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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Vernal Equinox, Always on Time

Variety adds spice, predictability keeps us grounded.

I enjoy the novelty of each season, and their predictable arrival.  Though it feels like winter passed us by, the planet continues to rotate. Once a year I celebrate the Vernal Equinox, aka the first day of spring.

I found a super-cool site called Time and Date that spells out the specifics if you’re curious.  I was.  I love learning new things. As gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere welcome spring, green thumbs in the Southern Hemisphere are seeing in the first day of fall.

My celebration is simple: I plant.  Nothing says spring like tucking seeds under the soil with optimism in your heart.

I also pulled weeds, topped of the planter boxes with rich soil, checked on the mini-greenhouse *and* remembered to do a good job with my sunscreen.  Lindy kept me company, happy to be outdoors on this glorious day.

lindy-lu

Lindy-lu

Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

The hummingbirds circled the feeder, jockeying for territory.

hummingbird at feeder

Swooping in for some nectar

They’re also drinking from the Abutilon lining the fence.

Abutilon lines the fence

Abutilon lines the fence near the patio

I heard a squirrel overhead, and noticed activity in the little mason bee nesting house.  What a day!

Mason Bee Habitat

Mason Bee Habitat

How is this for serendipity: the lovely Boomdee sent me several packets of sweat peas, and they arrived yesterday!  Perfect timing.  She sent a purple variety as well so that my sister, Sharon can enjoy them when she’s here.

goodies from Boomdee

Goodies from Boomdee

To round out the day, I popped in to SummerWinds Nursery and picked up an EarthBox™ and some potting mix.  I’m planting assorted lettuces in the front of the box, with the sweet peas in the back.  The trellis from the now-deceased Hardenbergia is the perfect size.  I’ve placed it at the edge of the lawn near the patio for easy viewing.  I can’t wait to watch them grow.

There is much more to do, as their always is this time of year, but I enjoy it all.  Wishing you the best of the new season, be it spring or fall.

Early Bird Special: Catch the 4:02 to the Vernal Equinox

DSC_0033It’s here.  Well, almost here.  The first day of spring. The day we gardeners dream about.

If you live on the west coast of North America like I do, spring officially arrives at 4:02 am. When I worked full-time, I used to try to take the first few days of spring off so I could start a garden. This year, I’ve rearranged my schedule to attend the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. I am so excited.

The show opens tomorrow, March 20th and runs through Sunday.  It’s exciting to be among the first to arrive when everything is still fresh. This year’s theme is Gardens Make the World Go Around.  Frankly, I couldn’t agree more!

I’ll be taking photos galore to share with you later in the week. And…guess what?  It’s raining!  (Shhhhhh….we don’t want it to stop).

Ah, spring, how I love you so.

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What is a Vernal Equinox?

An equinox occurs twice a year (around 20 March and 22 September), when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator. The term equinox can also be used in a broader sense, meaning the date when such a passage happens. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length.

At an equinox the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point (RA = 00h 00m 00s and longitude = 0º) and the autumnal point (RA = 12h 00m 00s and longitude = 180º). By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point.

The equinoxes are the only times when the sub-solar point is on the Equator. The sub-solar point (the place on the Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is exactly overhead) crosses the Equator moving northward at the March equinox and moving southward at the September equinox. (Since the sun’s ecliptic latitude isn’t exactly zero it isn’t exactly above the equator at the moment of the equinox, but the two events usually occur less than 30 seconds apart.) – Read more at Wikipedia

Blooming Thursday: It’s a Stretch

Here’s the view from my back door.

View from my back door

View from my back door

At first glance, it looks like nothing is blooming. In my under-dressed (put on a coat, Alys!) and overzealous quest for something in bloom, I poked around here and there and teased out the following:

Begonia

Somehow this Begonia escaped the frost

drying hydrangea

Faded but beautiful drying hydrangea

Daphne

Flowering Daphne

Serbian Bellflower

The first of the Serbian Bellflowers

An over-do thank you to Laura for these wonderful Forget-me-not seeds. I’m excited to plant them come spring.

Forget-me-not seeds

Forget-me-not seeds

Vernal Equinox, 49 days and counting.

Spring it On!

Patio Garden

Hooray for spring which officially arrives on our coast around 1 am tomorrow.   Spring Equinox symbolizes the re-emergence of plants and trees awakening from winter’s slumber.  It also means longer lines at the garden center.

When I was single and working full-time I used to use some of my paid time off  each spring to start my garden.  It didn’t matter where I was living, I always found a way to break ground even if it meant settling for a patio garden.  When I rented a room in a house in Willow Glen, I planted in the three narrow strips lining the driveway.  My production was minimal in that miniscule plot, but the corn got plenty of sun, and I had the immense pleasure of gardening.

When the Willow Glen owner sold the house and gave us the boot, I moved to an apartment in nearby Campbell.  I managed to cram about 20 houseplants into my 400 square foot apartment, valuing greenery over any superfluous furniture.  As I set down emotional roots, so too did my garden expand.  I spent my weekends at local nurseries and assorted home and garden centers planning for my little patio.  One pot became three and eventually I lined both sides of the narrow walkway with potted flowers and plants.  I added vines along the fence, and even planted some zucchini behind my apartment, though I really didn’t have enough sun.  I planted flowers along the path to  my door, to the delight of my neighbors who shared the view.  The owners of our four-plex preferred simple cement.  It was nice to have a bit of green along the walkway, welcoming me home each day.

I married my husband in 1995 and settled in a quiet neighborhood, known for excellent schools.  It was important to both of us that we raise our boys in one place, having bounced around so much in our own youth.   I’ve enjoyed it immensely.  It took awhile to realize I could turn plants loose from their pots and allow them to put down roots.  I love the stability that allows me to plan a garden from year to year, not worrying about evictions or troubles from the city. My Campbell four-plex, as it turned out, was illegal.  It has since been torn down and replaced with a single-family dwelling.

Life is impermanent and change is inevitable.  But year after year, spring arrives, and along with it feelings of hope.    In the end, it’s not about yields but about the joy of the practice, the nuanced discoveries and the dirt under your nails.

What are you planting this spring?

Plants and Cats