Wednesday, March 26

A Spring Surprise

The sun was shining when I got home from work this afternoon, and all but a few patches of snow were gone from both the front yard and the backyard. My garden assistant and I headed outside to cut back the hellebores (me) and sniff the ground (her) where the 3 mourning doves have been hanging out in the evenings.

(Nevermind that she took the direct route and tromped over what's left of the bleached blades of zebra grass, and mauled some 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga as well, to get there.)

In the first picture you see two of the mourning doves along with the aforementioned hellebores. I was really hoping to see some snowdrop or winter aconite foliage peaking through the ground, but instead all I saw was a big Mess. Yes, with a capital M. After I finished the hellebores I walked around the garden, admiring sprouts of chives and drumstick alliums and just generally taking note of what needed to be done on the next sunny warm day.

I was cutting down the old lemongrass, and remembering how pretty it looked mingling with cascading rosemary during October's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post, when I was shaken away from my memory by a flash of green.

There, at the top and bottom right edge of the plant... do you see them? Green tubes, reminiscent of stalks of lemongrass, coming up out of the ground:

Disbelief coursed through my body. Lemongrass is only hardy to, oh, zone 9 or 10, right? There's no way it could overwinter here in NE Ohio.

But then again... the rest of the blades were flattened over that right side where the green is coming up. And we had lots of snowcover throughout the winter. And it was very near to the warmth of rocks and cement driveway and the clay drainpipe that served as a planter for the rosemary.

Hmm. I felt around, and it seemed as though they were indeed attached to the plant crown. So I reached down and pinched a half inch of the greenery off of the lower shoot. After not nearly enough deliberation (yes, I realize how dumb this next action was) I popped the shoot in my mouth, expecting a burst of flavor... but definitely not the one I got!

My tongue soon began to burn, and it wasn't very long before I identified my newly sprouted plant: fresh garlic! A delicious surprise, but expecting lemongrass and finding hot, raw garlic flavor in your mouth is a bit like expecting milk and taking a sip of orange juice instead. My garden assistant soon came over to investigate the cause of my hysterical laughter--which is of course a source of concern for our canine friends--and I took the opportunity to round her up and head back into the house.

It's obvious that the mere mention of spring is going to my head these days.


Garden Wise Guy said...

Kim - thanks for leaving your comments at my post regarding the Billbergia nutans. It's generated lots of envy and enthusiasm. Your lemongrass / garlic story is great. It's amazing what the brain goes through in a nanosecond of switching gears. So you'll be planting lemongrass again? Having it right next to the garlic makes me think I'll be eating Thai food tonight. Now if only you could grow a coconut palm and process the milk, and a little fish emulsion to take the place of fish sauce.

Enjoy the burgeoning spring. I'm heading for Portland OR. next week. Need a break from Southern California sunshine - gimme rain!

Anonymous said...

OMG, I will not stick anything from the garden in my mouth without smelling it first now that you've shared your cautionary tale! It's supposed to rain here for the next couple of days, but as soon as the sun comes out I'm going to check my lemon grass. You crack me up!

Unknown said...

Garden Wise Guy, hmm... I wonder what it would take for me to think I have overwintered a coconut tree outside here in NE Ohio? At this rate, even just a week or two longer of winter might do it! lol.

Hope you have a wonderful trip! I need to go find myself some Thai food, too, now that you mention it. :)

Heather, you have no idea how loudly I was laughing at my own idiocy. Overwintered lemongrass... get real, Kim! :) The hot garlic taste was definitely something I deserved, and cured me of my temporary insanity.

Carol Michel said...

Hmmm... there must be a name for your condition, which apparently is cured, at least temporarily, by chewing on garlic shoots. "That'll learn ya"! I walked around my garden this evening look for daffodils blooming... they are late this year!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Unknown said...

Lol, Carol, that's right! I hope it does learn me... and am glad that I didn't inadvertantly chew on anything poisonous, like daffodil shoots. *grin*

garden girl said...

I think a lot of us northern gardeners are beginning to experience the same phenomenon where the mere mention of spring goes to our heads.

Then we're jarred back to reality with yet another snowstorm in the forecast! Mother nature seems to be enjoying toying with us lately.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Too funny Kim! It reminds me of a friend of mine who thought she popped a grape in her mouth but it was an olive. I'll never forget the expression on her face. Too bad your garden assistant didn't take a pic of yours! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Kim: That is too funny! I remember during a garden tour, one of the tourons bent over and plucked, yes, actually plucked a piece of Lemon Lime Heuchera and popped it in her mouth. I sauntered over to see why she would pluck a plant arriving on scene just as she was spitting it out. A bit embarrassed (I say, just a bit and not nearly enough)she looked at me and said "I thought it was lettuce". Kevorkian Garden will be made for the likes of her! LOL

Kerri said...

Kim, it's obvious the sight of green made you giddy! Your story gave me a good chuckle this morning.
Thanks heavens your faithful garden helper was there to save you from yourself, if need be! ;)
My snowdrops got brave and bloomed yesterday, but the wind is still frigid.

Frances, said...

Kim, wonderful story, but could have been dangerous. You had me believing that the lemon grass had made it, I was ready for the sentence that it had that wonderful lemony taste when wham!, you got me. Good job!
Frances at Faire Garden

lisa said...

Heh...I believe the word is "Psych!" , and if you listened closely, I bet a garden fairy was laughing with you. I know how you spring is late, too. (Lost in the mail?) Thai food sounds curry? :)

WiseAcre said...

I'm still laughing. Lemon Grass never tasted so good. I don't pop stuff in my mouth but I'm often spotted rubbing something between my fingers under my nose. Who cares if it looks like I'm digging for something. I just love the smell of things like Lemon Balm and mints.

Anonymous said...

oh my what a surprise to the tongue and senses that must have been :)

I enjoyed being taken along as you strolled us through that 'journey'. What a treat to have those darling doves sitting in your garden.


chuck b. said...

I once put the leaf of an unknown plant up to my nose to see if it had a fragrance, and got burning nettles stuck in the tip of my nose. That's one plant whose identity I will not forget.

tina said...

oh yes, expecting milk and getting orange juice indeed! sometimes not hardy things do survive though...

Muum said...

I got a good chuckle out of your story. Sounds like something I'd do! Happy spring!

Unknown said...

This is a fun story! Glad that it wasn't anything toxic, and even more glad to find out that someone else does this too...and yes, the mention of spring is getting to a lot of us, these days.

Anonymous said...

Kim, re the brunnera - you are right, it is pulmonaria! The leaves were a give away and I saw it on sale at a local garden centre.
Take care,

Ki said...

Yeech, what a nasty surprise. Wait, what am I saying - I like the taste of garlic so it wouldn't have been terrible except that you were expecting something else. Like the first time my mother served us liver. It looked really good ;) Yuck!

Anonymous said...

You know... maybe I have not been seriously gardening long enough (how long is enough?) but I just don't get the grasses.

Virtually every gardener I respect has a respect of their own for some kind of ornamental grass. I don't see it. I believe this is a failure of vision on my part and not anything to do with grasses themselves.

There seems to be an interesting progression in garden from (early on) the bold and showy things to (later on) things more subtle. I've experienced some of this with my hydrangeas as I migrate from the mopheads to the lacecaps and paniculata varieties... and of course, with my digitalis fascinations.

You write periodically about your grasses. I never connect.

But then, I have not yet "matured" to things like "combining shapes and textures" and such. Spaces. I am still VERY MUCH all about the species... and I've been doing this for years. Maybe I'll never get there. In truth, my interests strike me as particularly "botanical" and not so much "horticultural" (if that makes any sense). I read about your garden and scratch my bald head.

I read this last week and didn't comment then because I thought "oh... grasses and stuff growing in grasses." "Do things grow in grasses? Apparantly so." "Hmmmmn."

But someone at the office asked me about grasses. You know the kind of question: "You are a garden guy, tell me about blah blah blah."

Hell... I donno. Like, I don't know ANYTHING about grasses.

So I came back here and looked again.

Please do me a favor. This summer (if it ever comes) when your ornamental grasses are doing what they do, could you please write a little essay - Black Swamp Style - about what they mean to you and what you see when you see them?

I mean... are they objets d'art in and of themselves or are they foils for other things. I mean... what is the deal with grasses? They are monocots aren't they? I don't think I grow any monocots.

But maybe I should.

A wildlife gardener said...

I've done goofy things like that it was good to learn I'm not the only one :)

Bob said...

Oh Kim, that would be terrible, maybe you should do as your helper and sniff instead of taste LOL! When will your hellebores flower I wonder?

Unknown said...

garden girl, glad to hear it's not just me losing her head with this green! :) I have no more desire to be jarred back to reality by another snowstorm, though, I confess.

Yolanda Elizabet, EWWWW! I can definitely imagine that face!

Layanee, LOL! Wow, I would never pick a random piece of anything from someone else's garden--even if I did think that it was really food--without asking first. Amazing that people do that--but how funny that it was a heuchera!

Kerri, giddy indeed. And Sunday I had a chance to go out and clean up the backyard, so I passed the little tuft of lemongrass and garlic sprouts a dozen or so times. And laughed at myself on each trip past!

Frances, you're so right, it could have been dangerous. I knew where I had planted spring bulbs, and they were all a good yard or so from those green sprouts, but still. I definitely will be more careful about what I put in my mouth from the garden!

Laughing with me, lisa? Nope, more like AT me!!! lol.

Thanks, WiseAcre. I'm still giggling at myself, too. But next time I'm going to take a page out of your book and just rub the greenery between my fingers under my nose before I put anything in my mouth!

Diane, it was for sure a surprise. And I love having the doves around. They're often there when the sun goes down, so I don't know when they get up and leave during the night... but they are sometimes there cooing a good morning, too. :)

chuck b., ARGH! Now I'm feeling pretty lucky--I had a little burning in my mouth from the heat of the garlic, but it definitely wasn't anything as unpleasant as burning nettles.

Tina, they do surprise us sometimes, don't they? Often just enough to give optimists like me just enough false hope for our lemongrass... *grin*

Muum and Jodi, I'm so glad to hear you two confess that this sounds like you, too. I was imagining that everyone would be rolling their eyes at my stupidity... so this makes me feel better. lol.

friary/John from Spadework, ah! Both lovely plants, either way. :)

Ki, I like the taste of garlic, too... just, as you said, not when I'm expecting something else. (Liver? Looked good? Ick! lol.)

Hank, I've been mulling over this. I don't think it's a maturity thing, because heaven knows I'm not as mature and sophisticated as many gardeners. Maybe it's just a differing focus?

I will definitely write a few more essays about my ornamental grasses, and what I see in them. Some of them are objets d'art, and others are foils... but some of that is just in the placement of said grass.

But the main thing (for me anyway) with the grasses is the movement. Not just in the winter garden when all else is lifeless--although that certainly is nice--but during the spring, summer and fall as well. And even when there is no breeze, they make your eye move by directing it. Some make little exclamation points in the yard, others function like posts, adding repetition and a vertical element... and still others are softly rounded mounds that kind of provide a place for your eye to rest, similarly to boxwood balls in the old English gardens.

I'll cut myself off now, but... those are just a few of my incoherent thoughts on grasses. :)
And now... I'm off to google "monocots" because it occurs to me that I can't give a botanical definition for them, although I know what they are. And I do think that daffodils are monocots?

Unknown said...

wildlife gardener, yay! Another fellow garden taster. *grin* Hope that your tests turn out sweeter than mine, though. lol.

UKBob, it's just starting--the white one, that is. There are plenty of buds on the others (and lots on the 'Ivory Prince' hybrids!) but the white one seems to always be first. :)

kate smudges said...

The closest I've ever come is plucking a leaf of spinach out of the garden and popping it into my mouth without looking closely. Now I know what a slug tastes like. Ugh... gross. I learned my lesson.

Garlic would have been quite the shock when you were expecting lemongrass.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I've nothing of value to add, but that was a a good post--a pleasure to read. So many blog posts aren't pleasures. Not that I don't enjoy most posts I read on many a blog. I am out every day sticking my finger into the ground around plants I swear were there. First year, first garden, and I am clearly insane. C'mon spring--let's go.

growingagardenindavis said...

You had me so excited about your lemongrass...but garlic is good too, when you're expecting it! This reminds me of my mother-in-law and the guacamole/wasabi mix-up. I'm more of a sniff things person, so I've had my share of bugs up my nose.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a hoot. I am glad it was something edible that ended up in your mouth.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was all excited too and ready to run out and take a closer look at the remnants of my lemongrass plant until I got to the part about the garlic plant, not that there's anything wrong with garlic growing in the garden!

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