Why we love spring the most

Garden Muse
by: Courtesy of Eddie Greenly, When tulips splash gorgeous colors into the spring garden it's time to celebrate.

The other morning I was peacefully writing when I heard a raucous racket coming from outside, so loud I couldn't ignore it.

Was it a pack of wild dogs? I went out expecting some catastrophe. Then I realized it was geese, honking as loud as a fire engine.

It took me a while to spot the pair, perched way up on my neighbor's roof like two monarchs surveying their kingdom. Then I got it. They were shouting, 'Spring is here!'

On days like the ones we enjoyed this February, with sunshine and clear skies, I feel like honking too. My energy takes a quantum leap. Right after writing, I pull on my garden ensemble - oldest sweats, a fleece vest, slip-on Muck boots and a belt holding holstered Felco pruners and a Japanese knife. Once I head out to the garden, on the best days, I'm out there until the last ray of light has faded.

Warmed by the sun and blessed by the light, plants are coming back to life, and I'm coming back to life with them. It's the great return, the bursting forth of buds, of shoots, of flowers. Color is back. Red peony shoots push though the damp soil, flowering plum trees shimmer with a froth of pink blossoms, while forsythia glows brilliant yellow.

In spring, the air turns gentler. It feels easier to breathe. In spring, scents fill the air, adding yet another delight to our days. On my way to prune the shrub roses, I catch a whiff of sweetness and look up to see the Elephant Heart plum tree blooming in a cloud of white. On a walk in Northwest Portland, the delicious perfume of pink winter daphne is enough to make me delirious with pleasure. If someone ever learns to bottle it, they'll make a fortune.

Out come the neighbors

Spring is the season of euphoria, especially on the heels of gray, wet winter. The contrast makes us as giddy as kids released from school. For gardeners, all the good stuff is ahead of us, the long unfolding of flowers starting now with daffodils and hyacinths, followed by lilacs and peonies, roses and lavender.

Sowing seeds now, we look forward to fresh lettuce and spinach. We anticipate ripe tomatoes. Raspberry canes and blueberry bushes are leafing out; fig trees show subtle swellings at the leaf nodes.

Lilies poke their noses up, preparing to launch green stems that will bear blossoms like trumpets later this summer. Hostas erupt from their underground homes, getting ready to unfurl quilted foliage with tints of green, gold and blue. Bright green blades of daylily and cranesbill foliage remind us that soon they will bear flowers in a dazzling array.

Spring brings out the neighbors too, into our front yards where we wave to each other, and eventually roam over to visit and swap stories. My neighbor Doug kindly offers to let me piggyback on his order to Brent and Becky's Bulbs (www.BrentAndBeckysBulbs.com), the only vendor I know who sells the 'Roxy' dahlia that I've coveted ever since spotting it on a European garden tour. Only about a foot and a half tall, with vivid dark pink flowers and nearly black foliage, it looks fantastic at the edge of a border.

Doug also tips me off that the Lily Garden (www.thelilygarden.com) has a 30th anniversary special on several of their Orienpet hybrid lilies, including 'Silk Road,' a fantastic, tall lily with tints of white, pink and crimson.

Everything awakens

Spring is when we marvel at how much has made it through the winter. Who would have thought those bundles of twigs looking seriously dead would leaf out? They're actually clematis vines, alive and well - 'Juuli' that will bloom blue this summer and 'Petite Faucon' that will bloom purple. Who would have guessed that Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue,' with blue-green leaves edged in cream, would carry on untouched through the cold season, and is now bearing cream flower spikes shaped like seahorses?

Spring is a lucky girl. We welcome her with open arms, reveling in her beauty and the promise of renewal that she offers. Every year a vision of her arriving gets us through the bleakest winter. She breathes new life into the garden, greening up the bare branches of rambling roses, of hydrangeas and spiraea.

Yes, she'll send rain along with sun, and even surprise us with a sudden hail storm, but she wakes up the plants from their long winter nap, and for that alone we love her the best of all the seasons.

Coming Events

• The Kitchen Garden special interest group of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon hosts Lon Rombough, author of The Grape Grower, speaking on Grapes and Other Unusual Fruit, 7 p.m., March 23, West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 8470 S.W. Oleson Road, Portland. $5 donation requested. For more information, call 503-297-0580.

• Northwest Host and Shade Garden Society presents Dave Doolittle of Terra Nova Nurseries, speaking on Today's Cutting Edge Plants and Future Breeding Goals, 7 p.m., March 22, The Smile Station in Sellwood, 8210 S.E. 13th Ave., Portland. Admission is free. For more information, call 503-643-2387.