There I was all draggy with jet lag last Thursday when presented with unexpectedly balmy weather. 51 degrees F in early February is not common and the weatherman promised three whole days of it. So what was I going to do about it? For starters, all thoughts about slowly getting back into the groove of winter idleness had to be put aside. This gift of sunshine and warmth simply could not be overlooked.
On the first day, which was also my first day back, a good walk around the neighborhood was in order. A reconnaissance of sorts – checking out my neck of the woods as though mighty changes could’ve occurred in the two short weeks I’d been away. There was a fair amount of snow everywhere with patches of tired looking terra firma showing through. Not particularly pretty but hopeful of spring not being too far off.
I returned to my own garden and noted where the snow had melted completely, where traces lingered and where it remained in quantity. I conduct a studious observation every year because all the micro-climates are revealed by snow melt. The varying amounts of light in the different parts of the garden dictate which plants are likely to thrive or struggle. Even nano-climates can be exposed. This pattern can change year to year as trees or shrubs grow or die, new constructions come up or old ones torn down. Even the introduction of a car park can influence the situation. I take mental notes and lots of photographs.
Then, keeping the approach of Valentine’s Day in mind, I decided to make the effort of creating an fun ephemeral sculpture to mark the day. Knowing the snow would melt fast in the current mild temperatures, I decided to act immediately. Using a nifty mold, I made a couple of dozen snow hearts. And then put them all in the freezer to keep for the eve of Valentine’s when the whole work would be assembled. Thinking ahead with the weather in mind is a hallmark of all gardeners. Comes in handy for other matters too.
When Saturday, the warmest of this mild spell, came along, I announced to the family ( much to their surprise) that all hands on deck would be required in the garden. Pruning was on the agenda. Grape arbor, all the climbers and shrub roses and the espaliers of fruit trees. This is a tall order. Hence the need for all available deckhands. We had this window of one day before the temperatures would plummet.
An prune we did. Honestly, it was glorious to be outdoors. I guided my daughter through her first attempt with the roses – this felt rather special to me. A passing along of lessons to the next generation.
Grapevine clippings were stored away for camouflaging the peony supports later in March. And so the day was spent clipping and cutting till all got done just as the sun began to set. Truly, the day was a divine gift. Often the task of prunings gets significantly delayed because of huge amounts of snow still in place and temperatures being very low. At other times, one is surprised by warmer weather and fails to take advantage of it. This time however, we really did seize the day.
Whilst working, I became aware of the birdsong that was keeping us company and that reminded me to clean out the two birdhouses. Which was just as well because, shortly after removing the previous years nesting material and getting the houses refreshed, I spied a wren checking out one of the houses. It too was making the most of the warm day.
I also took out the hyacinths cooling in the refrigerator and got some potted up and others into forcing vases. The joy of monitoring the bulbs as they awaken and grow is what keeps me in a very good state of mind till the garden outside comes alive.
And then, on Sunday, temperatures not only plummeted overnight, but we awoke to a most beautiful snow clad garden. What a difference a day makes.
This was a most wonderful homecoming. Jet lag lingers but the spirits are revived.
(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar