May 3, 2011
by April Daley
Mother Nature sure did give us a lot to do this winter. Between shoveling snow, driving through snow, scheduling around snowstorms, worrying over ice dams, and watching, almost helplessly, the battering and burying of trees and shrubs, there was hardly time to think about the happenings in Bressingham garden.
This is after all a garden designed to hold interest through all four seasons. I tried my best to visit the garden about every two weeks. I had hopes of taking pictures. The garden holds an abundance of trees that sometimes get overlooked when perennials are all a-bloom. Shrubs and trees that have great winter color and form stand out against the barren landscape, especially with a draping of snow as background. Three varieties of River Birch, Dragon Eye pine, Umbrella pine, and contorted pine can all take solace in winter as their opportunity to shine.
This winter, however, did not offer much opportunity to view any plants. A visit in January was a disappointment. With 4-5 feet of snow on the ground the garden was not even accessible. My photos show a nearly barren landscape with what looks like miniature trees poking up through the snow. Those colorful dogwoods are nowhere to be seen. A skirting of the garden edges was about as close as I could get.
February wasn’t much better. There was still plenty of snow on the ground. I did wade out among the beds, searching for dogwoods. A brief glimpse was all I could manage.
March also didn’t seem too promising. This is the month when Witch Hazel blooms. The ‘Arnolds Promise” in Bressingham is one of the showiest cultivars out there. It was my hope to actually start working in the garden during this month. An acre of perennials, many left standing to feed the birds and offer some late season interest, means a lot of spring cleanup. However, among snow still covering the ground, flower show madness, and cold temperatures not combining well with a bout of bronchitis March did not pan out as hoped. April seemed to fly by as schedules and commitments ran into each other.
And so it is that today is May 3rd and it is my first full day in the Bressingham Garden. Shame on you if you don’t know what a beautiful day it was. It was breezy and slightly cloudy this morning, but clouds soon gave way to a warm sun in clear blue sky. By mid-afternoon it was warm enough to be hot and reminiscent of many day of last summer in the garden. Mockingbirds, woodpeckers and song sparrows sang gloriously of Mother Natures joy.
Paul Miskovsky, the garden trustee, and David Fiske, the gardens curator, each took a turn around the garden and discussed priorities. Plans were made to clean, weed (as if that needed to be planned), prune, move, divide, thin, pull etc. etc. Previous discussions of mulch (oh how I have missed it), irrigation, and mowing resurfaced.
And then the real work began. A crew of five Master Gardeners ranging from students in the current class, to interns and one certified MG joined me. Three full truck beds of dead plant material were removed and re-homed in the ever-expanding MHS Compost Mountains. Though cleaning was our main goal today, it is impossible for gardeners to ignore weeds. Special attention is paid to those weeds attempting to bloom and spread their insidious progeny.
Slowly, bed-by-bed, the new growth of spring perennials emerged from the cloud of plants gone by. Just as slowly gardener followed gardener in the salutary wave as they reached their limit either in time or stamina and passed on to the rest of their day. All in all, there is just one bed left to clear. This was a monumental task achieved in short time, but with great effort.
It was with a high level of satisfaction that I walked through the garden alone at the end of the day. Taking notes, removing tools and setting the stage for tomorrow…and so…. we begin again.