PAUL SMITHS — Diane E. Leifheit pushes her “Adirondack Dirt Witch” cred to a new level with a recent planting of tulip bulbs.

She lives on the top of what locals call Easy Street Hill in Paul Smiths.

“It's historical,” said the Adirondack artist noted for her pastel paintings.

“It used to be that when all the caretakers who worked on the lake, they lived on Easy Street in the winter because they didn't have be working on the camps.”



Leifheit's carrots were extracted.

She'd cleaned up most of her garden, but she ran out of time and/or her back was misbehaving.

“I just couldn't get to doing the the tulips at that time,” she said.

“Then, it started raining. I'm not a good-foul weather gardener. I'm a fair weather gardener.”

October was terrible, and November was worse.

“We were away for most of the time,” Leifheit said.

“The last weekend, it looked like (the weather) was going to break. It wasn't snowing. It wasn't raining. It wasn't 14 degrees below zero.”

Tuesday was tulip-in or tulip-die day.



She'd retrieved sage and parsley, buried under 18 inches of snow, over Thanksgiving.

“We have a lot of snow,” she said.

“That's the problem. You don't garden in this stuff.”

When she'd salvaged the herbs, she discovered the ground was still soft and not frozen.

“So, I said, the window is still open, but it's closing fast,” Leifheit said.

“So Tuesday, I went out with a snow shovel where I knew I had a patch of ground that was ready.”



The soil was cleaned and turned over under the snow.

All she had to do was remove the white stuff, dig trenches, stick in the bulbs and cover them.

She put in 100 tulip bulbs, mostly red and yellow and some whites and some pinks.

“I usually cluster them,” Leifheit said.

“I don't keep them in the ground all the summer. I take them out after they are done blooming and let them dry out, clean them all up and put them back in the ground in the fall.”



At her elevation, the bulbs don't dry out in the ground.

“Instead of spending big bucks on new bulbs every year, I save them and put them back in the ground,” she said.

This is the system she has perfected for years.

She stores the bulbs in her barn with her gardening equipment.

“Invariably, I have to share some with the squirrels that visit,” Leifheit said.

Once she pulls the bulbs from the barn, she cleans them and carts them in a garden tray for October planting, theoretically.



“Things were not looking that good,” Leifheit said.

“It was still bad weather when we came back. At that point, I had them sitting in the living room because I wasn't sure because it had gotten so cold."

Paul Smiths broke records with frigid Thanksgiving temps and high snowfall.

Pots were not an option because it would be certain tulip death.

The Adirondack Dirt Witch moniker is a 30-year-old throwback to a garden company or group based in Saranac Lake, who called themselves “Dirt Witches.”

“I loved that, and my husband if I'm not really in the going at it, he says, 'Well, how's the dirt witch today?”

At the moment this witch has cast her spell for bright blooms once winter is a distant memory.

“No matter how bad the winter is, those bulbs are going to come up and bloom next spring,” Leifheit said.

“And that's a promise that never gets broken. It's worth it. It's a long winter, but it does turn around.”


Email Robin Caudell:



Recommended for you