April Walking Tour – The Joy of Spring

April 10, 2024 Jennifer Miller , Horticulture Coordinator

Spring arrives like a lovable goof — one day, merrily sending up snowdrops, the next, losing all concentration and leaving us knee-deep in snow. Yet, even on the snowiest day, there’s a current of excitement we can feel, swelling in the ground and inside of us.

Spring, whether you go by meteorological day of March 1 or the equinox of March 19, arrives right when we’re ready for it. After the long slog to winter’s end, I crave warmth and renewal, and long to peel away the fatigue that came on so slowly I hardly realized it was there. How long, I wonder, have I felt tense from the cold air of winter slipping down my collar? And when exactly did the brown grass and bare ground dull my mood? I’m primed for change. Every little blossom will hold sway over me now.

Even after 10 years of seeing the first blooms arrive at the Gardens the same time every year, they still catch me off guard: Those first snowdrops blooming unabashedly out of a drift of snow, the tumbling swaths of the ink-blue dwarf iris in bud one day and blooming the next.

And of course, those birds, calling out from trees and shrubs. One early March morning, the birdsong in Roads Water-Smart Garden advanced to a full-throated chorus. It was that moment, for me, that spring had arrived. It reminded me of something I had read by the English gardener Edward Flint, surely one of the finest garden writers today.

In an Instagram post, Flint (@rotherramblings) wrote: “Spring comes as ever not with balmy days but as if sung into being by the urgent pleading of birds, their calls nibbling away at winter, unpicking its shroud, releasing the energy still coiled in bud and shoot, bulb and root.” His words fit the way I felt that morning. I could almost hear the gardens pop and fizz.

And that was only March.

Now in April, there’s hardly a day when I don’t hear the dawn chorus in the early morning, or I don’t see progress in the garden – an intensifying green of boxwood balls or buds swelling on the columnar apple. The pace of new life has quickened, the air smells of soil, earthworms wriggle to the surface, and there is a confidence to plants. Some of the plants that emerged in March and huddled about, now cast off all restraint.

The Helleborus that timidly bloomed a month ago now looks as energetic as a wig of curls. The Fritillaria imperialis ‘Early Fantasy’ that rose like a periscope just inches out of the ground in mid-March is now two feet tall, its pendulous peach flowers conveyed around stems like seats in a carnival swing ride.

Then, there are the tulips, what many think of as the hallmarks of spring. All foliage a month earlier, they have begun to open their gobletlike blooms, with thousands surely to open by month’s end. The ground is bursting with energy, and spring, no longer straddling the seasons, has settled into gentle renewal. My chest is full. I spend my mornings, knees in the dirt, rootling around, with Italian composer Dario Marianelli’s piano score “Dawn” on repeat in my head.

Gallery photos by Jennifer Miller


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