I never knew that the antonym of autumnal was vernal. Which makes sense, I guess as there is no word for springnal. With covid, I think many of us are embracing gardening more than we even have. Most garden centers and nurseries are reporting record sales (have you tried to order bulbs or garlic lately? Most everywhere is sold out!). So while the entire planet continues to deal with the nasty effects of Covid 19, I suppose we could say that for gardening – there’s been a bit of a silver lining.
Not that I am happy about it. I’ve lost close friend, my Godmother passed away from Covid in June, and I even had a scare myself with the disease. So gardening has certainly been my primary escape. I heard the other day that there are something like 13 million new gardeners this year in the US (it might have even been 30 million, but I may have heard wrong), but clearly many more people are gardening than ever before. Many first-time gardeners too. I also heard that only 5% admitted that the probably wont garden next year, but still, those numbers are impressive to say the least. It’s safe to say that there are many new gardeners. This is thrilling to hear.
I dont need to tell my fellow gardeners that Covid-19 has affected us gardeners. People who may have never gardened suddenly taking up a hoe or trowel is a global phenomenon. The Financial Times in London reported that in the first few days of the pandemic that 15 million people visited the RHS website. Even people without the space to garden outdoors have turned to houseplants, a trend that already was out of hand by the end of 2019 especially with young adults.
By late March many of us found is difficult if not impossible to order seeds from not only our favorite sources, but from obscure ones as well. The sudden onslaught of new gardeners dreaming of new victory gardens and raised beds of fresh greens became so intense that many large seed suppiers couldnt keep up with the demand.
Now, in autumn as Covid continues to hold us hostage we are finding fall, winter and even spring supplies in demand. Dutch bulbs are virtually sold out at most websites and many seed companies are delaying or even not accepting new orders due to the demand.
Of course, this is a double edged sword, especially for those who might have waited too late to order their garlic (me), while benefiting the retailers who finally can recoup some of the lost profits earlier in the year.
I think the point here is that even if 50% of those who experimented with some sort of gardening this past year continue, we’ve essentially doubled the number of gardeners. In the long run, that’s terrific. Right now? Im not that happy that I can’t buy a bulb planter, shovel or a dozen hyacinths. I mean really…rakes are sold out? True. At least at my Home Depot. I’m predicting the same for paperwhites, amaryllis and probably Holiday lights, right? (still, its all a good thing.).
We’re pretty fortunate here though. I know that. I really don’t need to buy more bulbs or even to plant more greens for winter. We are so fotunate to have a greenhouse and to be healthy. There are those who have so much less. It;s been a difficult year for so many around the world and in our country.
If you follow me on Instagram you probably know that we undertook a few big outdoor projects this summer (a driveway resurfacing with gravel and cobbles keeps me up at night as we try to complete it before the ground freezes) and then there is how to landscape the 80 foot edge along the driveway where we cut 16 trees down earlier in the summer. I won’t be able to afford a fence for some time, but right now we can see all of the neighbors – something that we havent experienced as long as I have lived here (which is a very long time!).
I have two Tupelo trees going in and a Nyssa, along with 4 American Holly cultivars (that will grow quickly to 30′ or more). Many small Blue Prince and Blue Princess holly will fill in gaps as they will top out to about 7-10 feet around here, but the truth is we are getting old and the time has arrived when expecting to see a tree mature to full size is unrealistic. My plan is to have quick growing shade trees but also broadleaf evergreens along with wildlife-friendly berries, understory trees and shrubs and then mixed perennials underneath. My priority is focused on native species, or at least, North American natives first.
I suppose that the good news is that they are forecasting a mild winter here in the Northeast. I love snow, but not the cold, yet meteorologists are adding that mostly here, it should be a rainy winter. I can’t have it all – deep snow, temperatures just below freezing…totally unrealistic.
Bulbs are arriving in boxes most every day now. Lilies are the last to arrive, not too many this year, just a few from my favorite sources. I’ve learned to order early for the real choice bulbs like the giant alliums and the most stylish colors in tulips. Also, since I force a lot of bulbs, the earlier I plant them in October, the sooner I can force them in January.
It’s funny how little time I have now, now that I am not working a full-time job. Not only can I not seem to find time to update this blog, I seem to never catch up with gardening chores. OK, I’m sure I ‘have the time’, but I am surely more lazy or distracted. I neglected much of our garden this year – mulch piles are still in the driveway, vegetable beds have tall weeds and as anyone who visited here knows – most of the garden was just neglected. I just didn’t feel like doing it all. (note: We don’t have garden help).
There are hornbeam hedges that are half-way cut this year, boxwoods that have yet to be trimmed, and many projects half done or not even started. I have no idea why. I’m probably watching more TV and cooking more (which doesn’t help my waist or health) but I guess more of us are baking bread or making kimchi than we might have before. Sure, I did make a new garden that was large, and then there were projects like refinishing the hardwood floors in our house downstairs and that aforementioned driveway re-do, but still.
The Garden Conservancy is pushing me to host an Open Days tour next year again, and I just don’t know if we could do it (and if we can do it, will it even be exciting or worth people’s time to come here? I mean, we are no estate or fancy garden, and that is our competition. I mean – our garden doesn’t even have a name (should it?).
While photos of it certainly look pretty on-line, in real life…well, let’s just say it’s just a regular back yard with all that comes with suburban life. Dumpsters, sheds, trashy areas where there shouldn’t be. I don’t know. I’m torn, and I’m not sure that I need the added pressure of a garden tour. I am watching other garden hosts with orders of thousands of bulbs to plant, and then I look at our measly 300 bulbs. Some narcissus arrive only in packs of 6 or 10. We are more realistic, I know, but is that something people want to pay to see?
It’s mid-October now, and while we’ve only experienced a few light touches of frost, the morning glories are still blooming (just the tips are nipped), and the cold-hardy greenhouse plants are all still outdoors. Camellias and bay laurels won’t get moved under glass until next week or even later if the weather remains above freezing during the day. I know so many people who are complaining about senescence outside and using terms like “everything is dying as winter arrives,” but I see it differently
I’ve been sowing seeds of Anemonopsis that I harvested fresh and sowed today in two flats. These will take some time to grow, but after a winter outdoors, they will germinate readily in the spring but will do little growth above ground in their first year – just forming two leaves and some root growth. Next spring, they will be transplanted into pots and later in summer 2022 into the garden somewhere or distributed to friends.
Maybe it’s the fact that I have the greenhouse, but so many plants are just starting to emerge or start another season. Camellias are all budded up and ready to bloom in a few months, the fall-blooming species are already blooming. South African and South American bulbs are magically emerging -most bloom before their foliage but many bloom throughout the winter. Cyclamen species from the Mediterranean are in full bloom now, and Asiatic tender shrubs scent the greenhouse as an entirely new season begins.
I am most excited about winter birds this year. An irruption of winter finches is predicted for some of my most beloved of winter feeder birds. Birch and other seed sources in the north are poor, and already we’ve seen 9 red-breasted nuthatches visiting our feeders (there were none last winter). I am most hopeful that we may see Evening Grosbeaks – a bird that we haven’t seen here at our feeders since the early 1980’s. I may be overhopeful, but there is a good chance that we will see some.
It’s hard to imagine that anything is genuinely senescent around here.