Subtle Signs of Spring

If any of you had any doubts about the fact that I’m a bit obsessive about this garden this post will certainly prove it. I have a small garden so I look very closely at it all the time. I’m always checking things out to see if there are new things happening in the garden, and usually there are. Especially now as we begin to turn into Spring.

I follow what’s often called a Celtic Calendar, which may or may not be true in fact, but it works well for me. I start spring at the beginning of February, as it seems to be the time when I see things beginning to sprout and bud out and begin to grow. I figure the Equinox is actually mid-spring as we’re well into it by then and things are in full swing. So then May 1st is the start of summer.

Summer solstice is Mid-summer to me and august 1st begins the Autumn time. It goes thru the Equinox as its center point and then winter begins at Halloween and has its mid point at the winter solstice. In each case we go into the season and come out of it it again in the space of the time allotted. It makes a lot of sense to me and seems to work well where I live tho it may not fit other climates at all.

So here are some shots of what Spring looks like at this time of year for me in this garden of small delights. And I do mean small. Some of these pictures are so hard to see that even with the slide show it’ll be difficult to see why I’m so excited. But if you look closely you’ll see what I’m seeing and why I’m so amazed about it all.

Starting off is an easy one – a Camellia japonica which is huge and loaded with buds. There are quite a few just starting to open and they look fine. This plant is in the tea family – the Theaceae and is related to commercial tea shrubs, which are called Camellia sinensis. I have a few of them in the greenhouse I’ll show to you someday.

Next is a subtle one – a red flowering currant, a Ribes sanguineum “King Edward VII”, in the Grossulariaceae family. It’s native to our area and gets about 6-8 feet or more with early pink blooms that will come on soon it looks like. Now you can just see the buds beginning to push out as the sap rises. And don’t ever think I have a perfect garden without weeds. Just look at the ones behind this plant! I’ve hated Bermuda grass since I was a kid and pulled it out all the time. Sigh…

The Candytuft, or Iberis, is in the Brassicaceae, with the mustard family crops we grow in the veggie garden like broccoli and cabbage. It’s already starting its early bloom season out by the mailbox in front of the house. It turns pure white when it’s in full bloom.

Next is one that’s actually been blooming for awhile but I wanted show it since it’s so nice now. It’s a Mahonia Charity in the Berberidaceae family, the barberry family along with the next plant, the Oregon Grape. You can just see the small buds at its tips on this plant if you look closely. It’ll have the same yellow flowers with dark blue berries the birds love. The bees like the flowers too.

Next is a simple primrose in the Primulaceae that decided to begin blooming this early for a change. It’s an anomaly as they usually don’t do it this early but I guess it is so I’m happy with it… The next two are cheaters because they’re in the greenhouse. This first is a Persian cyclamen, also in the Primrose family, that has such lovely blooms now. The other is a beautifully scented plant called a Freesia that grows in the garden usually but it looked bad so it’s receiving attention in the greenhouse now. It’s doing well as you can see.

Following is the classic Winter Daphne, with all its frost burned leaves from the 14 degree weather we had a few weeks ago. It’s covered with new buds along the stem and even has a few bloom buds turning pink at their edges if you look inside it. It’s the sweetest thing in the garden when it blooms and it’s truly intoxicating. It’s in the Thymelaceae family.

I couldn’t go without touching the veggie garden a bit. Here is Swiss chard that is coming out now so early and has kept its color all thru the winter so far. It’ll be beginningย  to grow soon and we’ll have some fresh greens to eat then. The next one is a weird vine called a California Dutchman’s Pipe and has these amazing purple flowers that really look like a pipe and can draw insects in to sip the nectar and pollinate them, but then they are set free and the plant doesn’t eat them as some plants do. It’s in the Aristolochiaceae along with the Wild Ginger I have in the garden. Both have really interesting flowers and I wonder if the whole family is like this. Cool…

This one you really have to look closely at. It’s a bed of naturalized Columbine seedlings that are growing nicely and will form quite a good patch of them in a bit. I love them even if they are a nuisance at times. They’re in the Ranunculaceae family, with all the other Ranunculus. Next is another teeny tiny one – a small Lupin that I think must be a Russel’s hybrid since it’s coming back where I put some last year. It’s a biennial in the Fabaceae, the Legume family, with peas and beans and all sorts of stuff we need to fix nitrogen in the soil. It’s got beautiful stocks of blue flowers in summertime.

Here’s the Hellebore, or Lenten Rose, that so many folks are seeing now in their gardens. This one started out as a Mardi Grass pink and put out some seedlings that are pure white so I get both colors when they bloom. They’re just starting and I cut them back this year to allow for lots of new growth. They’re in the Ranunculaceae along with the Columbines.

This one is an evergreen Clematis called Clematis armandi which will have sweet smelling white blossoms in a few weeks. It’s growing along the fence line and will get too big where it is but it’s so established I’m just going to have to live with it. I hope it does OK and thrives in this watery spot… It’s also in the Ranunculacea.

Now we come to a few Ericaceous plants. How could I not include them? First is a heath called Kramer’s Rote that is in almost full bloom now. It’s so nice in the heather garden as it gives us blooms in this time of year whereas the heathers proper bloom in summer. Next is a Lily of the Valley shrub, Mountain Flame, with some buds just starting to open. It blooms very early and is beautiful with its dark wine red buds.

The next is a simple Huckleberry, a native of the mountains of the PNW. You can just see the buds as they’re forming here and are ready to push forth sweet pink blossoms that will turn into tart blue black berries in a few months to feed the birds. We even get to taste a few of them… The last ericaceous one is a Leucothoe that is just starting to set its bloom buds as you can see at the ends of the branches. They’ll be white and smell a bit sweet.

Coming to the end we have a Ural False Spirea or Sorbaria sorbifolia “Sem”, which is in the Rosaceae or Rose family. You know it I’m sure… And the last one is another sweet one. It’s a Sarcococca ruscifolia or Himalayan Sweet box as I learned it. It fills the whole of the front entry to the house with its amazing fragrance now and is just lovely. It’s in the Buxaceae, or box family. I treasure this plant and even have two of them, a rare thing for me to do…

So that’s the tour of early Spring. I know these things I’ve shown are very subtle at times but that’s part of their charm to me. I love to see things like this when they are just beginning to grow and see them in their infancy. It’s so exciting to see things starting to grow again in this garden and I hope that things are going to start soon for you too, tho I know it’s not true for many of you covered in snow as you are.

Iย  sympathize. We’re due some snow in a day or two ourselves but it won’t be much. It’ll still get cold and we’ll still have snow and rain and all the rest of the winter type circumstances. But it’s Spring now to me and I’m having a blast with it. I hope you are too!

The Sap is Rising!



24 responses to this post.

  1. Welcome Spring, I like your reasoning with the calendar! I’m envious, I’ve been looking for just a small sign, but nothing is poking it’s head up yet. When I saw the picture of the cyclamen, I thought it was growing outside…..I was really going to be envious. ๐Ÿ™‚ They are so pretty. We use to get them about this time of year at work for Valentine’s Day. Don’t believe I have ever seen an evergreen clematis. Nice. Does it have the same type of bloom as the deciduous ones? Candytuft is one of my favorites…I have it growing over retaining walls and love when it blooms with the daffodils. I use to try and talk people into buying it instead of the creeping phlox…the candytuft stays so much nicer looking throughout the year. Would love to see a pic of your tea plants sometimes. So interesting what plants are related. As usual, Steve, love reading about your plants and seeing what’s going on in your garden! ๐Ÿ™‚



    • Welcome Spring, indeed! It’s so exciting to see things starting to grow and I hope they start soon for you too. As for the evergreen clematis: It has very different flowers. They’re creamy white blushed pink at times, with a waxy feeling to them and an intense fragrance. You can smell them from several feet away. I love the Candytuft too. It’s a tidy and prolifically blooming plant. I’ll do something on the tea shrubs someday, with other food plants maybe. I really like to see what all is related to what myself, asy ou can tell I guess. I’m glad you enjoy these tours of the garden. I enjoy showing them ๐Ÿ˜‰
      All the best to you Annie, and thanks for visiting…



      • Steve, I looked up the Clematis armandii and I’m right on the zone border of being able to grow it. I might just give it a try…..thanks! Also, the Celtic calendar that you wrote about intrigued me, so I looked it up. Can’t believe I have never heard of it. My family is Irish! ๐Ÿ™‚ My great grandmother came to the States from Ireland when she was 16 and spoke only Gaelic. I like the way the seasons are laid out and you’re right, they seem to flow with the natural rhythm of things. The timing of the actual seasons would work well for this part of the country too. We’re also warmer than most. I’m going to look up more info on it. Thanks! I have always planted by the moon, as do a lot of old timers around these parts, and I believe there is really something to going with the flow of nature.



        • I hope the clematis grows well for you but don’t let it grow with wet feet, they don’t like that I found. You’ll love the fragrance! It gets big and heavy in time too so allow for strength in your arbor. That’s cool you looked up the calendar. It does work well if you’re in the right zone doesn’t it? And I like the way we go into the season and come out again in the cycle. It makes more sense to me than starting at the equinoxes and solstices. I went to the UK in 1970 and learned a bit of Gaelic then myself. It’s a beautiful language but hard to learn… I haven’t been planting by the moon lately but I have in the past. Maybe I’ll give it a try again this year. Great idea. Flowing with nature is the best way to go I agree. Keep up the good work! ๐Ÿ˜‰



  2. Posted by Dove Seven Gold on February 1, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    I follow exactly the same times for the seasons as you do ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love your garden and I’m glad you post in all the seasons; I did not know what the Dutchman’s Pipe was, so I Googled for images, and now I’m looking forward to seeing it flower later in the year; as I am all of your garden; happy springtime ๐Ÿ™‚



    • Hi, That’s so cool you use the same calendar. How did you find it? I was involved in Celtic Revival stuff for years and that’s how I did. Works well here in the PNW and in the UK too I’d think. Thanks for your nice comments about the garden. The Dutchman’s Pipe is an extraordinary plant isn’t it? I’ll show it in bloom when it’s time.
      Happy Springtime to you too! ๐Ÿ˜‰



      • Posted by Dove Seven Gold on February 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm

        Hi, the old calendars and following the ways of nature, brings me more into natural harmony with life ๐Ÿ™‚ Imbolg; Beltaine; Lughnsa; Samhaine; some people like to try make out it’s evil or to do with witches or the devil; but it’s just that the ancestors were more rural, more connected to nature, seasons, cycles, birth, life and death; I like it, it works for me ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you use any of the old gardening ways, planting by the moon cycles etc?



        • I agree completely. This old calendar brings me more in touch with nature as well. And they make sense for my climate tho I know they don’t for some others. I use the same names you do… It’s all about being in the place you’re in at the time you’re in and doing what Nature tells you to do. I don’t follow the moon in planting for the most part tho I have done it. Mostly I just follow my intuition and the rule of “It’s time to do it when it feel like it is”. Works for me… ๐Ÿ˜‰
          Thanks for your very validating comment.



  3. “The Sap is Rising.”

    An excellent post to remind me that spring is just around the corner.



    • Thank you very much. I love that phrase “the Sap is Rising”. Almost mythic isn’t it? It’s an exciting time of year for me. Spring is on the way… ๐Ÿ˜‰



  4. Thank you for a lovely tour of your early spring garden:-(, but we are under snow and nothing green except evergreens! I put in Dutchman’s Pipe last year for butterflies + I had an animal nibbling the seedling vines. I really hope they make it through our horrible winter. Oh well, if they don’t I can enjoy them in your garden:-) I love the way you talk about each and everyone of your plants:-) They are like friends you have not seen in a year + it is neat how the whole cycle starts over again:-) Hurry up spring!



    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the tour Robbie. I’m sorry you’re still buried under snow but your photo library helps you remember what your garden looks like in better weather. I hope your Dutchman’s Pipe does well. I love the flowers and how cool they look. I’ll post pics of them when they bloom. These plants are my friends so it’s natural I’d get so into it I guess but sometimes I think I’m just obsessive… ๐Ÿ˜‰ it;s so fun to try to figure out how to show more of such a small garden and keep it interesting. I’m glad you like it… The Cycle is beginning again! Yay Spring!



      • Well, I think we can be “obsessive” about our gardens because it is a healthy obsession! ๐Ÿ™‚ tee hee….at least we are not causing any trouble-lol:-)



        • I agree. It’s a healthy “obsession”, if it even is one. It brings us joy and beauty to our worlds. And the only “trouble” we got into is trying to grow too many plants in our gardens…! What could be better than that? ๐Ÿ˜‰
          Thanks for visiting Robbie,



  5. It is exciting to see the new seedlings come through the ground. And the colours lift.



    • It is for me too. I love the subtleties of it all. It’s the little things sometimes that catch our attention more than the big ones… It’s very cool…



  6. Daffodils have begun to grow here in the Piedmont of North Carolina!



  7. Thank you for the tour Steve! Looking forward to the view in a few weeks or months. ๐Ÿ™‚



  8. You have a very beautiful garden. It’s easy to see how much you love it. I can’t wait to see how it changes in a couple of months. ๐Ÿ™‚



    • Thanks for your kind words. I do love this garden and am so lucky to be able to grow things so well. I’m eager to see what the Spring brings to us!
      cheers, ๐Ÿ˜‰



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