I’m not sure when I fell in love with spring, but I have a feeling it began at birth. I’m an April baby, so for all of my life, I anticipated the season with excitement.
And then I started gardening, which made spring all the more special. It meant getting outside, raking beds, and spying the first bits of green among the browns and grays of winter debris.
It also meant flowers. After months of frigid temperatures and of circling items in seed catalogs, spring meant that real flowers would be returning to my gardening world.
At least that was the spring I knew on Long Island. Spring in south Florida is a whole new season. In fact, spring in south Florida often feels like northern summer — a statement that’s probably not going to make my northern gardening friends, many of whom are bundled up as winter makes its last stand, want to continue reading.
While they’re shivering up there, though, garden centers here are in full operation — and have been since day one. At the very start of spring, shelves were fully stocked with pot upon pot of northern growing bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils.
Yes, tulips and daffodils — the staples of spring. That’s what spring means to most people, no matter their zone. They just want a piece of spring — a northern spring — with which to decorate their patio or coffee table, never mind that the spring heat will wither the plants and the winter warmth will not provide the needed chill.
These particular bulbs just aren’t built for Florida.
I too was almost taken in by the merchants of spring. At the end of a long shelf overflowing with hydrangeas — also not a wise plant choice for south Florida — stood a single pot of hyacinths, fully opened. I leaned in. I closed my eyes. I inhaled, deeply — and in an instant I was Claire falling through the standing stones in Outlander.
My springs flashed before my eyes. There were tulips and daffodils, of course, but also forsythia and crocus, young green shoots and ready-to-explode buds. This was how spring should be. This feeling is what so many people — gardeners and non-gardeners alike — cling to in order to cope with winter.
Even the air was moist in my free fall through spring, and the soil fresh, and the hint of a warm breeze . . .
Actually, the breeze was from an electric fan keeping the outdoor cashier cool on a near 90-degree day. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase any of these spring things — to do so would have been a waste of money.
A better time to purchase these plants in zone 10 would have been during the winter months — Christmas tulips and Hanukkah daffodils — because winter down here is more like spring up there.
But spring plants were not to be found among the poinsettias and evergreens. Spring in winter just doesn’t fit into the calendar. It doesn’t fit into national retail plans. It doesn’t fit in with all of the mechanisms that are part of today’s economy, such as shipping and purchasing. It’s easier to lump the subtropics in with the nation rather than for it to have its own separate market — and I really do understand that.
Still, it saddens me that money and plants are wasted. It saddens me that consumers are sold an idea rather than knowledge of what’s appropriate for their zone. It angers me that so many national retailers are not more geographically conscious — but that’s a post for another day.
On the drive home after sniffing the hyacinths, I considered my springs.
I’m happy that I had the chance to experience a northern spring for a large part of my life. I’m also quite thankful to have this blog as a means of documenting my garden — and so I was able to search through older posts and share some images of springs past.
I don’t think I want to mimic a northern spring in the south, particularly because the climates are so different — which has me wondering if spring should really be the same for everyone. Surely there must be a way for south Floridians — or Pacific Northwesterners or southern Californians, for that matter — to celebrate spring with plants and signs that are unique to their region.
South Florida gardeners joke with me that Florida has two seasons: hot and hotter. They then add there are really four seasons. “The seasons,” they say, “are more subtle than up north. You just have to know what to look for.”