The Front Porch Philosopher by Linda Vice
I know spring is here when I see the daffodils, the bridal wreath, the flowering quince and the camellias all abloom. We’ve had such an unseasonably cold winter that our earliest spring blooms are more appreciated than usual. My wonderful camellias that usually grace the garden from November to April have just started blooming. My white camellia is at least 20 feet tall. It is usually so prolific that my friends know to just help themselves to bouquets. This year, at the end of February, they are just beginning to bloom. I brought in my first mixed bouquet today. I have a bouquet of deep pink and white camellias mixed with forsythia golden bells and daffodils. My living room just says “Hello, Spring”.
Rural Southwest Alabama usually has delightfully mild winters. We didn’t know how mild of how delightful until Jack Frost got through with us this year. My old house stayed warm, but it took some doing and so audacious gas bills. I’ve often heard it said that the Snowbirds, as we refer to the people who come here for the winter, can live here as cheaply as they can pay their winter heating bills as a rule. There are a number of people who go to the coast for the winter, but there are more and more coming to area marinas along the river here. We can usually get by with just a light jacket here in the winter. We usually have our beautiful winter bouquets shortly after we take down the holly and the nandina berries from Christmas. This year was a bit discouraging for us. I can only imagine how it was further north. Imagine is all I want to do now that I can open up the whole house this week, not having to close off the middle hall to keep all the heat from going upstairs.
I went to a garden seminar at the Rural Heritage Center this week on tough plants for southern gardens. There is a nursery in Jemison, Alabama called Petals From the Past specializing in heritage plants. It really waked up my gardening gene that had been dormant all winter. I bought several things there to plant, then came home and went to my local nursery for more. The seminar was about what to plant in southern gardens that will stay for generations. Almost everything he mentioned is already growing my yard. I inherited some plants from previous generations who lived here, but I have put in quite few of them myself. You can pack a lot of plants into an acre. I always say that if everything I’ve planted had lived. I’d be in the midst of a jungle. I still can’t bring myself to thank the droughts of recent years for pruning the plants out for me.
I wonder if a gardener is ever done learning. I don’t think so because just when you think you know what’s going on with your plants, something happens to surprise you. Mother Nature is like the Devil, She’s always on the job. Since I know I can’t fight her, I’m just going to relax and enjoy the bounty of my winter bouquet. My neighbor has about the best smelling plant around in her garden “Kiss Me at the Gate” which she shares with me. I had a bouquet of it, but it shattered. I like that better than saying it shed. I’m going to get some more of it from one of her 4 bushed tomorrow. It smells like my favorite perfume. I couldn’t be happier with the great weather colors of the flowers or the scents of early spring. I know some of you cynics are saying winter is not through with use yet. I know you are right because we always have an Easter Snap of cold and Easter is quite late this year. But why be a voice of doom? We can enjoy what we have and know we made it through a bad cold, winter and have seen a glimpse of hope for spring.