Six on Saturday: Anticipating Spring

Frost kissed cabbage

A few warm days this past week tantalized with a taste of the coming spring.  I noticed buds swelling on shrubs, the first daffodils and Crocus blooming and determined bits of fresh green growth poking up through the muddy earth where flowers will bloom later in March.

A few warm days motivate a smitten heart, and they drew me outside to get on with the business of cutting back and clearing out to make way for the beauty to come.  I took down the last of last fall’s perennials in our upper garden, delighted at signs of awakening growth beneath them. Removing winter burned Helleborus leaves revealed budding flowers and fresh leaves sheltered below.  Cutting back the old canes of Lantana allowed the blooming golden Crocus at their stubby ankles to shine.

Hellebores

I’m clearing and pruning at the Botanical Garden, too, and so made a trip this week to our favorite garden center to buy a bag of compost to top off some beds there.  The damp grey day meant we were the only customers around.  It was a rare visit when we had time, and our friend, who is one of the partners in the business, had time to chat and catch up. He brought us up to date on his infant son and other family news.

As we loaded a bag of compost into the car Johnathan shared that Leaf Grow, from Montgomery County, Maryland, has suspended production at their municipal recycling plant due to the Covid situation.  Once his shop sells their few remaining pallets of this versatile soil conditioner, there will be no more available until the plant re-opens, perhaps in the summer. 

Crocus tommasinianus

That started us on the topic of how the pandemic is affecting the horticulture industry.  He confirmed that I’ve not been able to find Milorganite these past few months because the Milwaukee sanitation authority that produces it shut down production last spring, for obvious reasons.  But the next revelation took me by surprise.

It seems that supply chain issues with plastics imported from China are also threatening those businesses that produce horticultural products packaged in plastic bottles and bags.  Our friend shared that while they still have a stock of fertilizers and animal repellants, he doesn’t know how much longer they can order them. 

As the conversation went on, I kept adding to my pile of purchases.  I’ve come to rely on Leaf Grow, Milorganite, Espoma fertilizers, Neptune’s Harvest, and so many other products to keep my garden in top shape.  His brief word to the wise was enough to encourage me to buy in advance for the season coming.

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Now I’m wondering whether nursery pots might come in short supply, since they are made of plastic, too.  All this will add to the price of retail plants, I expect. There has been some movement towards producing plants for retail sale in biodegradable pots.  You will find a fascinating article in the March-April issue of Horticulture Magazine by Allison Fortner, of the University of Georgia, about recent advances in producing pots that will fully degrade in place quickly enough to allow a plant’s roots space to grow.

I would be thrilled to buy all of my new plants in biodegradable pots.  Anyone who lives with a gardener would be thrilled to see fewer plastic pots and packs accumulating off to the side….

So of course, our conversation circled around to my favorite topic in February:  What will be available and what will I grow in the coming season.  I had to ask about some of the new introductions I’ve been reading about, like the Canary Wings Begonia.  Think of a gorgeous Dragon Wing Begonia, only with chartreuse leaves.  I put in a request for that and other plants I’d like to buy locally this spring.

Blueberry buds swelling at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

Over this past Covid ridden year I’ve bought only a fraction of the plants I’d normally buy, staying home and staying out of garden centers for the most part.  I’m propagating more of what I have and buying less. 

But that old familiar anticipation is building as my horticultural wish list grows.  I have two dozen ferns coming bare root from a nursery in Tennessee; Caladium tubers coming from Florida; an unusual Hosta and some Zantedeschia coming from Michigan; and new Alocasia, Eucomis, and other assorted treasures coming from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs up the road in Gloucester.  Fingers crossed that the postal service actually delivers them on time and doesn’t lose them in a sorting facility somewhere along the way.  Soon enough, I expect to fill up a good portion of my saved pots with these new bits of root and rhizome.

Anticipation is the flavor of spring.  My neighbor’s golden daffodils prove it is near, even as the sky hangs low and white and we awaken to frozen cars and glittered lawn.  Wintery days are numbered now, and limitless possibilities await an eager gardener on the cusp of a new season of growth.

With appreciation to The Propagator who hosts Six on Saturday each week.

8 comments

    • Eliza, it seems to be touching corners of our lives that we wouldn’t have ever considered. So many questions come to mind. But I am not going to procrastinate on purchasing supplies this year. This may be the year I switch over to mixing my own potting mix from bricks of coir. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Interestingly, we too have had some supply chain issues, but of a totally different origin.
    BREXIT
    Many of our roses have come from David Austin’s Shropshire, UK location – but no longer! A large order of items placed last year was canceled in January because the UK lost it’s privileged status to do business with the EU when the UK voted in the referendum to leave the EU. Imagine the billions in revenue the UK is losing by canceling orders throughout Europe! Plants, clothing, books, electronics, seeds, etc etc.
    So I was forced into sourcing all the once readily available and great inventories found in the UK to other EU vendors and suppliers. It hasn’t been very easy!
    Some smaller EU countries only sell within their country and do not deliver beyond. I see a great opportunity for some of these smaller countries to benefit from the BREXIT fiasco by picking up the slack. But I’m a bit more bold than some.
    As for all the items you mention, we use none of them! Additives, fertilizers, etc we’ve not used any so far here, except in regard to the roses. Luckily, we have ready access to everything except those roses.
    I have routinely ordered other plants from throughout Europe with great satisfaction. I currently have an order of 100 liriope coming to us from Belgium. Several roses coming from Germany. I’ve purchased bulbs and hostas from The Netherlands, and daylilies from Lithuania. Crazy I know!
    Best of luck to you! Stay well.
    -Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate, Losing access to Austin’s English Shrub Roses may be one of the sadder effects of Brexit that I’ve read about so far. The Austin roses are exquisite, and hard to source here without ordering directly from the grower. But then the Austin family established themselves in Texas decades ago, and so the shrubs I would buy aren’t imported from England. They are grown here so they are more accustomed to our conditions. I’ve grown them since the 1980s. They are incomparable among modern introductions and so sweetly scented. I’m very sorry for you that you lost that, and other orders, due to politics. And I’m also sorry for all of the British businesses losing their markets in the EU. People so rarely really think things through carefully before making major political change. There is a long history bearing witness to economic and cultural loss due to heated politics.

      Gardening in Europe sounds like gardening in wonderland to me. Conditions here are very different, in part because many areas don’t have a long history of cultivation to establish planting beds, walled gardens, and so many other amenities. I begin with clay soil that was forest floor as recently as 50 years ago, is still filled with roots, and our garden is frequented by a variety of animals that roam and graze freely in our community. I hope your German roses satisfy. I still love many of the old French varieties and grew several of those heirlooms at my last garden. R. ‘Souvenier de la Malmaison’ was my favorite. Many of the bulbs I’m anticipating receiving next month from local suppliers are coming from The Netherlands, too 😉 Small world. Thank you for your wonderful and cheering note. Stay warm and well, -WG

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Edgeworthia is a new plant for me, and I had to do a bit of research. What a pretty thing it is.
    I hope your ordered plants arrive safely, they sound like an interesting lot, and the best part of gardening for me, is planting new things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good morning, Jane. Edgeworthia, known as Chinese Paperbush, was totally new to me when I was introduced to it in a neighbor’s garden about 10 years ago. At the time, I didn’t have enough sun to grow it well. After losing some trees in a storm, we had space open up, and it was top of my list to plant. We have been delighted with it ever since. It grows beautifully with little attention and isn’t eaten by anything, except pollinators. What the photo couldn’t capture is the sweet fragrance. Like a Daphne or Osmanthus, when it blooms, your nose leads you to it. It has become an important part of spring for us, as its blooms slowly open over several months before the leaves finally emerge in April. I hope you will be able to grow one or visit one in bloom to enjoy its fragrance for yourself. We appreciate all good wishes, and especially for the safe arrival of the little plants on order. They are mostly new varieties, so I’m looking forward to growing them out and seeing what they can do. Stay warm and well, Jane, -WG

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a nice looking list of things you have on order to look forward to. I’ve never come across ferns offered bare-root; two dozen!, what all different? I’m salivating at the prospect. The encouragement that Covid has provided to growing things ourselves from seeds and cuttings is one of the very few silver linings to the epidemic. Our shower will blame everything on Covid and continue to maintain that Brexit is a triumph.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim, for your entertainment: https://www.tnnursery.net/ferns-for-sale/

      I was so delighted to find this website! Now I’m looking forward to seeing what they send and expect to receive them by mid-March. I ordered one of the grab bags, and other particular ones by type. Ferns can be purchased here bare-root each spring in packages found at Hardware and other ‘big box’ stores. I pot them, set them in the shade, and then wait for the show as they begin to grow. They usually do just fine and it is a good way to buy a quantity of the same species for larger projects. Take care, -WG

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