The Payoff

A hybrid of native deciduous azaleas

A hybrid of native deciduous azaleas

Anyone who tells you gardening is easy is lying to you — at least if you garden with any seriousness. It is hard work to plan, plant, water, feed, weed, mulch, prune, harvest, etc. And when you do it on five acres as I do, it is very hard work.

A close-up of the same azalea's flowers

A close-up of the same azalea’s flowers

Ah, but then spring comes, the yard greens, rainbow flower colors burst forth from every corner of the yard as birds and frogs sing love songs — and that’s the payoff. Best of all, when I do things right and the weather gods are kind, my sweat equity pays off bigger every year. Blooming azaleas grow larger and more spectacular, deciduous magnolias hold fragrant blooms aloft to scent the air and lure pollinators. The beauty is almost overwhelming. Seriously, sometimes I just have to sit down and mutter “Wow!”

A view of the north slope garden.

A view of the north slope garden.

I knew that prolonged heavy rains were arriving mid-day here today, so I spent an hour or so this morning wandering around my yard taking photos and paying compliments to all my green charges who repay my efforts so enthusiastically every year.

Frasier magnolia flower buds

Fraser magnolia flower buds

The shots so far are all from the acre of north slope we’ve enclosed within a deer fence. Here my blooming woody beauties grow unmolested.

Rhododendron alabamensis is just beginning to open its flowers.

Rhododendron alabamense is just beginning to open its flowers.

All of my deciduous magnolias are unfurling their leaves and revealing their flower buds. I think the Fraser magnolia may just beat the Ashe magnolia in the first-to-bloom contest.

Magnolia ashei flower bud

Magnolia ashei flower bud

My latest big-leaf magnolia species addition is Magnolia pyramidata. I planted it last March. It is tiny, but so were the others when I planted them some years ago. When I see the small new magnolia just unfurling its leaves, I can look to its magnolia cousins for the payoff a few years of patience will bring.

The key to keeping this new addition happy will be weeding out intruders.

The key to keeping this new addition happy will be weeding out intruders.

I can’t resist offering a few more views from the north slope garden.

Pinxterbloom azalea

Alabama azalea in foreground; pinxterbloom azalea down slope

Ashe magnolia in foreground; Viburnum 'Shasta' in back

Ashe magnolia in foreground; Viburnum ‘Shasta’ in back

New leaves are also lovely in their own right.

New leaves of the deciduous Dawn Redwood

New leaves of the deciduous Dawn Redwood

New leaves of deciduous False Larch

New leaves of deciduous False Larch

The greening of the floodplain forest across our creek.

The greening of the floodplain forest across our creek.

Although I can’t take credit for planting the myriad, multiplying wildflowers that grace the wetland on and adjacent to our five acres, I can take credit for appreciating it, encouraging it, and lavishing it with compliments when it begins its spring display.

Jack-in-the-Pulpits preach to their swamp brethren.

Jack-in-the-Pulpits preach to their swamp brethren.

Cinnamon ferns tower over Atamasco lilies just beginning to bloom.

Cinnamon ferns tower over Atamasco lilies just beginning to bloom.

Lizard's tails emerge over more muddy territory every year. When they bloom, plumes of white dance across the floodplain.

Lizard’s tails emerge over more muddy territory every year. When they bloom, plumes of white dance across the floodplain.

The Mayapple mob is abloom while the Bladdernuts above drop spent flowers on their lobed leaves.

The Mayapple mob is abloom while the Bladdernuts above drop spent flowers on their lobed leaves.

One of my additions to this breathtakingly healthy wetland is a Red Buckeye.

The entire Red Buckeye tree

The entire Red Buckeye tree

A flower-laden branch of the Red Buckeye

A flower-laden branch of the Red Buckeye

This close-up of a Red Buckeye inflorescence  shows the tubular flowers that draw hummingbirds every spring.

This close-up of a Red Buckeye inflorescence shows the tubular flowers that draw hummingbirds every spring.

I took 171 pictures today. Not all of them were great, but even so, I think this is enough for one post. Soon I must update you on the vegetable garden. Much is happening there. And other parts of the yard are also in full, glorious flower. Truly, I am blessed with an embarrassment of botanical riches. But as I count my blessings, I remind myself that I had a lot to do with the beauty that now surrounds me. All the sore muscles, the sweat, the dirt, and yes, the bug bites are all worth this annual payoff — a payoff that grows larger and more wonderful every year.

Eastern Columbines have staged a takeover of the bed beside my greenhouse.

Eastern Columbines have staged a takeover of the bed beside my greenhouse.

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