Six on Saturday: Equinox

Redbud trees bloom this week as buds on other trees begin to unfold.

By the time the wheel of the year has turned back to the spring equinox, I’ve grown accustomed to the stark simplicity of our garden in winter and almost don’t remember the bounty of past summers.  I’ve grown accustomed to the sculptural symmetry of bare branches reaching for the sky.  The low, nearly empty garden beds look simple and right.  Any emerging green leaf is an appreciated sign of life.  I can see all the way across our small plot from side to side with little of substance to stop the eye besides the trunks of oak and stand of mountain laurel.

The spring equinox, here by the clock, but observed on Monday, is the point of pure potential.  Anything is possible.  Anything.  The garden’s life, still humming in root and crown, tentatively emerges to seek the sun.  It is so easy to plant at this moment.  And it is so easy to cull. 

Salvia and Germander that I planted late last season both survived, and are poised for new growth.

I sat for a long time this week looking back over many years’ worth of garden photos searching for pictures to illustrate an article about landscaping with herbs.  I was specifically looking for illustrations of several evergreen herbs, in addition to the rest, so I was opening files of every season of the year for a ways back.  Photos taken in May and June filled me with wonder.

I forget, year to year, the soft, sweet abundance that is May and June.  Pink petaled peonies and roses open beside purple Iris and fragrant lavender.  Catmint blooms nearby and every branch is clothed in vibrantly green leaves.  The abundance of flowers and fragrance, shimmering movement as every breeze blows into the garden, and vibrant, still emerging life fills the senses.  Insects hum and flutter, and hummingbirds startle as they zip about in search of a deep throated flower.

By late July and August, our garden has transformed into another place entirely. The regal purple Irises are long gone, and the pastel flowers of mountain laurel faded.  Now tall Cannas and ginger lilies have grown into green walls of life, blocking off parts of the garden from the rest.  Every tree bough has grown into a dense screen of leaves, giving shade and enclosure.  The beds are thick with perennial stems growing ever higher, some bursting into nectar filled flowers.  It is hard to walk the paths between the leaning plants.

Muscari seem late this year, but only because the daffies got such an early start.

And so I’m looking across the planting beds in March, grateful for each little emerging Muscari and Grecian windflower, greeting every little blade of Iris lengthening in the lengthening days, and noticing where tufts of Columbine and fronds unfurl.  I’m also plotting which crowns of Rudbeckia, Monarda and Solidago I’ll dig and share or toss away, and which little seedling trees may be culled, too.

My garden cart sits, waiting, filled with three flats of fresh, seedling herbs and perennials I bought last week.  I’m itching to get them planted.  But March weather blows hot and cold, stormy and mild.  We have a few freezing nights coming, beginning tonight, as another storm blows across us and off the coast into the Atlantic. 

I decided to wait to plant these tender starts, and will move their flats into the garage this afternoon.  I’ve not decided what to do about the potted maples on the deck.  They clothed themselves in tiny leaves this week, and even the potted Japanese painted ferns have awakened and begun to grow. Do I trust their natural antifreeze?

Ipheion uniflorum bloomed in the ‘lawn’ this week. Other wildflowers will follow, as we enter the annual debate of when to mow….

Gardening is based on trust in the wisdom and deep science of nature.  Nature’s intelligence and plan so profound, so complex, that it continually challenges us to wise up and learn the lessons it sets before us.  Once we acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that nature is the master and we are lifelong apprentices, the work goes more easily.  We set our egos and our need to control aside.  We suggest, nature decides.  If we go indoors and read a book, nature keeps going with whatever it wanted to do, anyway. 

Neatly raked piles of leaves blow apart.  Vines we cut out last week start to regrow from the bit we missed underground.  Wildflowers emerge from the lawn, and wind blown seeds germinate where they will.  Even that plant we tossed for dead may sprout with new life, emerging from root and rhizome when the time is right.

Since this photo, I’ve gotten a few more leaves out of these beds and shredded for the paths, giving a better look at what is emerging where.

March becomes a profound teacher when we pay attention.  Raging storms teach the wisdom of impermanence.  Milder temperatures teach the wisdom of constant change within the cycles of nature.   Lengthening days teach the wisdom of living in joy, and trust in a brighter tomorrow.

The third week of March holds the promise of all of the unfolding to come this year.  Every root, crown, rhizome, bulb and bud holds life, waiting until conditions are ripe to open and stretch and express its own potential.  And we are here, again, to witness the miracle.

Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia, has had an excellent season. The flowers had plenty of bees to pollinate them and now the shrubs hang heavily with fruit.
With appreciation to Jim Stephens of Garden Ruminations, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.

You might enjoy my new series of posts, Plants I Love That Deer Ignore.

Visit Illuminations Each Day for a daily garden photo and a quotation



  1. Lovely post, so glad your garden is waking up. So true about how we forget the abundance of spring in summer in the depths of winter. “nature is the master and we are lifelong apprentices” Isn’t that the truth? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eliza. I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how much snow you had, and whether you have dug out from under it again. At least your garden is snugly tucked away, waiting for the sun to wake it all up. We’re looking at lows in the 20s- potentially- this week. I hope you are enjoying the St Patrick’s Day weekend and dreaming of spring ❤ ❤ ❤


      • We had 13″ Tues/Wed. so we’re still deeply in the white stuff, but the warm days are melting it quickly. It’ll be a couple weeks before we begin to see the ground again. The light is bright and warm, but it still looks like winter out there. Stay warm during your cold spell, hope your newly budded plants come through the frost okay.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Eliza. I am trusting that plants that bud this early are prepared for the variable weather…. That is lot of snow you have! At least you had a taste of winter’s beauty before the spring. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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