April 8th – early bulbs emerge as the snow melts.
This flower bed amazes me every year. Every winter the snow comes off the steeply sloping metal roof in an avalanche, and there was well over four feet of heavily packed snow on this bed a month ago. Some years there is six feet, and I can’t see anything but the snow-bank out that window. Every spring, the day after the snow melts back to expose the soil, the daffodils stick their noses up. They may yet get snowed on, they will certainly get frozen before they bloom or while they are blooming, but they always come up and they always bloom. If there are miracles, this is one.
Woody plants wouldn’t survive this regime; the snow would crush and break the stems. The bulbs, and the perennials which will follow, don’t seem to care. If anything, they appreciate the heavy layer of insulation the snow provides. The bed is further battered by rain run-off during the warmer months; the steep slope of the metal roof and the snow-load make it impossible to mount eavestrough.
The daffodils will be joined by tulips in a couple of weeks, and as they start to fade the old-fashioned bleeding hearts will emerge with more strength than one would expect from such fragile looking stems. Eight or ten different varieties of hardy geraniums will complete the picture, with dense two and three foot high foliage hiding the spent leaves of the bulbs. The geraniums have even self-seeded into that supposedly “impossible” area between the bed and the house. Dry both because of the overhang and the perfect drainage through the drain-rock back-fill around the foundation, this three foot wide no-plant’s-land seems to be these geraniums’ perfect habitat. These are the tall and sturdy meadow species - not the sensitive cultured garden varieties.
By mid summer, the geraniums are thriving. This bed has been largely self-sufficient for over a dozen years now. It gets the heaviest of the dead foliage pulled off every spring and tossed against the house where it can compost down out of sight, and nourish the volunteer geraniums that have sprung up there. The daffodils and tulips get deadheaded when I have time, and every few years the bed gets a light dressing of some slow-release fertilizer (for the sake of the bulbs). That’s all the maintenance it gets. The show it puts on is a good return on the small amount of labour I invest.