Who isn’t ready to see spring flowers? I appreciated Susan’s enthusiastic survey of April blooms in Capitol Region public gardens. I’m also eagerly awaiting my own bulb display (shown here from previous springs), which I put together in my front garden and in twelve big containers. I go with erythronium, species tulips, greigii tulips (love that foliage), big hybrid tulips (in containers and as annuals in selected beds) and a few patches of miniature daffodils. A cherry tree blooms right on time with the tulips.
Not much is out yet: just snowdrops and a few aconites, but the tulips are on their way. No deer in my urban area. Yet.
There is some pushback on spring bulbs, though. Upon checking my local gardening group on Facebook yesterday, I saw a link to a NYTimes article that appeared March 28. Apparently nonnative plants have “skewed our experience of spring.” After that depressing statement in the header, author Margaret Renkl, a Nashville-based writer, goes on to list all the Asian and European places our beloved bulbs come from. You all know this, so I won’t go into detail; also, Renkl is not telling anyone to pull out their daffodils. She does say that, in addition to the nonnative cherry, crabapple, and other intruders she has on her property, she’s put in pawpaws, red mulberries, Eastern red cedars, American hollies, redbuds, native dogwoods and, serviceberry trees. She must have a lot more room than me.
It’s actually a reasonable op-ed, aside from the header, and—as an editor—I know where that came from. Also, after watching Doug Tallamy’s eloquent—and convincing—presentation last week, I see the urgency, given the treated lawns that still dominate much of suburbia. What I’ve also noticed is the increasing willingness of beginning gardeners to include more native plants. In our Facebook group, which is getting toward 5k members, I notice “veggies” and “planting for pollinators” as top reasons for wanting to join the group. There are a few all-native proselytizers in the group, but, as an admin, I can ask them to tone it down—or simply delete comments that refer to “invasive” plants that are not on the state’s official invasive list. (Helpfully, it is not a very long list.)
This debate runs across a long and varied spectrum now. There are those who are completely unaware and still consider lawn maintenance gardening, those who are gradually transforming their gardens into more productive spaces (native or not), those excited about natives and adding them when possible, those very focused on pollinators but not exclusively native, and the strict all-native sorts. There aren’t that many of those, because, just as Renkl admits in her op-ed, we all have cherished plants that came from mom’s garden or that we planted in nostalgic remembrance. And then there are spring bulbs. What would we do without them?
I have two final notes here. One is that Ranter Marianne Willburn has an article in the latest issue of American Gardener titled “In Defensive of Inclusive Biodiversity,” which goes into much greater detail on many of these points. Do try to get a copy. It is not online.
Second, it’s Ranter and GardenRant cofounder Susan Harris’s birthday. Happy birthday, Susan!