Spring has arrived in Bronxville, New York after a particularly mild winter. Based on the bulbs and trees already in bloom, I surmise the season is unaware of the distress humanity is experiencing. And while I am not going out much, I can travel across my lawn and take heart from this year’s totally ordinary succession of spring blossoms.
I haven’t felt much like gardening. The constant news of the COVID-19 pandemic weighs upon me. The invisible enemy is visible through the absence of the ordinary in human life.
Everything is closed in my town and there’s no place to go. Here, so close to one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S., it’s dangerous to go where there may be other people.
Not that I want to go anywhere, though I am aching to buy some spring flowers for my empty flower pots.
Still, I accomplish at least one daily act of gardening. Today’s act was simply to look and admire. The daffodil buds that were waiting for a mysterious go-ahead have opened. I planted some not-often-seen “heirloom” varieties around 10 years ago, and while my west-facing garden doesn’t have sufficient sun and is too wet over the summer months for most bulbs to survive, these plants come back each year with blossoms. It seems like the older cultivars are more forgiving of my garden’s imperfections, while the bulbs of newer, showy hybrids rot away after only a few seasons.
Today, the pure white daffodil cultivar “Thalia” is blooming near my doorway. If I got down on my hands and knees I could capture its fragrance, rather like rubber bands mixed with a rich essence. This daffodil variety was first released for sale to the public in 1916, notably only two years before the Spanish flu hit humanity. The buds of daffodil “Queen of the North” (released in 1908) have finally revealed their white petals spread like a circle of open arms around tiny frilled yellow cups. My flowers welcome me as humans cannot.
I really wanted to get a good picture of my Bleeding Hearts (Latin name Dicentra spectabilis) unfurling like magic from the cool foliage of expanding plants. I got a few slightly blurred shots. Each flower scape unfolds like an origami bird right before your eyes, in minute motion and never in focus.
There are clumps of green that will become daylilies and giant alliums in the months to come, the tulips not quite ripe, a dogwood still in bud. A lot to anticipate. Birds flit between backlit branches picking insects from small pleated leaves. There is a light wind. It feels lovely and lonely without my neighbors to stop by and ask me questions about each shoot, and what it will become.
But I remain the gardener, excited by the gift of opening buds which I faithfully nurture, all the time knowing that the plants will grow and bloom whether any of us are here to see them or not.