April 23, 2012

The Rhythm of the Rain

Between three and four inches of rain have fallen on our garden in the past 24 hours, putting the first meaningful dent in a drought that stretches back through the Winter-That-Wasn’t.  Yesterday morning, we were ten inches below ‘normal’ precipitation since January 1; today we are six or seven inches down.  I might add that there is still light mist falling as this is written.

This is the best spring bloom ever
for our cersis canadensis
But the unnatural weather of the past month – 80-degree days in mid-March followed by a long stretch of cool, dry weather – produced a rare spring treat: a prolonged period in which daffodils co-existed with the blooming of our cersis canadensis (forest pansy redbud), and Virginia bluebells are in full show mode at the same time as epimediums.  The bergenia is glorious, and so is a bright pink azalea off on a corner of the garden.  A dogwood that customarily blooms in mid-May is already bursting, as are our lilacs.

Our Virginia bluebelles typically
appear in mid-April for a few weeks
As the rain tapers off, though, the suddenly waterlogged daffodils and hyacinths will keel over.  The petals from the ornamental plum will fall and form a blanket of pink around the base of the tree.  Those bulbs that lingered beyond their normal bloom time will be gone in a matter of days.

Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf) makes
a brief appearance, but has lingered
this year
It has been a beautiful spring thus far, though I know the stress placed on our shrubs and perennials will cause problems this summer (unless this weekend’s storm is a harbinger of a lot more of the same).  But we hooked up the rain barrels on Friday and so captured 150 gallons of rainwater plus filled two dozen two-and-three gallon jugs. 

This is epimedium suphureum.  The
flowers seldom last longer than a week
Our nearly snow-free winter is already having other repercussions.  Ticks made it through the winter unscathed and the tiny deer tick nymphs – which have the highest prevalence of Lyme and other disease infection – are several weeks early in making their appearance.  Deer, squirrels, moles, voles and rabbits also had an easy winter, which means extra applications of repellents.

This is not intended as a rant or complaint.  If you garden, you have to expect the unexpected.  The same quirk of weather that gave New England a spectacularly beautiful March and April is going to be responsible for a set of problems down the road.  If you’re an astute gardener, you alter your plans and make allowances.  It’s as simple (or complex) as that.