Is spring here yet?

March 25, 2014

By Jane Garrison

“Beware the Ides of March.” What’s that supposed to mean? It seems so important, so relevant, but no. It’s only the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar, not the beginning of spring, as we might hope.

Around here, we should celebrate the sun’s arrival into the northern hemisphere, not the passing of an emperor 2,000 years ago. We need something reliable to tell us spring is here.

My husband says he can tell spring has arrived when the taxes are due. I thought, I can do better than that: I know it when I see the Indian plum blooming in the woods. But wait. I really know Indian plum will bloom way before spring starts, even under cover of snow.

Well then, I know it when I see daffodils and crocus coming up in pots, planters and flowerbeds. The $1 primroses in pots at the grocery store send a similar message. Am I just being foolish? These plants are not originals, but instead hybridized flashy show-offs designed to make us feel good and promote spring fever. Should I fall for that? Should they be the real indicator of spring?

Well then, how about the real thing? Can I tell when I see the big, fat shoots on the Himalaya blackberries poking up out of the soil? No, because they do it throughout the year. They never give up. One nice day, and they’re back.

I used to think I could tell when the Canada geese fly north in the spring. Wrong, because they fly anytime in any direction, now that suburbia makes life pleasant for them.

What about those robins that are supposed to come back in the spring? Not good, because they really live here throughout the year. I see them sneaking off to parks and woodlands in the winter, not far from the rich, composted soil in our yards and gardens. We can’t tell much by their behavior anymore.

Does spring arrive when the first houseflies show up? It’s hard to tell when you see sleepy ones buzzing around the living room at Christmas time. Mosquitoes might be a better indicator, but even they have to have conditions right for a hatch.

Some people may think spring starts when the Mariners come back after spring training. The more fashion-conscious may notice it when people stop wearing coats and jackets. Unfortunately, the amount of clothing people require around here depends more on their internal temperatures rather than the degrees registered outside.

Is there a smell, a noise, a sight that truly represents the beginning of spring for everybody? While I’m pondering that issue, I think I will go to the store to get some of those primroses.


Jane Garrison is a local landscape architect and planner who gardens in glacial till on the plateau.

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