Tag Archives: spring garden

Daffodil Season


I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

Daffodils are such happy flowers. I can’t imagine anyone not liking them. They’re easy to grow and mix in beautifully with crocus, hyacinths, and other early blooms. Daffodils have always been on the farm. My mother-in-law had them, and the families who lived here before her. I’ve divided old clumps, spread them around, and planted new varieties over the years. The waving yellow and white blooms are a spirit lifting sight. When I’m outside working among the flowers, I feel more peaceful and not as freaked out about the pandemic. Like countless others, I’m at home for the duration and especially grateful for the garden. Having an early spring in the valley is a boon. I wish I could share the beauty with everyone. This is the best I can do.

Spring forever appears
the soothing music part
of lyrics unspoken.
It thaws the frozen fears,
mends the wounded heart
that Winter has broken.
~Aarno Davidson

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

The sun has come out… and the air is vivid with spring light. ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

Winter sprouts springtime wings and flies off into the budding year. ~Terri Guillemets

Daffodils, so bright and yellow,
Hyacinths of varied hues,
As they nod their heads, in gladness,
Telling us they bring good news…
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “Springtime” (1940s)

I sure hope spring brings good news to us all

For the Love of Pansies, Violas, and Violets


“I pray, what flowers are these? The pansy this, O, that’s for lover’s thoughts.” ~George Chapman

vintage violas from seed

It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”William Carlos Williams

“Heart’s ease! One could look for half a day Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow, That gave this gentle name.” ~Mary Howitt

“Who are the violets now

That strew the lap of the new-come spring?”  ~Shakespeare: Richard II

violas

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you. “  ~Edward Payson Rod

The modern day pansies are descendants of the wild viola tricolor also called heartsease. There are many nicknames for this plant that include: love-in-idleness, call-me-to-you, three-faces-under-a-hood, godfathers and godmothers, flower o’luce, banwort, jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me. We have always called the smaller violas johnny-jump-ups.

Violas, violets, and pansies are my absolute all-time favorite flowers. Though admittedly, I have many favorites. I often start violas and pansies from seed because I can get more varieties this way, but I also purchase the plants.  I prefer the miniature violas to the larger pansies but love both. To my delight many of the smaller varieties self-seed freely. I’m not surprised they have been used in love potions. An old belief is that if the flowers were placed on the closed eyelids of a sleeping person they would fall in love with the first person they saw upon awakening.

Viola_odorata

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin:

“On the Isle of Skye, whey in which violets had been boiled was given to feverish patients as a cooling drink. Heartsease, also known in Scotland as love-idleness, was used to treat epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and eczema.”

Bog violet was said to be a sacred plant on Skye.

Ancient Gaelic advice: “Anoint thy face with goat’s milk in which violets have been infused, and there is not a young prince on earth who would not be charmed with thy beauty.”

VIOLAS or HEARTSEASE

From A Modern Herbal:

“The flowers (1/4 to 1 1/4 inch across) vary a great deal in colour and size, but are either purple, yellow or white, and most commonly there is a combination of all these colours in each blossom. The upper petals are generally most showy in colour and purple in tint, while the lowest and broadest petal is usually a more or less deep tint of yellow. The base of the lowest petal is elongated into a spur, as in the Violet.

The flower protects itself from rain and dew by drooping its head both at night and in wet weather, and thus the back of the flower and not its face receives the moisture. The Pansy is one of the oldest favourites in the English garden and the affection for it is shown in the many names that were given it. The Anglo-Saxon name was Banwort or Bonewor

Its common name of Pansy (older form ‘Pawnce,’ as in Spenser) is derived from the French pensées, the name which is still used in France. ‘Love in Idleness’ is still in use in Warwickshire. In ancient days the plant was much used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. It is this flower that plays such an important part as a love-charm in the Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Medicinal Action and Uses: The Pansy has very similar properties to the Violet. It was formerly in much repute as a remedy for epilepsy, asthma and numerous other complaints, and the flowers were considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, from which may have arisen its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.

violas (2)

From Meanings and Legends of Flowers:

“The monks of the Middle Ages called ~Viola tricolor~ common in Europe, the ~Herb of the Trinity (herba trinitatis) because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name ~Heartsease~ stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple ~Viola odorata~ native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.”

“Violets are also considered to be funeral flowers. It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery.”

arrangement of violets in an old lavender bottleInteresting regarding Napoleon Bonaparte and violets: 

Napoleon Bonaparte loved violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napolean sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine’s tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died. The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed Corporal Violet or Le Pere Violet meaning the little flower that returns with spring.

“Heart’s ease of pansy, pleasure or thought, Which would the picture give us of these? Surely the heart that conceived it sought Heart’s ease.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.” ~Gertrude S. Wister

Images from our garden.

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain


daffodils in March snowWill a t-shirt suffice, or do I need my heavy coat? The question of the hour.

An encouraging flush of green spreads over the fields of rye and grassy meadows, still muddy from melting snow. Crocus brighten drab flower beds, while daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths push up leaves. Here and there, the hint of buds. The promise of new life stirs around the base of herbs and perennials. Like an elusive butterfly, spring hovers in the air, but tomorrow winter will chase it away for several days. Then spring returns again. Then winter–the back and forth dance that is March in the Shenandoah Valley. April can also be a fickle shuffle, though generally May is more.stately waltz. (Image of daffodils in the snow from last spring–also likely to happen this year)

But, hey, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~Doug Larson

snow crocusThis afternoon, Daughter Elise and I plan to make a start in the garden and get the early greens and peas in. A little tardy for us. Normally we’ve accomplished this first planting of the year by now, but the season is running late. In the greenhouse, tiny seedlings shiver when the sun disappears–the trouble with a solar greenhouse. But the warmth holds for a time and they’re shielded from frost and biting winds. Oddly, the heat loving flowers and basil are emerging just fine, but nary a sign of tomatoes and peppers. I suspect the seed rotted and replanting awaits me. There’s much to do in the greenhouse and the garden when spring stops hovering and declares herself. Winter hibernation ends and the mad rush ensues. The dance takes off.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~Margaret Atwood

And so I shall.

Spring Rites


Spring can be very wintry here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, with snow lying on the ground sometimes until Easter and a chill wind blowing from the North.  But the sun shines more brightly, when it shines, and the barnyard geese get fussy, a sure harbinger of spring.  Squawky geese are always the first sign, even before the pussy willow blooms, or whatever it is that pussy willows do. This sign of spring makes me think of other annual observances, such as my battle with cows.  In winter I give them little thought, but in spring they’re the enemy.

March is usually the first month when gardeners can get their hands into the earth and plant something, like those first rows of peas, often put in with cold fingers right before a rain.  The rains come so closely together there may only be a day or two when the soil is workable before it’s too wet again.  Veteran gardeners watch the sky and feel the earth, wrinkled pea seed in readiness, and when it’s all systems go, there’s a mad scramble for the garden as the gray clouds roll in.  I have yet to beat the clouds this year.

Along with the peas, a bit of lettuce, spinach, and radish seeds are scattered in short rows, then back to the house for a hot cup of tea and toasting of numbed extremities by the wood stove, the contentment of a spring rite observed. There’s something of a one-upmanship among country folk about who gets their peas in the earliest.  “Got your peas in yet?” is apt to be a seemingly casual conversation opener, but only for the one who has, of course.

Spring is also the time of year when I regard the cows on our farm with a deep wariness.  Inevitably, the cows will get out.  I don’t know exactly when they’ll time their visit, but their attraction for newly planted gardens and flower beds is their annual spring rite. They particularly like a newly planted garden just after an April shower, because they can really sink their hooves in and churn up the earth.   The fence my father installed around the vegetable garden has helped deter them, unless someone forgets to close the gate.  However, my flower/herb beds and borders are unprotected.  And cows enjoy a freshly re-seeded lawn, which needs doing again after their last rampage.    Cows are also fond of shrubbery.  We have a side of the house called “Cow corner” where the bushes appear to have been strangely pruned by a mad gardener.

I don’t know of any plant that doesn’t attract them except maybe thistles, which we battle in the meadow.  I once threw myself in front of a stampeding young heifer as she made her way for my newly planted raspberry bushes––bushes I was in the midst of planting when she and several others escaped from the pen my husband was cleaning.  He’d left the gate unbolted for a second––that second cows live for.  Yelling “No!” I hurled myself in her path.  He came running just in time to see me prepared to be martyred for my cause, stalwart gardener that I am.

Not so the heifer, a coward at heart, who veered at the last moment and leapt off the small wall at one end of the garden.  I later heard some discussion about the value of the raspberries compared to the cow if she’d broken her leg.  There’s no comparison in my mind, but I’m relieved to add that she didn’t and there was some concern for my safety, had I disappeared under her charge.

I’ve watched in horror as bovines of all ages have frisked their way through tender young snapdragons, newly emerging peas, and dozens of other cherished plantings.  Later in the season when the weeds get thick and the weather grows hot and dry, my enthusiasm for the garden wanes.  As does the cows.  They prefer to make their pilgrimages while the earth is fresh and new, the plants carefully chosen and special.

*Pics are of the author, Beth Trissel, daughter Elise, our farm, cows, geese, and granddog Grady

One Fine Day


These pics are a photographic collage my daughter Elise took (and some by my husband) of her and my jaunt around the garden, across the meadow, past the pond, and up through the fields to the woods above our farm.~

Such an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  Pristine perfection.  Many colored tulips glow like jewels.  Virginia bluebells cover the ground in the dappled shade of the enormous maple tree.  The original plants were a gift from my late grandmother.

Lilacs and flowering crab apples scent the warm air.  Some of the lilacs have been here for half a century.  The jonquils smell wonderful.  Even the earthy fragrance of cows and hay appeals to me, an essential  part of my being.  Find your center place and you will discover what both grounds and inspires you.  For me, it’s the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains…our farm…the garden, the land.  Cherish the earth and it will richly reward you…restore your spirit.

The green meadow spreads, rippling, in the sun.  Elusive meadowlarks trill from the tall grass.  We try, but cannot find the secretive birds.  Their sweet trill beckons from here and then there, always further ahead, or then again from behind.  We are determined to find the singer but finally give up.

I once spied a meadowlark perched on a fence post, though not when I was looking for it.  That’s about as high as they fly.  The yellow on its breast was unmistakable.  What a thrill.  They are my favorite song birds.

I love the water birds too.  A type of sandpiper darts around the pond in the low muddy spots and then flies, sounding its funny cry.  There are  a number of them, and the purple martins are back.  Iridescent in the sun.  The swifts and swallows are yet to come, but the pond is glorious.   A frog plops in and we see a string of eggs in the grass at the edge.  Ducks and geese bob over the water glinting in the clear light.

Our farm is the headwaters of an unassuming little creek that flows on through other farms and past the neighboring town, and on, we suppose to the river.   It’s not a grand waterway, but how many of you can claim to live near the headwaters of anything?   So I mention it with some pride. 🙂

On we wander, back behind our farm, to the remains of an old homestead.  The house burned down years ago but a derelict outbuilding remains with a gnarled fruit tree, wild cherry I think, growing alongside it.  And an ancient barn.  There’s a grassy sort of clearing where the house and yard used to be set in amid lofty, seemingly random, trees.   A large red squirrel lives there now and a startled rabbit.  Lord only knows what else.  I suspect it’s eerie at night.  Maybe even haunted…though during the day everything appears utterly charming.

Then Elise spots the hawk we’ve been on the lookout for.  We are fortunate to photograph the majestic red-tailed bird soaring high overhead, and think he lives in the wooded hills up above the fields.  While he’s on his scouting expedition, the other creatures grow silent.  The wise ones, anyway.  I heard some foolish chatter.

The rose flush of new leaves co-mingle with the many shades of green in the trees.  So many birds call from their branches.   We seek the songsters, sometimes with luck, sometimes not, but rarely in time to snap their picture.  Red wing black birds call continuously and almost seem to accompany us from place to place.  I’ve never seen so many of them at once.  Must be a sort of bird festival.  They are quite special to me.   Song sparrows sing, a chatty mockingbird, cardinal, possibly horned larks…

Everywhere we gaze, the world is reborn.  Magical.  This is the time to savor the spirit-lifting sights, scents, and sounds.   And remember.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.”
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …” ~Morpheus

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
~William Carlos Williams

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d
palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich
green,
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865