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Whispers of Spring

With my hands thrust deep inside my pockets and shoulders hunched against the cold wind, the unseasonably warmer days we had not so long ago feel like a distant memory. But as I tour our gardens, I see many plants tentatively showing their blooms. Little pops of yellow and white here and there, especially in our succulent garden, are whispering that spring is arriving. You may notice, as you tour your own gardens, that some plants are bursting onto the scene and others are miniscule, almost impossible to spy unless you know where to look.  There are many reasons to account for the dramatic difference in plants’ growth this time of year. Some areas of the garden receive more sun and the plants are nestled in amended, well-draining soil. As a result, the soil warms up more quickly than our organically rich soil in the shade. The succulent garden along one length of our building is exceptionally lush already. The plants are new, only planted last year and many were modestly sized plugs, yet the garden is nearly full as the plants meander about in thick bands of foliage and tiny flowers. The loose soil warms quickly, even after a rain, receives a fair amount of sun, and benefits from the heat radiating from the building. To have blooms outside my office window is a treat this time of the year.

Would we want all plants to grow with gusto in the early spring? I would not. I like how gardens come to life in sprints and saunters. While some of the prairie plants are sprouting lush foliage, giving the early spring garden a lovely verdant look, I like that other plants are waiting to make their move. This gives me time to thoughtfully review the garden: pulling volunteers that are too abundant, banishing winter weeds, amending soil in preparation for new plants, all while enjoying the arrival of each new plant.

The thoughtfully designed landscape is in a constant state of change, growth, and rebirth. From week-to-week the garden changes, and while this makes the landscape more interesting for us, it’s also a matter of survival for our native insects and birds. As we design gardens to delight us, we also design gardens to sustain nature. To that end we need plants blooming throughout the season, grasses to stand in the winter, and flowers to transition to seed heads.  A garden in flux is more likely to be one that sustains native life than one that is stagnant, frozen in the appointed perfect state of tidiness and never to waiver or change.

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