Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Resolutions

Fellow Gardeners, let us forget about New Year's Resolutions, loud and irritating fireworks on New Year's Eve, and the whole false pretense of getting soused off of your feet for an excuse to neck with the neighbor's wife (not that I've ever practiced any of the above, particularly, the latter due to obvious inherent dangers to my appendages from the missus).  I propose a revolution or at least a re-evolution of our gardening lives based on a return to the natural cycles of our seasons.
Spring Equinox, March 20, 2011, Flint Hills
I feel it is evident that we should recognize that the new year does not begin for Midwestern gardeners on January 1st, it begins instead with the Spring Equinox on March 20 or 21st.  Humbug(!) on the forced celebrations and the bone-chilling cold of December 31st, and January 1st.  To a four-seasons gardener, those days and the three months following are merely the drabbest, grayest days of the year; the low of our gardening experiences when we are forced to force bulbs and branches into unnatural bloom to feebly claim that we've extended our gardening season.  Our real gardening year begins with the Vernal Equinox, the equality of night and day for the planet.  It continues as the flowering of our gardens peaks with the Summer Solstice, and then we wind down our year with only a few plants blooming after the Autumnal Equinox.  Winter is merely that interminable period between the last Fall flower and the first bloom of Spring.

I was struck, yesterday, at the Equinox, that here in this mid-continental Eden of the Kansas Flint Hills, the gardening season really does begin with the Spring Equinox.  Only a few different flowers have bloomed this year in my garden before March 20th; the over-achieving and uninspiring Witch Hazels a few weeks ago, a few stray snow crocus a couple of weeks back, and then finally my Dutch Crocus and Siberian Iris, jumping the gun by only a couple of days.  But yesterday, exactly on the Equinox, the first Forsythia and the first Daffodil opened in my garden, these true Spring flowers confirming that Spring has indeed arrived in the Flint Hills.    

The Ancients knew better about such things. Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest organized religions,  uses a calendar with the first day of the new year coinciding with the vernal equinox. The concept of Oestara (light and dark balanced with light gaining power) was named for Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and new life (who also lent her name to the English word "Easter"). Many of the older Teutonic rituals for Eostre involved eggs, rabbits, and pastel colors, nature walks and the act of seed-planting, similar to our modern Easter rituals.   It is only right that the celebrations of a new year should be related with the stirrings of green life, and not emphasized by the clamor of fireworks, but by the quiet call of the Meadowlark.  Pagan rites of sowing seed and the symbolic sacrifice of a few virgins (always a decent addition to a drunken celebration) should be reinstituted and balanced by the Fall rites of Harvest and Thanksgiving.

The metamorphosis begins now!  I propose that our yearly resolutions, those annual statements of good intent and purposeful existence, be made at the Spring Equinox.  Last night, sitting in the gazebo after moving a few roses and trimming back the damaged boxwoods, I made the following promises for my gardening year:

1.  I resolve, this year, to spend at least as much time sitting and listening to the life of my garden as I do imposing my will on it.  The specific action plan will be to sit down at least at the end of each working chore to enjoy the quiet of a job well-done.
2.  I resolve to allow more self-seeding by annuals, letting their natural wisdom choose the sites where they can flourish best.  Action:  designate a bed of bare, disturbed ground without mulch or extra water and simply weed out the weeds.
3.  I resolve to spend less time pushing the envelopes of Hardiness Zone and individual plant water requirements with new introductions and to grow more of those plants that are "Zone-Worthy" by their obvious delight in this climate.
4.  I will make specific plantings to attract and support avian wildlife to my garden and I will replenish and clean the hummingbird feeders at least every 3rd day.  Nowhere are God's miracles more evident than in the flight of a hummingbird or the glimpse of a bluebird.

So join with me, my gardening friends, on this first day of the Northern Hemisphere New Gardening Year, and add your resolutions to mine.  Rejoice ye, sow some seed, and sacrifice a few virgins in a drunken orgy if any can be found (I live, remember, in a College town).  In absence of the latter, at least share a little grape juice with a Significant Other beneath the stars of a new Spring.


  1. Oh, this was a goodie. I googled the whole Zoroaster thing 'cause I suspected you might be making it up. Well, whaddyaknow...

    I'm with you on #1 and #4. Doubt I'll ever abide by resolution #3. Best of luck scouting for virgins today.

  2. HeeHee...the "species" is not well-marked and tends to hide in plain sight. Luckily, I quit that game in my 20's and am content to leave the search up to slimey politicians and the younger generation.

  3. I love the Kansas sky photo. One of the things I miss about no longer living in Kansas. Thank you for your words and pictures.

  4. Good idea. I knew about the Zoroastrians and their spring New Year. Interesting that Judaism and the ancient Celts celebratedthe new year in the fall. Makes a different kind of sense, since that's when the old garden is dying, and laying the groundwork for the new. Someone pointed out to me also that in a way, religions' beliefs about when the year starts are echoed in when they begin (or end) the day. Christianity, which is in essence a Roman invention, celebrates the new year at winter solstice, borrowing from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, and its new day begins at midnight, the darkest part of the 24 hour period. Jews and Celts begin their day at sundown, in parallel with the aboveground fading of the natural world. Wonder about those Zoroastrians......


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