Look, I love my part of the world–upstate New York–for about seven months of the year. I'm grateful that I get to live in a sophisticated college town with good restaurants and a thoroughbred track, within a stone's throw of heartbreaking natural beauty in the form of–take your pick–pines and lakes in the Adirondacks or red barns and cows and purple hills in Washington County.
The other five months of the year, however, you'd either better love your husband, kids, job and house–or be an avid skier–because nature is not sending out any signals whatsoever that life is worth living. It's Samuel Beckett country here in Saratoga Springs, as in, "I can't go on. I'll go on." It is unremittingly gray and cold and snowy from November 1 until the day the dirty glaciers retreat, whenever that happens to be. In a freakish greenhouse-gas-inspired winter a few years ago, that was January. Last year, it was mid-April. This year, it's a more reasonable mid-March.
The amazing thing is that the minute the snow starts crawling backwards into the shadows, whatever month it happens to be, the earliest green things instantly start popping out of the ground, sending depressed moods and libidos and stocks soaring. These may be the most valuable plants in all of plantdom.
Last weekend in my vegetable garden, there was already some mache there completely salad-ready. This is an irritatingly small green with an annoyingly French name that I never pay any attention to–it just flings itself around the garden with no help from me–but it's certainly nice to shove a leaf or two in your mouth at this time of year. The chives are a few inches tall already and I dug out some over-wintered parsnips. The big ones are woody now, though they were wonderful in the fall, but the little ones are sweet and perfect. And there were even some Brussels sprouts intact under the snow, just as good as they were in early December.
On the ornamental front, I love snowdrops for the early spring rally, though I planted mine in the wrong spot, on the north side of my house, where the snow barely disappears in June. Plus, snowdrops are not really a city bulb. Some friends of mine used to own an old house in the country on the Battenkill, and in a patch of woods that stretched from the road to the river, there were a million snowdrops in giant clumps. They looked perfect there.
But there are urban alternatives! Just look at this….
Meet iris histrioides 'George'. I bought him last fall on Brent & Becky's recommendation. I only wish I were a better photographer, so I could convey how sophisticated his shape and colors are.
A random guy walked past on the street today and said, "Are those real?"
I don't know. Am I dreaming? Or is spring here?