The Ides of March signal the first awakening of spring. Other signs are all over your yard as your plants begin to wake up from their winter dormancy. Often, however, you have to look carefully to see them because they wake up with a whispering yawn rather than a great big shout.
Right now, you can check your trees and shrub for buds. I can assure you that they will be on the branches, because the buds were set before last year’s leaves fell. In spring, buds swell before they open up to reveal their green or colored contents, and many spring flowering trees and shrubs will dazzle us with their colorful displays before the green leaves emerge and begin their task of making food.
Keep watch and you will see nature unfold before your very eyes. I have been associated with plants for more than 30 years and spring never ceases to amaze me. Mother Nature sure had her act together when she made all of her marvelous, living machines – in both the plant and the animal kingdoms.
Don’t confine your moments of awe to just looking up at tree buds or looking straight ahead at budding shrubs, look down at the ground, too. Be careful where you step. Perennials and spring bulbs are poking up, checking out whether it’s time for them to get up from their winter nap. Be careful not to step on them. In a few weeks, or even days, bulbs like crocus will be the advance party to let us know that spring is right around the corner. They are probably more reliable than the groundhog, too.
Crocus can be anywhere. Besides the early risers in your spring bulb beds, they may also grow in your lawn. If you didn’t plant them there, try it in the fall so your lawn will come alive with color before greening up. I first saw crocus growing up out of a lawn on the grounds of the horticulture school at the Niagara Falls, Ontario botanical garden. You pass it on the way in the driveway to the Butterfly Conservatory parking area.
Crocus is the only spring bulb that you can safely plant in the lawn. It is the lowest growing, as well as the first bloomer. So, its leaves will not go through the lawnmower. In fact, the show will probably be over and the crocuses will be back to bed before you have to get out your lawnmower.
This year, don’t just sit inside and wait for spring; go outdoors and be a part of it. The late, great tree guru, Dr. Alex Shigo, preached that we need to “touch” trees. You wouldn’t mark the return of an old friend without so much as handshake. Why not welcome your trees and shrubs back to life by touching them? Watching them wake up by being up close, carefully examining their buds as they prepare to break open and bring fourth their bounty of beauty.