Dear March, Come in!

Dear March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat —
You must have walked —
How out of breath you are!
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did you leave Nature well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell! Poem by Emily Dickinson

March! The start of metrological spring, the point at which we gardeners breath a sigh of relief for having made it through the worse of winter. In North Texas, we are nearing our average last freeze date, though we are always eyeing the ten day forecast for those late last blasts of winter. We know we aren’t really out of winter until Easter, give or take a week or so. Isn’t that the way it is with gardening? Always looking ahead… Goodbye deep freezes and snow and sleet; Hello hail and tornadoes. As William Cullen Bryant wrote, “The stormy March is come at last, With wind, and cloud, and changing skies.”

While our skies are dark and dreary today, the daffodils are sunny and warming to the soul.

Ah, March! I have so much to tell!

2022 was a year of undoing and redoing around my melodious garden, a near total garden transformation. Rising from the ashes of my previous rose garden, a food forest came together. I spent the late winter and early spring tearing out, weeding, moving pathways, moving compost and mulch and planting, planting, planting! We traveled down to Austin in mid-March and came back with a truck filled with plants and hopes and dreams, to supplement the plants (and hopes and dreams) I had already purchased from local nurseries. Plants were ordered from near and far, as I discovered anew the joys of mail-order plant nurseries. And then. Summer hit. One of the hottest and driest on record. We made it through, though, the garden and the gardener. Fall saw another wave of planning and planting, though much less intense than in spring. Then came winter. And nine degrees. Another one for the record books. This morning’s garden stroll was one of reflection and assessment. When was this planted and how is it doing? What was planted here that didn’t make it? Replant or find something else? Thankfully, it appears 98%, give or take a bit, of the plants that joined my wellness garden last year have made it through summer and winter.

The blackberries came first to my melodious garden, planted early last spring. The Ark Traveler blackberry, shown below, is doing quite well. The Ouachita blackberry planted nearby did not make it through summer, despite being given a special shade covering when he was first suffering in the sun. Too little or too late? I don’t know. As the Ark Traveler is doing so well, I will likely buy another one to fill the spot of the dearly departed.

Initially, I was not going to plant raspberries or blueberries, as I had tried both 25 years ago and decided they were way too fussy for our soils. Alas. I am a sucker and fell (hard!) for an on-line sale in late summer and, in a moment of weakness, I ordered… Oh, we probably don’t need details, but let’s just say the order came in three large boxes. On a Saturday. When the husband was home. (In my defense: They were my reward purchase for surviving The Summer of 2022 and 108 Degrees.) Raspberries and blueberries were added to the garden in the fall and all appear to be greening up nicely, though they are still quite small.

Crimson Giant raspberry, shown above, and Sunshine Blues blueberry, shown below. The blueberries got the royal treatment! Their own raised bed, in the semi-shade of a large crepe myrtle, and a truckful of their own acidic soil mix. To ensure good pollination, I planted several different varieties of blueberries and all appear to be doing well.

If you can’t beat them, join them, seems to hold true for gardeners… I decided as long as I was trying again to grow blueberries, I should also try a native viburnum. Last year, I discovered two incredible mail-order nurseries, the first being Almost Eden, located in neighboring Louisiana. They carry a great selection of edible and native plants and the plant quality and shipping are top-notch. I ordered two Viburnum nudum, aka wild raisin. Now I am not a fan of raisins so the common name scared me a bit, but I am wanting to grow a variety of nutrient-dense, edible plants and to extend my growing and harvesting time as much as possible. Both plants are greening up nicely, shown below.

Last spring, I also planted a half dozen different fig trees, several pomegranates, two pear trees and a persimmon. All have made it so far, but be sure to check back in three to five years for reports on harvests!

The second mail-order nursery I discovered last year was One Green World, out of Portland, Oregon. All orders have been outstanding and their selection of edible plants is mind-boggling. I was worried that the sea kale I ordered in the fall wasn’t established enough to make it through our Christmas Deep Freeze, but I spy with my little eye New Green Growth, shown below. Sea kale is a perennial green with edible roots, stems and leaves.

Fava bean seeds were sown in containers in the fall and the plants suffered a severe setback in our December freeze, even though they were covered with two layers of frost cloth. They are, thankfully, now recovered and blooming, shown below. Fava beans contain levodopa and have been studied as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. Alas. The amount of levodopa is not stable enough from plant to plant to ensure adequate dosing. Still, I am growing them as fava beans are a good source of vegan protein. I enjoy eating them raw or lightly steamed. The flowers to be quite fascinating, aren’t they?

Switching gears from edibles to flowers, as you can’t enjoy one without the other.

The quince is looking especially lovely this year. This is the first year the double scarlet quince, shown below, has put on quite a show.

I find quince take several years to reach their prime, but then they are just one of those old reliable shrubs that never let you down. Quince was one of the first shrubs I planted 28 years ago. I still have that one and it has been stunning since early January. I have, over the years, planted four more quince and have two more currently in my driveway nursery awaiting planting.

Hyacinth (above) and Muscari (below) are both spring blooming bulbs. It is best to shop for the bulbs in late summer or early fall, then plant in mid-winter. Both are perennial in North Texas, as are the daffodils first mentioned. They do need to be planted in an area that will stay dry throughout the year, as the bulbs will rot if planted in an area that holds water.

This particular muscari popped up next to a winecap. Or perhaps it was vice versa. Either way, they make a lovely combination. Winecap, the green scalloped plant shown above, is one of my favorite native wildflowers and I love seeing their rosettes spring up here and there around the garden. It looks to be an outstanding year for them, as I have several dozen that have sprouted up over the past month. Oh, how I love to watch green things growing!

O the green things growing, the green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of the green things growing!
I should like to live, whether I smile or grieve,
Just to watch the happy life of my green things growing. Poem by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

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