The morning after I got back from my Italian vacation — April 3rd, I think it was — I called my plumber out on the East End of Long Island and said, “Charles, would it be jumping the gun to turn the water on now?” It would be, he said. “There was ice in the bucket this morning.” I don’t know what bucket he was referring to, but never mind that.
Point being, I had to wait another week before heading out to my mostly-unwinterized glorified bungalow. When I did arrive, car full of bags and boxes, the water was on and the toilet flushing, but the landscape was decidedly wintery. I hunkered down in my only insulated room, known as the great room, where I kept my new wood stove cranking, and slept there on an air mattress for a month, venturing into the rest of the house only for quick trips to the bathroom or kitchen to heat up a bowl of soup.
April’s delights, including a new rustic cedar gate (or arch or trellis), separating the lower garden from the upper garden, two kinds of epimedium, solomon’s seal and those very satisfying purple muscari along my impromptu wood-chip path
But I wanted to be out there, rather than in my city apartment, to catch the unfolding of the garden from the season’s beginning. It was the first spring I could expect some early bulbs, like muscari (grape hyacinth) and tiny hybrid tulips planted the fall before, and I didn’t want to miss anything.
May’s offerings, including the annual azalea and rhodie shows, plus rodgersia, the big-leaved brownish thing everyone always asks about, enkianthus, broom, flag iris
In the past, I’d never been able to start my season before mid-May, so the sunniness of my wooded half-acre in early spring, absent its dense canopy of leaves, was a revelation, as was the speed with which things came out of the ground.
The greening happened visibly day by day, almost hour by hour, once it got started, helped by the extra-abundant rains of May and June, said to be 50% more than normal for the period.
June’s white alliums, rose campion, astilbe, ladies mantel, and my instant cottage garden. One impulsive day I decided to do something with the four raised beds in the sunny center of the property, which up till then had been filled with catmint from years past, aggressive evening primrose, and some cottage favorites from upstate (rudbekia, obedient plant, coneflower). In two trips to the nursery, I added yarrow, delphinium, mallow, coreopsis, nicotiana and more — mostly perennials purchased in bloom. I’ll keep adding to it.
Yes, I worked, but not like a demon. Not like in the old days, when I was first clearing the property and establishing the garden. An hour here, two hours there, which leaves plenty of time to appreciate what Nature, with a bit of help from me, has wrought.
Lilies, day and otherwise, lead the way into July, along with hydrangea, drumstick alliums and later-blooming native rhododendrons