What is the sign you look for to tell you spring is near? Is it a robin, a crocus poking up through the dead leaves of last fall, a just awakening snake in your path, a citrus blossom, a pussy willow branch, or that first walk out of doors without a jacket?
Spring is such a visible force as the first tiny bit of green pokes up from roots underground. A white blossom opens on a bare black branch and quietly the season begins. We sense a change in the air, the birds begin singing before the sun is up. The sun rises with its gentle light and welcoming warmth. When the signs appear a fever begins to spread, affecting one’s behavior.
In my garden in the desert southwest spring fever infects me in February. The garden calls to me, and out I go looking for new growth on my orange tree and the swelling of buds as citrus blossoms begin to form. However, nothing infects me more than golden daffodils. Ever since I was a child, daffodils have had a strong, mystyfying tug on my soul.
Spring’s calendar of delight is different the world over. Where a garden grows on our planet determines the end of winter’s dormancy. A North American calendar dates spring as March, April and May with summer arriving in mid-June. On the opposite side of the globe in Australia, spring spans September, October and November.
The arrival is sporadic, the weather so unpredictable Mark Twain once said “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” The buds of marvelous flowers can be destroyed by a sudden freezing, hail and ice shredding the blossoms. Unceasing wind may tear the blossoms from the trees. Eventually though the days brighten and we venture out.
In St Kilda’s Botanical garden in Melbourne, Australia on a still cool spring day in October the signs were all around. In the rose garden the leaves on the bushes were clean, green edged with burgundy. Along the pathway through the roses were four benches, two on each side of the walkway, facing each other. The benches were the gathering spot for a group of women. They wore hats, and sweaters. Some had lap robes to keep themselves warm as they soaked in the early morning sun. Each had a bag of treasures, some books, magazines, their sewing. They had come prepared to stay a while and enjoy this fine spring day. I didn’t understand the language they were speaking but I heard laughter, a lightness in their voices while sharing observations among friends.
Nearby young mothers were walking in the garden, their precious babies in the pram. Scattered about the lawn were groups of young people sitting on blankets soaking up the sun. All were trying to absorb the essence of a fine spring day.
Last fall I was chasing spring in Australia and in every garden I found signs telling me it was almost here. Then I arrived at Tulip Top Gardens, a 10 acre private display garden about 20 miles north of Canberra, the Australian capital city. The culmination of all that is beautiful in spring flowers appeared as I walked down the gravel path. This garden is bursting with tulips and daffodils in every color, in artful combinations of sizes and varieties in curving beds. Pansies in long expanses of solid color added to the composition. Lush lawns fill the area between and walkways direct the visitors around the garden. While I expected beautiful tulips I had no idea there would be hundreds of flowering dogwood, peach, pear, and crab apple trees throughout the garden. There were hedges of forsythia in full golden yellow blooms with deep purple pansies at the base.
The idea that one could just pop in and do a quick tip toe through the tulips simply won’t work here. The day was a perfect temperature, the beds of tulips were in full bloom, the blossoms on the trees were like a halo of frothy light above the flowers. A jazz band was playing, people were contented, chatting with friends, sipping tea and eating biscuits. There were lovers strolling hand in hand. Families shared a picnic on a blanket on the grass. Children were chasing butterflies and dashing from blossom to blossom discovering each new color.
This garden is open only 30 days each year, mid September to October. By chance, I arrived on a perfect day to see a saturation of spectacular signs of spring. A visit in such a place envelops you in the exquisite beauty only spring brings. This is why we love spring so, it shows us the new, and the beautiful. Spring delivers the hope for better days.
Whatever your sign, whenever it arrives, spring is worthy of celebration. Throw off your jacket, play hooky from your daily routine, walk with your lover, take a small child by the hand and find your sign. It is time to celebrate.