Colors and fancies of the spring season

#187 in a series of true experiences in real estate
March 1997, Hills Newspapers

This is my favorite time of year in the garden. Spring brings crisp light green, newly born leaves, fresh and clean.

I am looking at the garden now and I see very few of the later-season, duskier green because every plant that I’ve clipped back is sprouting anew. Hydrangeas, campanulas, lusty English ivy are just getting dressed in baby lettuce green.

Tiny leaf buds are forming on pretty little trees. No color is showing in the rose buds but it will be there before long. I can’t tell if the nasturtium seedlings hold bright orange or red or gold flowers yet.

I am enjoying the slow coming out. I can wait to be surprised.

My gardening time these days is taken with spring-cleaning. I scrape and pull seedlings from the gravel paths, scoop up oak leaves and pine needles blown in during the winter. I am aiming for pure gravel, nothing on the surface to stop my eye on the way to satisfyingly bare dirt.

Summer’s marigold skeletons are gone now and I’ve chunked up the dirt with my trowel. The rich brown color and freshly dug texture is touchingly beautiful. I’ll get around to filling it again but not yet. Now I’d rather see the dirt.

Later this year, maybe as soon as a month from now, I’ll feel differently. I’ll plant with an eye to providing myself concentrated marigold yellow, pure alyssum white, big, loud dahlia purple. And when it happens, I’ll thrill. Sitting at my kitchen table, I will look out over the garden and feel the warmth the color sends my way.

Just now the sight of wild onions disturbs my kitchen window view. As I talk on the phone, I determine to subtract them. I finish my call, grab a trowel and go to the nearest bunch.

The white flowers are delicate, nodding on their stalks. Why do I want them to go away I wonder. It’s probably because they know no bounds, are too rambunctious for their own good Although I assiduously dig them out, they reappear in their old haunts plus, mysteriously, in many new ones.

The neon yellow oxalis is worse. It shoves aside anything in its path, grips with finest filament roots a stronghold, won’t let go. Frustrated gardeners write to garden columnists in March asking how to get rid of this clover-leafed scourge.

“Keep pulling it out,” is always the advice. “For years and years, pull it all out and maybe you’ll reduce the population.” But probably not.

The common yellow oxalis is a rogue, the outlaw of the family. There are others, polite and oxalis pretty sisters. I have a cherry-blossom-pink one that is coming into flower now. It forms tidy round mounds, sweet. In the summer when the leaves become old and tarnished-looking, I pull them off and find a pile of pearl size bulbs which I can move elsewhere with ease.

This week on tour we saw a beautiful garden, all green, not any other color at all. Everyone reacts well to this kind of place, serene and cool, inviting visitors to quiet time. One hurrying agent stuck her head out the back door, apparently intending only a glance. She stopped full, thought for a moment and said, “Don’t you just want to get a book and stay here all day?”

She wasn’t talking to us or to anyone in particular but we heard her and answered “Yes” before turning and going on.

Green, leafy green, it’s a palliative for whatever ails you. A balm, a restorative for a time.

Once I went to Oregon and Washington with my mother. We drove along roads that pierced misty, leafy green. It was beautiful. “Isn’t it beautiful?” we said all the way through Oregon. “Oh, it’s so green,” we crooned.

I thought I could never get enough of it, that my insides were not large enough to take in and contain so much green pleasure. But by the time we were driving along endless green-sided roads in Washington, I found that I was full, full of green. Then rapidly, I was green sick, bilious, and I couldn’t take in anymore.

Another time I went on a California seed field trip, spent a week with garden writers visiting acres and acres of fields from which seed would be harvested and sold. It was a series of heart stopping visual experiences.

Our group would ride for hours on our bus, then turn off the highway onto a dirt road, stop, and pile off. As we gathered at the side of the bus and together looked at the field in view, there was utter silence.

A huge concentration of color — yellow or orange marigolds, cobalt blue lobelia, red and pink hollyhocks — astonished us. The sight was so big, so great that we were overcome. We couldn’t talk, couldn’t move, could only stand and stare.

Toward the end of the week though the bus would pull up and stop, we’d get out and look, and all at the same time, different people would say, “Oh, it’s more marigolds.”

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