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Vernal Musings


Tags: spring, crocus

Created: 4/21/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

Sow the radishes and pop in the pansies!  It’s spring! 

I don’t mind telling you folks; when your job is all plants all the time, spring is a pretty big deal.  No more waiting, no more desperately ogling seed catalogs in a darkened office or checking the potted palms for watering again. Time to get moving.

I should say time to stay moving. We’ve already got the beds raked out and the veggie garden sown and the Butterfly Haven replanted and the pansies in and so on and so forth.  Next week, plants arrive for the expansion of the Wickham Butterfly Garden, and before you know it we’ll be firing up the lawn tractor.  Spring doesn’t slow down; it only accelerates, until the heat of July finally forces it to sit down in the shade with a glass of lemonade. April is the time when a gardener must shake himself free from the grey slumber of winter, grab a rake, and start rebuilding the atrophied muscles and calluses he will need to keep pace.

It might sound to you like I’m complaining, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am so ready to be surrounded by green, growing things, even if half of them are weeds I need to pull. It’s not that I hate winter. Every season has its charms. But there’s something about spring. Something beyond the warmth and beauty. Something about the resilience of life, the renewing power of change, the hopefulness of a world made young...Sorry, I seem to be waxing spiritual. Hard to avoid at this time of year.

I feel fortunate to live in Chicago, where spring is a full season long, unlike father east or south, where it often seems like little more than a two-week argument between Old Man Winter and the May Queen.  Back east, everything would be brown one day and green the next, leaving precious little time to savor the yearly miracles of bursting buds and stretching stalks. But here, day after day brings new developments that can be watched, reported on, and discussed with fellow springtime aficionados. Elms are blooming.  Tulips are up early this year. Saw my first violet today. To a gardener, this is a rewarding conversation.


My favorite moment every spring comes early on, often in March. It’s the moment when I spot my first crocus flower of the season. Be it yellow or purple, that speck of color is nothing less than shocking to an eye lulled to complacency by winter’s stark palette. For a moment, that shock seems to resonate, excite, and compel like the very spark of life itself. It’s as if that little crocus has a message for me: Change has come. Wake up. Get moving. Be a part of it all.

Thanks little guy.  I’m on it.

Seth Harper, Horticulturist


No Comments

  • Heather H said (on 5/2/2013 )

    You're right on my spiritual wavelength! I live in West Virginia, where spring comes much earlier. I used to believe it came like an argument between winter and summer, but I've had the immense privilege to really watch closely this year, since I now stay at home. It starts in February with barely perceptible changes, day by day - a branch buds, the grass greens, the first snowdrop blooms in the immense carpet on the slope behind the house. We've gone through forsythia and are into wild bluebells now. I don't know their real name, but they pop up everywhere. Each day is a new revelation, a new reminder that life goes on in spite of our winters.

  • Jeanine Turner said (on 5/2/2013 )

    Not only are you one of nature's great caretakers you are valued wordsmith and eloquent writer. Your words could spur even the most callouss to take notice of the small wonders of life.

    Your energy and passion are missed here in Baltimore.

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