It appears that many flowers in our area open in May. May is germination. May is renewal. May is the first month of the year with intense sunlight. May is rapid growth. May is in full bloom.
May smells as good as it looks. By Mother’s Day, the scent of the lilac can be found in most every farm house yard in our area. A native of Persia, the lilac was brought to Europe in the sixteenth century. Early American colonists were so fond of its flower that just about every yard from Maine to Maryland has a light lavender or white variety. Whether straddling the root cellar entrance or holding up the hedgerow,this flower is as handsome as it is fragrant.
Have you noticed how beautiful the flowering dogwoods (Cornus Florida) are this spring? The flowering dogwood is a strong zone 6 native and can be found comfortably naturalizing the hillsides as close as northern Westchester County. As this tree migrates into our area, our cold winters are a bit harsher for this understory hardwood and generally its flowers are not as numerous as they are just to our south. This year tells another story. Our extremely warm winter and early spring has created one of the most beautiful dogwood displays in recent memory. The red flower variety looks good, the white flower looks better, and the pink dogwood looks the best of all. For some reason, the pink flowering dogwood looks particularly vibrant this spring.
Another eastern native putting on a beautiful show this spring is the eastern redbud (Cersis canadensis). The eastern redbud has small, bright purple-pink flowers running along the limbs and branches before the leaves emerge. Some redbuds took a hit during last October’s snowstorm, but the trees that were damaged can be pruned back into good form.
Before the tree canopy shades the forest floor, take a hike in the woods to enjoy the flowering bloodroot, trillium, columbine, woodland phlox, violets, jack-in-the-pulpit and chokeberry. The forest floor is wild this time of year.
March and April were dry, warm months so ticks are out in full force. When hiking, stay on the trail, wear light clothing and check one another thoroughly after the hike. If a tick is found under the skin, apply liquid soap to a cotton ball and set this on the tick area. After a minute, the tick will back out into the soap. It works every time.
Annuals and tender vegetables can be set out into the garden by Memorial Day. If a frost is forecasted after these tender plants are in the ground, wetting the foliage at sunset should be more than enough protection from temperatures a few degrees below freezing. If a hard frost is in the forecast, a covering may be necessary. Light plastic or a blanket is good. Prop it up off the ground with sticks if plants are six inches or higher.
The beautiful spring weather is here. Getting out in the garden and working the soil feels good. Working the warm, moist soil between our fingers, adding compost, mulching and weeding gives us a sense of satisfaction. Our relationship with the soil and plants coupled with the sun on our backs and listening to the sounds of nature is what it’s all about. Our kinship with nature and treating her with respect goes a long way in maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit. Keep it down and dirty.
Pete and the Natives