May in the Garden with Second Bloom
Updated: May 3
by Marsha Ackerman
I had to take a road trip recently and I was feeling pretty anxious before I left. My brain was overwhelmed with all of the stressors of my life. Was I running my business as it should be? Were my children getting enough of my time and energy? Was I still attractive (birthday this month...ugh)? Would Celia poop out the rocks she ate on our walk that morning? ...get the picture?
I decided to listen to a book by humorist Wendi Aarons, who is best known for a letter she wrote to the Always maxi pad company in 2007 in response to their ridiculous 'Have a Happy Period' campaign. I enjoy her partially because she's a bit off-color yet extremely thoughtful.
In that moment I needed someone to help me laugh at my rapid approach toward middle age and the pressures that come along with the lives we live. About an hour into the book, like a gift from 'dear eight-pound, six-ounce tiny baby Jesus', she began speaking directly to me! We had both moved around a great deal in life, both felt a desperate need to belong, and both been told on too many occasions to "Bloom where you are planted". Years ago, I had a very cutting opera director use that expression to not-so-gently tell me that in his (self-inflated omnipotent) opinion, I did not have a tough enough skin to make it in the big leagues. I am clearly not still angry about it! Wendi said she had decided the whole concept of blooming where you are planted was a crock and she would 'rip up her f**ing roots and move to another damn garden'!
Not only do I love the visuals on this, but I realized that it is exactly what I have been doing in the last ten years by leaving the world of opera and creating my own place of belonging amongst the
plants and the people who love them. When you undergo a major transplant like this, some parts of you live, some parts of you die, but overall, you are left a more tenacious person who lives in more fertile soil. The garden is a place to be nothing more and nothing less than exactly who you are. This month, spread your roots and enjoy the freedom of emotional nudity that is the gift of the garden.
What to do this month in the garden:
Celebrate World Naked Gardening Day on May 6th! I promise I'm not making this up!
Prune spring shrubs, such as forsythia, after flowering to keep them compact. Don't be afraid to cut them back by up to 1/3 of the plant if they are overgrown. They will have the whole summer to produce new growth for a spectacular bloom next year.
Harden off tender plants raised indoors or in your greenhouse but bring them back in at night to protect from late frosts.
Tie in the new shoots of climbing plants, including clematis, wisteria and honeysuckle, to their supports.
Apply liquid feed to tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs to encourage a good display next year. Continue deadheading spring bulbs so they don't waste energy setting seed.
Plant out almost anything after May 15th!!! (This is the last frost date for CT.) I know it is tempting, but planting before this can be risky.
Protect the new shoots of hostas, delphiniums, lupins and other vulnerable plants from slugs and snails.
Sow batches of salad leaves, spinach, kale and other cool weather crops every few weeks to provide continuous pickings.
Something to read:
The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
Since its original publication in 1998, gardeners have found The Well-Tended Perennial Garden to be one of the most useful and frequently consulted books in their gardening libraries. Since this blog is for old and new gardeners alike, I would be remiss not to highlight it here. The cover has changed with the newest edition, the information has been updated, and the content is as valuable as ever.
Something to listen to:
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no. 2
After a disastrous 1897 premiere of his First Symphony, Rachmaninoff suffered a psychological breakdown that prevented him from composing for three years. Finally in 1901, his second piano concerto was completed and debuted. He dedicated the piece to the neurologist who helped treat his depression (Nikolai Dahl). It established Rachmaninoff's fame as a concerto composer and is one of his most enduringly popular pieces. Following the 1917 October Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family escaped Russia, never to return, and emigrated to the United States.
The first time I made love to this piece of music was in graduate school and I have never been the same since. I highly recommend you do the same.
With love, Celia & Marsha