DEBORAH CROMBIE: I know that those of you in northern climes have probably forgotten what spring looks--and sounds--like. Even though we haven't been covered in snow (at least not yet...) our garden has been so brown and sere that the other day I was tempted to look at photos from last summer, just to remind myself that in a few months it would be beautiful again.
But the first hints of spring come early here in North Texas (I always add "north" because we are only about seventy miles from Oklahoma, and Texas is a VERY big state) and with always surprising suddenness. Although we've been hearing a little morning birdsong since early January, yesterday morning a male cardinal was singing in full mating glory for the first time this year. (When I lived in Scotland and England, I missed the cardinals, and the mockingbirds, terribly. Yes, I know they have nightingales, but nothing sounds as beautiful to me as a cardinal. They are our valentines!) Here's the song. (And a little birder's side note--there is a lot of regional variation in cardinal song, and ours sound very different!)
Then, walking around the back garden, I saw the first shoots of the fire tulips peeking through a layer of dead leaves. This is the only tulip that naturalizes here, and they are apparently quite rare. Our little patch came with the house, so we have no idea who planted them, or when. But they are gorgeous. You can see why they're called "fire tulips." I've tried to find more but without success, so I always look forward to our few hardy bulbs.
And then yesterday at dusk I was out back with the dogs, looked up, and saw that our huge elm tree had begun to bud, just since the morning! The leaves looked like a
canopy of tiny brown feathers but in a day or two they will be the
We have a few warms days in the forecast, but even though the cold is coming back for at least another month, it is really SPRING.
So, REDS, what are the first things that tell you the season has turned?
HALLIE EPHRON: So jealous. And that's all I have to say on the topic. We're getting more than another foot of snow.
I'll know the season has turned when I can see my bird bath. Right now it looks like a snow mound.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: So jealous here, too. We still have snow on the ground here in NYC and another winter storm forecast for Tuesday.
First signs of spring here? Snowdrops and crocuses in the gardens of brownstones — sometimes as early as March, definitely by April.
RHYS BOWEN: I hardly like to add to this because I'm in Arizona where winter consists of a temperature drop at night and about four days of rain. But the birds are singing like crazy in the trees around our condo and the tree outside my window (not sure what it is) has definite green buds. The first desert wildflowers usually show up in March and then it's a carpet of yellow and orange if there has been enough rain.
One thing I miss spending the winter here are the fantastic wildflowers in California. When I went out to Point Reyes in spring it was a multicolor carpet of poppies, lupins, Douglas iris and more. One friend described it as walking through God's garden.
LUCY BURDETTE: That sounds lovely Rhys! I'm with you--don't want to say too much for fear the New Englanders will throw unripe, rotten tomatoes...But the truth is, our blood has gotten thin in Key West and we don't want more winter experiences. The worst is having to go somewhere on icy, snowy roads! I will look forward to crocuses, and daffodils, and lilacs, and iris--and especially our vegetable garden. Asparagus, chives, peas are some of the first spring crops. And John threatens to try potatoes this year too...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: BWA HA HA. Spring. Yeah, you saw my bird bath photo last week right here--the topiary, remember? Let me put it this way: the cab that brought me home from the airport today could not get up our driveway, and had to leave me and my suitcase in the slush bog at the bottom. Then I could NOT roll my suitcase up the driveway, because the snow was too high. My first signs of spring, of course, are the DUCKS! Right now, however, they would be baffled--you cannot even see the outline of the pool in our back yard, the snow is so high.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It wouldn't be unripe, rotten tomatoes, Lucy - just canned ones that have frozen solid in the pantry. (Not exaggeration - our walk-in pantry, once the Salmon Falls Post Office in the 19th century, is poorly insulated, and things will freeze in there during a harsh winter.) Our first signs of spring will be crocuses in the back yard and the forsythia - which you all may remember I spent most of last summer hacking back - blooming. In warmer climates, their delicate pale yellow flowers would be overlooked, but in New England, they are the oh-so-welcome evidence that winter is really over. They've been rather scraggly the past several years as they became overgrown; I'm hoping my vigorous pruning will pay off with some nice full sprays this spring. Which, judging by the current Maine weather, will arrive sometime in late June.
DEBS: Oh, Hallie, Susan, Hank, Julia! I don't even want to tell you that it was warm enough today that we gave our dogs baths on the deck. (We have hot water plumbed outside--the water would have been freezing otherwise.) But don't be too jealous, because it won't last. And we have had snow in mid-March here.
Susan, I love crocuses, too. They remind me of Cambridge. And guess what I saw as I walked round the back garden this morning? The very first one! Proof that spring will come!
READERS, what's your first sign of SPRING?