Cape May Garden Journal: Spring Gardeners 2017

Cape May, NJ – Spring gardeners tend to be visionaries.
Show us an unremarkable plot of dirt with some dead sticks, the remnants of last year’s plants, and a gardener sees a lush and beautiful bed of flowers.

Forget about the fact it will take a lot of work to bring that vision to life. We see the end result long before we even put on our gardening gloves.

On the first sunny, relatively warm spring day, you will find us wrist deep in dirt, happily reunited with our gardens, like two old friends with so much to say to each other.

For spring gardeners the sweet smell of spring is the smell of damp earth that wafts from the ground when the soil is disturbed for the first time. It’s a pungent, honest scent. We breathe it in as we inspect the riffraff of garden debris, searching for a sign, any sign that proves our perennial plants made it through the winter.

All it takes is a bit of green barely poking its head out of the ground to confirm to us that the cycle of life is back for another round.

A normal person might squint and stare at the same spot but sees nothing to get excited about. Never say that to a gardener.

Instead, say: “How lovely! It will be a wonderful (sedum, daylilly, peony or whatever) this year! ”

Spring gardeners know just when to spot the very first leaf buds on favorite shrubs. With a keen radar, a gardener zeroes in on the brown twigs of viburnum or oakleaf hydrangea just as they are awakening from their winter naps.

To a gardener, the leaf buds can be more beautiful than the fully opened flowers. In the next few weeks and months, droughts and rains and insects and plagues of all sorts could turn pristine blossoms into masses of mush. But, at this moment, the buds promise only good things. The rest we will deal with later.

Spring gardeners are nothing if not realists. We know there are no guarantees in the garden. Our hearts could soar or they could be broken this year. So much is out of our control. It doesn’t matter. We will be there.

To miss spring in the garden is to miss the start of life’s big movie. There are no rewinds. The daffodils that bloom today will be gone tomorrow. The peony will jump from tiny red tips to a foot tall plant almost overnight. Blink twice, and a viburnum bud becomes a flower.

Early spring is a bewitching time and nothing – not bad weather, bad knees, bad luck – can keep a gardener out of the garden in the spring.

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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak - a journalist, gardener and Cape Island resident - is writing a book.