It is spring, or is it?  

Bee coming in to lanf - spring © Isabelle van Groeningen

Bee coming in to lanf

On the 1st March the meteorological spring has started. As a gardener I am a firm believer in the influence of the sun and the moon on life cycles and therefore tend to ignore this date and await in eager anticipation the spring equinox when the sun is exactly over the equatorial line.  This year this is due to happen on the 20th March. On that day the entire planet will enjoy about equal day-night lengths, regardless of whether you are in the northern hemisphere or the southern one. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words Aequus (equal) and Nox (night).

Early spring

In the meantime we are enjoying that what the famous German nurseryman Karl Foerster called Vorfrühling, literally translated as pre-spring. Those wonderful early spring days where you can enjoy one plant after another waking up, stretching itself and getting about its business of growing and flowering. From potatoes being chitted on a windowsill (allowing them to start sprouting before planting) to magnolias on the verge of bursting into flower.

The first flowers

Rhododendron 'Olive' - spring © Isabelle van Groeningen

Rhododendron ‘Olive’

During a visit to England last week three were already many signs of spring visible. Despite rain, the newly-born lambs were already out in the field. The last of the snowdrops were still out, whilst the wild daffodils started to flower. In the hedgerows clouds of white blossom of the sloes mirrored the clouds in the sky, whilst the soft yellow tassels of the hazels already started to turn brown as they faded. Stunning in the wider landscape were the willows. In the gardens, the sweet-scented violets, hellebores and daffodils were all coming into flower, and the shy but bee-friendly carpets of lungwort, Pulmonaria officinalis ‘Sissinghurst White’ were braving the blustery weather. The first rhododendrons were out, ‘Olive’ almost finished whilst Daphnes spread their delicious scent.

Colourful bark

Winter Garden at Hillier Arboretum - spring © Isabelle van Groeningen

Winter Garden at Hillier Arboretum

In the Winter Garden at the Hillier Arboretum the willows joined the dogwoods in the wintery, fiery glow. Yellow Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Yelverton’ and peachy-red Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’ interspersed with some Himalayan Birches are stunning, and make you realise it does not have to be a flower that brings colour into your garden. Equally beautiful are the more yellow Salix alba ‘Britzensis’ and the not so well known Cornus sanguinea ‘Amy’s Winter Orange’ with a more glowing colour than C. ‘Winter Beauty’. Not only the white-stemmed birches are beautiful in this season. Betula albo-sinensis ‘Bowling green’ with its strongly flaking bark is beautiful in the low sunlight, and one of the ornamental cherries has a beautiful red bark Prunus serula.

Cornus sanguinea 'Anny's Winter Orange' - spring © Isabelle van Groeningen

Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’

Returning to Berlin was nice, as here too spring has sprung and you can see and feel the urgency with which all plants are looking forward to the new season. Let is commence – I am ready for it!