Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Color, More Life

I devoted a fair part of several fairly warm afternoons last week picking old brown leaves and new green weeds out of the groundcover that grows under a big shade tree in the back garden.
For me that's a sure sign of spring.
The groundcover back there consists of English Ivy, which grows wherever and however it wants (but which has not yet threatened to take over the universe), a few wild violets, and a grassy-looking spring bloomer that makes tiny white flowers whose name and provenance are a complete mystery to me.
But the signature groundcover of this stage of the springtime garden is Vinca minor. The small-leaved plant -- the leaves shiny, with a wax-like coating that discourages certain diseases and pests -- is also known as periwinkle and, incorrectly according to the sources, as creeping myrtle.
I look forward to a solid show by Vinca, with patches in both the front and back flower gardens, because its bluish flowers make the ground shine. It's an April bloomer, but here it is the last week of April before we've seen much in the way of color.
Still its arrival is a bright moment. After a long winter and slow-starting spring I'm not about to let the patch under the tree be overshadowed by the weeds that, despite the above-mentioned chilly spring, are off to their usual healthy head start. In particular, a light green weed with a slightly fuzzy leaf loves to slip in among the Vinca and obscure our view of the flowers by spreading its leaves above them if I let it, so I don't.
Pulling weeds involves sitting or squatting on the ground, so a little warm weather makes the task more attractive. I listen to the birds, it's their month too, woodpeckers knock about invisibly in the oak, pile up a small landfill of the extracted pale-green weeds that I apply directly to the newly turned soil in the vegetable garden to mask the smell of our recently-added compost.
We needed to remove a lot of half dessicated food waste from the compost bin this year because the thing was half tipping over and falling apart. Anne always volunteers eagerly for this job (this is the sort of remark I slip in to see if you're awake).
I dug the compost, both well-decayed and not-so, directly into the garden soil because we don't have any other place to put it.
The smell was remarkable; and enduring. I carried it on the soles of my sneakers for days afterwards. (No, the sneakers did no go indoors.)
So weeds always play this role in the garden's economy. The quicker I get their roots out of the soil the sooner I can use them to mulch the vegetable garden, that flash-mob of the annuals I am hoping to make grow from seed or seedling size in spring to tomato, bean, and eggplant jungle by late summer.
I'm late getting to work on the vegetable garden, but the proliferation of blossoms on the Vinca, the thickening up of the other groundcovers, the white flowers on the pachysandra -- plus the rapid population growth of the weeds, for that matter -- all show that spring is taking hold.
Traction in the earth. Sunlight in the skies. The green blossoms on the shade trees on both sides of our street. And in our exposed, pushy sidewalk strip, that little oasis of cultivation between the decaying sidewalk and the asphalt jungle of the street, the blue of the grape hyacinths is shining strongly now. Along with the pansies, planted by Anne, they give us some spot color to celebrate the high moments of April.
We enjoy those moments, those repeated but always new gifts of the cosmos,whenever they come.