Monday, April 8, 2013


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm just home from almost a month in
England, which was in the grip of the coldest March in the UK for fifty years. And it wasn't just the snow and the low temperatures, but the bitter wind whistling down from Siberia that kept things at a constant misery level. London should have been blooming by mid-March, but only a few sad daffodils had managed to raise their heads in Hyde Park. It seemed as if spring would never come.

And for all I know (they had more snow the day after I left) it may not come to frosty England, but it's definitely spring in Texas and never have I been so glad to see it!

I came home to find the trees flushed a pale green, bridal wreath and jasmine in full flower, the first pale pink irises blooming, and my roses (most of which are "old rose" varieties that bloom earlier than the hybrid teas) bursting out in glorious profusion. So SPRING arrived for me not in bits and starts but with a bang, and this weekend I realized I could indulge all at once in the things that, usually gradually, mark the season for me.
1) Boston ferns! Huge, deep green, earthy smelling, hanging ferns; two for the front porch, four for the sunporch. The anemic two left in the sunporch from last summer can be put out to pasture.

2)Put out the hummingbird feeders, one on the deck, one on the front porch. Now I'll eagerly await the first of the ruby-throated hummers that enchant me all summer.

3)Cut a huge bouquet of roses from my own garden. The old rose varieties are tousled and wayward, they scatter petals around the big glass vase like confetti, but they are exquisitely beautiful and they smell like heaven. And the first bloom is always the best.

4)Uncover the gas grill, buy a back-up propane tank, and grill those first burgers!

There will be more to come; sandals and shorts and pink toenails, writing on the deck in the mornings, and soon enough, sun-screen and bug spray and sweat. But just for the moment, spring is perfect.

What about you, REDS? What special things mark the official advent of spring for you?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We are still in the frozen tundra of winter aroud here, the first crocuses just tentatively checking to see whether it's safe to come out. We won't have roses for months! However--ta dah!--the ducks have arrived, dear Flo and Eddy and a few of their duck pals.  They've arrived, at just about exactly the same-ish time for the past ten years at least, and have trained us beautifully. They only have to waddle up to our back door, and we are out in a flash with duck food.

I have to say, you know, it's incredibly reassuring to see them. And kind of--vindicating, like they love us, and rely on us, even though they're wild. They leave, too, at the same time every year. What could be more wonderful?

On another topic--we are charcoal grill, all the way.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Charcoal grill here, too, although I begin to wonder when we're going to get to use it. Normally, Ross grills the Easter ham over his mysterious applewood-mesquite mix (grilled ham is the easiest EVER, and so moist and smoky.) This year, it was too cold. We've had a few days when the temperature reaches the upper forties, but as soon as the sun approaches the horizon, brrr! 

Fortunately, several of my markers for spring don't rely on warm weather outside. The butcher's shop is full of reasonably priced lamb, which we LOVE but usually don't buy until it comes in season (as you can imagine if you picture trying to satisfy two adults and two teens with lamb chops at $7 per pound.) Easter candy is now on sale 70% off!  And my friend's chickens, who've been conserving their energy over the long, cold winter, are now producing a dozen eggs a day, so we have all the organic, free-range eggs we can eat - for free!

Okay, rereading that, obviously my special sign of Spring is a blinking neon CHEAP EATS...

HALLIE EPHRON: Mmm, lamb and artichokes. My two favorites. Asparagus and strawberries (from Florida) are in season.

We grill a butterflied leg (marinated overnight in lemon juice, olive oil, onions, garlic, oregano) on a charcoal grill.

Our signs of spring are pairs of blue jays and cardinals hogging the birdbath. The vanishing juncoes. And a big fat bunny rabbit going lippity, lippity, nibbling the grass... and then freezing like a statue because he (she?) thinks we don't see him.

And the witch hazel around the corner is blooming as are our crocuses and snow drops. And the red maple is budding out.

We took out our porch chairs but not the table. But it's been too windy and cold to sit in them. Someone, tell the wind to stop blasting!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Spring means Tag Sales! Yay!! With a small garage and no basement I'm not very good at hauling in the terracotta pots for the winter and inevitably there are casualties. Tag sales are the best places to find inexpensive (and frequently wonderful) pots and planters. I made quite a score this past weekend and they are already assuming the positions they will take this season.

The kitchen and livingroon are overrun with seedlings and young plants ready to gooutside  - if it ever gets warm enough. And like Debs I'm fond of giant Boston ferns for my shady hanging spots. Three of them are threatening to take over my home (one from last year is in a stand and trailing close to five feet.)

The peony buds are coming up but other than that not much action in the garden yet. Not even the forsythia. Forsythia is the official flower of brooklyn and I'm a Brooklyn babe so I have tons of it...but not yet.

LUCY BURDETTE: Asparagus from the garden! Lots of it! And then we'll plant lettuce and arugula and snap peas...and then the farmer's market opens in early May. You'll find me there every Friday afternoon. Daffodils and my favorite--lilacs. And Malice Domestic comes every spring, right? And this time around, TOPPED CHEF! can't wait:).

DEBS: I can see we're going to have a grill discussion! But for now, you all have got me thinking about food--asparagus, artichokes... yum! 

What about you, readers? I know a good many of you are in places where spring has failed to boot, but when it does, what are your sure signs that spring has arrived?


  1. Ah, Spring . . . daffodils everywhere . . . lilacs and roses . . . trees budding, newly green . . . deer wandering into the yard . . . strawberries . . . . vegetables from the garden . . . grilling . . . .

    I always wish for the daffodils to bloom for far longer than they do and for the warm days to hurry up and get here [although this year the daffodils have popped up and we’re still wearing heavy winter coats because it is COLD and I am beginning to despair of ever actually being warm again] . . . .

  2. Great post. The arrival of spring is being much celebrated here. The boys and I played golf and baseball games in the yard yesterday, then out for manly lobsters.

    I know it's spring when the birds start working on their new nests, pulling the lining from last year's hanging baskets. Every morning the baskets get more ragged, sprouting ever-growing eruptions to the side and up. Kinda like my hair in the morning.

    In southern California I planted bottle bushes outside the bedroom windows so we often woke up looking at hummingbirds. But here in New Jersey, the hummingbirds are drab, not worth special plantings.

    Bird feeders are out, as the grass below turned into a kill zone for the cat.

  3. Debs, so sorry you had a cold time of it back in England. Bad luck. Where did I read about you plaid tartan hat you wore the whole time you were there? For next winter I'm putting in an order for a UCR tartan hat or scarf. My college has it's own registered tartan, so I think that will be fun.

    Hank, I have learned that when the quail return to our yard, your ducks will be showing up in your yard very soon. They're my sign of spring. I love having the birds to look forward to. Always anticipate their arrival... always surprised to see them.

  4. I know spring is here when I have my first snake sighting. Hasn't happened yet, but it's close, I can tell.

    I have scads of miniature daffodils blooming now. I *had* scads of crocuses but the bunnies ate them.

  5. The little buds on the trees; putting away the heavy coats; the smell of the air, all remind me that Spring is here.

  6. A sure sign spring has arrived at my house? We stop building a fire in the fireplace and start sitting outside, where we'll drink our red wine or Belgian beer.

  7. Time to plant the pansies! And Ro, I want the yard sales you're going to! My beloved terra cotta pot with birds etched into its sides literally shattered in the repeated freeze-and-melt cycles.

  8. Great Post! And welcome home, Debs!

    Spring. Oh, how I'm hoping for spring. Even though there's still some snow in our grassy areas around the house, I "think" we're finally beginning to see spring.

    I'm pouring through the plant and seed catalogs that are showing up in our mailbox and thinking I want to do some container planting this year. LOTS of containers.

    and I bought a new pair of cute spring shoes. Life is good.

  9. Hank, that part about your homing ducks was just adorable!!!!! Of course they know you!!! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  10. I grilled lamb last week, and salmon the week before that. It tasted great, but I must say, cooking out is a lot more fun when you can lounge in a deck chair, clad in shorts and inhale the smell of cooking food in a warm breeze.

    My grill forays to date have involved standing in front of the blasted thing huddled in my parka because of the stiff wind.

    That said, I played my first 9 holes of golf yesterday, in Scarborough, Maine. There was still a bit of snow on the course and I wore a winter hat, but it was a blast anyway.

    And the Red Sox home opener is today and they are marching into Fenway in first place, 4-2 on the (admittedly young) season!

  11. Brenda, I am Swooning! That sounds wonderful.

    Se we can put out pansies? I can't wait..I love my hanging baskets of flowers, but they ALWAYS die, ALWAYS,no matter how much I carfully water them. Any ideas about this?

    Homing ducks, Thelma, exactly. I love that name. xooo

  12. Baseball, Brenda! How could I have left that out!

    And just to confirm that it really is spring in North Texas, I saw my first butterfly this morning, a beautiful yellow swallowtail.

    Hank, you're going to hate me for this, but we plant our pansies in the fall. I covered mine in the hardest freezes, and now they are gorgeous, so bright and cheerful. They should last another month or so before the heat makes them leggy. Then I'll replace them with impatiens and caladiums.

    As for the hanging baskets, I've never been able to keep flowers alive in them, so I stick to ferns and flowering Sambac jasmine.

  13. A sure sign of spring around this house is...hayfever! Yippee!

  14. Yes Brenda, the Red Sox, and for me, I couple spring cleaning with Red Sox day games. I think there's another one this afternoon - have to get ready to finish the kitchen cabinets (started yesterday)

    I"m waiting for the lilacs to bloom. That's when I know it's spring.

    We grill all winter long (except for the three weeks when we had four feet of snow on the deck)

    Hank, I want ducks!

  15. So last night it's 8-0 Red Sox are leading in the 9th, and I'm still sure they're going to blow it. (They won 13-0.) But their star pitcher is already injured.

    Yup, it's spring.

  16. In my tiny patch of big city front garden, the first crocuses and and dainty mini-daffodils are peeking up through last year's leaves.I'm happy to see them again and wonder when I the heck I planted them. the lilac made it through the winter and has new buds. My ritual will be to clear away the dead leaves, tie up the broken lilac branches, and wait for the tulips to show up. Yay, spring!

  17. Triss, that's so lovely and urban..xoo

  18. Magnolias blooming are always a sure sign of spring for me. And big thunderstorms and tornadoes. Last night we had our first spring thunderstorm with heavy hail.

    I'm waiting with bated breath to see which of my plants survived last year's ordeal of critical drought and heat wave strong enough to weather this past winter's blizzards and ice storms.

    I have a new big circular flower bed (where a big old elm tree blew down in a bad storm) to plant, but they're talking another hard freeze coming this week, so I'll have to hold off. And just as well. I'm wasted from a whole week of norovirus. You have no idea how delicious an ordinary saltine is until you've had nothing but flat 7-Up and gingerale for a week.

    Love the homing ducks, Hank!

  19. And how could I forget to mention?! This spring--May 7--my 2nd Skeet book, EVERY BROKEN TRUST, comes out. with a gorgeous blurb from the lovely Red Debs.

  20. Linda, so sorry you've had the horrid norovirus. Glad you are on the mend, so you'll be in great shape for the coming-out of Every Broken Trust! We'll be celebrating on JR! Virtual champagne:-)

  21. Spring has already sprung in California. My front yard is looking at its best for the whole year--Pride of Madeira, lavendar, ice plant and gazanias all blooming at once. And jasmine all over the fence smelling heavenly.

    And I even have s spring cleaning urge (which those who know my fondness for housework would be amazed at).

  22. red sox should've been at the top of my list
    go sox

  23. The FedEx guy is wearing his shorts, a sure sign of spring.

  24. It's 70 here today, the second warm day in a row. On my way home from the gym this morning I saw tulip magnolias and star magnolias in bloom, along with lots of daffodils, itty-bitty jonquils, and hyacinths. Last night we had venison steaks cooked out on the grill with roasted asparagus. Yum. I had all the windows open all day yesterday.

    And also yesterday I bought pansies to plant! Our frost date is April 15th, but we are supposed to have temps from the 50's to the high 70's for the next week, so I feel pretty safe about having accidentally planted pole beans early when I was putting in the lettuces and peas. Yay, spring!

  25. When I see my first egret (my favorite bird) and my first red winged blackbird (my second favorite bird) I know spring has arrived. Hasn't happened yet. Sigh...

    Seems like I need my winter coat longer and longer each year, so I can't use giving up the winter coat as a sign of spring. Maybe it's just that the cold is harder for me to tolerate as I get older.

    I used to do lots of container gardening on my deck. I may return to doing that this year, but on a smaller scale and with plants that are less likely to commit suicide.

    Brenda...if you folks like to entertain, invite me over for grilled salmon!

  26. Since I have moved to western Montana, my signs of Spring have changed. Yes, there are flowers and last minute snow storms (just Sunday night), but also daily reminders to be aware of the bears coming out of hibernation, a fishing tournament on the still cold Flathead Lake, seasonal restaurants and stores re-opening, neighbors coming back from the winter in Arizona or California and RVs, lots and lots of RVs.

  27. Deborah, I feel your pain! My husband and I just returned from a week in Ireland. It was a special trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary(our first vacation since our honeymoon, actually). We planned for late March thinking blooming flowers and beautiful green hills but were met instead with the worst cold front Ireland had seen in a while. Oh well, at least the rental car had a great heater!

  28. For me, it's the arrival of ospreys, the sound of peepers in the marsh, the faint hint of yellow forsythia, and skunk cabbage untwirling from its alien early sprout.