For days now, I’ve been scanning the ground when I’m outside, watching the slowly growing shoots of green for signs of that first spring bloom. This is a ritual I’ve kept since childhood, when I would jump off the school bus each spring afternoon and scamper down the driveway to my mother’s flower garden, peering into the neat tangle of perennials just starting to brighten from winter brown to green. There was a small cluster of crocuses planted there, in Easter shades of purple and yellow and white. When the first one finally burst through and opened its dainty cup to the strengthening sun, I knew spring had arrived.
Some people, with drier, warmer garden beds than mine, have already spotted their first blooms this spring. Alas, while the snow has melted from our perennial garden, I think the one crocus we had has drowned. It seems I’ll be waiting awhile still for the first sunny burst of yellow daffodils, which will fade away to deep purple flag irises, feathery pink astilbe, and buttery gold Stella D’Oro daylilies.
While I wait for the flowers, I have turned my attention to the vegetable gardens, tending to the compost heap, which was neglected all winter, and tilling last fall’s layer of leaves into the dark, wet dirt. The big garden out back of the house is still too soggy to work much. But the two smaller beds in the side yard are well-drained and ready for planting. Into one of these this week we sowed our first crop of peas, dropping the small, dried spheres into the warming soil.
My children happily paused from their sandbox play to help set the wire fencing that will serve as pea trellis, then place a handful of seeds into neat rows. We all love the feeling of digging fingers into yielding earth, and we can nearly taste the sweet peas that will grow on the vines that sprout from those seeds, climbing slowly upward, then swelling with pods that we’ll break open for the sun-warmed treasure inside.
We’ve planted cherry tomato plants and cucumbers into pots inside, leaving them in the sunny shelter of the big window to soak in the warmth. The children check on these pots each day to see how the seedlings within have progressed. But this is not the same as digging in garden dirt, tilling the soil by hand, etching straight rows to take the seeds, carefully patting the earth above them.
So we have planted the first seeds of hope for a garden this year. And as the snow has receded, we have rediscovered some of our warmer weather activities – bike rides down the lane and walks through the woods road to the brook, where the children toss sticks for the dogs to chase. In our early spring ramblings, we have encountered all sorts of lichen and fungi, puff balls that smoke spores when touched, squirrel middens under tall hemlock trees, and a place on the big boulder out back where some animal scraped away thick moss in search, we think, of a meal.
Still, we are waiting for that first bloom. It might come with the daffodils, which creep higher each sunny day. But sometimes we find the first spring flowers in the wild – bloodroot peeking from beneath the crooked old apple tree by the clothesline, or marsh marigolds growing in bright patches along the brook, or trilliums and trout lilies pushing through leaf litter along the roadside. While we wait, we’ll keep turning the soil, preparing for the long, hot, growing days of summer.
And in the fall, after the vegetables have been harvested and the perennials cut back for winter, after I’ve turned the soil for the last time this year, I’ll try to remember to plant some crocus bulbs in the patch of garden by the living room’s big window, where the sun hits early and stays all day. That way, next year, we won’t have to look so hard or wait so long for the first bloom of spring.