Garden column: Waiting on the call of spring |

Garden column: Waiting on the call of spring

Tom Glass
Vail CO, Colorado
Tom Glass

“Telephone is ringin.’ They’re tellin’ me it’s Chairman Mao. Tell him … Tell him … I just don’t want to talk to him now.” ” Lowell George.

That’s pretty much what’s been going on this week. Important people are calling (read: customers). They’ve noticed that their flower beds are ice free and looking like dirt. They want to buy some spring.

They want a thousand flowers to bloom ” flowers they can plant outside in their monochromatic yard and, well, quite frankly, for me, this is where fear meets greed. It’s an intersection of the forces of nature and the laws of economics that people in weather-related industries (read: ski resorts) are more than passing familiar.

The intersection of window-dressed-for-Spring avenue and overstocked-too-early-with-perishable-items boulevard is a dicey place to loiter about, and only made more hazardous by oncoming busloads of recession-minded folks blowing by on their way to a quiet place to figuratively eat their own versions of beans and instant noodles.

Our recession, whether it be embraced by history-backed monetary theorists or shunned by us all, is an unproven economic circumstance that we’ve yet to put a finger on, and it remains uncertain if it’s arriving on schedule, yesterday, or not at all. I don’t care who you ask.

On April Fools’ Day, there aren’t any pansies for sale in this valley. There are reasons for that, and I just alluded to most of them in the preceding paragraphs. More directly, it’s too early to plant. How do I know that? I don’t, but nine years out of 10, I’d be right. All I’ve got to do to feel good about that statement is look at 100 years of weather data, or at the snow still heaped alongside the drives lining the snow-heaped streets I drive as I go to work.

I suppose we could slice and dice this down to the types of plants we could jackhammer or mud into the ground this time of year, but I’d rather be patient. Spring comes every year ” even up here. The sun came up today. It’s the same thing.

So besides death, taxes, spring and the sun coming up, what else can you count on? Well, when our jet stream off the western coast descends below the 45th parallel (for all intents and purposes our border with Canada) and the sine-wave-like peaks and valleys of its path across North America flatten out to a straighter line running somewhat alongside I-70, winter will be absolutely, indisputably, irrefutably, undeniably and most reliably dead. We will then be frost free. When this occurs, I’ll have been touting planting perennials and pansies as a frost insensitive way to garden for several weeks.

So what does all that mean? It means June 15 is our last frost date ” 10 weeks away. It means that if you watch the path of the jet stream descend into its normal summer path you can get a slight advance notice, a thin strategic edge, of when it’s most likely going to be spot on proper to plant flowers outside regardless the frost date.

Then again, we live in the mountains and they create our weather like fireworks bursting on the 4th of July. Go figure.

Yesterday, I knocked 3 feet of drifted snow off a flower bed and revealed a clump of pansies planted last spring. They’re now the size of a $3.99 hydroponically grown head of butter-crunch lettuce. The clump was as matted as a sedan flattened marmot, but blooming its powder-blue head off. Plant pansies now, and they’ll survive, but more likely they’ll be slow to impress. Plan ahead and you’ll remind yourself that nature is amazing.

I can see the need for some flowers in that first frost-free bed. I can feel the need to plant. I can justify the planting of a few pansies for color, maybe rationalize planting a few perennials just to be the first on the block with dirt under one’s fingernails, but, you heard it here first, planting time is not here yet. When it arrives, you’ll be the first to know. You can bank on that.

Tom Glass writes a weekly garden column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this column to

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