Sunshine and Shadow, Winter and Spring

March 6, 2011

Last night, snow covered the ground, layering everything in a brand new sheet of white, clear and bright, hiding all the winter dirt for the evening. This morning, it started to melt in the sporadic sunshine.

Because the air was still cold but the changing angle of the sun is getting warmer and warmer, that white sheet melted in an almost perfect line, following the pattern of the sunshine as it shone across the house. It looks like the beginnings of a movie set before the designer has had a chance to make it look real, like the cotton under a Christmas tree that’s cut unnaturally straight by an unimaginative hand.

The sun goes in and out, behind clouds that are puffy and white, like June clouds confused about the calendar. The sky is blue, blue and true, not like early March at all. There is a strange juxtaposition of warm and cold, death and growth, sunshine and shade. It is almost spring.

There is a pine cone buried in that snow and then there are daylily leaves, tenderly unfurling, pale green, beneath last year’s dead leaves.

I am enjoying myself today, in the warmth and the sun, as I walk around the garden. I pick up a crumpled bit of paper here, a cigarette wrapping there. I take a good long look at the existing front bed, the butterfly bed, and think. I think about the new diagonal plan, the pathway that just can’t be grass long term, the raised bed that juts out almost to the property line now. To go diagonal, to give the path enough room, sedum will have to be moved and coreopsis transplanted somewhere. And then quite a bit of dirt will have to be dug up and moved too, to make this straight and true to the property line.

Or do I like the curvy beds and just need to emphasize those curves? That doesn’t solve my path problem in the least, but it would be a great deal less work.

The creeping phlox is starting to wake up, putting out stars of emerald in the fall leaves, among the mulch. The Damn Rabbits loved these buds and flowers last year; I really need to get out here with the bag of milorganite and a cup to help me toss it about on the at-risk plants. Tangled amidst the phlox is one of my favorites, also coming out of dormancy and putting out new buds – donkey tail spurge (is that a great name or WHAT?), euphoribia myrsinites. It’s a sage green and looks a great deal like a succulent cactus. It has yellow flowers and thick stems which ooze a wonderfully irritating liquid when cracked or (I love this part) bitten. Damn Rabbits hate it. Mingled with the phlox, the donkey tail may just help to save the buds. (This is called companion planting for those taking notes). Of course, the possibility exists that they’ll just eat around it.

I hear birds in the dried autumn clematis again. They will so disappointed soon when I cut it all down! I’d like to move the trellis that’s now trapped between the lattice and the vine to the purple clematis. The white trellis it is on now doesn’t have the same structure and it’s not as trendril-friendly as the trapped one. I check that purple clematis and see that many of the stems are already green inside, soft and plump. I will have to move rather quickly.

The trumpet vine is a real surprise. Last year, it sent up one branch, ridiculous and ineffective, barely leafed. This spring, I see over a dozen new stems, fountaining out of the crown. Trumpet vine should flower only on new wood, the current year’s growth, but I will not take chances with pruning yet. Once established, trumpet vine is extremely aggressive and need extensive pruning – I look forward to that if it brings the hummingbirds as reputed.

The lilac buds swell larger, round bottoms and pointy tips, reminding me of my Aunt Helen’s bosom. She had a simply enormous chest, absolutely legendary in the family (along with the rest of her body ¬†– my mom’s side tends to be rather heavy – Polish genes, you know). Those monumental breasts were lifted, separated and then sharpened by her bra to points that could slice your eye out, a 50’s pin-up gone to complete seed, her conical breasts and bottle-red hair the only things left from her glory days. When you were required to hug Aunt Helen, you were never sure how to approach her. Did you go in from the side? Right between the torpedos? Best to wait until she was seated and do the shoulder hug from the back, avoiding the colossus completely.

She passed away when I was still in my own chesty days. I remember my mom called me that day. And, barely controlling her mirth, suggested I call the daughter to ask if I could have those bras.

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