A (Way Early) Spring Garden (Lesson)

Gayla from You Grow Girl prompted the Grow Write Guild with another topic, What does your garden look like right now?


Mostly brown, actually.  A little green thrown in there, and the scattered flower.  But mostly crusty old leaves and broken straw mulch.  And the remnants of a long maple season.


It’s surprisingly difficult to see my garden as it is now.  I always have big plans for it and spend the winter drawing map after map and perusing seed catalogs until I’ve memorized what my garden is going to (theoretically) look like in its full productive glory.


When I walk through the garden at this sparse time of year I’m definitely not present in it; I’m usually wondering what I had planned to put in that sunny spot over there or visualizing all the places I’m going to broadcast poppies.  When I look out over the garden,  I really just see a stimulating to-do list.


It’s funny how not-pretty I think these photos are.  Compared to the garden I currently see in my imagination, this one is straight up desolate.  I want to see activity, growth, and bright colors, without accepting the reality that we just lived the last 6 months below freezing.  I’m realizing how uncomfortable I am in this time of transition…somehow, I think at the end of a long winter should be late August.


I’m working on accepting, slowly, being here in Early Spring.  Robins, red-winged blackbirds, a kingfisher, and chipping sparrows all seem to be feeling the season fully.  Even a colony of mildly annoying starlings have set up an apartment complex in the soffett outside our bedroom window (soon there will be babies).  Lots of bird-chasing-bird action.  There’s really a lot happening in the garden; I just have to look a lot closer.


That’s the mesclun mix I direct seeded a couple weeks ago.  First time trying this out.  Normally direct-seeding doesn’t work so well in our shady and moist garden, but perhaps the ducks are really proving themselves as slug control?  (I could be jinxing myself here.)


That’s Arnica chamissonis, coming back for another year.  I’ve yet to make arnica oil or tincture from this American native (only from the populated-in-places European A. montana), but perhaps this is the year, since it’s looking great!  It’s way more vigorous than most things this time of year, and perhaps it’s a good healing sign: John just dislocated his shoulder, and we’ll probably need a good stock of this lovely anti-inflammatory plant around.

Another member of the Aster family, Coltsfoot, or Tussilago farfara is one of the few flowers around about now.  These fuzzy little yellow guys are blooming right in the stream-bank, before their leaves come up.  The leaves are used medicinally as a cough remedy, typically made into tea or smoked.

Back on cultivated land, the lilac buds are swelling.


And our very first daffodil, barely unfurled.


The snazzy bulbs and the medicinal herbs poking up reminded me that there’s a special treat in the woods behind my house, a stand of bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, that I spotted a couple years ago.  Last year I missed the ephemeral bloom, which I was determined to never miss again.  It might be the prettiest native flower, which blooms when almost nothing else is in early spring, deep in the woods amongst leaves and fallen trees and a whole lot of brown.  Maybe it’s just relatively pretty.  But it’s beautiful.  Remembering the bloodroot, I set out into the woods searching for flowers.  I wandered for a bit until I almost stepped on them.


It’s in the poppy family; you can tell by how pretty the flower is!  They opened that afternoon.


bloodroot2 bloodroot3 bloodroot4

Okay, I admit it, I ditched the garden for the woodland because there was a pretty thing blooming there.  I’m constantly pulled toward the eye candy, glossing over the empty brown stuff that is the soil, which is meanwhile coming alive with worms, frogs, snakes, microbes, and mycorrhizae (everything that will eventually produce a healthy garden).  Maybe those straw-covered garden photos aren’t so desolate after all, just under-appreciated by an impatient gardener.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A (Way Early) Spring Garden (Lesson)

  1. Oh, I love that bloodroot! Is it something one can cultivate? I’d love to have some of that in my garden, however short-lived the blooms might be.

    • admin says:

      So glad you love bloodroot too! I think there are some varietals that you can buy from fancy nurseries, but with poofier flowers. I love the simplicity of the native one, which you would probably be able to find at a nursery that specializes in native plants. It’s a deep shade, slow-growing kind of plant which I think is usually propagated by root division.
      Around here it’s considered at-risk so I wouldn’t disturb a wild patch, but I’ll see if I can collect some seed and send you some!

  2. val says:

    It’s funny, I felt so much like you a mere few weeks ago! How lucky you are to have all of that land.
    Bloodroot has long been one of my favorites–I purchased mine at a native plant sale, but it is still a joy to find a wild patch. I like the leaves, too.

    • admin says:

      I agree, even bloodroot’s leaves are super cool, nothing else quite like them. My home stomping ground is northern VA; it’s great to hear that in a few weeks there will be more bounty round here! Already we’re in full swing with daffodils and forsythia…spring certainly doesn’t waste any time. :)

  3. I feel the same way, every time I walk around my garden I see a to do list. I’m trying to get better at letting the little things go, because it can be so overwhelming! It won’t be long now until your gardens are bursting with life.

    Here’s my response to prompt #3… My Gardens Right Now


    • admin says:

      It’s true, I should be thankful for this time of year when I have time to wander around and pull a weed or two, instead of hustling and trying to battle the billions of weeds and gross potato beetles! Summer sure is pretty (overwhelming). :)