No matter where we go for the winter, we look forward to returning to our little house on the big lake. Travel can be a rather glorious assault on the senses, but it’s pretty hard to compete with springtime in the garden.
For three years, Karen and I have packed up and left home for the winter. Neither of us is very good at staying in one place for very long, and without the frequent career-related moves that created the rhythm of life during our working years, these winter travels are the antidote to our perennial itchy feet.
As much as we thrive on the months away, when the time comes to return home, we are always ready. It’s hard to imagine life without connection to community, without the comforts of home, without our gardens.
Spring is many things for us, then. It’s a return home and it’s comfort. It’s a time for us to catch our breath and, at the same time, to gear up for what is to come. Add to all of that the fact that our home lives revolve around our gardens. Spring is like the New Year. Everything starts anew in spring.
We wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us. We watch as tiny green shoots emerge from the still cold ground, and colour joins the party as if by magic. Even though it was my hands that dug the holes and planted the bulbs, each year I am amazed to see what emerges. I know the science of it, but that doesn’t make it seem any less of a miracle.
Seriously, how does this even happen?
The crocuses (or croci, if you will) are the first to show up in my yard. With overnight temperatures hovering around zero (Celsius) and several days of cloud and rain, these little guys are taking their sweet time opening, and I can’t blame them. I’m resisting going outside, too.
Behind the tiny yellow crocus blooms, you can see the reddish tips of tulips just popping up. If you look, you can always find the promise of something yet to come in the spring garden.
Evergreen plants are miraculous on a whole different level. To survive months of temperatures dipping to the ridiculous -20s, 30s, and 40s, we humans need well-insulated and heated homes and layers of clothes making us look like enormous, multi-coloured sausages with eyes. Of course, a great sense of humour doesn’t hurt. Somehow, the seemingly tender leaves of plants like this parsley, and Sedum need only a blanket of snow to keep them alive and green, waiting to pop out and get on with the work of growing.
The snow in my north facing shade bed is always the last to go. As soon as it goes, there’s my lovely little Lamium (dead nettle) waiting to send out new leaves, spreading to fill in around ferns and hostas, which won’t show themselves for ages, yet.
This little cluster of Sempervivum ‘Royal Ruby’ is even more astounding. Nestled in a dip in a rock, rooted in only an inch or so of soil, it survives the cold and dark of winter to add a very welcome hit of colour and texture. It never fails to make me smile.
Through the weeds and the failed attempts to push my growing zone, even through my garden’s extremely frustrating and unsightly transition phase (more on that to come), spring always makes me feel hopeful. These living, growing things are like old friends waiting for me to come home.
This post is for my friend, Leona; one of the first people to share her love of gardening with me.
Leona, every year, as I watch my zone 2b garden slowly emerge, I wonder what your zone 0 garden might be up to. No matter how long it takes, I do hope that this spring, more than ever before, your garden brings you joy and hope for all the good things yet to come.