Monday May 21, 2007


Just when we are beginning to despair that Mother Nature has forgotten us, she sends a sign that the long dormant period is ending. Suddenly, where there was just a stretch of frosty mulch, there are now green tips pushing forth with determination, undeterred by late snowfalls or a backwards slide down the thermometer. All the efforts of late autumn bulb and shrub plantings are showing results with buds swelling and gracefully lifting their heads toward the sun.
The perky crocus leads the parade in whites, stripes, yellows, purples and bronzes – the stemless flowers almost floating in the lawn. The Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, with its gorgeous blue color, nicely offsets all the spring yellows. Its cousin, Scilla siberica alba, has nodding white flowers that glisten in the early spring sunshine and brighten any shade area. While enjoying the emerging scenery, note where you might want more bulbs next year, so you’ll be ready to purchase them in the fall. Also, remember that bulbs are storage organs that deplete their resources producing leaves and flowers, so it’s helpful to give them a boost with a sprinkle of bone meal or special bulb food when the foliage emerges.
With the dawning of spring, our senses become engaged as our eyes eagerly search for more blooms, our noses sniff for that inevitable warm, earthy smell, and our ears listen for the chirps and songs of returning feathered friends. Spring is in the air, and the outdoor chores beckon.
Before heading out, give your tools a thorough check, especially power equipment. Tune up mowers and clean, repair and sharpen all the cutting tools. And don’t forget to clean all the flower pots and containers you plan to use this season.
Begin your chores by picking up broken branches and raking up the debris left behind from winter’s wrath. Check to make sure the soil and grass are dry before doing this, however, as the lawn is still half asleep and in a fragile state so walking over it when wet could cause damage. Any old stems of perennials that were missed in the fall and ornamental grasses should be cut back now. As for pruning, the rule of thumb is to prune roses when the forsythia is in bloom. Rejuvenation pruning should be done mid-spring on lilacs, forsythia, spiraea and weigela. Remove about a third of the oldest stems, cutting them back to ground level. This is also a good time to move any trees or shrubs that need transplanting.
If the weather turns nasty, stay warm and dry and sow the seeds you’ve ordered that require an indoor start. A good tip is to soak your seeds for a few hours in aspirin water. Just crush three aspirins in four gallons of water to improve germination for both flowers and vegetables. Once germinated, spray the young plants and soil with the solution every few weeks to protect them against bacteria and viruses. Check your houseplants now. If they are pot bound, repot them and start to increase the watering gradually, applying some fertilizer as new growth begins to show.
Spring is a wonderful time to bring the outdoors indoors. Pick a few stems of daffodils or branches of your favorite colorful blooming tree or shrub to grace a table or a kitchen counter and accessorize your home with the bold hues of this fresh new season.



© 2006 Elm Bank Media