Words by Marjorie Rachlin
Photos by Marjorie Rachlin, Eric Kravitz and Kathy Kravitz
A lot of homebound people have turned to Mother Nature during this strange spring. The number of backyard birdwatchers has swelled. The Audubon Society reports an uptick in membership. Friends walking their neighborhood have looked up and called to tell me what a beautiful blue the sky is. The seed catalogs sold out as people decided to grow their own vegetables.
Mother Nature has been at my side, too. I have been working on my garden and visiting Rock Creek Park several times a week.
Spring is a crucial time for gardeners. My goal is to have color and interest in the garden through the summer and well into October. Early spring is the time to check on what survived, lament the dead, decide what to do next.
The up-and-down weather this year has been weird – March so-so, then a cold April with eight inches of rain (too much), and a chilly May.
Still my planning last fall paid off. At the end of April the backyard had pink tulips with a blue field of forget-me-nots behind them.
The red honeysuckle on the fence bloomed lavishly after the warm winter. An early hummingbird showed up to sip its nectar. It was too flighty for me to get a photo.
It’s taken a long time for the soil to warm up, with a unseasonably chilly May. My soil thermometer would not budge beyond 59 degrees early in the month, and many vegetable plants and flower seeds do better when it reads 70 or more. I finally put my tomato plants out, and now, at 68 degrees on the thermometer, can set out cucumbers and sow sensitive flower seeds like zinnias and Mexican cosmos.
Rock Creek Park, our local Eden
This year, I promised myself I would see spring in and not miss a thing in the park. First I enjoyed the early wildflowers, then I watched to see the first trees leaf out. I love the park best when it has that lacy green look in the midst of bare branches nearby.
As more trees leafed, the woods developed a painter’s variety of shades – deep green, chartreuse, ochre and more – an artist’s palate.
Then come the oaks – the photo above shows a street oak covered with a dress of yellow pollen catkins – no leaves yet.
Moving into summer
Right now the trees are fully leafed out – still looking fresh and new. It’s a great time to drive through Rock Creek Park and see the Impressionist variety of color and texture.
On the edges of the woods, the honey locusts have begun to bloom – big white blossoms with a lovely scent.
The park has several “buttercup lawns.” Buttercups are often called a weed, but I admire the way they persist even when the National Park Service mows the grass.
Less common in the park is our native pink azalea. Our yard azaleas trace their ancestry to Asia, but this native likes shade and is usually found in the woods.
This wild rose thrives in sunny spots are the edge of the fields. It’s thorny and invasive, but lovely to see.
June is coming
Will it be hot? Pleasant? Hopefully my garden will blossom in many colors. Meadows in Rock Creek will green up and “weeds” will bloom. Mother Nature keeps things changing.
The wet spring has been bad for butterflies and bees, but we should begin to see yellow swallowtails and orange sulphurs. Many birds (cardinals, robins, wrens) will have fledged their first batch of nestlings. We will see baby birds sitting on a branch and begging Mama for food.
Let’s hope people keep distancing, and Mother Nature stays at our side.