In the Garden:
Nothing warms winter's cold heart like daffodils popping through the mulch.
Signs of Early Spring
Just give me one week of warm days, and I'm ready. A few springlike nights, and I'm balmy with open windows and afternoons spent tidying up the garden. I'm out there, and the signs are everywhere: paperwhites are blooming, daffodils not far behind, and the earliest irises are showing stalks. What I don't cut back, I uncover, lifting the mulch to see what's there. Daylilies poke their noses through now, and I'm ready to feed them and the roses in a week or so.
Spireas in Bloom
Right now, the most docile of the spireas, 'Baby's Breath' fills the garden with a twiggy profusion of teeny white flowers. They may bloom nearly year round, but they always put on quite a show in February. When the new leaves show chartreuse, fertilize once with a flowering-shrub formula.
Soon after, another spirea takes over - the bridal wreath spirea (Spirea prunifolia). The classic southern hedgerow of arching Formosa azaleas and bridal wreath spirea always reminds me of old-fashioned "Southern Belles" with their antebellum dresses all poofed out with petticoats. Spireas 'Anthony Waterer' and 'Lime Mound' put on an equally fine show a little later.
Yellow Carolina jasmine vine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and Drummond's red maple (Acer rubrum 'Drummond') trees bring vibrant color to late winter. You may have to look up to see them. The 'Drummond' maple blooms, and leaves come out red from huge, upright trees known as the "swamp's best." Carolina jasmine runs wild in rural acreage, so you can see it among the leafless trees. Both make good garden plants if you have lots of space to let them roam.
Don't listen to any of the experts' advice about daffodils. I've personally and professionally witnessed violation of all the rules.
The first myth is don't move them when they're in bud or bloom. If the bulldozer awaits at an old homesite, dig up the daffys, pick the flowers for your table, trim the leaves back about one third, and replant them immediately. They'll survive to flower again.
The second myth is don't mow the leaves down until midsummer. When the leaves of my daffodils look ratty, or keep me from seeing another flower, they're history, and my plants still thrive.
Final myth: fertilize every year in the fall. That's fine, but my daffodils grow among everything from lawngrass to perennials and get as much food as their neighbors to no ill effect.
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