By Irene Virag
You wait for it through the long months, as cold clutches the earth and the trees raise bare branches to the whitening sky. And then, suddenly, on an April morning it’s flooding your senses.
Can’t you feel it in the sweetening breeze, see it in the golden sweep of the daffodils and the sheen of the greening lawn? Can’t you smell it in the warming earth?
It’s the metamorphosis we know as spring. When the world dresses up, when stems and stalks break the earth, and buds turn into leaves and flowers. And when color is the key word. Red, pink, yellow, blue, orange, purple, green. Mix and match—I can’t get enough.
In my part of Long Island there were signals of the season in March—winter aconite and Iris reticulata and valiant early daffodils struggling up in a late snow. And not just flowers. The squirrels that think my property is some kind of co-op were starting to court, and my koi were coming out of their winter torpor and moving like shadows in the depths of the pond. But for me it’s not really spring until April.
My thirst for color is immediate, and I quench it, at least temporarily, with pansies. They salute the season in most colors—solid hues and bicolors and tricolors. A flat of pansies does wonders for a front entrance, and I use them as quick fixes for pots on my patio along with ranunculus, osteospermum, nemesia, pericallis (pictured) and other annuals that enjoy cool weather.
Pansies smile up at me, and I smile back at them. Especially the ones with little cat faces. I even talk to them. I tell them how wonderful it is to see them. I like to think they hear me. They grow almost anywhere in full sun to moderate shade, and they’ll appreciate it if you settle them in enriched and moist but well-drained soil.
For me spring is like a symphony. Hellebores help out with the opening strains, and then the music of the flowers comes in waves that almost overwhelm me. As the daffodils fade—remember to snip the stems but not the leaves, which will nourish the bulbs for next season—the tulips come. My favorite tulip is Gudoshnick, which flowers in shades of peach and rose.
Incidentally I treat my tulip bulbs like annuals. When they’re done blooming, I toss them and plant dahlias.
Meanwhile, spring is in full crescendo. Bleeding hearts make me tear.
Columbine in shades of purple or pink flowers along a stone wall, and Jack-in-the-pulpit sings hosannas in the shade garden.
And Japanese primroses, irises, Virginia bluebells and poppies join the chorus of my favorites.
My star magnolia twinkles, and the scent of the lilacs reminds me of my grandmother, who always stopped to cut a bouquet from the bush of my childhood. The azaleas rush to glory, and the rhododendrons follow. Peonies bloom in red, pink and white, and I think that the rose the queen of flowers may be, but peonies are far more than mere pretenders.
But then the roses are softly sprung in June. And suddenly summer is here.