This year things were different. And those things were different from the start. Winter solstice officially marked that season a few months ago but it never came. And summer is nearly here. What a train wreck it has been. A literal crashing of all that blooms during the normal extended season of spring happened almost all at once this year. And it’s not even May yet. In fact, taxes are due tomorrow.
Springtime in the South is a lazy drawn out affair in most years. Really in every year of the almost three decades I have been digging in the dirt observing. Daily turns in the woods or the garden have a rhythm of anticipation, joy and anxiety. Waiting for favorite seeds to germinate and plucking annoying weeds hopeful last year’s poppies or blue columbine return before the rag weed muscles in the spot. Crocus and forsythia are first to make the show preceded only by winter jasmine a smelly shrub best left to the neighbors yards. And so it begins, daffodils, hyacinth and plum trees. The pace of spring following the temperature gives reason for sap to rise.
Erratic cold spells during these typical months have their place in the rebirth ritual. Sudden weather events give attentive gardeners and farmers plenty of worry time during the awakening. Will the quince get nipped? Will it be warm enough for the bees to pollinate the crabapple trees? Is it too early to put out the lettuce? When is it time to uncover the tomatoes? But, it has to get cold or the blackberries won’t come. You have to see a dogwood winter or the bugs will be awful. And in all the years of listening and chattering the events are similar enough almost a comfort during the long journey to summer.
But not this year. Winter had no snow. The temperatures rose and stayed at record breaking highs. Spring started in January. Forsythia and quince were still blooming with the daffodils which were blooming with the tulips. The redbuds and dogwoods were out at the same time. The lilacs, snowball bushes and iris popped while the trees were still doing their thing. The wildflowers came out all at once; harbingers’ of spring, Dutchman’s pants and spring beauty came on together, with the most dramatic and quickest appearance of larkspur ever seen. If a day was missed of hiking, something had bloomed and faded. A multi-day vacation meant missing a handful or more of flora all together. It seemed like a month passed each week.
I like the slow advance of springtime. It is one of the most comforting times of the year, the resurrection of Mother Earth. But this year was special too in its quirky speedy unprecedented way. This year was the Garden of Instant Gratification. The big box stores that seem to sell plantings too early were spot on for once. The local garden store owners threw caution to the wind and made encouraging long term weather predictions. Everyone was buoyant with the lovely weather and the early return of so many beloved spring friends. And for once the weather junky talk was noticeably absent of naysayers.
Okay, we gardeners even got a couple of thrills during the spring fling too. In the days just prior to the normal “last frost” mark (observed with reverence by knowledgeable Green Thumbs) temperatures unexpectedly dropped. Hazardous weather warnings and frost alerts hit the local media. No panic ensued, just momentary horror and that sick feeling of “knowing better” clenching one’s insides.
The cool nights passed thankfully without the dreaded kill. No impatiens to replace or ruined azaleas bushes. Kept the blood flowing but no harm done.
Spring flew in this year, not slowly and gently but more like a raucous parade jammed with excitement. And it has culminated in a ridiculous April garden flamboyant as the last rousing round of a 4th of July fireworks display. The modest cottage garden is bursting with snapdragons, exploding with roses, lily of the valley and all the rest. Petals cover the greenery and the ground like the bridal path of an exorbitant wedding celebration.
So drunk with fragrance surely the hangover will come. Air thick with pollen will add to the pain of floral over-indulgence. Having it all and all at once is blast. Perhaps a day a reckoning may come in the blazing heat of August. But I can’t help but toast this unusual year. Truly the best garden party I have had the pleasure of attending.