Spring is Sprung, da Grass is Ris…

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Late March and my garden is still buried deep in snow.

Yes, in the Northern Hemisphere, spring officially arrives today, March 20th: the vernal equinox… but the photo above shows what my garden looks these days. Some 5 feet (1.5 m) of snow with drifts twice as high. All my ornamental grasses are completely buried this year and few of the shrubs are visible. More snow is expected today, although just a smidgen. No, not much in the way of spring is visible outdoors.

Am I discouraged? Not at all! In spite of the snow buildup this year (the second greatest amount I’ve ever seen), there are still signs that spring is on its way.

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Forced hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis). Photo: 4028mdk09, Wikimedia Commons

Indoors, for example, my houseplants are waking up in a big way: new leaves, flower buds and flowers are popping up all over. I’ve pulled a few pots of hyacinths out of cold storage and they’re blooming away, giving off their intense perfume. Seedlings are sprouting in their trays and cuttings are rooting. Even the dormant bulbs of cannas and tuberous begonias are starting to sprout: some sort of internal clock is telling them to wake up even though they’ve been stored in total darkness for months.

…I wonder where dem birdies is?

Ah yes, the birdies. They are the surest sign of spring of all. No, the geese aren’t back yet (they’ll wisely wait until that thick sheet of ice and snow has left the lakes and rivers before they make their move), nor has the American robin shown up this year, although in milder winters he’s an early harbinger of spring.

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The cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is this year’s avian harbinger of spring.

My avian sign of spring this year is that the neighborhood cardinal has started to sing. He was here all winter, but he only signs when he feels it’s spring.  “Wheet, wheet, wheet, wiyou, wiyou, wiyou,” he proclaims. And with his bright red feathers, he really stands out against the snow. His singing means he’s claiming his territory for the season.

Under the Snow

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When the snow finally does melt, the bulbs are already up and ready to flower.

What I can’t see right now it what is happening under the snow, but I know there’s a lot going on down there. All those bulbs I planted last fall, for example, are sprouting sight unseen. When the snow finally does melt, they’ll already be up and ready to bloom. Some of the earliest start to bloom the very day snow finally does melt.

The sap is running in the sugar maple trees (the province where I live, Quebec, is the world capital of maple syrup, producing 75% of the world’s output), but it’s not going to be a banner year. It’s been too cold. The sap rises most abundantly when the days are above freezing and the nights below and this year, the warmest days have hovered a bit below freezing.

When Does the Snow Melt?

When does the snow melt where I live? It is starting to melt in the sunnier spots, at least on the warmest days. But it certainly won’t be all gone until sometime in April, although there have been years when there was still plenty of snow in May, often well into May, once even into June. Even so by July, no matter how long winter lingered, my garden will have caught up to those in warmer climates.

I love winter, I love spring. And I love summer and fall. All the seasons have their charms. And as a laidback gardener, I just let Mother Nature tell me what to do when. And right now she’s saying “take it easy”!20170320A

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