Winter is here, and in the backwards Persephone myth in which we live, the earth has sprung back to life. This is the time of year when things grow green, naturally, and unbidden, wherever there’s a bare patch of earth and sometimes where there isn’t. The storms we had in midwinter have soaked the ground and prepared it for the sunshine and mild temps to explode each dormant seed to life. Our garden became a floodplain, and then a jungle. When the snow thaws and spring emerges for the rest of the country, our land will begin to dry and anything not supported by the careful watering of human hands will die. Only the hardy yellow and brown weed-grasses will survive.
There is lots to do outside this time of year, and though I prefer to be outside only when the rain stops, the kids don’t agree. But we’ve had a month of really spectacular spring whether (a break in the storms by all accounts) and have fully enjoyed it by playing outside as much as possible. By the time June hits, it will become extremely unpleasant outside, and July and August will be unbearable. But now it is a paradise, and Isobel is excitedly discovering her favorite winter-spring plants all over again. Miner’s lettuce, her personal favorite, has been particularly abundant, probably due to all the rain. We are seeing nettles and little heart-festooned shoots of Shepard’s purse everywhere.
On wet, foggy days the yard with its lush green grasses and plants looks like an underwater garden, a seabed fit for a mermaid to hang her jewels.
Right after Christmas we saw an explosion of sprouted seeds that were planted last year. If you remember, I started my garden in May, which was much too late. It was too hot and too dry and only seeds that were planted much earlier in the year managed to germinate. Even though I planted many hardy, warm-weather plants, such as sunflowers, marigolds, and native California poppies, they lay inactive in their sandy beds. Promptly after Christmas they sprouted in earnest, and I had lovely lace-leafed poppy plants everywhere, and sunny marigold faces bloomed at us from our patio. We even had a profusion of sunflower sprouts all around our archery targets, just as we’d wanted last year. Unfortunately, my Dad, who volunteered to tame our suburban jungle, was not very discerning, and pulled those plants up. Our yard looks very tidy now, and we certainly appreciate all his hard work. It’s good therapy for him, too, and though I don’t want to go into it in detail, his health is in serious decline, and I’m grateful for him to spend this time with us. Besides, we weren’t even close to being done with planting poppies yet.
Because I bought a fourth of a pound of California poppy seeds in bulk online.
We tried putting in an actual lawn in our yard twice, mostly for the kids’ sake, but unbeknownst to us we had sprinkler issues, so both times due to the faulty sprinklers and intense dry heat of summer, the lawn failed. This was before the drought, and now it seems immoral to keep trying. In summer our backyard is mostly dry scrub land. So I decided, since growing a garden of poppies is my thing, why not just coat our whole lawn area with poppy seeds? I found a mix at Eden that was different colors of California poppy, my favorite and ordered in bulk. (A fourth of a pound might not seem like a lot, but when each seed is tiny and weightless, it is a substantial amount.) They sent me a packet of zinnias with my order, and my Mom gave me a package of mixed wildflower seeds, so one weekend Isobel and I went to town and planted them all, including some poppy seeds from my garden that I saved from last year and the remaining pumpkin and butter nut squash seeds we’d squirreled away from previous years. I also found some carrot and sunflower seeds that I meant to get planted but instead languished in a desk drawer. I’m not sure what will come up, but it will be interesting. I am very much looking forward to an explosion of poppies.
We had some days of frost and fog but usually the sun came out eventually on those days, leaving drops of dew or melted frost shimmering on leaves and petals.
The sun has been gentle and lights up the green everywhere as if the plants are gilded with gold.
We are probably having the kids’ birthday party at our house, so it’s really nice to have my Dad’s help with the yard.
Isobel insists on wearing her “sun hat” when she is outside, which is what she is now calling her safari hat. She does this because I have to wear one in the summer, as I don’t own any prescription sunglasses, and it is ungodly bright outside.
Our roses and sidewalk container gardens are happy as ever. My parents really help with the heavy lifting for the roses, and I tend to all things potted.
We’ve had such abysmal luck with tomatoes I think I’m just going to grow different varieties of cherry tomatoes and leave it with that. Cherry tomatoes seem to like us.
It is a really exciting time of year.