‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire’

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Inspecting the seedpans and seeing tiny rosebushlets and miniscule iris, I keep thinking of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem that says ‘Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. . .myself it speaks and spells, Crying What I do is me: for that I came.’ Tiny seedling roses, with two cotyledons and one true leaf, are ever so tinily bristly, red-stemmed and pinked-edged. Iris babies have the one smooth iris leaf, all of 1/2″ high; then another and at two or three leaves appear to be in the wrong end of the telescope. No doubt at all, they are here to be themselves and are getting down to it. Violets too have self-descriptive leaves as babies, and asparagus. Grass does too of course but new grass shoots don’t seem so dear. Dahurian Larch seedlings, a Russian Tamarack, are little green umbrellas without the cover, just the ribs, obviously conifers. Lilies on the other hand, monocots like grasses, make grassy shoots of one leaf only for the first year and they elbow themselves out of the soil in little green crooks that don’t look particularly lily like–until I see the leaves on the trout lilies that bloomed today: long, smooth, like floppy tulip leaves. The Checker lily (Fritillaria meleagris) leaves in the garden are skinnier and sort of snakey while the Crown Imperials (F. imperialis) (in full flower now that it is warm (hot): 70!) have the same silken texture but otherwise don’t resemble their cousins in the slightest.

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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