Signs of a Michigan Spring
The sun is pouring through my front window and it’s after 6pm on a cold February day. There will still be a bank of light on the horizon after 7pm. For years I’ve anticipated the day, when driving home from work in the winter, the sun would be above the horizon as I pulled into the driveway. For me, this was a sign of spring even though there were two feet of snow on the ground and another storm was on the way.
Last Saturday the annual Cabin Fever slow-pitch softball tournament was played in the park across the street from my house. The bases were marked by orange cones and the ball was bright yellow. The players struggled to run in the deep snow but the sun was shining and they were all smiles. One of the organizers told me that this was their third year holding the tournament. By the end of February the players are restless and enjoy the tournament regardless of the weather. It is the unofficial kick-off of the new spring season.
Then, during the last weekend of February, another landmark of the coming warmer weather is The Greater Lansing Orchid Society’s annual Orchid Show and Sale held at the Plant & Soil Science Conservatory on the Michigan State University campus.The vendors’ orchid displays, the smell of warm fertile soil and feeling the humidity in the air are prophetic reminders of the balmy days to come.
The displays and arrangements featuring the award winning flowers are stunning and colorfully tropical. Just what my winter-weary spirit needs. There was also a display of orchid related art: paintings, fabric art, sculptures and photographs.
One of my personal pre-springtime traditions is on the Ides of March, the day Marcus Brutus stabbed and killed Julius Cesar (March 15th), I set my pots of dormant tuberous begonia roots in my basement windows to begin their slow awakening. I water them once a week and before long they sent up sprouts. During Memorial Day weekend, I bury the pots in a north flower border beside my house. The beautiful rose-like flowers bloom all summer. Before the first frost, sometime in late September or October, I cut the plants back to the soil then set the pots on a shelf in the basement to let the roots go dormant again. Many of my begonias are ten to fifteen years old.
By the end of March the lemons on my dad’s tree have been ripening all winter and are ready to pick. It is then I know the warm spring days marked by breakfast on the deck, the sound of lawn mowers and songbirds can’t be far away.