I might be making things up. I am so ready for a view like this out my office window that my reporting may simply be wishful thinking. But I do believe I heard birds singing this morning. It was thrilling just to be outside and not shudder. The sun was shining, the temperature well above freezing. Though the best thing about February 19th is that I will not have to deal with it for another whole year, I could sense some little signs of spring.
One definition of a Michigan spring is the day the snow is gone. It is gone from my roof, sidewalk and drive. My street was wet; the big piles of snow are a fraction of a bit smaller. The 39 degrees by 5 pm seemed like a heatwave. Perhaps more telling, the sun was still shining at 5pm; this is a sure sign that winter is loosening its grip. I am of course thinking already about planting. It will not be long before I have my hands back in the dirt.
There are lots of plants quite tolerant of cold. These lime needled Italian cypress are not hardy in my zone, but they do not mind chilly weather. I have grown them 5 feet tall and better, depending on how good a job I do of wintering them in the garage. The pansies, violas, alyssum, and heuchera in these pots are much more cheerful about chilly days than I am.
I have never seen Milo give any indication that he did not like any weather. He’s game, any day. But he seems more determined than ever to get out that door now. Once we reopen March 1, he will be outside as long as he can persuade someone to keep him company. I buy plants as I think they can tolerate the night temperatures. Diascia and angelina, osteospermum-even Moses in the Cradle- shake off the cold as well as the pansies.
It will be a good while before perennials are available-more than likely the same while it will take the ground to be ready for working. I try to leave my in ground gardens alone until they truly wake up. As I greatly dislike anyone dogging me when I am half asleep, I keep quiet until I can see the lights are on and I can smell something brewing. Trees and shrubs are just coming in-depending on the weather. So I plant spring pots; Milo keeps me company looking after them.
If the weather doesn’t break early in March, I will go to Bogie Lake and beg some greenhouse space to hold my spring pots. As tolerant as they are of cold, spring flowers only put on weight when there is heat. My spring pots get looking pretty good about June 1; some years, the spring pots last the entire summer. Every spring there are nights when everything has to be hauled in. Growing plants is such work-but there comes a time when I can’t do without them one more day.
We will have snow on and off in March and April. I remember a whomping snowstorm some years ago on April 16; more than a few times have we had flurries on Mother’s Day. Late snow doesn’t bother me that much-it rarely stays. The snow we get in December I am still looking at now-that’s a big bother.
I do cringe seeing my beloved spring flowers disappear beneath the snow, but they seem not to be bothered, unless the temps go below 28 degrees. I have seen fierce frosts when the tulips were 4 inches out of the ground. It may damage the leaves, but the flowers come on fine. The species crocus are a favorite of mine; there are years when freezing weather reduces their fragile blooms to gray mush. But when they are good, they are spectacular.
Our winter is all but gone. But March and April are neither winter nor spring. They are what I call the sprinter months. Move quickly towards spring, drop precipitously down and back into winter. We’ll have big wind soon-maybe ice. Our transition to spring can be a rocky one. It seems like we all are sprinting in one direction or another to keep up.
We’ll be fooled. We’ll be wringing our hands, and scrambling. But first and foremost, we’ll be ready to welcome the new season.