A Year of Surprises

A Stellar Wildflower Year

by Sandy Swegel

People often ask how long do seeds last, but they usually are referring to seeds in packets.  The question I’m astonished by this year is “How long do seeds last in the soil?” Colorado is a pretty dry place and there aren’t that many plants that reseed prolifically the way that happens in warmer, more humid places.  But this year is a year of surprises.  Most years we are lucky if we get 20 inches of rain all year. But last September we had 17 inches of rain in one month and the highest annual precipitation ever recorded here.  All that moisture refilled our underground water reservoirs, remoistened soils desiccated by recent years of drought, and awakened seeds and roots that had long been dormant.

Since September, gardens have been a constant surprise for me. It started in October when Naked Lady bulbs I planted 6 years ago appeared. The bulbs had bloomed the first year I planted them and then never again.  I assumed they died….but somehow those small bulbs were deep in the ground just biding their time for the right conditions.

Yesterday I watched new blooms on pink columbines that were first planted 14 years ago. Those hybrid columbines gradually all reseeded to yellow but yesterday, about 20 feet from the original bed of pink columbines, a seed that had waited patiently in dormancy suddenly lept to life.  Pink! That seed had been brought by the wind or birds to a spot where it was just waiting for its moment.  Near the asparagus bed, tulip bulbs that had been planted too deep many years ago found their way to the surface and are now late bloomers blooming with the iris. A strawberry patch that had dwindled to just a few puny plants exploded three feet in every direction. Even weeds seem like old friends.  I thought I had successfully weeded horsetail out of the rock garden years ago but ten shoots are poking up through the snow in summer.  There is something so abundant about this year that I’m even happy to see the weeds.

I can’t wait to go hiking in the foothills this weekend.  Reports from around the state suggest that we are having a stellar wildflower year. All of Colorado is going to look just the pictures on our wildflower seed packets!!!

Photo Credits
Todd Caudle http://outtherecolorado.com/gallery/1735/pictures/281747


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