By Michael Leach
My garden spends months waiting to exhale into green tips and tiny blossoms. This breath of life is held captive all winter beneath a crust of cold, wet soil, dull brown leaves and leaden clouds.
Despite the seeming dormancy, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and other early bloomers have little patience with this situation. They make the best of it for weeks, by growing roots. But eventually the time comes to send up pinpoints of green. Timid at first, they grow bolder in the warmer, longer days.
More and more plants join them. With this breath of life called spring, the earth is transformed, almost as we watch, into green everywhere, swelling flower buds, blossoms opening. In just a few weeks, this part of the Midwest will be filled with a chartreuse haze, softer than a whisper, that seems to hover over every branch and twig. Hillsides become fluffy, pale green clouds, accented with tufts of redbud and dogwood flowers.
Even as those first tiny shoots begin sticking it to winter’s backside, cardinals sing again in early morning. They are probably only marking territory, but I prefer to think they’re heralding the coming spring.
Redwing blackbirds do the same thing, singing brightly. Spring is coming, along with those migrating birds. True, bitter winds, snow and ice can make an appearance anytime in March — usually after a couple of balmy days — but their return is short lived. No wonder birds sing with hope.
Adding to the effect, is a powerful artificial construct — daylight savings time returns not long after the redwings.
There are downsides to this. One, the inevitable poor man’s jet lag of getting the body adjusted to a new time zone — without leaving home to visit a different place. And for a few weeks, morning coffee will revert to waiting for signs of dawn, instead of marveling at the play of light on the white sycamore branches. Evening, however, suddenly grows longer, hinting at summertime.
This gift of evening light from the government could mean a bit of weeding after supper. Or I could gaze at the charming, ever-changing scene. The latter choice is wisest, for spring vanishes almost as quickly as the last note of a cardinal’s cheery trill.
Here in Mid-Ohio (5b), my Galanthus up on the back hill started blooming a few days ago! Mar 3rd, I think it was.
But your post got me to thinking… I grow a few species of Amorphophallus and after delving into many different papers on the genus, just today I found a 1997 article from Scientific American called: “Plants That Warm Themselves” by Roger seymour. ( DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican0397-104 ). We know things like Philodendron selloum, Symplocarpus foetidus, Nelumbo mucifera, and my Amorphophallus are thermogenic, (The sterile Male flowers in P. selloum are the generators of heat by efficiently breaking down ATP), but your post made me wonder if species such as the earlier-appearing Galanthus (Snowdrops), Or Crocus chrysanthus (Snow Crocus) could practice thermogenicity? I mean, wouldn’t they almost have to? lol. I guess I could answer my own question by researching it real quick, but wanted to respond to your post and thank you for it.
p.s. On a slightly more humorous note, in your last paragraph, you could have just substituted “government” with “Dick Cheney”… Blame him, he did it. HA HA
Thanks for your thought-provoking comments. Maybe those welcome, early bloomers are capable of more than charming flowers.
My crocus are still hiding this season…soon will be able to enjoy them.
They’re worth the wait.