On the phone recently my niece, a college coed back in the north of the East, reported sighting a crocus blooming – and snow falling. Being past the vernal equinox, a crocus is more welcome than snow.
An animated bloom map of the Northern Hemisphere would be fun to see. Purple lighting up for crocus, yellow for daffodil, orangey-red for tulip, multiplying and fading, each in their own time according to growing zone, pointillist dots adding up to a flush of spring color.
Some of the earliest blossoms anywhere will be flowering native shrubs – food plants. In the northwest, on the imaginary map, the earliest dots would be white for Indian plum, then shades of pink for huckleberry, salmonberry, and ribes.
The ribes here, the flowering currant, planted in the wind path four years ago, tilts. Deer found it in the first year, and pruned in their careless way. After that I netted it off with mesh big enough to discourage deer but small enough to let the birds and bees come and go. The ribes recovered, and the new branches grow straight up, each now a wand covered in shocking-pink blossoms – mostly out of deer reach.
It’s a rosy colored feast of nectar for hummingbirds, and I’ve watched a troop of little orange-crowned warblers turning nearly upside down to stick their beaks in the blossoms. A chipmunk, with unmistakable stripes, sits under the ribes and reaches up to pluck a blossom, holding it to eat with two-pawed enthusiasm. Juncos alternate shelter in the ribes branches with dips in a nearby bath.
This year we saw the first bee of the spring on the ribes. March bees aren’t the background hum they become – they’re individuals finding their way, searching for food. Bees work the hellebore and the pulmonaria, rolling in pollen, reaching for nectar. A bee caught out overnight and dozing in the early morning cold tucked into the yellow light of a daffodil is a sweet sight.
Winter kale now becomes a flowering tree, with yellow blossoms the bees love (the stem on the kale is thicker than the trunks of the little fruit trees). And happily, blossoms cover those fruit trees now – first the cherry, and then plum blossoms, opening one-by-one, more stamen and anther than petal. (Settling in to barrel and bed, but catching up, buds swell on the new apple trees.)
April begins tomorrow, last day for the ribes to decorate the foldbook header, and soon the blossom map lights up everywhere. Even if you have lingering snow piles, mud season, or breakup – spring is here!