I'm a blogger for Main Life Gardening, a garden center near Philadelphia, contributing an essay or two per week to their website. I think you will enjoy my essay, Harbingers of Spring, posted to their site today (click the underlined words to read the essay.)
Yesterday the temperatures soared into the 60s again, so we spent about an hour and a half cleaning up the flower garden. Last year the weeds had overtaken a section near the back along the treeline where we had planted wisteria and forsythia. Along with the weeds come the brambles - wild blackberries along with other thorn-filled plants that send runners underground and emerge with long, pliable stems replete with thorns several centimeters long. Once those plants appear, we're in trouble. The only way to get rid of them is to dig them out entirely. We use a pick axe on the hard clay soil and dig, dig and dig. I wear heavy suede gardening gloves. My job is to pull the thorny stems up and discard them in the woods. I always get stung by the thorns and develop a rash for an hour or two afterward. It's really no fun.
But tackling these tough chores now is the best course of action. In a few weeks, the ticks emerge, and clearing brush and weeds when the ticks are out just isn't smart. It's cold enough at night and warm enough during the day to keep those ugly, disease-ridden insects at bay, plus we're still wearing long sleeved shirts to protect our skin. When it gets hot in Virginia, it gets hot - and even though ticks are a risk, I can't garden in a long sleeves shirt when it's hot!
Despite feeling sore and tired from all that weeding, we did uncover a surprise. More spring bulbs were hidden underneath all the weeds along with daylilies that crept down from the hillside to naturalize on the forest edge. We dug up the daylilies since they were growing where we are going to continue the pathways this spring. We moved them into position underneath the forsythia, where we're trying to have a nice band of yellow starting in early spring, then continuing with orange-yellow daylilies during the summer.
Last night we made up another garden catalog order. We are adding more trees to the property - as if 13 acres or so of timber and 2 acres of hardwoods aren't enough - and adding a few Colorado spruce, more redbuds, and magnolias to the property. I've got a "matchstick" mum on order, what my dad used to call a "spoon" mum because the petal ends have little spoons on them, and we ordered tons of ground cover plants. Our latest plan (to avoid weeding next year) is to plant lots of perennial ground covers such as sedum, phlox, and Mother of Thyme on the slopes. We noticed that in spots where the ground cover has taken over, such as the pink Evening Primrose, it chokes out the weeds. Any plant that prevents weeds from taking over the garden is a friend of mine for sure!
Please enjoy the essay today on daffodils and spring bulbs over at Main Line Gardening.