Monday, April 01, 2013

Spring Fever

I just spent the day, (March 29, 2013) outside doing garden work. It was today a rather nice bright spring day. There was virtually no snow left and plants were beginning to peep out from the ground. All in all a pleasant day to do out door work.

The sky was a truly deep blue that indicated a lack of pollution and low humidity. It was also almost completely clear of clouds and what clouds there were white fluffy and did not have any undertones of grey and black. Instead the white was bright and luminous.

A lawn is not a particularly attractive out door view after a winter. Although in this case winter was not terribly serious. We didn’t get that many heavy snow falls and the snow generally melted away before the next one. I only had to use the snow blower once. As an aside I recommend snow blowers for middle age and older people not because it is easier but because it saves your back from agony. The winter that just ended was however more severe here in Toronto than the previous winter which has winters go here in Canada was pathetic. A festival of rain and slush and melt. I shoveled snow precisely 4 times that winter.

But to get back to the lawn. After the snow goes we still get days of below freezing temperatures and the lawns reflect that. A newly exposed lawn is a mass of bits of green with great swaths of dead orange / yellow with bits of black rot. In other words it looks very much like a sort of corpse. It is quite ugly. And the bits of green far from alleviating the ugliness merely accentuate it.

Our front lawn has two trees on it. One is a Red Maple and the other a Beech. Both are deciduous trees and they are of course this time of year completely bereft of leaves. They give the impression of long skinny skeletons. A tree without leaves manages to always look like a dead thing.

The garden in front is not particularly appealing. Earlier today I had the task of racking up the piles of dead leaves I had raked over them during last fall. This was done in order so that the decomposing leaves would add an extra layer of insulation over the more delicate plants. Some of those plants however had done their usual die backs. So that the parts that stuck above the earth were dried out, and dead. And so had to be pulled out and bagged.

We have a few bushes up front that simply lose their leaves. They were not particularly appealing looking bare and skeletal. In front we do have an evergreen bush, a Holly. That stays fresh and green all year round. The plant as a natural antifreeze in its sap and further coats its leaves with a type of wax. All of which enables the plant to keep its leaves. The only change being is that in winter the leaves have a darker green colour. The plant also usually in January grows deep red berries. The contrast between the deep green leaves, the vivid red berries and white snow is remarkable.

In a front rock garden next to the sidewalk we have two Yucca plants. We’ve had them for a couple a years and transplanted them last year. They have done surprisingly well, considering that this sort of climate is not really what they are adapted too. I have noticed that in winter the green of their leaves tend to lighten as compared to their leaves in the summer.

We also have a weeping mulberry in the front. It has a terrible gash in front which we “treated” by painting paint sealant over it. The plant did much better after we did so. This plant doesn’t lose its leaves in the winter although they lose colour and frequently suffer from frost burn.

The dogwood in front simply losses it’s leaves and stems retain that sickly sweet light green colour. The dogwood does manage this early in the spring to look rather unsightly, but ten later in the year it will sprout leaves and rather pleasant looking yellow flowers.

In the back I cleared on of the side beds of decaying white plant debris, myriad of keys and far too much newly sprouted grass. So it looks a little better. There are a few small bushes looking rather skeletal and forlorn. It is said winter is like death. Well at least spring is a resurrection.

I also cleaned the myriad of keys behind and around the garage. Rather unsightly looking and frankly beginning to rot.

The same is true of the flower bed next to the garage in the small garden. I had to spend some time getting rid of a mass of dead and decaying leaves. The formal garden still has a fair amount of decayed debris to clear away.

In fact many of the plants have a rather decayed sickly look to them in the garden. The predominate living colour is a sort of horror movie green that although it looks alive doesn’t look right. Also there is still a fair bit of that plant debris that had several months under snow and ice to decay and rot. It makes everything look a bit dirty and decrepit.

Soon the green will come back as can be seen I in the front garden where crocuses and other plants are beginning to peak above the earth with their livid greens, blues and yellows. That instead of evoking images of decay invoke images of life and growth.

In another part of the back we have a rather large yew tree. It is about 25 years old and it is like all yews an evergreen tree with vivid green “leaves” and very hard, red wood. It wasn’t planted but came there of its own volition. Since yew trees aren’t exactly common in Toronto Canada we have no idea where it came from. But it germinated and grew and grew it is now over 20 feet tall and in thoroughly robust health. In fact it is already growing new branches and leaves.

As I said life is returning to our various gardens and even the lawn shows signs of life; as the brown / white / yellow / black mass of decayed winter grass gradually changes to green. Our back garden next to the house is in pretty good shape this year we didn’t get as much decayed vegetation as last year. Although the thick moss like ground cover on the one of small back garden’s doesn’t look to appetizing. Not a surprise since it was thoroughly encased in ice just a week ago.

Soon there will be more digging and weeding and laying down top soil to do, to say nothing of raking and bagging I’m sort of looking forward to getting my hands dirty. I remember reading somewhere that the majority of soil consists of living things and the remains and waste products of living things. So it appears that in death life gives birth to life.

This is spring in which the period of death, winter, ends and life resurrects itself into the new life of spring and has such is fit for Easter.

Pierre Cloutier

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