February Garden

On a weekend with warm dots of soft rain, solo winter wrens warming up in the woods, and the Washington weather guru prophesizing no more big storms – a garden writer stayed in the Buffalo. Marty Wingate, author of several Washington garden guides, spent the night before her lecture for the Master Gardeners.

At her talk she used words I haven’t said or thought for months – words like rill and moongate, Green Man and Lutyens. It almost felt a foreign language in a foreign land, being in the lecture room – revisiting that enthusiasm of gardeners – and their plant passion. I’m not a great plant luster, being fondest of things that succeed even if ordinary, but I did write down Erysimum ‘Constant Cheer’ – a long-lasting, ever blooming wallflower. (It might replace the one reaching the end of its short-lived, but important life.)

A day or so later the sun came out, chilly in the early morning but sailboats on the Strait by afternoon. A garden walkthrough produced moments both discouraging and miraculous.

Daffodil spears suddenly stick up, three inches and more, in clumps in garden beds, and in pots – though so often drowned by rain, I’m amazed to see those flourishing.

Buds swell on the ribes and cherry tree, and just begin on the potted rose. Tiny but actual leaves dot the quince’s branches. Primroses look tattered by wind, slugs, and rain, but their color flashes. I see snowdrops and tiny cyclamen – buds and blossoms – just a few but exciting. Little pink bells of a heather and sober-colored hellebores bloom in their brave way.

All seems beat up and neglected, but being outdoors encourages me to work for real – soon. Popweed rages, but the soil is damp and it’s easy to pull weeds. I’m amazed as always in Washington – it’s only February.

The last few months Frances has spent many more hours in the garden than I have – but she’s not inclined to weed, clean up downed branches and fir cones, or cut nepeta gone dry and gray. She’s done her job – door mat deposits of the occasional entire rodent carcass, or simply an internal organ or two.

I need to begin my jobs – a little work would bring spring closer!

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