The other morning I was peacefully writing when I heard a raucous racket coming from outside, so loud I couldn’t ignore it. Was it a pack of wild dogs? I went out expecting some catastrophe, but soon I recognized the sound of geese, honking as loud as fire engines. It took me a while to spot them, perched way up on my neighbor’s roof like two monarchs surveying their kingdom. Then I got it. They were shouting, “Spring is here!”
On days like this one in February, with sunshine and clear skies, I feel like honking, too. My energy takes a quantum leap. I pull on my garden ensemble—oldest sweats, a fleece vest, slip-on Muck boots, and a belt holding Felco pruners and a Japanese knife in two holsters. Once I head out to the garden, on the best days I’m out there until the last ray of light has faded.
Warmed by the sun and blessed by the light, plants are coming back to life, and I’m coming back to life with them. It’s the great return, the bursting forth of buds, of shoots, of flowers.
—from Love Letters to My Garden
The Little Monk, sculpture by Patrick Gracewood
On this first sunny day in February, our reward for making it through a week of torrential rain, I greet my garden with a big smile. The lawn is still spongy but here and there signs of life lift my heart. All of the andromedas are budded up, preparing to launch their lily-of-the-valley flowers in the next month or so. Hellebores are half-way open, pink and white and yellow flowers showing plenty of color. And the golden-variegated evergreens gleam like beacons, especially Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ and ‘Confucius’ Hinoki cypress.
I begin by snipping off last season’s hellebore leaves so that the new flowers and fresh leaves will shine. Patrick Gracewood’s sculpture The Little Monk reminds me to be patient and work mindfully so that I don’t cut off any buds by accident.
I’m tempted to crouch down amid the hellebores for hours on end. There are hundreds on this acre, all waiting to be refreshed. But I’ll pay for it with a sore back and neck, as I have done so many years in the past, overeager at the start of the season. So I remind myself that it’s only February and I have plenty of time to weed and snip and prune. Fortunately my neighbor Doug comes by to visit and I get a chance to stand up and take a break.
“It’s looking good,” he tells me, and I beam. Doug sees the big picture, beyond the spent foliage that needs to be cleaned up. We agree that it might be just the kind of day to pull up a chair out and bask in the sun, knowing how unlikely it is that either one of us would actually do this, but still, it’s fun to dream about.
After Doug leaves I continue to snip until the wheelbarrow is overflowing and ready to take to the yard debris container. For a moment I lift up my head and close my eyes, basking in the sunlight like a cat. I am back in my garden, and life is good!
Andromeda with fresh buds waiting to open: Anticipation is part of gardening joy!
Osmanthus ‘Goshiki,’ an evergreen shrub that lights up the winter garden. At first I thought it was gaudy, but now I think it’s festive.
It’s a gardener’s prerogative to change her mind at any time.