April ABODE: Garden green


UVA’s Pavilion Gardens will be featured as always during Historic Garden Week. (Photo by Dan Addison)

Each April, hands are wrung and woe betided over what will be left in bloom for Garden Week. There won’t be any daffodils for this one, judging by ours out here south of town. In mid-March, “mid-season” Butter and Eggs’ orangey yolks and nodding white Swan Necks are full blown, with “late-season” Salomes and Thalias in bud (explore www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com). But it’s heat, wind and dryness that destroy tender petals, not necessarily early seasons, which makes it difficult to say how long any plant will bloom, perhaps my most frequently encountered question.

Sequence of bloom to follow daffodils (if they haven’t already!)

Iberis sempervirens
evergreen perennial
Vinca minor
evergreen perennial groundcover
Summer Snowflake
Leucojum aestivum
bulb (plant in fall)
Garden Chives
Delphinium ajacis
annual (sow in spring)
Allium Globemaster
bulb (plant in fall)
Siberian Iris
I. siberica
Bearded Iris
I. germanica
Koreanspice Viburnum
V. carlessii
fragrant shrub
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Ajuga reptans

Spared windy storms and hard freezes, tough old winter honeysuckle and quince have been colorful and fragrant for months. Eighty-degree days in March and a bit of breeze, however, mark a short life for the delicate daffs, and it looks as if we might be in for a dry spell. So the garden goes. Go along with it and get out to see which ones have the bone structure to shine through the fickle allure of the seasons during the 79th Historic Garden Week (www.vagardenweek.org).

This year tours in Albemarle County feature Keswick properties Sunday and Monday, April 22 and 23, as well as old favorites Morven on Saturday, April 21 (open since the first Garden Week in 1929), and the University Pavilion Gardens and Carr’s Hill on Tuesday, April 24. Look for the talk at the Special Collections Library on the 24th at 2pm about The Dell, a remarkable award-winning project that day-lighted part of Meadow Creek and displays acres of native plants according to ecosystems from the mountains to the waterside.

Folk wisdom tells us to sow with the moon getting larger and to weed and harvest as it wanes, working with the pull of the tides. It was difficult dodging rain showers and soil too wet to work, but I finally managed to get early greens sowed the night before the full moon. A friend in Bremo Bluff was able to sow two weeks earlier than neighbors because her raised beds dried out and warmed up quicker than ground level plots. They create good drainage and loose soil for root crops like carrots, beets and turnips which can become wizened in hard ground. Build raised beds with timbers or planks or simply dig the soil into berms divided by narrow footpaths. Heat lovers like squash and melons also thrive in hills.

Judging a garden only by its flowers might seem superficial to hardened old hands who have endured hail-shot tulips and many a rain-sodden peony hedge, learning from bitter experience not to put all their hopes into one floral basket. But it’s more than child-like love of color and display that draws us to the blossom. Whether we see it flower from a 100-year-old cherry, the broken branches of a gnarly parking lot maple, or a fat tended daffodil that withers in a day, in the words of good old Jens Jensen, the magic unfolding of “a world not of our making” makes our lives richer.

Starting this April we’re introducing the “Gardener’s Crib Sheet,” 10 to 12 points to guide your gardening for the month.—Cathy Clary

Cathy Clary is a gardening teacher and consultant; she tends ornamental beds and a kitchen and cutting garden at home in a hollow south of Charlottesville. Read more about her at hollowgarden.com, and e-mail her with questions at garden@c-ville.com.