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The Cruelest Month

April is known as the cruelest month due to the erratic weather and the possibility for freezing temperatures to creep back in and injure new plants.

heirloom roses

Photo: dnkemontoh

Heirloom plants, like these heirloom roses, use open-pollination to produce the seeds for the following year. However, now most plants are hybrids, whose seeds do not reproduce new plants.

April is a month when gardeners long to plant. But, as T.S. Eliot said, it is “the cruelest month.”

Warm days are often interspersed with freezing temperatures that damage over-eager plants that set their buds too soon.

Over eager gardeners can also make mistakes. An exemplary gardener, Thomas Jefferson, spent 60 years developing the gardens of his estate at Monticello in Virginia and he kept meticulous garden records. In his era all plants were open-pollinated so seeds could be gathered to grow the plants for the following year.

Today many of our vegetables and flowers are hybrids and their seeds don’t produce new plants. However, gardeners can still find sources for seeds from heirloom plants.

Self Seeding Plants

Many of our annual old fashioned flowers such as larkspur, hollyhock, cleome, celosia and love-in-the-mist may self seed in our gardens and this is another reason not to begin digging in our flower beds too early.

Jefferson’s records helped him to learn more about the patterns of growth during the seasons in his garden. Yet, he never felt he knew enough, because towards the end of his life he wrote,

“Even though I am an old man I am still a young gardener.”

But, whatever our age and experience, in April we must be cautious.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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