Thereís a woman named Colleen Plimpton, a Connecticut gardener, who had this casual advice for Western New York gardeners last year: Get out those digital cameras and photograph the progress of your plantings so as to enjoy and learn more.
Plimpton said that on March 1, a moment of time when I was deep in the Midwest and nowhere near this area. Fast forward a year later and Iím now a resident of Western New York. Itís May 14, to be exact, two months past March 1.
I read Plimptonís article with enthusiasm and hope. Iím an amateur gardener, a novice in all things organic. Still, when I move to a new area I always plant something where Iím living as a kind of handshake, a gesture of welcome.
Moving to Western New York was no different. Three weeks ago, I got in line at a local greenhouse and purchased some sunflowers, wildflowers and other assorted specimens, a kind of congratulatory gesture for having survived by first winter in these parts. People were everywhere, jamming the mulch and topsoil aisles.
I went home, pulled on some gloves and planted the flowers. The sun, a stranger in these parts so early in the summer season, warmed my back and legs. I was sweating and it wasnít even June yet.
When I visited my sister in Springville, I told her that I put some flowers in. She smiled and shook her head.
ìI gave up on planting flowers here a long time ago,î she said.
ìAw, itíll be fine.î
Last Sunday night, I came out of work to find my car dusted with snow. I had witnessed the logic-defying moment earlier that day when I saw my breath at 9 a.m., but snow 10 hours later was an affirmation that weather patterns, especially pleasant ones, are not to be trusted in Western New York. I immediately cast a prayer for my poor dead flowers into the heavens, went home and turned on the heat.
As it turns out, I didnít have to bemoan the sudden cold weather. Had I done my research correctly, I would have known that I could have purchased some mulch and layered it liberally upon my raised bed. I got that bit of information from the website, www.buffalo-niagaragardening.com, a website devoted to all matters associated with gardening and planting in weather-crazy Western New York.
The following are some tips I think you could benefit from if youíre a gardener living in a place where it snows on Motherís Day.
* Spend the first few days of warm weather cleaning up your yard and garden instead of planting and pruning.
* For next year, consider taking pine branches from leftover Christmas trees and covering those areas where the most sensitive flowers grow ó like perennial flowers and rosemary plants. This will help with temperature fluctuations.
* Test your soil for workability by taking a few big chunks out of it. If itís wet and soggy then itís not ready; if you can use a garden claw to break it apart, itís ready. But be careful not to remove mulch from the prior season, for there is still good cover there and, believe it or not, some nutrients.
* Cut back stems of black-eyed Susans, ornamental grasses or succulents all the way down to encourage growth. Most people wait until June to do this, but such plants are hardier than you think.
Most interesting is the fact that many gardeners and horticulturists believe that Western New York is undergoing a weather change precipitated by global warming. If thatís true, then planters will need to re-evaluate what plants and bushes they plant to withstand the traditional and modern condition.
Is there a flower that can withstand snow in June, or should I just hang my head in shame for even thinking such a thing?
(You can contact Jeff Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.)