Here at latitude 27 and longitude 88, spring creeps in slowly way before the official vernal equinox on the 21st of March.
The first sign of its arrival is in early February. It slips in between occasional cold snaps, and is evidenced by the colorful blooms of azaleas. Like the bulbs of the north, these pink, fuschia, white and red flowers bring cheer and hope to yards dotted with the frozen remnants of tropical plants.
Around the middle of February the moment of dawn arrives sooner and dusk stretches out minutes later each day, giving us more time to enjoy the increasingly pleasant temperatures. A small group of Purple Martins arrive ahead of the pack to scout out the territory where they will migrate to next on their journey northward.
The oaks begin their amazing transformation. One by one, handfuls of dry brown leaves float to the ground. The giants are shedding their old leaves and quietly gearing up for the start of a new season.
About the third week of this month, the first trees in my yard to complete this transformation and herald the spring is the laurel oak, followed by the maples, sweetgums and lastly, the live oak. With trees adorned in their fresh green canopy of leaves and azaleas looking like bouquets of flowers, my mood is lifted and once again the hope and promise of a new gardening season springs alive. I become obsessed with ideas and plans for the garden.
The Osprey also come back to life as they begin to rebuild their nests for the next brood of young 'uns. They soar through the air, happily chattering away as they collect branches in their strong talons and carry them back to their gargantuan nests perched atop cypress trees.
With congenial temperatures in the 70's, I can hardly resist being drawn outdoors with a rake in one hand and clippers in the other. I no longer can wait until February 28 -the last expected frost date for our region- to begin cutting away the dead reminders of winter.
As I begin cutting back plants, I notice tiny leaflets emerging from the bare branches. Once again the plants are quietly and mostly unnoticed, undergoing the process of recovery from the harsh breath dealt them by old man winter. Hope does spring eternal, even in plants!
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