Vernal Equinox: The Garden Always Knows

I refer to my calendar each year to confirm the first day of spring. My garden needs no such reminder. While I’m busy planning in my head or on paper, my garden knows it’s time to spring forth. Every year it takes my breath away. I’m more steward, than gardener most days. I keep the weeds at bay, train the vines away from the sidewalk and trim away spent flowers or browning leaves.

In truth, none of these things are necessary. I like a tidy garden, so grooming the plants brings me pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to kneel on the earth, a way to feel connected to something magnificent. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.”

Meteorologically speaking, March 1st is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Astronomically, the equinox is generally considered the start of spring. Today is the day that both hemispheres have exactly the same amount of daylight. That in itself is something fun to celebrate.

Come have a look at my garden on this cool, overcast, early spring day.

California poppy

California poppy, waiting to open. It’s our state flower

Cornflower bud

The first of the cornflower buds

Nigella bud

Nigella ready to bud. The bees love them.

Fuchsia freesia

Fuchsia freesia (say that three times)

curb garden spring

The narcissus stems make great supports for the budding sweet peas in the curb garden

three flowers in the curb garden

The beauty of threes

assorted freesia

Assorted freesia

mystery flower red

I planted this in a pot last summer and I forget what it is

yellow freesia and violets

Yellow freesia with violets at their feet

I have a bounce in my step and a racing heart. Spring, glorious spring. You never let me down. Are you ready for the changing season? Are you entering Spring or Autumn?

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WordPress Needs a Scratch-and-Sniff Feature

Spring: when the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the intoxicating scent of the garden can bring you to your knees. I snapped photos today, with Mouse the Cat at my heals. We’ve been inhaling the tantalizing scent of freesias scattered throughout the garden.

mouse with flowers at his feet

Mouse tries out a new pair of shoe buckles

Freesia are native to Africa, named after a German botanist and now growing in San Jose. They get around.

yellow freesia

Yellow freesia

I bought a bag of assorted colors several years ago, and they’ve come back bigger and better every year. So far I’ve seen yellow, red and white (my favorite) but I think a few purple ones will be up soon. I took a handful to a friend today with a few sprigs of asparagus fern. The wonderful scent lingered in my car even after they were gone.

red freesia

Red freesia

white freesia

White freesia near the walkway

Freesias, sweet peas and daffodils

white freesia

Freesia toppling over the walkway

white freesia curb garden

Freesia in the curb garden

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press your nose to your screen and drink in that scent? Perhaps one of those twenty-something technical geniuses will develop a scratch-and-sniff like feature.

The hyacinths are also up dusting corners of the garden with their potent scent.

purple hyacinth

Purple Hyacinth (William of ‘William and Kate’)

hyacinth

Pink Hyacinth (Kate of ‘William and Kate’)

It’s no surprise that even manufactured scents try to borrow from nature: rose-scented perfume, lemon-scented dish detergent and lavender-infused essential oils. Nothing tops nature.

Along the fence, our jasmine vine is in full bloom, inviting me to linger under its shade. I hope it survives the abuse it will get when work boots hit the ground. It’s time to replace the fence.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine vine

curb garden

Curb garden with daffodil and freesia

daffodils in the curb garden

Narcissus: 1) Daffodils; 2) Mouse the Cat

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. Jean Giraudoux

So what do you think? Could “scratch and sniff” be the wave of the future? Mmmmmmm

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Gardening From The Ground Up

After my forced break from the garden, I’m making up for lost time. I’ve been outdoors pulling weeds, sorting compost, preparing planting beds and doing general cleanup every day for weeks.

freesia collage

The freesia are in bloom all over the garden

I’m in the garden for a few minutes in the morning after returning from school drop-off. If I’m working with clients or have other appointments, then I put in my time at the end of the day.

lemon tree buds and leaves in the rain

Meyer’s Lemon Tree Enjoying the Rain

The weekend affords the luxury of a few hours in a row, even with our recent and welcome rain.

Chronic neck pain, a wonky hip and my tender ankle tend to dictate the duration. I enjoy working in the cooler weather and even the rain but once my various ailments begin to act up, it’s time to pack it in for the day.

About a year ago I bought a garden kneeler with handles. I’ve seen pictures of them in catalogs for years. I once used a foam pad for shifting around the garden, but it’s become increasingly harder to get back up without pain.

The pictures generally feature a “mature” woman using the kneeler. Only recently did it occur to me that I’m a mature woman. In my mind I’m perpetually thirty. How disconcerting.

I got over myself and bought the kneeler.

gardenease kneeling bench

Kneeling in the garden

Word of the Year

I chose “health” as my word this year. It’s interesting how much of life’s enjoyment comes down to our personal well-being.  I’ve reduced my consumption of sugar, with some slip ups here and there. I’ve kept a food and exercise diary through MyFitnessPal for the past 66 days. Now that I’ve been on such a long streak, I find that I don’t want to miss a day. Logging what I eat is also eye-opening. It feels good to be back to Pilates classes two days a week, and I’m back to long walks as well. The weight is coming off slowly though, which seems so unfair [insert pouting face here].  I’m not giving up, but find it disappointing when week after week the scale doesn’t budge and the pants remain snug. I think we’re conditioned to think that if we do everything “right” we should see the results. Does this happen to you?

The first day of spring in California is March 20th this year. I’ll be planting heirloom tomatoes, basil and maybe, just maybe, a few pumpkins. I have a new and improved watering system which I will share in another post.

When autumn rolls around, I say it’s my favorite time of year. Then spring unfolds and I’m in love with the color, the birdsong and the freshness of it all.

I think I’ve made up my mind: I can’t possibly choose sides.

The Winter That Never Was

daffodils

Daffodils growing in the curb garden

Spring is technically less than a month away, but the view outside my window is shouting, spring, spring, spring!

pink hyacinth and fuchsia freesia

‘William and Kate’ Hyacinth and fuchsia Freesia

San Jose, California is more that two-thirds of the way through the winter that never was.

Initially, I gave Winter the benefit of the doubt. Though the calendar announced the arrival of winter solstice in late December, Winter decided to take his time. As a woman in her mid-fifties, I respect that. I no longer move like a twenty year old and my memory isn’t that great either. Winter, however, forgot about January entirely. No rain and above-average temps ruled the month. Winter left us high and dry, leading us into year four of our historic drought.

Okay, so December and January came and went, but surely February would live up to its winter reputation: cold, windy and wet. We’re ready.

san jose temperatures february

Source: Accuweather

As you can see by the Accuweather chart above, virtually every day this month has been warmer than average, sometimes by as much as 12 degrees. Winter says no can do.

While the rest of the country is battered by rain, wind, sleet and snow, it seems ungrateful to complain. I enjoy beautiful weather as much as the next gardener, but it feels like cheating. It’s supposed to rain in January. February is known for cold, windy days and a good splashing isn’t unheard of either. Our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife depend on it.  Winter left town and I miss him terribly.

Winter, won’t you please come home?

Fab Freesias Frolic in the Rain

It’s raining.  Honest to goodness, puddle-forming, hair-curling rain.

This is the first substantial rain in San Jose in two months. Everyone else seems to be suffering from too much weather; we haven’t had enough.  I walked with a friend for an hour this morning and it never let up. Fantastic.

My garden freesias share my enthusiasm.  This is their first shower of the season.

freesia buds pink

Nature’s perfection

freesia in the rain pink

Refreshed

They aren’t the only ones happy about the downpour.  The squirrels are chasing each other around and around the pine tree with glee. Meanwhile, a hummingbird tried to make sense of the fruit tree.  It’s known as a four-in-one or a fruit cocktail.  It’s one tree with four grafts.  This one grows pitted fruit: peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines.  The grapes were an after thought by yours-truly on her way to the compost bin.  They still had some life in them so I hung them on the branches for the birds.

fruit tree

Hummingbird at rest

I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this potted beauty. It sits on the back steps, so I can see it from indoors. I pass it on my way to do the daily rounds: emptying the kitchen compost bin, snapping pictures, checking on things. I pulled weeds for an hour yesterday, and cut back some of the dead growth from last November’s frost. It felt great to get out there and do a bit of work after nursing a crummy cold for over a week.

freesia progression

Four week progression

The yellow freesia was a surprise. It popped out from under another plant and seemed to bloom in a flash. Yellow is such a cheerful color, don’t you think?

freesia buds yellow

Yellow freesia buds

yellow freesia

These popped up earlier this week

If you are sick of the wind, the rain, the snow or the drought, I hope things turn around for you soon. I plan to enjoy every minute of this rainy day and, fingers crossed, hope for more to come.

Garden Pop-ups

Sure *I* was late planting this year’s bulbs, but nature is always on time. Bulbs from last season (and the season before!) are popping up all over the garden.

life on deck

Life on deck

Sometimes I’ll forget that a bulb is resting at the bottom of a pot, and I’ll dump the dirt into a planter. This explains the random placement of one of the bulbs I see peeking out from the center of the vegetable beds. I love nature’s optimism.

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

There are signs of tulips along the rock wall, but there are also signs of the squirrels eating the greens.  I hope they lose interest soon, or that will be the end of them.

tulips

Tulips, ever optimistic

The hyacinths are up and looking pretty. It looks like the onion-scented Allium are coming back from last year, along with (I think) a single freesia.

Emerging hyacinth

Emerging hyacinth

unknown bulb

Freesia?

Emerging hyacinth

Can you smell it?

New Life for your Old Calendar

Several of you commented that you save your wall calendars from year to year. Here are a few more ideas for turning your beautiful calendar pages into something new.  For more info, visit Garden Calendar Lives Another Day.

 repurposed calendar

Re-purposed Calendar: postcard, covered box, gift tags and stickers, envelopes, gift card holder, fairy garden bunting, drawer liner, box dividers, napkin rings