One morning this week, shortly after dawn while taking the compost out, I heard a robin singing a spring song. It was sharp and clear in the cold air with nothing else stirring. Later I bundled up and poked around the garden, looking for more spring. I was not disappointed. The hellebores are starting to pull their green flower buds from the frozen earth and a scattering of snowdrop tips have appeared. I pushed a couple heaved heuchera back in the ground, gathered up some plant tags that were blowing around and headed back to the warm house and a cup of tea.
Gardeners always look forward to spring. Sure, I’m glad to hang up my tools in November and take a break, but by mid-January I’m cracking the seed catalogs and dreaming about what to grow. And this spring, more than almost any other, will be most welcome.
Our gardens provided so much in 2020, not the least of which a place to forget about the pandemic as well as political and civil unrest. Our gardens gave us ways to learn, share, observe and succeed. We found beauty, wonder and a connection to the natural world that was more critical than ever. Our gardens provided sanity and peace.
While I enjoy winter and a break from gardening, I have missed the garden. I welcome the lengthening days, the birds staking out their territory and the winter flowers starting to bloom. More than anything else, I welcome the hope of this spring: hope that the spectre of the virus will wane sometime this year, hope that political and civil unrest subsides and hope that we as a country can bridge our many divides and work together to make things better.
I wish you good health and a great gardening year!
Birds enliven our gardens. They fly, dart, and interact with one another. Their songs add beautiful sounds. They are helpful to us gardeners as they eat huge amounts of insects, especially while raising chicks, which helps keep their numbers in balance. It’s a delight to find nests in trees and shrubs when the leaves fall in autumn. I love to look closely to see how birds wove found bits into the nest structure: twigs, grass blades, and even ribbons of littered paper and plastic. Once I found a string still tied to bamboo skewers I had used to mark seeds I direct-sowed in the spring garden. I had wondered what had happened to that little rig…
If we’re lucky, birds make their nest where we can witness the construction process, along with eggs and raising of chicks.
A few days ago, I hung hummingbird feeders as I usually do in mid-April to welcome the weary little birds on their return north. As I stepped onto the front porch, feeder in hand, I nearly collided with a mourning dove, who flapped madly to get out of my way. I then noticed a puzzling amount of sticks and tangles of dried grapevine on the porch floor, and looked up. In the swing, still hung high for the winter, was a flat, haphazard nest with one white egg poking up. Robins have tried to nest in this same spot before, but I removed the start of those nests and lowered the swing to discourage them. But I was too late to dissuade these birds.
Mother dove is now a constant presence incubating her egg (or maybe eggs by now) just outside our living room window. We carefully peek to see how she’s doing, and she replies with a blink of her big dark eye. According to the Cornell Ornithology Lab website (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mourning_Dove/id), it will be another week before the chicks hatch, then another couple weeks until they fledge. Guess we won’t be using our porch swing for a while.