Thursday, March 23, 2006

Porcelain Blue Spring Days

Monday was the vernal equinox. With every season, I vow to celebrate the "marker" days: vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox, and winter solstice. But as each seasonal highlight comes, I find that I am somewhat at a loss about how to appropriately observe it. And, to be honest, on the actual day I usually forget about it until it's too late to plan much of anything.

That's what happened Monday. In fact, it took a comment from my husband to make me pause for a dirt-covered moment (as I grubbed out the tangled mass of overgrown Kerria behind the Adirondack chairs) and remember what day it was. Late in the evening, before bed, we raised a glass of wine in acknowledgment... but somehow that seems insufficient.

Since then it's been gorgeous. The sky has been a clear full blue, the sun bright but mild, the breeze light and pleasant, and the temperature fresh. Each day the new leaves are cloaking their branches a little more completely, but they are still in their bright yellow-green baby stage, letting most of the sunlight through. The Spanish bluebell bloomstalks shot up overnight and the bottom-most blue bells have opened to shine in the shadows. Two shoots of variegated Solomon's Seal are fully grown now, arching over and protecting their white bell-like blossoms, while deep rose growth tips of other shoots are pushing up from below ground. Across the yard, the southern wood fern is lacily filling in beneath the black cherry. And baby blueberries are beginning to plump out where a week ago their white blossoms hung.

I have found both a bluejay and a mourning dove nest in the yard. And I'm sure that the Carolina wrens have a nest nearby, as they are singing madly every time I go outside.

Crane flies, those huge "overgrown mosquitoes", have been doing their awkward dances in the air for the last several weeks. Their numbers seem to be up this year, and we're getting quite a few in the house, where T.J., the golden feline hunter, makes quick work of them.

Another animal that I've really noticed lately are the tent caterpillars. There is a small web in the top of the black cherry tree, but within a day of noticing it, I was seeing mature tent caterpillars trudging around through the leaf mulch throughout the backyard. They are so beautiful with their punk yellow hairstyle and black, lined bodies, "tattooed" with bright blue dots, that I can't bring myself to squash them. Surely the birds and other predators will keep them in check. It's so rare to have them do longterm damage to any plants.

There don't seem to be many toads and frogs singing this spring, which worries me. The nearest major habitat changes have occurred over a mile away, though, so I'm hoping that it's either a normal variation or a misperception on my part. At any rate, I saw a toad on my front walkway one night a week or two ago, so I know that there are still a few around.

Most of our azaleas are past peak now, and the littleleaf viburnum, daffodils and Fothergilla are done. The roses and iris are just beginning to bloom, and the blue-eyed grass is a dainty mound of tiny blue flowers that open and close daily with the light. It's the time of year when I'm almost resigned to having a couple remnant red-tips in the yard, although only one is still full and lush and beautiful.

They say the ruby-throated hummingbirds are back, but my red buckeye is at the back of the yard and my crossvine is blooming high up in the laurel oak, so I haven't seen any hummers, even if they have visited the yard.

It will probably be 10 days or so until I have free time to notice what's going on in the yard, let alone post again, and by then a million changes will have occurred. Each season is beautiful in its own way, but I have to admit that the constantly unfurling changes of spring make it particularly special to me.


qkslvrwolf said...

Yeah, but wasn't it tent catapillors that tore up the apple trees back in kansas?

Gaia gardener said...

There are 2 types of tent caterpillars - spring (tent caterpillars) and fall (fall webworm). Both nest on apple (among other species) and both only have 1 brood/year, at least in Kansas. Tent caterpillar nests are in the crotch of branches; they leave the nest to feed. Webworms' nests enclose entire branches full of leaves, so that they can stay in the web to feed.

Truthfully, I don't remember which apple trees in Kansas you are referring to. The crabapples along the driveway? Or were they trees on someone else's property?

qkslvrwolf said...

Yup, the ones on the driveway directly opposite the garage. We lost at least one to them. We were thinking about attacking the trees with least nathan and I were.

Gaia gardener said...

Oh, help.

That's organic control that would harm the plant at least as much as the pest you were trying to eradicate from it.

Novel, though. Thank you for not trying it out. I'm quite concerned about what else you might have fried in the process.