Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Arrives in a Holding Pattern

As the vernal equinox passed at 12:32pm CST here in central Illinois marking the true beginning of spring, our temperatures hovered around 50°F with overcast skies. The springlike weather we've enjoyed the past few days has been put into a holding pattern by a cold front moving across the Midwest. The plants in our garden seem to be in stasis today, waiting for the next batch of warm air to revitalize their growth upward and outward.

Even though our first day of spring in the heartland hasn't been picture-perfect, many of the plants are a ready to burst forth when warmer temperatures return later this week.

The buds of our early daffodils have reached their blooming height, and stand packaged to emerge in the next few days.

Several varieties of tulip poked through the soil. This variety, 'Angelique', was marketed through Euroblooms last year in support of the Susan B. Komen for the Cure. The tips of the foliage are fringed in white and red, blended into green.

The red foliage of 'Prairie Fire' tulips has emerged through the mulch below the bird feeder that hangs below our sugar maple (Acer saccharum) in the southern side yard.

In the same bed on the opposite side of the maple, sprouts of 'Herman Emmink' tulip have broken through the soil.

The most visible sign of spring is the Puschkinia scilloides (Striped squill), whose flower clusters have risen above the foliage and should fully open in the next couple of days. Related to Chionodoxas (Glory of the Snow), Puschkinia are the earliest of our flowering bulbs to boom and are named for the 18th Century Russian chemist and plant collector Count Appolo Appolosovich Mussin-Puschkin.


When the Puschkinia flower clusters are closed, they remind me of a white grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum). But they will soon open into white, star-shaped flowers with blue veins running from the tip of each petal into the flower's center.

Spring may have been put into a holding pattern by this weather front that dropped snow as close by as Chicago, but it won't be long before the spring bulbs will bring their full cheer and color to celebrate the coming of the new season.

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