Spring Imaginings

We are already an hour into Spring, arrived at just after sunrise at 8:02 am this Wednesday, March 20, 2013. After realizing we've reached the long awaited vernal equinox, I ran outside, braving the chilly air and cut a small bouquet of hyacinth, a violet cultivar of the Dutch hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis. Once the hyacinths bloom, I feel the gloom of winter has been dispelled.

Only into this second paragraph, the hyacinth's sweet fragrance has enveloped the room. Earlier in the week I brought a bouquet of daffodils, who's stems were broken by the weight of a snow drift, into the house and breathe in the perfume of spring every time I pass by. Why this conjures up images of an English woodland dotted with flowers is beyond me, having never witnessed such a pleasantry in person. But so strong are these images when coupled with scents, the mind can imagine a life as carefree and wonderful as daily strolls through heavenly gardens.

Bringing the daffodils inside has unleashed another urge, that of spring cleanup. I spent a day in rough cleanup just before spring break, but now I earnestly apply myself to the task, not entirely pleasant. Unpleasant for all the dustiness that's accumulated over leaves, twigs and dried plants over the winter. Immediately after the snow melted from the great February blizzard, it seemed fine particles of dirt, sand or caliche must have been swept up by the winds and washed down with the snow as it swirled and thrashed our landscape, as everything outside was coated. One would have thought the melting snow would have washed the landscape clean; it didn't. I've spent a lot of time sneezing.

With the time change, our mornings are still cool. I prefer mornings for garden work, before the wind gets up in earnest. Sometimes, I need to apply another mental trick to encourage myself in cleaning up the garden during the chilly hours. It's not too hard, with the scents and imagery of the English woodland garden in mind. When the mornings and days are cool and even overcast as was yesterday, my imagination places me in Britain itself as I gather up leaves, trim Salvia greggii and Anisacanthus wrightii and grasses, tidy up Yucca pallida, Y rigida and Y. rupicola, and pull up winter weeds in the xeriscape beds.

Just this week, while delaying going outside, I discovered a delightful British website, The Horticultural Channel (http://thehorticulturalchannel.info/), that promotes itself as “Ranked the 13th 'Most Influential Gardening Blog' and 7th 'Most Influential Environmental Blog' in the world”. Titli's Busy Garden and Sean's Allotment are two of the video series I've viewed so far. This March, they both mentioned the cold and chilliness of working outside. Somehow, knowing that gardeners in Britain are braving the elements bonds me with my English imagery as I go about my cleanup chores wrapped in multiple layers.

I have the added benefit of noticing buds breaking out on nearly everything, newly emerging shoots from the chrysanthemums, gaura and agastaches and can enjoy the blooms of early Dutch iris and pale blue star flowers (Ipheion uniflorum) that appear and disappear rather quickly unless one waits on them. I don't have that many spring flowering shrubs, I mainly enjoy the show around town. But my pink flowering almond shrub (Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena) is loaded with tight dark pink buds, each day swelling a little larger, as is the rarely fruiting apricot tree. I recommend the pink flowering almond to anyone, it has faithfully bloomed each spring for close to 20 years; amend the soil with plenty of compost to avoid chlorosis, a yellowing of leaves.

Whether you have these harbingers of spring in your garden, encouragement can be found everywhere. View a few tender shoots of spring to get you going.

I have delayed as long as I can. The allure of the garden and the first scents and sights of spring are calling.

Angie Hanna