Unpredictable, gentle, stirring, tempestuous, extreme — spring is all of these. Morning frostiness has me pulling on the wool socks; driving around in the afternoon I’m tempted to turn on the air conditioning. So hard to dress for success.
And who doesn’t love the birds of spring? Tanagers. Orioles. Grosbeaks. Buntings. They are the rock stars, brightening the trees and shrubs like ornaments. And it’s not just their colorful plumage — they arrive and proceed immediately with the drama, squabbling over the best mate, the best branch, the best life. The playfulness of animals in spring — woodpeckers in the crabapple, deer frolicking by the pond — is cause for celebration, for optimism, for a Hallmark card.
For an anthophilous person like me, it’s the season of planting, and dreaming about all the seedlings and teenage flowers growing in the greenhouse. Planting a seed is an act of faith, a miracle in a tiny package. Watching them grow. Who will thrive? Who will play well with others? This simple pleasure is available to anyone with a yen to observe.
I love to group plants together, painting my masterpiece with colors, textures, heights and fragrance (later the brush is yanked out of my hand when the plants show me their masterpiece).
I take a last look at my orderly greenhouse — flats of seedlings, new transplants, pots and tools all lined up with precision. The sweet fleeting illusion of control, everything in place, every space tidy and arranged to function effectively. Any minute, this illusion will shatter, as a delivery of plants arrives, overfilling its designated area. Boxes pile up, flats of baby plants perch precariously on every surface, and triage areas, set up for those unfortunate plants that did not travel well, bleed soil and water into walkways — the beautiful chaos has begun.
The yard is lovely with blooms: forsythia, crabapple, pear and cherry trees. And the bulbs! Every year there is a stellar plant performer and this year’s award goes to them. In the fall when I’m planting bulbs, I forget what’s already there, so in spring I get the big surprise. I mostly plant daffodils because the deer don’t eat them and I totally believe in setting myself up for success, but every year I can’t resist tucking in a few tulips. These qualify as salad bar items for the ungulate gang that cruises the perimeter, foraging and waiting for their chance to slip in on a stealth mission. Morning surveillance (mostly) keeps them at bay and yields a bonus of fun. Watching wildlife is so much better for the blood pressure than the morning news.
That said, gardens are a fascinating example of our worldview. They are our sovereign kingdom, where we get to make the rules — we control what happens, let in some wildness but not too much. Until the arrival of marauders: rodents, bindweed, and (pain in the) asters to name a few. Exotic invaders like Eurasian collared doves would not be so bad if they could restrain their numbers and become part of the blend. But no, they flood the scene and drive off the natives and the songbirds I cultivate, so I find myself running them off — like I said, a world arena. I do cherish my delusion of order, before the rampant growth of weeds, the heedless determination of ants, and random events make a mockery of human endeavor. And the complexity. I love the monarch butterflies but plot against cabbage moths. I love the bees but the wasps get in my face. My dog, Snickers, loves a wasp (is it the crunch? a spicy sriracha sting?) so I tolerate them.
Change is in the wind and the wind is always changing in this end of Castle Valley. Squirreling around, polishing our sentinel rocks, delivering sand, seeds, tumbleweeds, trash and weather. It will not ignored. It makes us edgy, yet promises excitement, moving everything around. It gives the crows a wild ride and they offer up a cacophony. Talk about drama. The wind scours and sculpts the rough edges off rocks and people, and eventually we come to resemble the landscapes we inhabit.
Not that we need another festival around here, nevertheless a Wind Celebration is staged for us each spring; kites, flags, and pinwheels are optional. Best to sit back and enjoy the show.
Alice and Ken Drogin own and operate Canyon Nursery in Castle Valley, where the flowers are brighter, the lizards are faster and the magpies speak in tongues. More information about Canyon Nursery is available online at: facebook.com/CanyonNursery.