Here in New England during March, we can experience a broad range of weather from raging blizzard, like Tuesday’s storm Stella, to warm days with temperatures reaching the 60sF (15C). So far this month, the proverb is holding true– we’ve had the lion and now we’re hoping for the lamb.
For those who live on dirt roads, it is also mud season, which, depending on the rate of thaw, is 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.
In varying degrees, we also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, breaking out of winter’s doldrums with total abandon by imbibing glasses of green beer, or for those more temperate, cheery bouquets of green carnations, bells of Ireland and potted gifts of Oxalis, commonly known as shamrocks. The triple-leaved symbol was said to be used by St. Patrick in the 5th century to teach ‘pagans’ 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.)
For those who garden, you can generate your own good luck by growing Oxalis from bulbs on your windowsill or patio. 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 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 US zone 7, they must be dug up and stored overwinter. After a period of rest, they can be repotted in 50/50-coir/perlite mix and will bloom indoors 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 outdoor container gardens.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” ~ Irish Blessing