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  • Writer's pictureHeather Thomas

The Season Begins: April, 2023

Part one of a three-part recap of the 2023 gardening season at Cape Cottage Garden

April at Cape Cottage Garden is a joyful tribute to spring

Gardening is both a craft - and an act of hope - as we expose our work to the will of nature. The 2023 season, which began in April, was filled with moments of great beauty punctuated by nail-biting moments of searing heat that shortened the bloom windows of some of the garden's signature April blooms such as tulips. More than once, as I worked to combat the severe, unseasonable early heat (then later, the rain) that threatened tender blooms, I was reminded that nature rules over our gardens in a capricious way, without regard to human hopes.

Despite some of the high-wire acts I found myself engaged in to save my tulips from an early demise (you are going to laugh at some of the crazy, behind-the-scenes pictures below), it was also a year filled with many deeply rewarding moments. I was able to add a series of finishing touches to the garden that created little vignettes of beauty - a new container here, a new plant there, a new garden bench providing a needed place to sit, and so on. These little touches had an outsized effect on the garden. One of my favorite April projects was creating a small allée of terra-cotta pots filled with 'Pink Diamond' hydrangeas in tree form that transformed a pathway from bare to beautiful. I also welcomed about 50 visitors to the April garden via the Garden Conservancy's 'Open Days' tour.
Below are some of my favorite scenes from April. Stay tuned for post two in this three-part blog series. This next post will share highlights from May, June, and July.

Tulips in the spring garden
Tulips and daffodils carpet the East Garden beds, end-to end
In April, the garden featured upwards of 5,000 tulip bulbs, a new high. Of those, 2,500 of them were new bulbs I'd planted the fall before. They were joined by a good percentage of the 3,400 tulips I'd planted two falls ago (to learn how I planted them, see my prior blog post here). The older generation of tulips had such a high return rate largely because they finally got the bone-dry summer conditions they love on account of our significant drought in 2022. It was a little reminder that tough conditions can sometimes create pleasant upsides.

Azaleas and tulips in the spring garden

Scenes of April beauty in the garden

The tulips close up

A spring wonderland

Tulips encircle the entire garden

An April Project: Before and After

Terra-cotta pots helped transform this spot from bare (left - 2021) to beautiful (right - 2023).

Now that you have seen the beauty, let me take you behind the scenes into my attempts to preserve these short-lived blooms from the four consecutive days of hot, windy, 85 degree conditions that arrived the week of April 10th, which was exactly the wrong time. After all, these are spring plants who are happiest when the temperatures hover around a mild 40 to 50 degrees.

If only you could have witnessed the comedy of seeing me wrangle various shade cloths which broke free and wanted to do nothing but flap in the 15 mile per hour winds that descended on the garden, instead of do the job I wanted them to do - namely, to shade the delicate, emerging blooms from temperatures which got close to 90 degrees - in mid April!

Shade cloths I strung up to shade the delicate bulbs from unseasonable, 85 degree+ April heat

The shade cloths only partially worked, which meant that I prematurely lost many of the first flush of blooms to the heat (they collapsed after just three days instead of the usual ten). However, if you've been following me, you'll know that I always try to choreograph waves of continuous color, so I had plenty of May-blooming bulbs waiting in the wings. That meant that luckily, the second wave of color performed as usual. Seeing as it's fall again as I write this, I'm currently preparing to plant next spring's tulip display. On account of a fungal disease - tulip fire - which began to affect the bulbs starting two years ago and again last year, I'm planning a much more muted display for 2024 and have only purchased 600 bulbs this year (the restraint that took!).

As the recommended remedy is to let your soil rest for three years to expel the virus, I'll be planting my tulip bulbs in containers only for the next few years instead of in the soil. I'll be using these off-years to create beauty with other spring plants such as muscari, daffodils and pansies. Adaptability is a good quality to have as a gardener so I've made my peace with this decision! Plus, if I start to miss my April Monet garden, I can always look back on many years of tulip blooms that I've photographed in the garden. To explore photos from the past, you can visit the "Spring Tour "on my website here. To see the garden in May, June and July, you can continue to this page.
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1 commento

07 apr

Greetings from Indiana! Your gardens are lovely !! I am wondering when you plant all the spring bulbs how to prevent from digging them up when you what to dig the ground for other plantings ??

Thanks so much


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