Thoughts From The Belly - December 2007
Thoughts From The Belly
copyright December 2007
By: Dan Mays Ironbelly1@aol.com
While preparing to write this article in early November, I had already begun to see a common gardenerÂs admonishment to "Think Spring" on various Internet forums. Quite frankly, IÂm not ready to think spring just yet. I want to savor the pleasures found exclusively in late fall and early winter. This is a joyously satisfying time of the year for me with much yet to be observed.
I, too, say "Think Spring" Â reserving its utterance for late February and March; a time period when I give garden presentations to various groups. To lighten the mood, I will show a slide of a snow-covered lawn with about a dozen, large, cardboard cutouts of flowers planted in the snow. Sitting in the middle of this snow-garden scene is a black Labrador dog wearing a huge, cardboard ring of flower petals encircling his head. In bold letters at the bottom of the slide it says, "Think Spring". My audiences, often bearing the ravages of cabin fever, get a little chuckle. Hopefully, the light-hearted message allows them to better relax and enjoy the rest of my presentation.
Those presentations are still months away. For now, I will continue to relish this pre-winter period. Please donÂt ask me to "Think Spring" as I ponder the potted progress of seeds I gathered last year from local, native prairie remnants. I must now move those pots of propagated, yearling native plants to more protected winter beds. It will be another Â possibly two years Â before some of them ever bloom. Examining each pot for opportunistic weeds, I am again reminded to never again allow teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) to grow in my garden. Sure, teasel looks great in flower arrangements but the rampant self-sowing of this imported weed has become an ongoing battle in my garden, several years after its banishment. The pots also contain other hitchhikers. While I am not a big fan of slugs, I have to admit that their sparkling, glass bead-like eggs shimmering in a bath of morning sunlight are quite beautiful. I often find these when I inspect for encircling roots in the bottom of the pots. It always amazes me that these baby native plants can have such substantial root systems when so little of the plant is above ground. There truly is a difference when comparing native plants to their more refined cousins, groomed in plant breeding programs. I refuse to "Think Spring" just yet. The splendor of things to come should not be allowed to veil the delights of moments at hand.
Sometimes I also see the progeny of old friends in the pots before I semi-bury them in their winter bed. As is sometimes the case, a stubborn weed will really send down a substantial root in a pot, requiring aggressive measures. This usually involves repotting the tattered remains of the good plant. During the weed root removal process, I will occasionally find the distinctive pupa of hummingbird moths; which have just passed through the life stage of the impressive tomato horn worm caterpillar. Memories of hummingbird moths brushing my pant legs on warm summer nights in pursuit of the sweet night nectar of flowers banish any notion of "Think Spring". I carefully tuck the pupa back into the pot to continue their nap of transformation.
Often on frosty mornings as I futz about my garden finishing last minute chores, I will take pause, a bit after 9:00 am, to watch a pot of self-sown pansies. It is at this precise time, the sun begins to peak around the north side of my house to warm a frosty pot of stalwart, late bloomers. It always fascinates me the way the sun will slowly morph the white, crystalline encrustation into solitary droplets, dripping from the bottom of the petals. The cheery colors of the pansy blooms are restored and they go about spreading their joy as if cold weather were no big deal.
Of course, winter will finally turn too bitter for the pansies. It will eventually put an end to my morning garden futzing sessions as well. For now, however, IÂll align my thoughts with the pansies. I donÂt think either of us is quite ready to "Think Spring" just yet. There still remains much to see, do and savor. *******