Counting down

The garden has frozen again overnight with a thin crust of frost over the deep muck resulting from an inch or more of rain and a quick defrost from a nearly month long freeze. Tonight, temperatures will again drop into the teens (Fahrenheit), but a gradual warmup to the average will follow.

Today, there are scattered blooms, but buds of witch hazels swell noticeably each day.

I must avoid as best as possible traveling through through the garden in the few days following such a thaw when every footstep creates a deep impression. I hardly worry about the small areas of lawn, but this is particularly destructive to the paths, that sink into the muck with every step. With a weeks long cover of snow and ice, and only scattered afternoons above freezing, there are few blooms to encourage outdoor excursions, but each day should bring more evidence of the progression to spring.

I am not yet tempted to begin planting. Today, the layer of frozen ground is an impediment, but saturated ground also discourages digging. I am of course anxious to get into the garden, not only to enjoy flowering that is likely to accelerate now with each week, but to begin some activity.

The largest piles of branches broken by clinging snow weeks ago were gathered and hauled away as the rain subsided, but many smaller branches that litter the front and side gardens must be raked. These will be broken into smaller pieces, then scattered as mulch. Leaves still cover swelling buds of many hellebores (above and below), so these will be removed once they have dried following a few days of sunshine.

These few chores will be quickly accomplished, with the spring cleanup holding off until early March with weather likely to be better suited to hours of outdoor labor. I am anxious enough today that I look forward to this, but when the day arrives it is probable that some early planting will mix into the day’s labor to keep my interest.

On every trip to the lower, rear garden I envision placement of plantings in newly dug raised beds. These are now covered by shredded leaves, and since digging I have stayed off to prevent compaction except while digging in a few early transplants. Plans for early spring purchases to fill the area are set, but always subject to last minute inspirations.

In a first, I have stuck bamboo stakes where several larger Japanese maples and a columnar beech will be planted. This seems constructive on a chilly February afternoon, and now I will count the days until spring planting.

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