Too-Early Spring

BROOKLYN’S BUSTING OUT ALL OVER. This is not what St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to look like. The unseasonably warm winter has turned into an unnaturally early spring, and I find it unsettling.

I could take the forsythia being a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, but they’ve been quickly followed by daffodils, hyacinth, magnolias, redbud, and all the other flowers and trees that should by rights belong to April.

When I caught sight yesterday of some purple irises already in bloom — I’m pretty sure those usually bloom in May — I let out an involuntary shriek. “No! Not you too, irises!

I’m trying to be here now and enjoy it, but I can’t help wondering… what will be left for the rest of the season?

Anomalous April

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View of the Hudson River and Catskills from Montgomery Place

THIS APRIL IS A STRANGE ONE in the Hudson Valley. The forsythia is not quite finished, which is normal for the time of year, but the lilacs are already in full bloom; ordinarily that doesn’t happen until mid-May. Forsythia and lilacs simultaneously? Weird.

Things are generally much greener than they ought to be. Loomis Creek Nursery’s e-mail newsletter says  the growing season is at least two weeks ahead, due to unseasonably warm weather early in the month, and yesterday at Montgomery Place, the romantic Hudson River estate whose gardens I popped over to see, I overheard the woman who runs their farm stand saying this is the earliest spring since 1945. I believe it.

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Montgomery Place, designed by A.J. Davis in the mid-19th century, is actually rather unpretentious, of modest size, with a grand open-air verandah

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I just wonder what will happen from here on. Will the lilacs stay in bloom longer than usual while the calendar catches up, or fade and be gone by Mother’s Day? Will the peonies be out in May instead of June, and the day lilies in June rather than July? Remains to be seen, I guess.

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Above and below, the gardens at Montgomery Place were designed in the 1920s and ’30s. The brick pathways between beds have delightful scalloped edges.

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For my purposes, the season being a bit ahead is not a bad thing. I’m up here to divide perennials from the Dutchess County property where I gardened for several years. Dividing perennials has never been my favorite thing, but this year it’s imperative, both because I have lots of bare dirt to fill at my new place on Long Island, and because certain things, like threadleaf coreopsis and rudbeckia (black-eyed susans to lay folks) have been getting out of control and taking over the central island bed, below (as it looked last September).

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I spent most of Saturday digging, and amassed a huge number of pots filled with catmint, lamb’s ear, coreopsis, astilbe, cimicifuga, mint, epimedium, and more. In the end, I took only a small amount of rudbeckia because it is very late to show, even this year, and I wasn’t sure what was what.

Add to that a bunch of stuff from a local couple who sell fresh eggs and potted-up plants from their own garden, for a relative pittance: a kerria japonica bush, a viburnum, bee balm, obedient plant, iris tubers, more astilbes.

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Now the big question is, how much can I get in my car?