"Footprints of spring"

Perhaps August should be redefined as the first month of spring in Sydney?
Sunday, 16 August 2009     

Jasminum polyanthum

Although it is still officially winter, the footprints of spring are already in the garden. I heard a discussion this week on redefining the seasons in Sydney, and I do think that the conventional four periods don't adequately reflect the pattern of our year. To me, early spring begins in August and continues through September, with all the time-honoured flowers of the season. The weather in October and November is quite different and equates more to an English summer, with plants in bloom to match.

I do love this time of year! Suddenly, a passing breeze is reminiscent of Vanuatu rather than the Antarctic. Early mornings are lighter, the days seem perceptibly longer and slightly warmer even though the nights are still cold. The sun feels noticeable stronger and the first time we feel its gentle warmth on bare arms again is blissful after months of layered clothing.

The early spring light is clear and the air is fresh and crisp yet soft and sweet, and begins to smells almost green, like at no other time of year. The pristine cool early mornings in August and September are one of the most magical times of the year to wander barefoot in the garden, discovering new plant growth and self-sown seedlings.

The first warm and sunny days at this time, with soft blue skies, puffy little white clouds and a soft zephyr filled with floral fragrance of Freesia and jasmine, are euphoria-inducing to gardeners and non-gardeners alike, drawing us outside into our own or other people's gardens. The psychological effect of the renewal of energy and the excitement of early spring in revitalising our spirits seems linked inextricably to powerful rhythms of the natural world as the grip of winter is broken.

Though I don't have many of them growing in my own garden, I enjoy seeing all the traditional early spring icons as I walk around our neighbourhood: the chalice cups of magnolias; classic bulbs such as bluebells and daffodils; annuals such poppies, wallflowers and stock; the fairy-floss sugary blossoms of ornamental peach and plum trees; the massed colours of azaleas and other classic spring-flowers such as may bush (Spirea cantoniensis) and Wisteria; and the myriad dainty blooms of many native plants: they all burst into flower to tell us that early spring is here. Even looking at flower buds is thrilling!

Leaf buds will soon burst open on deciduous trees and shrubs to reveal a baby-hair fuzz of brand spanking new foliage totally unmarked by pestilence, disease or the weather; and through the earth will appear the snouts and fronds of herbaceous perennials emerging after their winter rest. Everything will soon begin to grow again, gradually at first and then furiously as spring gathers momentum in September, when it seems almost possible to see plants growing before our eyes.

Alas these days in Sydney are not always filled with the idyllic weather we would like to imagine for early spring. August often brings high winds and cold snaps, and heavy rainfall can occur in this month. The essence of early spring is unpredictability, and balmy spells must simply be enjoyed while they last. Cool weather often returns in September, causing us to reach again for the electric blanket and heater which we might have thought were by then redundant!

 Reader Comments

1/3  Ian - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 17 August 2009

Hi! Deidre. We walked yesterday with some friends from Killara to Roseville Bridge and back. The wildflowers in the bush were bursting with colour. Coming back through the suburban streets was a treat. So much blossom. Magnolias, azaleas and all the early bulbs. A great day. Ian

Thanks, Ian. It is a great time of year for such a walk! Hope you took lots of pics! Deirdre

2/3  Alida - 4566 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 17 August 2009

Thanks Deirdre. Great article. Pottering in the garden yesterday was a sheer delight!

Thanks, Alida. It certainly was a perfect day for gardening, as was today. Deirdre

3/3  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 20 August 2009

Love your eloquence and prose, as well as the information. The past few days have been heaven in the garden!

Thanks, Margaret - yes, this week has been superb gardening weather! Deirdre

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