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Harbingers of Spring


Last week I wrote that Bridget’s feast was coming up. Tonight (February 1st) is the eve of St. Bridget’s Day. For Celtic festivals, as for Jewish ones, the day starts at sunset the evening before, so tonight is an appropriate time to write about the harbingers of spring.

In my last post, I mentioned that Bridget is a force that brings resurrection. But Bridget’s feast, as a friend reminded me, is especially about those first signs of resurrection – the time when you’ve gone past hope, but are not yet near fruition. It’s the time when what you hope for begins, just a little, to show in the physical world.

Peeper frogs are noticeable sign of this early spring showing here, and they’ve been going nuts in the pond, lately, with their bell-like croaks. It’s mating time for them, and they are especially active in the full moon, just past. (It was a full moon at perigee, the closest to earth the moon gets, making it especially bright. I wonder, does this make the frogs more active?)

It’s hard to take a picture of peepers, since they plop frantically below the surface at my every slight movement. But I did find a short clip of a slow-motion film of a frog leaping. Not a peeper frog, unfortunately. This video was they key for scientists to discover that frogs can leap the way they do because they have extra-stretchy muscles.

The little crocus at the top of the page is a typical European-garden sort of spring harbinger. It’s ‘Gypsy Girl’, which paghat  says was developed by Gerald H. Hageman of the International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom.

It wasn’t until recently that I cast aside my scorn for crocuses and remembered my childhood joy in them. Yes, they are common European garden flowers, but they are so cheerful and obliging. ‘Gypsy Girl’ is one of the early “snow” crocuses, earliest of the early. Some years ‘Cream Beauty’ (an early crocus that gets extra points for fragrance) blooms before ‘Gypsy Girl’; some years it’s the other way around. This year, ‘Gipsy Girl’ is my first crocus. And the bloom in the picture is the very first flower.

Some new leaves have come out on my roses, and swelling buds are promising more.


There are other signs of spring. The grass is newly green; from now until May is the green time of year for most of us Californians. And chickweed (Stellaria media), another European import, is showing itself:



One of my daffodil bulb pots is showing a few fat, whitening buds.


And, since this is Tulips in the Woods, of course I had to take a look at the tulip pots, where I found the species Tulipa turkestanica poking up above the surface. It’s one of the earliest tulips, which is why I’ve companion-planted it over bigger, later varieties. And here’s the nice bonus: there are clear signs that my bulbs are dividing, since I’m now getting three sprouts together where once there was one.


Since these little tulip sprouts have the telltale second leaf, like a little tongue surrounded by the bigger first leaf, I know that they will not come up blind, like many bulbs do when they divide. They will give me three flowers, instead of one. It’s one of the endearing things about species bulbs: they tend to flower cheerfully in difficult circumstances, unlike their larger, well-bred pampered cousins.

I know that many of you have colder winters than I do, but you may still be able to find subtle indications that garden hopes will be fulfilled. What are they?

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Nancy Bond February 1, 2010, 9:51 pm

    Well, Pomona, your post is like a tonic to these winter weary eyes. :) It’s snowing and blowing outside as I write this, and your darling little crocus is just the fix. I cannot wait to hear our spring peepers, but they are a couple more looong months away for us. :)

  • Pomona Belvedere February 1, 2010, 11:43 pm

    Nancy, maybe your extreme weariness is the first sign of spring?

  • Frances February 2, 2010, 4:14 am

    Hi Pomona, we are somewhat behind you, but not much, it seems. Snow covers the crocus and snowdrops, but buds were seen and will still be there when there is melting. Our first tulips up are always T. vvedenskyi ‘Tangerine Beauty’, and they are showing nicely although the flowers are a ways off. Some grass is growing even, for I mowed it to allow a clean slate for the many bulbs planted within to show to their best, and new green blades are reaching upwards. The groundhog will not see his shadow here today, which means an early spring. It cannot come soon enough for gardeners! :-)

  • Pomona Belvedere February 2, 2010, 10:58 am

    Frances, I’ll look forward to seeing your many bulbs in their pristine grass setting. The groundhog will see its shadow here today which is actually good news for us as more winter means more rain means more snowpack. Which adds up to a longer spring flowering season with less drought and fire danger to follow.

  • lostlandscape (James) February 2, 2010, 3:30 pm

    Actually I’m having a hard time with my seasons. The paperwhite narcissus which begin to announce spring–in October–just finished up last month. But there have been all sorts of other bulbs, some native, some not, popping up, telling me that spring is on the way: bluedicks, brodiaea, goldenstar, freesia, and some random South African bulbs scattered around the yard. A garden with a 6-month spring? I’ll take it.

  • Meredith February 2, 2010, 4:19 pm

    I saw my first daffodil last week, and lots of snowdrops. :) Not much else seems to be happening, other than being stuck in a chilly, wet phase, which now that I think of it is a sign of early spring…

    Beautiful post! I enjoyed that crocus especially.

  • Town Mouse February 4, 2010, 8:36 pm

    I’d say rain says spring to me. And maybe the weeds that are starting to sprout, and the bulbs poking through the mulch. But mostly, rain…

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