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The Commons
Photo 1

Dot Lenhart

Pulmonaria have shown their blooms ahead of schedule this spring.

Life and Work

Glorious, if belated, spring

Some observations from a garden in the shadow of Mt. Wantastiquet

Dot Lenhart is a local gardener with more than 20 years experience in greenhouses, nursery yards, and landscaping.

Originally published in The Commons issue #407 (Wednesday, May 10, 2017).



BRATTLEBORO—Mark Twain must have been predicting our 2017 New England spring when he said, “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”

While the chilly temperatures and general lack of sunshine might have held spring back, plants in my garden are about two weeks ahead of their usual timetable.

The Korean Spice viburnum, with its heavenly fragrance, can normally be counted on to bloom around Mother’s Day, but it has been in bloom for two weeks already. Hummingbirds, also expected around Mother’s Day, have already shown up in Brattleboro and surrounding areas.

Luckily, the hellebores, which often bloom as early as February, are still in full bloom, preserved by the cool weather. Other early beauties in my shade garden this year are pulmonaria and Pagoda trout lily.

Magnolia trees are spectacular all over town. My peach tree also bloomed earlier than usual, which can be a problem if we get a late frost, as was the case last year. I am hoping that abundance of blooms will yield a bumper crop of peaches, unlike last year’s total loss.

Tulips have come in a bit earlier than average, too, and they are holding up well. Bleeding hearts have started blooming and promise to be glorious this year.

Daffodils, and many of the early spring bulbs, are almost gone by in my garden, but they were glorious this year. I always plant more in the fall to ensure early color in my garden, after a long, bleak winter. Some of the standouts were iris reticulata, scilla (squill), and chionodoxa (snow glories).

* * *

I was able to start the spring garden chores early: raking, weeding, cutting back last year’s late blooming perennials, trimming last year’s hellebore and epimedium foliage, and transplanting perennials and bulbs, though I have yet to do edging.

I am perfecting my leaf mulch method, which involves piling fall leaves all around the shrub bed in front. Last fall, I started with the south side, hoping to kill all the grass and to plant flowering shrubs like I have on the east side.

The leaf mulch holds in moisture, keeps down weeds, and breaks down into beautiful, rich earth. Plus, it’s free!

Just be sure to leave a little space around the base of the shrubs and trees, so you don’t encourage rot and insect damage. I have been watching out for ticks, which like to hang out in leaf litter, but so far I have not found any.

Please, when mulching your existing or newly planted trees, do not create a “mulch volcano”! Mulch should be about 3 to 4 inches thick, more or less flat, and 3 to 4 inches away from the trunk, for the same reasons listed above.

* * *

A tree is a big investment; do everything you can to keep it healthy.

If you add a sitting spot with a good view in your garden, you will be able to enjoy it even more. I have several, and enjoy them daily.

Sometimes I prefer the shade garden, sometimes the sunny side. And sometimes I feel fortunate to just sit on the porch and enjoy the view I have of Mount Wantastiquet.

We truly live in a beautiful part of the country — enjoy it every day.

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