Today, for the first time since the Punxsatawney Phil saw his furry shadow 18 days ago and predicted six more weeks of winter, Mother Nature gave an indication that she may issue an early injunction against that pampered rodent's prognostications. After weeks of thermometer readings below freezing, snow and ice covered sidewalks, and a dearth of sunshine, warmer air made a welcome return.
Early this afternoon, the overcast skies that dropped a dusting of snow overnight had lightened to allow a few rays of sun and raise the temperature to a wintry balm of 37 degrees F. As I walked out the front door, camera in hand, the ice that has stood several inches out of our gutters for the last few weeks was quickly melting in a continual chorus of drips and drops.
I instantly knew the focus of today's photo walk would be the emerging buds in our landscape. Every year at the first hint of warmth after a long winter's cold, the tress and shrubs that form the winter bones of the garden start to break their dormancy and put their stored energy into bud growth. These packages of new growth that have remained tightly wrapped throughout the winter suddenly begin to swell in anticipation of spring.
For a tree that will eventually be covered in a soft, prolific blanket of white blossoms, the crabapple (Malus sp.) on the corner of our garage appears gnarled, scarred and spiked with small pointed buds that remain virtually camouflaged against the dark grey twigs.
This winter has seemed longer and colder than most, but that could simply be the feeling most gardeners get as spring teases us with its impending arrival. We all get the urge to get out a spade and feel dirt under our fingernails, but for me there is nothing that stokes the desire for spring more than the emergence of buds. Each one, as it swells with a new season's growth, is a promise that winter will soon be a distant memory.