Tag Archives: spring bulbs

Personal Seasons

White tulips losing their leaves.

The words pounding at me should be released through private journaling, so I will just plug in a few photos from yesterday. Chicago jumped 40 degrees in a blink and I am definitely not complaining, even if some of the tulips are keeling over. The unrelenting chill likely kept them going longer than usual anyway.

Seasons are measured in multiple ways. Astronomical, anchored to the sun. Meteorological, to months. There are benefits to widely used measures of time (see railroads) but I wonder if any places on earth have seasons that fall neatly into quarters.

Er, OK. I should stop right here because I know that the whole concept of a season is location and context specific. Those near the equator have a different dance with the sun than those closer to the pole. Industries have a range of rhythms. We have school years and fiscal years. The baseball season spans ten months, from pitchers and catchers reporting in February to the World Serious in November (too late IMO but no one is asking me).

I have eleven seasons of varying length. The spring bulbs carry me through the two worst ones, between mid-February and mid-May.

  • July 4-Labor Day: Summer, ie don’t need a jacket outside but do need a sweater for inside b/c so many people are inexplicably uncomfortable when it’s above 80 degrees, ie the most glorious time of the year.
  • September: Golden melancholy. Back to school. Still warm but days are shrinking.
  • October: Halloween displays and frantic gardening
Halloween spirits hanging from a fence in front of a building's garden,
October-December: all about the decorations.
  • November 1-Thanksgiving: Ugh now I have to put away the Halloween crap, is it too late for bulbs, where are my gloves, who’s hosting Thanksgiving, is it too early to start putting up lights . . .
  • Thanksgiving to Solstice: All about lights and feasts
  • Solstice to Dec 31: Family, gifts, reflection, belt loosening
  • Jan 1-MLK Day: Yay for Scrabble, fake fire place, cuddly dog and snow

Winter is awesome . . . for a little while. Photos (and shoveling) by Michael Burton

  • Late January to mid/late Feb: I should really take down the Christmas tree but I just want to cry under the covers.
  • Mid/late Feb-March 21: Oh! The first green shoots and snow drops! Now I have a reason to unglue myself from the radiator. In 2020, I spied one Jan 31. This year was the latest–March 6th.
  • Vernal equinox to Mother’s Day: Self aware, hackneyed grousing about Chicago’s pitiful excuse for spring tempered by daily garden pictures.
  • Mother’s Day to July 4th: Spring. Risk of frost is very low. Nights are still sometimes chilly (below 70) but days are long. We made it!

Wait a sec I did not mean to write all this. I was going to rage into my journal but I am glad I noodled with this instead. Nothing earthshattering here (and there are already plenty of memes about this topic) but distracting and relaxing at least.

Once the petals fall and the tree canopy above fills out, the parkway won’t be much to look but. . . it will be summer! Thank you snow drops, crocuses, lilies, daffodils, fritillaria, and tulips for bringing the cheer these last few months.

Week Three: Hard, Blank Slate

The good news: last week, contractors scooped up most of the gravel left over from the recent sewer work on Kimball Avenue. The bad news: they also scraped off the top layer of the parkway, leaving behind crusty, compacted soil and myriad plants in unknown condition.

I’ve been working the sunny corner of McLean and Kimball for a few years, planting mostly natives and spring bulbs, adding a layer of leaves each fall, and adding the little mulch my purse is willing to spare. Chicago’s notorious clay soil was slowly loosening up. Now I feel back to square one. Forget about tilling. This stuff needs a jackhammer!

2014-08-02 18.27.27

Tending public spaces can be a Sisyphean project. Last year, another section of parkway was dug up for water main work. The year before, the City planted a tree, thereby compromising my long term vision of a rustling spot of prairie.* And, it takes just a few greedy, meany fingers to pick or destroy the one and done blooms.**

The Penstemon was glorious last year, despite the shitty soil. I see new new growth. Just needs a dusting off.

It’s not like I don’t have enough work to do in our own back yard, or even the parkway in front of our house. Nor should I spend as much time as I do gardening in general. But I love being outside and talking to appreciative neighbors and passersby who often express interest in learning about the benefits of native plants. The garden adds color and texture to a busy, high visibility corner in an area dominated by parking. It is a sign-post, guiding us down Kimball and around the corner to our home.

The four Prairie Smokes did not thrive last year. Might do some spot soil TLC.
The four Prairie Smokes did not thrive last year. Maybe I should at least do some spot soil TLC.

The good news: the deed was done before much was coming up. I was going to take out the tall asters anyway, because they don’t look good next to the tree. I planned to pry off the groundcover of strawberries, because construction debris and heavy traffic is probably not the best growing medium for edibles. The Mystery Grass and Sedum near the street were untouched. Plenty of tulips are drilling though the rubble. Coneflowers are easy to replace. I’ve been meaning to transplant the Baptisia that is cramped and hidden in my back yard. It deserves a larger stage and audience. I mostly mourn the Rattlesnake Master, but maybe it will come back.

the witness

But sorry to say, I am not going to drop big bucks for a thick layer of compost and mulch. Who knows what the City has in plan for the future. Well, maayyybe if we get a nice tax return. . . .just don’t tell my husband.

So many possibilities!

*I am embarrassed that I am mad about that tree, a Sweetgum apparently, and have even considered cutting it down. But I won’t. It is a gift that will persist if we move (not any time soon), or I lose energy for gardening near it.

**I am also a little embarrassed about how territorial I got about the flowers, especially the Allium. Some were picked by kids for their moms (at least that’s what they said :), some by squirrels. Some were probably stepped on. It is the *public* way after all. My solution was to plant a whole bunch of bulbs in our back yard so I don’t cling to what grows out front.

The day after I put up this sign, I found an upended tulip on the ground in front of it. There won;t be a sign this year, and I won't stress about what happens.
The day after I put up this sign, I found an upended tulip on the ground in front of it. There won’t be a sign this year, and I won’t stress about what happens.