Spring is waiting, stage right, ready for its huge entrance at this, my favourite time of year. My favourite week. Just about my favourite day of the year.
It’s mid-August: late winter or early spring depending on your perspective.
The race has already begun in Melbourne and the cold still has its icy hold high on the mountain but here, well, it’s sublime. I love it just now.
It still feels cold – and we had loads of hail the other day, with snow a little higher in the hills, but maybe it’s the longer days that have wrought the massive changes in some of the neighbors gardens where the floral wattage has been turned up to high: gleaming gold wattles, fluffy blossom trees and screaming pink rhododendrons.
In our own bush: heavy golden wattles, soft myrtle wattles, dainty cinnamon wattles; all different and lovely; all heralding the changing seasons.
Jonquils (mainly perfumed `Erlicheer’) fill vases.
Some hellebores are starting to fade to green , but so elegantly, back almost to a leaf colour, a background hue, saying `pardon me, I won’t interrupt the show.’ Likewise handsome Garrya catkins, so softly green through winter (why did I cut it back hard in autumn?) are going dull green (not brown) before dropping off - like the most polite elderly guests, making no fuss (`I have to go - just as the party looks like getting really started...but I enjoyed being here – go, enjoy your your other guests’).
In my own garden it’s the nodding buds and just-open daffodils that please; it’s what says `the show is beginning’, others stil pushing up through mulch. Not one old brown flower head in the garden, only new flowers and buds full of promise of things to come.
A few snowdrops still holding pristine teardrops and crocus glowing amethyst. Cyclamen – little Cyclamen coum – holding bright cerise little dumpy flowers over round leaves.
Spiraea and Kerria shrubs covered in buds about to burst, even roses with tiny red new leaflets. It’s all flowers or buds other than sleeping beauty perennials, still under their magical winter spells.
And the flowers are all bulbs.
A quick count shows 3 kinds of crocus flowering, 3 snowdrops and one or 2 cyclamen. And – lucky me – jonquils (as Australians call the tazetta group of Narcissus) here and there – a few eggy `Soleil d`Or’, plentiful creamy `Erlicheer’ and a lovely white jonquil, maybe the first of the `Silver Chimes’. (I love the way Narcissus flower for over 4 months if you choose the right ones.) I had a bunch of `Erlicheer’ in my car yesterday and the fragrance was a delight.
(Wordsworth famously wrote of a host of golden daffodils and I can see his point; bright angels heralding divine spring. Where does that leave us atheists I wonder? My wonder and joy at the world and universe is no less. So...a swarm? A horde of daffodils? It doesn’t convey the delight you feel.)
And why are bulbs so special?
Is it their ability (timing and chutzpah) to welcome spring so well – and brave the odd icy winds; and their knack and bright colour for helping us to say, comprehensively, goodbye to winter?
With the daffodils flowering, I am wrong: Spring is not waiting, stage right or otherwise, ready for its huge entrance; it has strode to centre stage to great applause.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)