Open Thread: Sunday Morning Garden Chat

Our lilacs are blooming. This is wonderful, because yay! LILACS!… but then again, in this area the lilacs are supposed to bloom around Mother’s Day. The daffodils are still going strong, and the earliest irises are just blooming. I mean, it’s nice that the creeping phlox is color-coordinating, but I never expected to have the phlox and the lilacs blooming at the same time.

Also, when the lilacs are blooming, I not only need to be outside, I want to be outside, and the godsdamned tree pollen is doing its best to kill me. Anyone who suspected that the allergy season was starting earlier, lasting longer, and hitting harder, your overactive histamines do not lie:

… According to recent studies, pollen is indeed making it into the air earlier, with more intensity, and sticking around for a longer period of time.

“There is data showing that pollen is not only more prevalent as a result of the effects of carbon dioxide and greenhouse exposure, but that the pollen proteins are more potent,” said Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, an allergist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

In a study published last year, Agriculture Department researchers found that at certain latitudes, especially north of 44 degrees, the pollen seasons were up to a month longer than usual. In Wisconsin, for example, ragweed was in the air two weeks longer in 2009 than it was in 1995.

Other studies, including a recent one at Harvard, have predicted that pollen will continue to increase with rising temperatures. And some scientists suspect a link to the global rise in asthma — a condition that can be triggered by pollen.

Apart from pumping up the bottom line for manufacturers of both prescription and OTC allergy relief/alleviation products, what’s going on in your gardens right now?

62 replies
  1. 1
    RossInDetroit says:

    We’re extremely fortunate that we’re not allergic to conifer pollen as many people are. The house is surrounded by huge spruce trees and this time of year we have to sweep the pollen off of our windshields in the morning.
    This is the earliest I ever recall the morel mushrooms coming up in the yard. Not as many as last year but several weeks earlier.
    This spring I’m definitely getting serious about the junk mulberry trees taking over the fences. There’s a shiny new chainsaw hanging in the shed…

  2. 2
    joel hanes says:

    morel mushrooms coming up in the yard

    serious envy.

    a grocery bag of morels and a weekend …

    I’ve never had morel tempura,
    but if it exists, I want.

  3. 3
    Raven says:

    It’s jammin here! The roses are hitting their stride and when I get my news dslr camera Monday I’ll post pics. My 8,000 sq ft “lawn” addition is going well but the water bill is out of control since we have a “tiered” system and we are well into the highest tier.

  4. 4
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    South Central Indiana, Bloomington, thanks to the heat wave several weeks ago, has been experience the worst pollen and allergy levels on records.

    Many trees and plants bloomed too early. I noted the redbud trees in full bloom April 17th. I checked my digital photo archive. They were in that state of bloom last year on May 15th.

    My fruit trees bloomed. The most mature and productive, the non-dwarf Bartlett pear, was covered with blossoms, and started setting fruit a month early. Since the heat wave, we have had at least three or four hard frosts. So the majority of the immature pears are shriveled, black, and dead. Last year I picked around 65 pears of that tree, its second year of production. I will be lucky to get a dozen pairs this year.

    My 2,000 square foot vegetable garden was plowed and prepared over five weeks ago. Cold weather crops were planted in the middle of the heat wave. Peas are sprouting, cabbages, broccoli, and a bunch of different greens and lettuces sprouting, are starting to take good root where I planted from sets, not seed.

    My strawberry bed, 12 x 8 feet, is in its third year, weeded, fertilized, and starting to produce the first strawberries this weekend.

    I am debating whether to go ahead and plant tomatoes this coming week, which would be three weeks ahead of average last frost. I got away with it last year, but after the heat wave, we have had two weeks of seasonably cool weather, with lows into the upper thirties several times even after the frosts stopped. I suppose I can plant and cover if a frost is predicted.

    I am starting okra and other warm weather seeds in two cold frames I had purchased, and finally assembled and set up at the base of the deck on the yard facing SE. I had meant to start them weeks ago, and have been debating just buying plants for everything but the okra anyway, at this point, I was so late in setting up the frames.

    Retirement has the benefit that I can work in the garden a few hours every day and keep the weeds under control, I am discovering, plus get the benefits of back breaking manual labor.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    Google is celebrating earth day. I plan on celebrating the day by cleaning up all the yard waste that I created yesterday. fun times!

  6. 6
    Keith G says:

    Mid April is alwasy time to reflect on the best poem by our greatest poet.

    When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
    And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
    I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
    Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
    Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
    And thought of him I love.

    in toto

  7. 7
    JoyfulA says:

    I had a “cold” or something for 2 weeks. Figuring I was entering pneumonia territory, I was about to make a doctor’s appointment for x-rays and antibiotics when I noticed that my vital signs had not changed. I was not getting worse; the sneezing, coughing, congestion, and bleary eyes just stayed. It dawned on me that this was what other people always complained about as seasonal allergies or hayfever. Now I hear my father has it, too, for the first time in his 90 years.

    I have a lot of trees of all sorts around me and seldom go outside; my father doesn’t have many trees nearby but did spend a day mowing his lawn.

  8. 8
    Phylllis says:

    I did an array of petunias along the front of the house yesterday. They were a might beat up by the rain that came through last night, but at least they didn’t wash away. I need about five more plants to finish out along that part.

    I’m still seriously considering doing a couple tomato plants in a container. It’s about 3 weeks or so past the recommended planting time, but we keep getting these cool fronts that are keeping the night time temps low enough for the plants to set fruit.

  9. 9
    brettvk says:

    The lilacs here in the Missouri Ozarks bloomed out in mid-March, with the daffodills instead of after them, and were withered and gone well before their usual peak around my birthday in mid-April. Shadblow, redbud, dogwood — all bloomed weeks early and faded quickly. Spring is always chancy around here, but I’ve never seen it arrive and leave like a time-lapse film. OTOH, I may have raspberries in a week or two.

  10. 10
    ornery_curmudgeon says:

    Scrolling down I saw Kay’s ‘Dressage’ post. No it wasn’t a tribute to one of the founding arts of civilization. More like a punch in the stomach this fine morning, thanks!

    More than any other in the (long) list of stupid Dem tricks, this asinine line of attacking horsemanship is making me question this ‘left’ affiliation … if the front page writers of the group are so ignorant and WILLING to keep their eyes closed and act from that place of ignorance .. well that’s very scary. Why would I want THAT in power?

    I like horses. They’ve done things for this world. I don’t know about the Dems, really … I sure don’t like the low class leftist peasant routine.

    I just think it is so stupid to attack others, and beyond ridiculous to keep demeaning the equestrian community.

    I do see why ‘leftist’ politics is so dangerous and weird though … it sort of does the Right’s thing of taking the bit in its teeth and ignoring consequences or other people — wait ‘bit in its teeth’ is an equestrian colloquialism. Probably too elitist for this group.

    I’m pissed off if it’s not coming through. Now would not be a great time for some Dem ask me for some money LOL.

  11. 11
    gibsojj says:

    Find the nearest beekeeper, preferably within 50 miles. If there isn’t one settle for one in state. Buy the honey, eat the honey. Eating honey grown near where you live has the proven effect of reducing your sensitivity to the pollen of the plants from which the honey was made.

  12. 12
    ornery_curmudgeon says:

    Oh and as far as bringing this into a discussion about other topics … if you can attack dressage in a political discussion that has NOTHING to do with it, then it can be brought elsewhere on this site.

  13. 13
    Matoko Borgia-Steeler says:


    Earth Day Canvass with Elizabeth Warren

    Meeting at Powderhouse Park- In the event of rain, we’ll meet at 25 Russell Street, between Davis Square and Mass. Ave.

    Date and Time:

    Apr 22 2012, 10:30 am to 1:00 pm
    Powderhouse Park – Across the Street from the Broken Yolk 136 College Ave.
    136 College Ave, Somerville, MA 02144
    Diane Masters- 617-331-6447

  14. 14
    Joe says:

    It’s been weird around VA. We didn’t have a winter, but the last frost came exactly on the average day. I’m going out in the rain to plant beans today, just two weeks behind the peas. I’m making no predictions about what’s going to happen.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    gelfling545 says:

    My garden is a mess because weeds that usually die over the winter proliferated instead. My weeping cherry tree that has from time immemorial bloomed on May 1 or AT MOST 1 day before or after that date has been finished for a week & the lilacs are coming on now. I have cut back most of my perennials by half so as to have something in bloom later. I don’t know how to work with this new state of things.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    bemused says:

    What is all this blooming thing people keep speaking of? Reading this and last week’s garden threads is torture when I am looking out at 4 inches of snow AGAIN. Last Monday, we woke up to 12 inches of snow and had no power for 13 hrs. 12,000 homes were without electricity initially with 4,000 still out on Wed.

  19. 19
    Matoko Borgia-Steeler says:

    Every year, Americans pay $700 million more for cholesterol-lowering drugs than they need to. The reason? Abbott Laboratories.

  20. 20
    peggy says:

    The maples have all gone to seed. Lilacs, redbud, azaleas, apples and dogwood are going strong, while daffodils and forsythia are still hanging on. I’m mostly reporting from Arnold Arboretum in Boston, a few blocks from my house. The official Lilac Sunday is May 13- they’ll be lucky if any are still in bloom. “Official” tomato day was always 5/31, nowadays I am selling seedlings by 5/7, but this year I saw t’s at Home Depot two weeks ago, 4/7. Normally they would have been frosted, not this year.

  21. 21
    tt crews says:

    Philly has had a 4 month long drought following a winter with little snow. Since it didn’t snow, it means the trees and shrubbery are suffering. I have the soaker hose out for the blueberries. South Jersey is having brush fires–in April! We usually don’t have brush fires until July.

    The garden soil is like dust except where I water everyday.

  22. 22
    JPL says:

    @jeffreyw: Thread always needs more critters. thanks. I read a post earlier about your wife slowly mending. Glad to hear it!

  23. 23
    peggy says:

    @bemused:Where is it snowing? Northeast is in a drought -brushfire in Boston a few days ago. Recovering from drought in Texas.

  24. 24
    jeffreyw says:

    I have an aging bush out front, a “Shasta” viburnum that is way past its prime. We are digging it out and thinking of going with a new variety hybrid redbud “Merlot”.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    muddy says:

    The maples are going nuts. Last fall it was like trying to walk on ball bearings there were so many seeds. This spring there are multi thousands of seedlings, when usually there might be hundreds. I have maple seedling forests as thick as the grass. Can’t wait to mow the bastards.

    I’ve got peas coming, lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes. The dog dug up the carrots, the little perisher. The rest of it is in pots waiting. I planted all-blue potatoes in a giant container, I am looking forward to that harvest, I will only have to dump the pot out, no digging.

    Last year I put in some Himalayan ferns (fronds like dripping pearls), I was happy to see they made it though the winter when we had summer last month for a couple weeks. Then early spring came back and they look to have died. I hope they re-emerge.

  27. 27
    cathyx says:

    Wow, Jeffreyw, you’re on linky fire this morning.

  28. 28
    cathyx says:

    We are having an absolutely beautiful weekend here in the Pacific Northwest. Mid 70’s and clear. We had more snow than usual this winter, rained a bit more than usual, but otherwise, about how it always is.

  29. 29
    jeffreyw says:

    Those bastards at HuffPo snagged a pic from my photostream to illustrate foods that should be banned. They are deader to me now than they were this morning, when they were also forgotten.

  30. 30
    donnah says:

    Here in SW Ohio the lilacs have come and gone, with a few of the miniature versions still hanging in there. Forsythia, hyacinths, tulips and daffodils are all gone, and now the honeysuckle (bane of my existance) and roses are coming along.

    We had early blooming by about 4-6 weeks. But yeah, the pollen is dreadful and I’ve had to resort to eyedrops to ease the itchy, watery eye problems. Lots of people seem to have the same issues here.

    We’ve enjoyed the early warm temps in the seventies, but this week we’re in the fifties and wonder what’s around the bend for summer. Scorching heat and droughts? High probabilities for dangerous thunderstorms and flooding?


  31. 31
    bemused says:


    NE Minn. This is what happens when you’re practically in Canada.

  32. 32
    RyanS says:

    I’m nursing my young blueberry and strawberry plants into their first fruit. The grapevine is going bonkers and even my 2yr old lake currents have a couple green berries on em. However, my huckleberry bushes look like their angry at me. I must be doing something wrong.

  33. 33
    cathyx says:

    @jeffreyw: That’s what you get when you make the pictures look so appetizing. Which one is yours? And if it is yours, then they aren’t being truthful about it being food court food, unless you make it in a food court. Do you?

  34. 34
    bemused says:

    What plants, flowers, veggies and fruits, benefit the most from feeding them coffee grounds or leftover coffee?

  35. 35
    cathyx says:

    @bemused: You don’t feed the plants the grounds. You mix the grounds into your compost and feed them the decomposed compost mixture.

  36. 36
    Don K says:

    Here in the Detroit area, the March heat combined with the seasonably chilly weather since to extend the blooming season. The weeping cherry bloomed around 4/1 (earlier than Tokyo!) and lasted for around two weeks, as did the amelanchiers. The neighborhood magnolias also have flowered.

    Daffodils are still going strong, and the grape hyacinth are in their prime. This year we have redbuds, crabapples, rhododendrons, and azaleas blooming simultaneously, and the first hint of color on the lilacs. The primroses have been awesome this year, and the columbines will be along shortly.

  37. 37
    Kristine says:

    Weather has cooled down here in NE Illinois–we may have a hard time crawling out of the 40s today thanks to lake cooling. Meanwhile, thanks to low humidities and dry conditions, areas south are under Fire Weather Watch.

    Lawn’s been mowed twice already. Mini rose bushes have buds galore and the crabapples are blooming and no I can’t recall them popping forth at the same time before. Astilbe and hosta are filling out. I still have the tomatoes and basil in trays/cups indoors. I don’t want to put them out for a couple of weeks yet.

  38. 38
    Svensker says:


    Hey now. We ARE in Canada and the lilacs are getting ready to pop. Our magnolia is dropping all its petals already. And this winter in Canada we shoveled snow exactly once.

    Also, too, FYWP.

  39. 39
    Canuckistani Tom says:

    Installed all the rainwater barrels on Friday, which included shortening a length of downspout to fit a new larger barrel under the spout at the NW corner. Last fall I used the leftover patio stones and gravel from another project to build proper bases for the barrels, and so far everything’s good. Yesterday morning I hooked up the hoses to drain some of the rainwater and fill the watering barrel beside the garden.

    In the Toronto area, we’re about 3-4 weeks early for everything. Looking out the window, we’ve got greenery that you normally don’t see until mid-late May. And it’s a record year for butterflies! Red Admirals, Mourning cloaks and the cabbage butterflies are out in force.

  40. 40
    jeffreyw says:

    @cathyx: It’s the first page, the orange chicken. One of the perils of going CC license on everything in the stream. Not as egregious as the time they cropped this photo down to just the sugar water in the feeder for an illustration of “feeder neglect”.

  41. 41
    Svensker says:


    In general, shady plants like coffee and sunny plants don’t. The coffee is acid and good shade soil tends to be acidic, where as sunny soil tends to be more toward the alkaline.

    If you can’t figure it out, put the coffee grounds into the compost and let them equalize themselves out. Otherwise, it’s fine to put them around your azaleas, blueberries, rhodies, etc., unless you run a coffee shop and are dumping huge quantities that could overwhelm.

  42. 42
    Svensker says:

    @Canuckistani Tom:

    And it’s a record year for butterflies! Red Admirals, Mourning cloaks and the cabbage butterflies are out in force.

    Yes! They’re amazing! That bodes ill re the nasty bugs that overwintered well, though. How many mosquitoes will there be?

  43. 43
    cathyx says:

    @jeffreyw: I’m sorry they are using your great photos for negative examples. That’s got to hurt.

  44. 44
    jeffreyw says:

    And Yay! First hummer of the season arrived yesterday! Alas, no pics yet.

  45. 45
    Linda M says:

    Here in Indy we had our first summer in March, which brought on all of the early-blooming beauty. Now, the late blooming tulips are beautiful and mixing with early-blooming summer foliage. I like the idea of an extended Spring–that makes me happy. Yesterday, the grass-roots neighborhood group that I work with handed out 500 free trees. Today I will be planting one or two. Yay!

  46. 46
    the Conster says:

    Apparently here in the Boston area we’ll be getting the precipitation we didn’t get in the winter and spring, all at once starting today. Frankly, if it’s punishment for the Red Sox sucking so hard we deserve it.

  47. 47
    J says:

    Because of the warm winter (and the mold) I didn’t even enjoy my usual respite. Now the pollen is slaying me. I’ve been a martyr to hay fever continuously since god knows when. Thank you global warming (which isn’t real, or isn’t due to human activity; in any case nothing can be done about it; if there is any blame it attaches exclusively to Al Gore, and Obama).

  48. 48
    bemused says:


    Yes, our grounds go into the compost. I have been reading about gardeners that work straight coffee grounds into the dirt and pour leftover coffee around their plants too.

    I read that about blueberry, etc plants. I thought that maybe some mad gardeners here would have some tips on that.

  49. 49
    keestadoll says:

    Here in Humboldt we’re getting our first real dry weather in weeks, so it’s a game of catching up now. The starts I purchased a couple weeks ago have been screaming at me to get them in the ground and just wouldn’t understand that the raised beds, despite excellent drainage, were overwhelmed from the weeks-long downpours. Dawn to dusk last few days have had me out planting the following: calendula, nasturtiums, sage, parsley, cilantro, leeks, lettuces, squash, collards, kales, dill, and all sorts of other veggie/herb wonders to numerous to list here all with the goal of having a self-sustaining companion planted garden. My will be done!

  50. 50
  51. 51
    NancyDarling says:

    Questions about lilacs: Are there some varieties that are more fragrant than others? Also are there varieties that bloom earlier or later so one can plant more than one to extend the time of blooming?

  52. 52
    NancyDarling says:

    I also have a question about wild plums. I remember as a kid in Medicine Lodge, Kansas picking them and my Mom making the most wonderful wild plum jelly. They grew wild along the fence rows all over the countryside. Is there anything like them available from nurseries?

  53. 53
    Percysowner says:

    @ornery_curmudgeon: Admittedly I haven’t hit the Dressage piece, but I would guess that if you aren’t going to vote for any Democrats due to it then you probably weren’t going to anyway. Horses are nice, I don’t think there is a big horse issue currently in the political sphere.

  54. 54
    Rathskeller says:

    I have sad news to report, for those of you who know C U N D Gulag: his father just died.

  55. 55
    peggy says:

    Arnold Arboretum in Boston has a entire hill of lilacs. It is part of Harvard and they have been studied and classified.
    Syringa is the Latin name for lilacs. The Weston Nurseries catalog has many listed under that name. That company, which only delivers by truck in the Boston area, are serious horticulturists so you can trust their descriptions. They developed the purple PJM azalea seen in the earliest spring on lawns everywhere.

  56. 56
    Cathy W says:

    The lilac bush the next-door neighbors cut down is growing back! Yay! It had the best color in the neighborhood, and there are different next-door neighbors now…

    The rest of them nearby are blooming – I’m not sure if they’re supposed to this early or not.

    I’m anecdata: pollen is kicking my ass this month.

    And my tomatoes are going to live, I think. :) I didn’t get a grow-light, because I’m moving in a couple weeks and if I buy it I have to pack it, but I did move my knitting “true daylight” lamp over to the seedlings and prop them up so they were close to the bulb. They haven’t grown much taller, but they’re starting to get true leaves.

    …and I definitely want to put in a lilac at the new place, but maybe next year.

  57. 57
    Cathy W says:

    @jeffreyw: Did you include non-commercial in your CC? HuffPo is theoretically commercial.

  58. 58
    THE says:

    Charlie and the Seal.
    h/t Barry Ritholz

    (I’m guessing it’s just instinctively conserving body heat, which is why they huddle together in Antarctica, but I was born skeptical)

  59. 59
    PurpleGirl says:

    @JPL: I like the Google doodle and I like when they do animated doodles.

    ETA: My complex has a lot of cherry trees and they’ve bloomed and with the wind the last few days have lost the flowers. The lilacs in front of building have bloomed. I should walk around see the other plantings. (We have 13 acres.)

  60. 60
    jnfr says:

    Lilacs here are gorgeous this year, but also bloomed very early. We both have terrible allergies, so this is a rough time of year anyway.

    Spent yesterday reseeding half of our barely-existent front lawn with fescue seed. Boy, am I sore today, but glad to have that done.

  61. 61
    Andree-Anne Desmedt says:

    The flowers of the lilac trees are so beautiful! And their aroma is heaven!

  62. 62
    danielx says:

    In central Indiana…our lilac has done bloomed as of a week or two ago and now the petals are starting to turn brown and drop. We had a couple-three weeks of weather in the uppers 70s and low to mid 80s in mid-March and first week or so of April and everything blossomed. Just in time, naturally, for the usual frost and freeze in mid-April…the Chinese wisteria blossomed for the first time to three years, just in time to get frozen. Grrrrr…..

    PS – any tips on how to bring back scrubby looking half dead hemlocks? They’re alive but only barely.

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