The Mountains are Calling and I must Go.John Muir
Crocuses are the first spring ephemerals
Why crocuses? Just a few weeks ago, snow and ice were everywhere. Yesterday, walking through the dormant garden, we found the first pop of color! These little beauties add a lovely violet accent to the lawn. The dormant garden may be sleeping, but there is actually so much life just beneath the surface.
I think these were originally planted in a border along the lawn, some years ago, but they show up along the entire lawn now. We love it! We are no-till and of course, working towards a permaculture garden. So a healthy layer of dead leaves is serving as mulch. Doesn’t seem to bother these little blooms at all!
Spring lifts the spirits
At this point in the year, spring is well on its way. I’ve started some seeds indoors. The indoor trees in their pots are starting to go outside during the day to harden them off. (Our lemon tree actually sprouted some new leaves!)
As I write this, I realize that the aloes, fern, and a small cactus will feel left out. Not to worry, they have now gone out into the sunshine as well.
Still, nothing is really happening outside… yet. Well, not in the garden.
A lot is happening in the forest. There are visible buds on the top branches of the tallest trees. The migratory birds have returned in force. The geese have paired off. The mallards have returned. The flock of turkey buzzards down the road seems to have doubled in size since last spring. No eagles yet. Many hawks and owls. The resident heron circled a few times yesterday on reconnaissance.
In the garden, though, the dominant color scheme is still wintery. So these signs of rebellion are very welcome!
Crocuses are hardy perennials
Hidden for most of the year, the crocuses are ready to take their moment in the sun the instant winter starts to recede. They rely on a robust root system just under the lawn. Mowing doesn’t bother them. Foot traffic over the grass in the warmer months has no effect.
In fact, they seem to spread a little further every year. Since the grass isn’t much to look at this early anyway, all the better. A little later in the spring we will have so many bluebells. I can’t wait. Do you have a favorite spring ephemeral? To me, they are just the best.
I planted catnip (aka catmint) a couple of years ago. Popular in landscaping, it produces small purple flowers essentially from spring to fall. As it turns out, the deer leave it alone while demolishing hostess and every other supposedly deer-resistant ornamental. Although, we did salvage a few veggies. Here are the top three garden benefits of catnip that shows up right away. (Not counting that the cat loves it.)
Since then, I planted a bunch more, and this is why:
- It looks nice. A compact, rounded shrub, it does not seem inclined to spread and forms an orderly procession right where it is planted.
- It is indestructible. While deer eat everything and summer storms alternate with high heat, the plants just keep on blooming. So far, I have only tried a few types of mint. Some are invasive, especially peppermint. While I have only begun to explore the various benefits of the different types, so far the deer and occasional rabbits do not seem to like any of them. This is huge. Where we live, there are so many woodland critters. They are cute. They are also wildly destructive to almost any vegetation.
- This is the biggest one, and least expected. Pollinators love it! I see bumble bees (the big, slow bees), mason bees, only a few honeybees, and they never bother us. I see occasional butterflies. This spring, there is an ongoing patronage from a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds. Just the other day, I saw a pair of goldfinches (I think they were eating pollen) hopping from stem to stem for their lunch. I have also seen an indigo bunting I hadn’t seen before, and a little brown and white hummingbird. And counting… I hope you consider the garden benefits of catnip the next time you are looking for a cute, hardy, perennial plant to add to the front yard, side yard, or garden border.