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Springing Forward

Mar 10, 2008 - 0 comments






The Spring time change brings mixed feelings to me every year.  The changing of the clocks coincides with Spring finally prying loose the grip of Old Man Winter.  Since cold is anathema to me, I enjoy the formality of recognizing the return of warmth by turning the hands of the clocks, and pushing the buttons on the digital clocks.  Some years the change occurs during what we Texans call a "Blue Norther" making the annual time change feel more like Groundhog Day.  This particular winter has been so mild that Spring arrived just as early as the time change.  

The flip side of the time change issue is that I despise Daylight Savings Time.  For the next several months I'll always feel rushed until the return to the more civilized Standard time.  My body never makes the adjustment as easily as my clocks.  Can we not just pick a time schedule and stick with it?  Congress, in its infinite stupidity, decided that DST would magically conserve energy.  If it's so very effective, why not just stick with it all year?  I'll answer my own question:  it's NOT effective.  It only makes for nice media coverage for our politicians to appear to be doing something, anything about energy costs.  More symbolism over substance that makes for a photo-op and a nice news story to add to their resumes, but conserves precisely zero energy.

I'm old enough to remember the unintended consequences of the Carter administration's determination to go with DST, and for the same tired excuses used this time around.  Suddenly I found myself slinking through the pitch black early morning hours to get to the school bus stop.  Accidents, injuries and yes, sometimes deaths, happened because motorists could not see the children in the dark.  Sunrise didn't catch up to the bus schedule until school closed for the summer.  I wonder if this year will bring more of the same injuries?  

Putting aside the issue of time measurement, this Spring looks to be spectacular here in southeast Texas.  We've had plenty of rain and perfect conditions for our justly famous wildflower season.  I've managed to get the worst of the outside chores done just in time to deal with the mess courtesy of a huge live oak tree.  It's about halfway through the leaf dump, and now beginning to bloom and throw pollen.  Most of that pollen seems to find it's way to my nasal passages.  The dropped flowers are almost a worse mess than the leaves, and tend to cause a great deal of spousal cursing when they clog up the impeller of the pool pump.  

The roses were pruned and fed about a month ago (Valentines Day is the traditional rose-pruning date here in Houston) and they're covered with new growth and even a few early buds.  A dose of prophylactic fungicide goes a long way toward preventing the dreaded black spot so prevalent in our humid climate.  I'm guessing a month or less and I'll have blooms popping.  Yes, I'm a rose lover.  Over the years I've gotten away from the hybrid teas.  They're gorgeous, but very needy.  I'm old enough and broken enough to need lower maintence plants, but there's no way I'm giving up on my roses.  If anyone is thinking about trying the Knock Out varieties - do it!  They're as low-maintenance as you can in any kind of flowering plant, much less roses.  

My favorite rose vendor is Jackson and Perkins ( and they also sell a fabulous collection of perennials.  I've purchased plants from them my entire adult life, and have never been disappointed.  If they say a rose is fungus resistant, you can believe them.  A couple years ago they came out with a new variety of small shrub rose they named Fairy Roses.  They are descended from the old fashioned polyanthas, and are the only rose I've ever grown that can tolerate a pretty good amount of shade.  When they arrived in their little 3" pots, I figured it would take a couple years for them to really get going and form the border I envisioned.  Try a couple of months!  These little roses are unbelievable performers.  They get about 2.5 feet tall and about the same in width; need heaving pruning only once a year before breaking dormancy, and put on a continuous show of blooms from late Spring until frost.  This winter has been so mild that they were still blooming when I pruned in February.  They're also very fungus resistant, and beyond a couple of feedings to get them started, and watering once a week, they require little care throughout the season.  

In 2006 I purchased a Corkscrew Flowering Vine from J&P.  It was one of those impulse purchases and I didn't expect much from it since I've never seen them sold in this area.  As it turns out, this vine just loves it here, and quickly covered about 40 feet of fenceline in two years.  As long as I severely prune it back to about 2 feet high in February, I can keep it from taking over the subdivision.  Yes, it's invasive, but what a gorgeous vine!  I've never seen anything like these flowers that bloom in clusters in colors from creamy yellow, to light blue, to lavender.  The heavy fragrance is very similar to honeysuckle, and the blooms go from late summer to frost.  If you've got a whole lot of empty fence to cover up and you live in a temperate climate, give this vine a try.  

After all the work I did yesterday, it appears I've sprung my spine in addition to the clocks.  Time to head back to the heating pad and enjoy the rain we're getting today.  Maybe I'll have a good browse through my garden supply catalogs while I'm at it...

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