An Early Spring

Despite my annual mid-January whining about wanting warmer weather to arrive, I was caught off-guard by Atlanta’s astonishingly short winter this year. All sorts of plants that I can’t expect to begin leafing out until late March began blooming in early February…and the avalanche-like blossoming of the garden hasn’t faltered since – or, as in so many “false springs,” been ruined by a late-winter frost.

So much for my resolve this year to record the first appearance of each blooming thing in my yard – I waited too long to begin my scribblings, and before I knew it I had already lost track of what bloomings preceded (or followed) the others.

Another index of the early spring is what’s happening with my herb garden. I usually buy my herbs in late April, but they’re already growing (and on sale) everywhere already, so I’m rescheduling this year’s ritual purchases for this coming weekend instead of later on. It feels strange to plant herbs so soon, but the ones that survived the unusually short and mild winter are getting so lush that I’m afraid to wait any longer to plant the new ones.

Going against all my instincts to drag back outside before April 15th (the pre-global warming era’s last-frost date for Atlanta) the patio plants I’d moved indoors for the winter, I did that dreaded annual chore two weekends ago. Among the winter-sheltered plants taken back outdoors was a lemon verbena looking dead as a doornail; today I noticed that it’s leafing out like crazy already.

After a welcome (though hardly torrential) rain on Friday night, it looks like Atlanta’s gardeners will be enjoying yet another long stretch of unseasonably warm (if rather too dry) weather. Fortunately, it’s been cool enough in the mornings and the evenings to tackle a host of garden chores usually undertaken in late April instead of late March. I’m hurrying to get new plants into the ground that otherwise wouldn’t have been planted until late April. In short, late March turned out to be this season’s Primo Gardening Time, rather than the cusp of PGT. This afternoon I dragged out the ladder to give the creeping fig that covers the front of the house the first of a series of severe and long-overdue haircuts, and quickly planted (before it gets too hot out there!) four more variegated ajugas around the base of the statue of St. Francis.

All through the second half of March, the evening weather in particular has been sublime: perfect for walks in a neighborhood fast filling up with familiar blooming shrubs and flowering trees, the night sky featuring the moon and Venus and Jupiter in delightful proximity.

Tonight I took the latest in a series of evening walks, each leg of which deepened my gratitude for living in the midst of such floribundant splendor. My meandering took me by a stream populated with croaking frogs, and eventually alongside the house of a friend who was sitting out on her screened porch. I stopped to chat, and she walked me across the street so I could smell a lilac blooming there. A lilac in Atlanta! (Earlier today, remembering how I used to do it in the summertime when I was a kid, I munched on several blossom-ends of two different varieties of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle in April!)

Anyway, it was another in lovely evening in the city, and I am lucky to live in one of its most beautiful quadrants. Within walking distance of my front door are five public parks, connected by block after block of interesting houses and gardens to enjoy. Reluctantly bringing to a close a walk I had prolonged for the sheer pleasure of the sunset, the breezes, and the glimpses of so many fast-darkening streetside gardens, I made my way back to my own abode. I’d left a light on in the front window, and I returned from my invigorating, reflective walk happy with the prospect of curling up on a comfortable couch for another absorbing chapter of the book I’d started earlier this week (The Ladies of Llangollen).

Life is good.

P.S. On the official first day of spring this year, my friend Franklin posted to Facebook a poem that fellow-poet Rupert Fike had stumbled across. For me, Andrew Hudgins’ “The Persistence of Nature in Our Lives” transforms Atlanta’s recent episode of record-breaking pollen into almost A Good Thing.

P.P.S. The photo above is of an azalea in my front yard that I took in April two years ago. This morning I was planning to take a photo of this year’s blooms to post along with these comments, but this year’s blooms are already on the ground. Can this weird fast-forwarding spring slow down just a bit, please?

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