Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring!

Today is the vernal equinox, also called the March equinox, and so the first day of spring. (Though according to meteorologists, March 1st marks the beginning of meteorological spring; like bankers their year is evenly divided into quarters.) Naturally, even though the past several sunny days were in the 60s, today it's 32 degrees and snowing.

Welcome to the rigors of the continental climate. The English, living in their gulf-stream-warmed "merrie green land" may write about long mild springs, but we hardy mid-western American gardeners know better. Not only do we and our plants endure great summer/winter temperature extremes, but spring occurs in what charitably could be called fits and starts. Literally. A graph of temperatures in central to northern Illinois would show sequences of alternating cold and warm temperatures, with the warm periods gradually getting longer until one day in June it's 80 degrees and darn! we missed spring again.

Not really. We just need to adjust our expectations to the climate. Our native prairie plants have. Out in the yard yesterday, I noticed that a number of my exotics have green sprouts already, but the Joe-pye weed, swamp milkweed, prairie dropseed grass? Not a sign. They sensibly won't show up until temperatures get a little more reliable, and then up they'll come in a rush. So I cut down some dry stalks and put them on the compost pile, stirred up the fallen leaves on the beds a little, and enjoyed the sun.

It's mid-March, the Des Plaines River is in flood, and it's snowing. Let's celebrate the new season.

Related Posts:
Sandhill Cranes and Spring Resolutions
Spring Firsts

1 comment:

lkw said...

Here in SC, our native spring wildflowers are starting to bloom, and all of the early wind-pollinated trees, but your observation about most natives lagging behind the exotics is true here, too.

All of our really early spring flowers come from elsewhere, cued to other weather patterns!

Lisa