Michigan Native Plants

  (SAGINAW, Michigan)
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The Winter that Wasn't!




It is already the end of March & I’m posting for the first time? I beg no pardon since this ‘Winter That Wasn’t' followed by this spring that skipped a month has left us bone-tired & shaking our heads.

Lynn & I have a contest each fall: me & the internet's long-range forecast –vs- her “listening” to her plants. She has been scary-good for five years straight, accurately forecasting past years cold, heavier snowfall & spring wetness. But fifty years & her plants are still teaching . . . . .

As we potted stock & prepped beds last fall the plants warned her of a hard winter. Their corms & bases were stouter; the root structure compact. Cooperative fall weather allowed us the luxury to perfectly protect our propagation beds & fall-potted stock. A good thing considering this ‘Winter that Wasn’t’ proved harsher than the miserable cold & long winter she foresaw. But evidently the plants weren’t talking or Lynn wasn’t listening because none of them know where April went . . . . .

Multiple freeze / thaw cycles & lack of snow cover are a death sentence to perennials. Roots are broken by this constant heaving; crowns left exposed to the next cycle of cold. But our propagation beds & sanded-in potted stock were impervious to these cycles. As in the woods, a 4” layer of chipped leaves provided a natural blanket to keep the ground frozen & fill as it moved & cracked. And then March arrived . . . . .

Saginaw’s mid-March high temperatures were obscene — twelve days total of +70o temperatures including nine consecutive days that broke 100 year-old records. The Hepatica bloom (our benchmark of spring) occurred on March 12th — shattering the March 29th earliest historical bloom. And the strangest thing about 2012 is the absence of the bloom progression.

In Michigan’s woods, Hepatica is first followed by Bloodroot & Twinleaf & Spring Beauty & Dutchman’s Breeches, the emergence of Trout Lily, Trillium & Bellwort, and then the remainder of the woodland wildflowers. But everything is in a confused race this year! Many of our Tennessee Trillium cuneatum (the image presently on our LocalHarvest listing) showed color on March 20th. And the native trees are just as perplexed. The Serviceberry, as always, was the first to bloom (a month early) but the Hop Hornbeam has catkins, the Eastern Redbud has random blossoms on its still bare branches, the White Dogwood blooms are coloring & the Larch has happily joined this ‘greening’!

Did I mention were tired? Where did April go, the month we leisurely prep for state inspection & May sales? As Lynn says: “My favorite month — I don’t have to shovel snow, I don’t have to cut the grass & the mosquitoes aren’t out!” We both are still working & prepping stock in any off time. Today finds me searching for April venues to sell our stock & attempting to reschedule our state inspection. By the time May arrives & the early Farmer’s Markets open, our spring ephemerals will be post-bloom. Her plants are drop-dead gorgeous, dressing for a party but with no place to go.

I can’t wait for May to watch her sales pitch. I had a dream last night, a nightmare (I think?) but you’re not supposed to wake up laughing from a nightmare:

[Lynn, extending both arms out offering a nursery container to a Customer]

“Buy this pot of dirt. It’s going to look real pretty next year!”

TimB

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