Mother knows best: Mother Nature has her way with our gardens

Cornelian cherry and flowering plum don’t typically bloom at the same time. But they are right now.

As we come to the end of March, I often find myself reviewing what has happened in the first quarter of the season.

I’m not sure yet if it will have some bearing on the rest of the year, or if it is just a cleansing process for me as I move into the heart of the gardening calendar. It is important to process what has occurred in these past three months because there are actions we need to take as a result of what Mother Nature has thrown at us.

But it is also important to keep things in perspective. I have come to learn that despite all the anomalies we go through every year — weather extremes, dreadfully endless rainy weekends, planting disasters and successes — life goes on.

This is the first time in my garden that my Cornelian cherry is blooming concurrently with my neighbor’s flowering plum. It seems weird to see this combination and, I suppose, it could even feel a bit unsettling. Is this the result of climate change or just a screw up on Mother Nature’s part?

Clearly, the weather is a factor as it continues to become more erratic all over the world with minus 65 degree winters in the Midwest to record flooding in the South to even a tornado in our state. Thankfully, we are somewhat buffered from these extremes, but we will continue to see instability in our weather as we move forward. It’s a reminder not to get too complacent.

Speaking of late bloomers (like the aforementioned Cornelian cherry), my winter daphne is still perfuming my garden with its incredible and unmatched fragrance. This would never be happening if it weren’t for the protracted cold spell we had back in February and early March.

As a side note, daphnes are hard to get established and even I have killed my fair share of them over the years. Be sure to give them good drainage and some afternoon shade. And expect to fail a few times before you succeed.

I think the jury is finally in on my wife’s mophead hydrangeas. The “Endless Summer” and “Merritt’s Beauty” seem to be leafing out uniformly, but the “Ayesha” is toast. This is truly sad as “Ayesha” has very special flowers that are cupped much like a French lilac — and there will be none this year because it only blooms on last year’s wood.

If I had thrown a frost blanket over it during those 10 days of subfreezing weather (which I did the previous winter) I might be looking at a different scenario. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, alas, all is not lost for this shrub. “Ayesha” is way too big for where it is planted, and so this will be my year to work some magic with my pruners. I can already envision what it is going to look like come the end of summer.

It is often said that “change is the only constant” and it could not be more true than in the garden. While many of us find change unsettling, it is important to remember that it also brings new opportunities. It would appear that, weather-wise, we are now caught up and therefore ready to move full speed ahead with our gardening chores.

Go grab your rake and hoe, sharpen the lawn mower blade, prepare the flower and veggie beds and — above all — don’t let the soon-to-be April showers get you down. Remember, they bring May flowers.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Teachable topics

Attend two free classes next weekend — one on bonsai for beginners is 10 a.m. April 6 and another on talking tools with The Whisling Gardener is 11 a.m. April 7 — at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit

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