GARDENING IS A RITUAL THAT HAS anchored itself in my heart and keeps me going through the long cold winters here in Fort McMurray. Every autumn I prepare my garden for spring, making sure that everything has had enough water, trimming what needs to be trimmed, and protecting it with extra mulch or ground cover. It is a ritual run against the clock.
Last fall, I was ready and had done all the basic preparations before they arrived. I found great joy lovingly preparing the soil, remixing it with fresh compost, peat moss and sand so that it would drain well and have the nutrients that my bulbs enjoy. This was followed by a period of great anticipation and urgency as I waited, week after week with the soil ready for my bulbs to arrive by mail. The days were getting shorter, the weather cooler and finally with snow in the air they arrived. Wearing rubber gloves over top of wooly gloves so my hands would stay warm enough - I planted over 450 tulip bulbs and 100 crocuses in only two weeks. This last minute flurry of activity stretched the time that I usually spend covered in dirt by a whole exciting and delightful month.
I find winter to be a waiting period akin to pregnancy. In the fall I plant the bulbs and seeds from perennials. I plant them in fertile soil, feed them with compost or manure that is rich with nutrients, provide the water they need and cover them to keep them protected. When the earth finally freezes and winter hits cold and hard, it is all I can do to wait just as a mother does during those long months. Just as a she waits and counts the months making preparations for her baby, so do I. First counting months, then the weeks, and finally the days. As spring days begin to grow longer and the sun warmer, a sense of anticipation fills my heart and soul. It is all I can do to refrain from going outside and chipping ice away from those flower beds. I know that it is something that simply cannot be rushed. This is the way it is with mothers of babies getting ready to be born and it is the way with me, and my perennials.
As the days and weeks drift by, I can only imagine what those tulips will look like in full bloom. I wonder if they have survived the winter and if so, will they also survive the deer, who love to snack on their fresh new buds. I have ideas and back up ideas and all sorts of plans of how to prevent my babies (my tulips) from being eaten this year. It is all I can do as I sit and wait. You can bet that as soon as that snow melts I will be out there, making sure everything is tiptop and ready to go for when the ground thaws enough to allow for growth. I have burlap and cloth. I have skewers to push into the ground to deter the deer. It is my hope that the crocuses come up first and deter my herbaceous mammalian friends, because if that is the case, then my tulips stand a chance! As soon as those tulips are 3-4 inches tall, the deer no longer seem interested.
So my duty as a “mother” protecting her “babies” is to stand watch and wait until it is time and then be ready for a great flurry of activity. These tulips I am waiting for will bloom over the period of two months and be completely done by the time the rest of my garden requires attention. It will be glorious and wonderful and it will lift my heart and soul like nothing else!