2012, 2011 and 2010 Dates for Early Spring Arrivals

Our cherry tree is in full bloom now, March 23, 2012.  In 2011, the cherry tree came into full bloom around April 22.  In 2010, peak date was April 4.

The first crocuses appeared on February 19 this year.  In 2011, they showed up around March 17.  I don’t have records for 2010.

From these two data points, it looks like 2012 is about a month ahead of 2011, but perhaps only 10 days or two weeks ahead of 2010.  I’ll track the early native flowers in the next few weeks and see if this pattern holds true.

May 2, 2012 update: The Shooting Stars are at their peak now, just about two weeks ahead of their peak in 2011.  Maybe the cooler, rainy weather of the last couple of weeks has slowed down the spring arrivals!  Alas, my Pasque Anemone has not flowered this year.  My guess is that dividing it last year took away the flowers this year.  I do have a new plant under the plum tree, and the original patch, so I’m hopeful I’ll have blooms next spring.

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Moving the Japanese Maple

We finally moved the Japanese Maple, out of my own little patch of garden and into one of our common garden areas (I live in a cohousing community, where there are both individual and common gardens).  My husband loves Japanese Maples, so this is a little bit sad.

So why did we move it?  It was first planted here before I live in this townhouse, by the original owners.  But some time later, they added a blue spruce to the corner (there’s a story about that tree, but some other time).  The blue spruce has now taken over the corner, and the Japanese Maple, which had some afternoon sun and room to spread, now has neither.  I’ve been pruning it back every year, trying to make it fit into the increasingly small space, but it’s time to make a change.  Just in time, my gardening neighbors decided to move a beautiful viburnum bush from the middle of a partly sunny bed out in our front lawn area, leaving a nice spot for a small spreading tree.

It took us over two weeks to get the Japanese Maple to release its hold in this part of the earth – we went out and spaded around it every few days, slowly loosening it and separating it from the entangled roots in the area.  When we finally got it out and moved it over to its new home, I realized just how much smaller it is than a similar Japanese Maple planted in that area at about the same time, some 10 – 12 years ago.  Our tree is maybe one third the size of that tree – a sign that it really needs to be in a space with more room to grow.  I’m glad we moved it, as hard as it was.

Now it’s time to start re-arranging plants in my front sidewalk garden…

Plant Swap Today!

I’m hosting a neighborhood plant swap today with the coordinator of the McMath Community Garden (just across the commuter rail tracks). I was out digging up and dividing a bunch of perennials yesterday and plan to do some more today. I hope I’ll have some plant takers!

If you live in the North Cambridge area, please come by to share your extra plants, or pick up some free plants – or just encourage us! We’ll be out from 2 – 4 p.m.

A Visit from a Wild Turkey

We’ve had a wild turkey visiting Cambridge Cohousing for the last three days.  One of my neighbors spotted it early Weds. morning, enjoying some bird seed under a bird feeder in the middle of our front lawn.  It’s now taken to wandering around our front lawn and patio, sitting in a large planter in front of our dining room – which does kind of look like exactly the right size for a turkey nest, now that I think about it!

These photos are by Richard Curran, a talented photographer who is also one of my Cambridge Cohousing neighbors.  (BTW, you can see more photos of his at the North Cambridge Open Studios this weekend.)

And a neighbor from next door came over and shot this short video of our wildlife star:

The turkey is not our only recent wildlife visitor.  I put my hand into a heath plant yesterday afternoon and surprised a small snake.  Last week, my husband surprised a possum in one of our compost bins.  Of course, in both cases, the surprise was mutual.

Sidewalk Gardening – an Update

The weather this spring in Cambridge has been great for the garden, if not for us humans.  Many of the plants that barely made it through the heat of last summer have re-emerged this spring looking lush, green and tall, even in the tiny sidewalk patches I’m trying to cultivate.

I made two major changes this spring:

First, we removed the boards from around the edges of the plots.  These were built by one of my neighbors when we first moved to Cambridge Cohousing, around 1997, and served then as a visual notification that we cared about this property.  Over the years, though, as they’ve gradually fallen apart, we decided not to maintain them and started taking them off, one by one.  The partly boarded/partly not arrangement had started to look – to my eyes – kind of scraggly, and seemed to signal to passerby that it was fine to drop your trash or not pick up after your dog.   We took off all the boards, and now, with softer dirt edges around all the plots, this has become a much friendlier and safer sidewalk for anyone with wheels – people using wheelchairs, people pushing strollers, and the occasional sidewalk bicycle rider (mostly children).

Second, I mulched all of the plots.  With the boards off, I was concerned that the “natural” dirt edges would signal “nobody cares about these areas” and attract more trash.  So when the commercial landscaper came to plant our main lawn fence border, we got extra mulch, and I used a bunch to mulch over the little plots.  I didn’t realize what an impact this would have, but it’s made all of the beds look like they are “formal” gardens, and the plants are planned, not weeds.  We’ve seen much less dog poop and litter in the plots since I made these two changes.  I hope it continues, even when the rain stops!

Shooting Stars, the Star of My Spring Deck

The Shooting Stars (Dodacatheon amesthystinum) are spectacular this spring!  I planted
these on my deck in April, 2008 (purchased at New England Wildflower Society).  They’ve always produced one or two beautiful flowers, but this spring, there are eight or more flower stalks, with more flowers opening every day.

The plant sharing this container is American Ipecac (Porteranthus stipulatus) which grows up nicely as the Shooting Stars fade.  There’s also some Bee Balm in here, just appearing in the foreground. I love having perennials in the containers on my deck… just add spring!

The Evolving Spring Garden

Last week, the front garden really came into its own.  This bed faces south, so it gets a head start on the rest of my garden patches (and it needs the head start, since the city’s maple tree will soon be shading it).  These pictures are from April 30, 2011.

I love the way different plants emerge and transform every day, almost in front of my eyes.  In fact, this is the time is the time of year when I spend long moments outside just looking.  I am often teased by my neighbors who ask me “Are you praying over your plants?” or “Do you think they will come up faster if you watch them?” and so on.  Looking back now on the pictures of the first crocuses, it’s funny to think how excited I was then.  Then I thought they were gorgeous, now I think they look so scraggly and bare!

Here’s a close-up photo, where you can see more individual plants.  The bulbs – grape hyacinth, mini narcissus and a few purple and purple-tinged white tulips- provide most of the colors at this time of the year.  The heuchera, deep red and green versions, have leafed out now.  There’s a beautiful large-leafed clover that arrived on its own this spring, and I’ve decided it’s not a weed.  In the top right, you can see the few hostas and an astilbe that I have left in for now, until I can establish more shade-loving, dry-tolerant natives.  And then there’s lots of day lily greens – mostly these are Stella D’Oro that were here when I started.

We do have snow in April in Boston in many years, but when this variety emerges, I know the winter is really over.