All posts by Kent Higgins

The Most Miserable Month Of The Year

March, for most of America, is usually the most miserable month of the year. Ice and snow, rain and mud, cold and gloom, just about anything meteorologically bad can and usually does happen to us during the third month. Yet, with characteristic initiative and confidence, we select this very month to put on parade the glory, glamour and grandeur of our great Spring Flower Shows.

This March there are five of the big shows and it is amid the full-flowered beauty of these artificial Edens that millions of Americans will discover once again the enthusiasm which will launch their gardening season.

It is variously estimated that there are some 50,000,000 gardening families in this nation of ours – that is, at least members of that many buy items of plant material, garden tools and supplies. It is big business, a tremendous business, indeed, and it is the Spring Flower Shows with all their drama that have played such an important part in providing the inspiration and the information that made this development possible.

Of course, in a large sense, it is the development of gardening itself that makes the Spring Shows possible. All of them depend upon a very wide-spread patronage for their support. Probably, at least 150,000 persons must pay their way through the turnstiles of each of the Shows if they are to meet their expenses. And of this number most are probably gardeners – or if not gardeners, at least interested in gardening in some form.

Primarily it is for this type of American that the aspirined members of the Show staffs sweat and toil. Americans want to be shown and so the SHOWS show them what is new in flowers and vegetables, how to design gardens, how to make the most of plant material, what’s what by way of fertilizers and, just to mention one more thing, what the chemists are producing in herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Actually, each Show is a gathering together and a parading of just about everything that is of interest to amateur gardeners. A man would need to spend many months and travel many miles to see a fraction of what is set before him to profit by within a few hours at any of the major Shows.


Many Types Of Buds

Observing tree buds in Winter can he adventure. Each is a miracle of nature. Each has been packed with care – next Spring’s flowers and leaves in miniature meticulously folded and sealed. Each contains just enough oxygen and moisture to keep alive until the miracle of Spring unfolds them.

A mature elm may hold as many as six million buds, yet only a percentage will open. If squirrels eat some, if others freeze or arc damaged, nature has supplied enough to give a tree full foliage. Winter buds are a tree’s diadem. Some are as colorful as precious jewels. They come in many forms and unusual shapes. The architectural pattern of nature is in spirals and ovals.

Look closely and Winter buds become works of art. Some contain only flowers; some hold leaves, still others contain both flowers and leaves.

The flowering dogwood by your door has fat silver-gray shoe-button-like buds at the ends of twigs. These are next Spring’s flowers. Now observe the gray, slender and sharp buds along the twigs, arranged in spiral form. These hold next Spring’s leaves.

Their colors are kaleidoscopic. Buds of a shadbush are rich brown red, fringed with silver hairs. Sweet gum buds are highly polished mahogany red, broad at the base and tapering sharply. Buds of red maples are crimson tridents, and note how all maple buds arc grouped in threes at the end of each twig, with the tallest one in the center.

A willow bud is half an inch long, tapering gradually to a rounded tip. Pussy willow buds are blue-black mottled with red at the top; swamp willows have an orange hue, black willow buds are glossy, wine red.

White oak buds end in blunt ovals and are clustered at the tip of a twig. The horse chestnut boasts a big end bud, too. Cut one open and inside will be arranged overlapping groups of leaves, folded like a pleated dress, curved and pressed together.

All buds are arranged according to the spiral pattern of a tree and sealed with water-proof wax, or covered with fur-like hair. Apple buds seem woolly. Aspen and horse chestnut buds are coated with sticky resin. Those of a Balm of Gilead seem to have just come dripping from a glue pot.

Next Spring this wax will melt and each little leaf and flower petal will come marching out of the bud in geometric design, like a West Point cadet on parade. It’s adventure to get acquainted with these miracles in-the-making in Winter time.