This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
Spring is an elusive season for the northwest. Typically what happens is that winter comes and goes for what seems like months on end and then one day we wake up and it is summer.
I have heard told that there are really only two seasons in the northwest, the rainy season and road construction season. There may be some truth to that. But despite the difficult transition from winter to spring there are sure signs of the season if you just look and listen. For me there are some very distinct indicators.
Daffodils: I have lots of bulbs blooming in my garden long before the daffodils open up but the snow drops, winter aconites and crocus don’t make me think of spring. Rather they seem more like late winter to me. But daffodils are the consummate spring blooming bulb in my mind, especially the dwarf ones like Tête-à-Tête and the cyclamineus varieties like February Gold, Jack Snipe and my all time favorite Rapture. When I see a daffodil blooming I know that spring is not far behind.
Weeping willows: I was driving down a country road the other day and drove past a very pastoral scene of a lovely ranch house with a pond in front with the obligatory weeping willow and low and behold it was starting to leaf out. Willows are probably the first tree to leaf out in the northwest and again for me, it is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Filberts actually show their catkins sooner but for some reason they just don’t do the trick for me.
Tree frogs: OMG what a ruckus these little creatures can make. I have no idea how many of these critters reside in the retention pond next door but when it gets above 50 degrees the music begins and seems to go on 24/7. As far as the sound goes, tree frogs are the closest thing we are ever going to have to crickets in the northwest and when they start singing I know spring is just around the corner.
Robins: it was probably a month ago that I saw my first robin for the season scurrying about my lawn looking for earth worms but at that point they weren’t singing (the robins, not the earthworms). In the last two weeks however the music now starts very early in the morning (like 4:30am) and goes on for several hours. Their chirping is incessant and I can’t help but wonder why they don’t get hoarse after a while.
Flickers: I have a very vibrant family of flickers in my neighborhood and about this time of year the young ones fly to my roof and start drilling on the vents. Like the robins chirping and the frogs singing, drilling is somehow connected to mating and when nature sounds off I know that spring is in the air.
Killdeers: these fascinating birds nest in my gravel driveway across the street from the nursery and about this time of year they magically reappear out of nowhere. For the next two months everyone will be on the lookout for their nest so we don’t drive over it with the tractor but that is a small price to pay for the enjoyment we will receive by watching these birds protect their four eggs from predators. In my mind, Killdeers are a sure sign that spring if not far off.
These are just a few of the things that make me think that spring is almost here. I am sure that you have some special things that do the same for you. In the midst of all the cold and wet days I find it helpful to focus on these harbingers of spring. Hopefully you are able to do the same.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at email@example.com.
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