!) One of the things I can’t seem to toss are my yearly wall calendars. To be clear, I don’t hoard the cute kitty or pouty puppy calendars. Most of these depict beautiful scenes of lands far away since I am an avid traveler. I guess the reason I can’t seem to dispose of any of these is because on them there are notes that I like to compare from year to year.
As I “mature” (or become more vintage) I am ever more aware that my collections of lunch boxes, beer coasters, and garden gnomes will need to be dealt with. I also find myself thinking as I meticulously trim the Boston ivy around the bay window, “Who will take care of the garden when I’m no longer chief weed-puller?”
Okay. That was a massive rambling prelude to this month’s topic, the garden calendar. Not too much advice, instruction, or images this time but merely my sharing some of thoughts and observations.
As a kid growing up in western New York state I remember how excited my mom would get when, after a long gray winter, the first crocus would emerge from hibernation proudly sharing the news that winter was near its end. Of course, just like here in Knoxville, TN, the first signs of spring are often a tease before you toss another log on the fire. But spring blooms renew us with hope and optimism. Even after calling Knoxville home for over 40 years, I still beam when Crocus kick off the color calendar.
Avid gardeners are forced to reel in our horticultural enthusiasm each spring and pray that our blueberries aren’t fooled by premature warm-ups and hold their buds tightly through the inevitable frosts and freezes. (On that note, here is a nice piece of writing I stumbled upon recently https://blueberries.extension.org/blueberry-varieties-southern-highbush/)
There are so many ways to measure time other than looking at our watches or phones. The night sky, the arc of the sun, the formation of canyons, and observing the changes in the face of that stranger we see in the mirror each morning. Looking at old photos and spotting a familiar tree always takes us aback. “I knew you when you were just a little whip!” There are those who seem to stress by the slow growth of trees. I see just the opposite.
Twelve years ago, we had one of those wicked spring storms that leveled about 50 mature trees within a mile of our house. Two of which were in our garden. We went from nearly full shade to full sun in about ten minutes. Like most, after a disaster occurs, we were quick to try to put things back the way they were, through replanting. In slightly more than a decade we are back to about 70% shade. My point is, horticulture can happen quickly.
In our fine city, we have an annual event called the Dogwood Festival. I’m sure you can guess the star attraction. Although this happening occurs over about a three-week period, there are always some who fear the blooms on these beautiful native trees will miss their mark. Ninety-five percent of the time they are spot on but with climate change I can see the dates eventually moving up a bit.
When our garden first truly became such, I recall raking a path through the leaves in order that the trick-or-treaters could easily find the front walk. Presently, even though pumpkins are still carved or painted within the same annual time frame, full-throttle leaf drop doesn’t occur until nearly Thanksgiving.
My travel journals and sketchbooks keep me plenty busy so I don’t feel compelled to keep a Thoreau-like garden or landscape journal. I’ll wrap things up by simply inviting you to pay attention to the changes that surround you. Compare bloom times and even fall color. Our gardens are a gift. Enjoy their sometimes unpredictable displays.