COUNTRY GARDENING in zone 5
“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”
In March, month of the vernal equinox, New England transitions from winter to spring and can experience a broad range of weather from raging blizzard to warm days with temperatures reaching the 60s F.
It is also mud season for those who live on gravel roads, which is, depending on the rate of thaw, either “not too bad” or “living hell” with axle deep mud. It is also when maple sap flows and we flock to sugarhouses for that delicious treat: maple syrup and sugar candy.
St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated in varying degrees, can be a time to break out of winter’s doldrums with total abandon imbibing glasses of green beer, or for those more temperate, cheery bouquets of green carnations, bells of Ireland and gifts of oxalis, commonly known as shamrocks. The triple-leaved symbol was used by St. Patrick in the 5th century to teach ‘heathens’ about the Holy Trinity and the three Christian virtues of faith, love and charity. The four-leaved clover, because of its rare occurrence, became associated with good luck, symbolizing respect, health, wealth and love.
Generate your own good luck by growing oxalis from bulbs on your windowsill. Easy to grow, they come in many varieties. The family Oxalidaceae has 6 genera and over two hundred species originating from all over the world, with the majority from the Americas and South Africa. The latter being the easiest to cultivate.
Bulbs planted in full sun in spring will form mounds of foliage in four to six weeks and are covered with blooms until cooler weather sends them into dormancy. Not winter hardy below zone 7, they must be dug up and stored over winter. After a period of rest, they can be repotted in 50/50-peat/perlite mix indoors and will bloom throughout the winter. Not liking wet feet, water sparingly only when dry.
Oxalis regnelli is the classic green shamrock with bright green foliage, topped by abundant white, five-petalled blossoms. O. triangularis has large purple leaves with deep pink interiors. O. tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’ has bright green leaves with purple splashes at leaf junctions. For the unusual, O. vulcanicola ‘Molten Lava’ sports chartreuse to orange foliage with yellow flowers. All make great additions to container gardens.
“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” ~ Irish Blessing