On the Threshold of Spring

…winter isn’t really blown away; it is washed away. It flows down all the kills, goes swirling down the valleys and spills out to sea. Like so many of this earth’s elements, winter itself is soluble in water.


It started raining again yesterday, but before that we had a week of lovely, bright weather. The temperature got up to nearly 14 degrees Celsius (about 57 degrees Fahrenheit). It was the perfect opportunity to get out into the garden and begin cleaning things up. I cut back the lavender and the ornamental grasses, removed the dead leaves from irises and collected the seeds from Verbascum stalks.

The clematis vines that I neglected to prune last year were a twisted mass of dry stems and leaves. I had to proceed with extreme caution, seeking out the new growth and tracing the stem backwards to the roots before making my cuts above the new growth. I made a few mistakes, such as the Veronica’s Choice, a Group 2 clematis that should have been lightly pruned. I got mixed up about which was the bottom end of a long, twisty strand and which was the top, but what’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps I will have fewer flowers come summer, but  it feels good to have the job done. What a pleasure it will be to watch the new stems, leaves and flower buds forming, unimpeded by a framework of dry old growth.

It’s an exciting time of year. There are new buds on shrubs and vines every day and the green shoots of bulbs push up through the mulch of brown leaves. There is joy in the discovery of returning perennials (the Oriental poppies! the day lilies! the hellebores!), and no sorrow yet over winter’s losses because it’s really too soon to tell.

For all my distaste for winter (the mud! the cold! the grey!), I love the change of seasons. Just now, it’s not spring, but we’re on the threshold.

Study for "The Garden Gate", watercolour, pen & ink, 5-1/2" x 10-1/4"


8 thoughts on “On the Threshold of Spring

  1. We certainly are on the threshold, and it feels great! I’ve been getting out into my garden as well, attacking the grass that has grown between my rose bushes and cutting back the old growth. It so wonderful to clear away the dead and find new little shoots already poking through!


  2. In my experience all that stuff about when and how to prune clematis is just stuff. When I whack my clematis vines back they just rampantly grow back and they really don’t seem to give a rap about when I do it either. So don’t fret.

    I love spring, but this year it seems that it is showing itself WAY too early. With such unseasonably warm days, the fruit trees and flowers are thinking about blooming. When the inevitable cold snap comes, I worry that it will kill the blossom buds and that will be that as far as apples and plums go.

    i lived in Fairbanks Alaska for ten years, and there is no season like break-up season. We used to joke that we had five seasons: Winter, break-up, spring, summer and fall. Break up is the time of year when it is warm enough that the surface melts and begins to run off and creates mud and glaciers but still so cold the soil is frozen and nothing is actually growing except the mudpuddles. Ruby doesn’t like the wet part of the year, as she is required to sit and have her paws cleaned before she can enter the “house proper” from the mud room.

    I like your study. Somehow it seems to incorporate the idea of mud and water as well as growing things..


    • I know what you mean about spring showing itself too early. I have a lot of photographs of snow on daffodils. As a general rule, we expect spring to arrive by mid-March, but the beauty of our Pacific Northwest climate is the warm and sunny days that are sprinkled throughout the winter. One here, one there, these springlike days lift the spirits tremendously.


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