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happy valentine’s day

The hellebores are spoiling me as always by blooming unbelievably early. This year they set a record and bloomed in January.

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s almost time for the spring cleaning. I would lie if I said that I’m looking forward to it, since it tends to be very labor intensive and generates vast amounts of yard waste that I have to dispose of somehow. The compost pile can only do so much. I love the way the garden breathes afterwards, though. I don’t think the flower beds look neater at any other time of the year. All plants enjoy appropriate spacing and the leaves are so fresh and new!

You suddenly remember how disciplined you were when you originally planned the garden and respected all the spacing and height hierarchy rules. The flower beds look somewhat barren and your green thumb instinct suggests that you have room to grow more. Resist the urge to fill the so called “empty” spots! They are never empty, if you picture your garden as it looked during the summer. They are either the space that the fully grown perennials will fill soon, or the places where you planted summer and fall bulbs and forgot about them.

I suffer from the overplanting ailment: last year I had so many flowers on top of each other that only said plants and their uncomfortable neighbors could figure out what was where.

The flower beds in April are pretty as a painting, with fresh mulch that hasn’t yet faded in the sunlight and green shoots without blemish. A pretty assortment of spring bulbs completes the picture of perfect garden harmony. It always makes me happy, but it also makes me laugh. Reasons, you ask? Let’s see: bee balms take over every available space come July, the peonies invariably turn dusty and scraggly when the hot weather hits, and there is no way to control the tomatoes that create a tangled web even mangroves would envy.

All plants really decide their own growth patterns and will either be taller than anticipated, sneak out laterally instead of up, or generate excessive amounts of seeds which spill all over the lawn and give you something to do the following year.

These righteous efforts of adapting, propagating and reaching for the light make perfect sense for the plants, but for the gardener it looks like pure fertile self-guided and uncontrollable chaos. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!