2/26/15: In the garden this week


American hazelnut (Corylus americana) produces tiny, bright red female flowers in earliest spring–normally around the third week in March. They’re in bloom right now in my garden.

The weather can only be described as bizarre–warm, then cold; wet, then dry. Normally hazelnuts bloom in my garden at the same time as crocuses and right before spicebush. This year the hazelnuts are extra early, while the crocuses are barely showing above ground and the spicebush buds are just swelling slightly.

After quite a bit of rain followed by a couple of cold days, we’re in for a warm spell. It’s too late for winter pruning, but it’s a good time to do early spring chores like these:

— start vegetable seeds such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— the ground is wet and the weather is turning warm; it’s time to weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard and western bittercress in your garden plots. The mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

Finally, get out and look for the earliest signs of spring in our local natural areas. Skunk cabbage is up; hazelnuts are in bloom; you should see vernal witchhazel, pussy willow, and spicebush very soon. Enjoy the spring weather!


Hazelnuts’ male flowers are borne on these long, dangling catkins that turn from green to golden as the pollen ripens.



1/8/16: In the garden this week


Little bluestem is beautiful all year although by this time every winter, many of the seeds are gone.

Happy new year! Since the weather turned cold, I have been too busy with winter pruning to post here. Now that it’s finally cold and looks to stay that way for a while, get out those clippers and saws and loppers and get to work on your shrubs. Most shrubs need some reduction in size after they’ve been in place for a while, and now’s the best time to do it.

In addition to pruning, it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions, and perhaps to put some of them in place as you plan next season’s garden. Garden catalogs are arriving–as you enjoy all those gorgeous pictures, think beyond beauty to a plant’s role in the vital ecosystem you can create right in your own backyard.


Catkins–in this case, the male flowers of American hazelnut–decorate the shrubs all winter. In the spring they’ll release pollen for the tiny female flowers, and in August there will be hazelnuts for the squirrels.


Winter woes


OK, it’s not pretty anymore. It’s just boring and annoying and frustrating and COLD, and another storm is expected on Monday. And according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, we have an above-average chance of below-average temperatures (isn’t that a great phrase?) for the next month.

The sun is now so strong that even on a day when the temperature doesn’t go above the mid-twenties, the water remains liquid in the puddles. If we weren’t still buried under almost a foot of frozen snow, the snowdrops, winter aconites, and crocuses would be blooming, the daffodil foliage would be up, and I’d be thinking about sowing seeds for cool-season greens this weekend. And checking the hazelnut and spicebush shrubs for the first signs of bloom.

But still, spring is bound to come, right? Have a good weekend, and stay warm.