Is it SNOWING???

I went out in the drizzling rain today to (what else) move some more plants around. I just can’t seem to stop. It’s like a sickness. I just keep having different visions for the garden and everyone knows that rainy weather is perfect transplant weather. It’s almost reckless not to take advantage of it, right?

I went into the backyard and to my horror, I was suddenly surrounded by a flurry of falling white specks.

Snow in June!

Which was the title of the very first CD Darcy and I ever bought. It was by Northern Pikes. We couldn’t afford another CD for several weeks, so we played our first and only one on our new CD player so many times I can still sing every word to every song.

But I digress.

I stood frozen in place watching huge white flecks land on my cabbages and greens, before sweet relief rolled over me.

It wasn’t snow in June at all, but simply our May Day tree shedding her blossoms.

Suddenly the rainy weather didn’t feel so miserable after all!

Things are slowly growing. Here’s a look at the efficiency garden…

I still like the black boxes but they do show the dirt after a rain. Especially where the lawn has been reseeded. The rain splashes up the sides and shows everything. Bird droppings also create quite the startling contrast against the backdrop of black. Oh, well. At least it isn’t snow.

The side chute is coming along as well…

The path still looks terrible, but the peas, cabbage, radishes and all the rest down the line are growing nicely.

Like life, it all depends what you choose to focus on I suppose.

The front yard is going through its bloom rotation. The crocuses have finished, but the tulips and daffodils are still humming along.

I always envision a carpet of crocuses followed by blanket upon blanket of seasonal blooms, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. There are always lots of bare patches and long awkward pauses, especially in a garden so young. It takes time for the perennials to fill their positions.

Even then, it seems like some plants are always looking doubtful, while others are looking fantastic. Gardening is a great teacher of patience and acceptance. Instant gratification is never harvested here. And that’s a good thing. I think.

If you look in front of the garage door you will see some very doubtful looking tomatoes. I grow mine from seed and I always start them too early. By the time they get outside they are already a bit stressed and things usually go downhill for a bit from there. However, one day I will go out and they will have finally “grabbed” and will be looking lush and green with starry eyed little yellow blossoms everywhere. Once again, patience and fortitude is required.

Or maybe the tomatoes will all die. It could happen. You never know what each year is going to bring. We could wake up tomorrow to baby tomatoes or to a foot of snow. Or it might turn out to be just a sprinkling of May Day blossoms.

That’s what I love about gardening. You never know what the day will bring, but you can always count on being surprised. Usually in a good way.

Lessons from Marcescence Trees

I love how you are always learning new things in a garden. There are so many mysteries in the plant world and getting to ponder them is something I especially enjoy.

We have two trees that are practically curb side on our front lawn that hang on to their leaves in the fall. Last spring, our first one here, I thought it was just an anomaly. Sometimes winter comes so fast the trees are caught off guard and are caught still wearing their summer greens. A few times-not often-our aspens have failed to shed their leaves because of this. Eventually they turn brown but they hang there all winter long. Just like on our two trees.

This year, when our two trees once again hung onto their brown dead leaves I started doing some research. Since I knew it wasn’t because of an early winter, I figured it was due to lack of water or inadequate nutrition or some failing on my part. Instead I learned a new word.


Marcescence is a classification of trees that hold their brown leaves all winter long, only releasing them when the new green leaves push them off to make way.

Apparently our Young’s Weeping Birch and Tatarian Maple are such trees. Or if they’re not, they certainly behave as if they are.

The bare branches of our crab apple wave its naked arms in front of our Young’s Weeping Birch while to the far left the Tartarian Maple holds its whirlybird pod-like leaves intact as well.

Whenever I learn something like this I am always certain I’m the last one to step up to the information wicket. Everyone else reading this is thinking, Duh! Who hasn’t heard of marcescent trees? And, obviously, the answer is me.

Why marcescent trees hang on to their dead leaves is a bit of a botanical mystery, which makes me love it even more. Some researchers think it is a self protection mechanism to hide the spring buds and make them less appealing to deer.

For being in a city, we get a ton of deer in our front yard. They are always eager to pitch in and help prune the crab apple and lilacs, but I haven’t noticed so much as a nibble on the two trees that hold their leaves, so it seems to be a valid theory.

A second plausible explanation is that the trees hang on to their leaves so they can deposit them at their roots in the spring, when they need the mulch and nutrients the most. The practice minimizes the risk of the leaves blowing away with the autumn and winter winds. If that is the reason, it isn’t working so well this year. It’s been a gusty spring. Most of the leaves have been sent skittering down the street, taking their nutrition with them.

Watching the leaves take off serves as a reminder of the uselessness of hanging onto negative things from the past, in hopes that it will somehow serve you in the future. It won’t. Well, unless it is something like lighting your hair on fire because you bent too close to an open flame. Hanging onto that memory could help prevent you from doing it again and that would be very helpful. However, other than those sorts of things, nothing good comes from hoarding old hurts.

It doesn’t do a lot for your appearance neither. I hate to diss my own trees, which I love dearly, but the look of dead brown leaves (in my view) are not nearly as attractive as naked branches against a cobalt winter sky or the fresh green buds that are unfurling on our other trees even as I type. Which doesn’t mean I will replace the trees or fail to appreciate them for who they are, but it is a warning that it can be better for body and soul to just let it go. These are now my Warning Trees.

I look out at these trees a few times a day, as I do the dishes. Now instead of wondering, “What is wrong with those trees?” I can think, “They are Marcescence. Hangers on of the past.” and it will serve as a warning that it is better to suffer a few deer nibbles than to try and protect oneself in a coat of bitter memories from a time that is better released to the winds.

A garden is a great provider of therapy, as well as flowers, fruit and vegetables. if we just hang out in a garden and ponder our questions long enough, the garden will provide profound answers. I was going to add that it is also cheaper than therapy, but (ahem) my credit card bill often says otherwise!

Well, enough philosophizing. A glorious day is shaping up outside. The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky and (most) of the trees have leafed out. Another day of lessons await. It’s a great day to be a gardener.