Saturday, March 7, 2020

March is here!

Winter aconites (Eranthus hyemalis) are blooming -- the first flowers of the year!

Greetings! It's now finally March, which marks the beginning of meteorological spring (as opposed to astronomical spring, which begins March 21st or so -- it's on March 20th this year). But any sort of spring sounds good enough for Midwesterners after another winter.

Although I really can't complain -- this past winter has been pretty mild, as far as Iowa winters go.

We got two snows in October, which was unusually early and made me worry about the severity of the winter ahead. But the temperatures have not been nearly as cold as they often are: we got down to -7°F or so several times, but not much colder than that. (Compared to last year's particularly cold low of -27°F, this year has seemed like a balmy walk on a Florida beach!)

But now we're into March, which really does feel better -- especially since the snow is gone. Last weekend we enjoyed temps in the 50s and even up to around 60°F, and it was lovely to be able to walk around our garden areas again and look at things after the winter (and see all the work that should be done this month).

Here's a few shots of things in the first week of March:

We've been able to sit on the bench at right in the Paradise Garden already 2-3 times this winter on sunny warmer days, which has been very enjoyable. A few things need to be cut back and raked out before bulbs come up. And the paving stones at far right have settled down, so that soil from the bed next to the house keeps washing out over them when it rains. We'll need to re-lay that row of them so they're higher and slope away from the house, so that doesn't happen any more. But it won't be long until bulbs start coming up and it's time to plant a few cool-season annuals like pansies and snapdragons in this garden!

I never got around to pulling out all the dead annuals around our patio last fall, so that's pretty high on my list of things to do when we get a nice day. I also need to paint the posts of this new pergola we made two summers ago (they're treated lumber, so they needed to age a bit before painting them -- but they were damp during most of last year, which was exceptionally rainy, so I haven't gotten around to doing it yet). But I have plans for this area:

Another view of the same patio area. I'm planning to make a tropical garden around this area this year. I'll move the large mock orange shrub by the back left post (it no longer blooms, now that the pergola is shading it), as well as the reblooming lilac next to the back right post, and few other things too. Then I'll plant fast-growing tropical annuals as well as houseplants out for the summer around this area. It's hard to imagine a tropical garden here right now at the end of winter, but it will be fun to see how it works out by July and August, when we're experiencing tropical temperatures.

This is the sort of look that I'm aiming for around my patio:
foliage in shady areas, plus a few flowers in the sunnier areas.

Back to reality. My largest border (the border formerly known as the Rainbow Border, which I might just as well keep calling by that name) obviously needs to be cut back and raked out after winter. I've been working to improve the planting in this border for the past several years, and I'll continue to improve it this year.
The Rainbow Border looked better last year than it had before. Little by little....

I haven't posted since early November, but I've kept myself very busy over the winter finishing up my book, Iowa Gardens of the Past: Lost & Historic Gardens of Iowa, 1850-1980 ( and Facebook), which I hope to publish in early May. I can't be definite about the date, because I had it printed in China, and while it's done and has left the factory, the coronavirus has caused a snafu in the transpacific shipping schedules, and I have no idea if the 1,000 copies I ordered are on a ship yet or if they're still sitting in a container on the docks. Nothing to be done about it: Force Majeure and all that. They'll arrive when they arrive (before May, I hope...). And when they do arrive, I'll be pretty busy promoting and selling them for at least a couple of months.

On that note, if anyone is interested in receiving a free review copy, I'd love to send you one if you'll write a couple sentences about it on Just drop me a note in the comments.

But I'm also planning to make time to do a few small projects and improvements in my gardens this year too. I've never opened my garden to the public before, and I'm thinking that I might try to do so next year (not this year). I'll try to get things in order this year, and then spruce things up with new paint, etc. next spring. Because I live in a rural area about 15 minutes from town, I'll try to find 2-3 other gardens in my part of the county to open on the same day, and make it an "Open Gardens" event to draw more visitors from town.

I'll need to do an assessment of the areas in my gardens and make a few improvements, and then I'll feel good about opening it to the public for the first time. I know that gardeners open their gardens all the time (and in fact I encourage gardeners in town to share their gardens for our local Open Gardens Weekend, of which I'm the chair, so I have no excuse not to do this myself), but I'm still a bit nerve-racked when thinking about opening my own gardens. I guess I need to live a bit more dangerously....

Anyway, I hope that spring is arriving pleasantly for you in your own gardens, and that many warm, sunny days are just around the corner for you. Thanks for reading! -Beth

These daffodils are up and they show that things are starting.


  1. Such sweet little yellow flowers! I love your rainbow garden border. All the colors and textures are just beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Sonia -- so happy you stopped by! Best, -Beth

  2. I'm glad that you've been able to sit out on the bench on sunnier days during these Winter months. It's a good place to sit and think and plan your gardening related projects for this year and the next. All the best with the painting of the pergola posts when you have suitable weather, digging over your flower borders, your book publication. I hope that you have an enjoyable time as you encourage others in the area with garden events.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Linda -- I hope you are enjoying your beautiful gardens during these early spring days. Thanks for visiting! Best, -Beth

  3. So interesting to have photos of your garden in a different season and be able to see it's 'bare bones'. Lots to do and to plan for at this time of year. I am being frustrated by days of cold wind and endless rain but am hopeful that kinder weather is just round the corner. We gardeners are an optimistic bunch!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rosemary, and for your hopeful words. I do hope you'll soon be enjoying warm, sunny days in your gardens! Best, -Beth

  4. Hi! I found your blog through Miss Bloomers,by Sonia.My blog is about porcelain,but I love gardening and flowers too. You have a beautiful blog.Best wishes.

  5. Welcome back, Beth, as we start a new gardening season. Sounds like you've had a productive winter. I wish you well with your book. Good luck, also, with your summer plans. This is a wonderful time of the year, full of promise. P. x

  6. Your garden still looks pretty wintery to me but perhaps spring comes quickly when it finally arrives. It's happening fast here and every day brings new delights. Good luck with the book.

  7. If you would like an additional reviewer I would be happy to help. Just let me know.