Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, St. Gertrude’s Day and, at least in some parts of Massachusetts, Evacuation Day! In 1776, the British soldiers who had been camped out on Boston Common for eight years evacuated by boat to Nova Scotia, almost 11 months after the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles was a 7th century abbess in what is now Belgium – she may not have anything directly to do with gardens but is sometimes considered the patron saint of cats, so in my household at least we would not want to fall out of grace with her. And many of us are dressing in green today, in honor of the emerald isle’s patron saint who lived in the 5th century. People still debate which trifoliate plant is the true shamrock – a clover or an oxalis – so several species in each genus are often sold as decorations on this holiday.
It may be green in Ireland already, but in our Saugus climate we have to look carefully for any wee bit o’ green that might be sprouting from the ground outside. Daffodils have had leaves poking up a few inches for a few weeks, and this week I can see the plump shapes of their flower buds. Early species of crocuses are blooming, and snowdrops and winter aconite have been flowering for a few weeks already, accompanied by their green leaves.
We got off somewhat lightly with Tuesday’s rain/snowstorm compared with the around three feet of snow some inland Massachusetts towns received. It is not as unusual as many people think to have significant snowstorms in March. Winter storm Stella of 2017, while more severe in western Massachusetts than here, brought high winds and some snow on March 14 of that year. The Great White Hurricane of 1888, also known for decades as the Great Blizzard, was this same week in March. Snow began on the evening of March 11 and continued falling until March 14 from Maryland up to Canada’s maritime provinces. Transportation and communication was shut down for nearly a week in most areas. This storm is often given credit for Boston’s decision to build its subway system.
On Monday, March 20 we celebrate the first day of astronomical spring, also known as the spring equinox. Surely it is no coincidence that this date was chosen by the UN as the International Day of Happiness. Whatever the forecast may be, winter is officially over on that day, and we can all delight in the arrival of spring!
March 21 is the International Day of Forests, and this year is the tenth anniversary. The UN General Assembly first observed this holiday in 2013. This year’s theme is Forests and Health. A great way to observe it would be to take a walk in the woods and contemplate the many benefits that forests confer on the world.
A fairly new variety of white clover, ‘Pirouette’ mini-clover (Trifolium repens ‘Pirouette’) is a very tiny version of a familiar plant. As a St. Patrick’s Day decoration, we might appreciate its ability to fit in a tiny pot on a windowsill, but it is also a plant that is often planted outdoors in a lawn or garden to help suppress weeds, increase nitrogen supply in the soil and act as a fine textured bright green filler plant. Like some other members of the pea family (Fabaceae), bacteria nodules on its roots are able to take nitrogen from the air and transform it into a form that is water soluble, so roots of other plants can benefit as well. Micro-clover is sometimes mixed with grass seed in a lawn for this reason, but it can also be the entire lawn with no grass at all. It will tolerate some foot traffic, but not as much as most popular lawn grass varieties. It does green up a little earlier in spring, as long as it has a sunny location that is not too dry. Ordinary white clover is also used in lawns, but it grows taller so does not meet the low height requirements of many people who want a manicured lawn look. All white clovers have heads of small white blossoms in the summer, but as you might expect, the mini-clover has tinier flowers as well as leaves.
Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.