Rites of Spring

Ah spring, that season when hope triumphs over past experiences for gardeners. Not long ago I was out working in my garden and pondering the connection between what I was doing and the spring activities that have gone on since the dawn of time. some things just have to happen out in the garden every spring. These rites of spring for me include blood sacrifice, penance, and rebirth.

GardenToolsBlood Sacrifice – no matter what precautions I take, each year I shed blood out in the garden. Our distant ancestors believed that blood sacrifice was necessary for the renewal of life on the earth and in the garden. That’s not what I have in mind but somehow it always seems to happen. Despite wearing gloves (and usually long-sleeved shirts) I manage to cut or scrape or puncture myself when I’m out wrestling with the remains of winter. This happens often enough I rarely stop to deal with it. Sometimes I don’t see the nicks and cuts until I’m cleaning up. Yes, I know I’m being a bit careless. But the truth is I don’t often notice the injury when it happens.


Mexican-Sage-CleanupPenance – It never fails. There’s always one or two chores in the garden that I never quite get done in late fall that must be done immediately in spring. This year it was pruning back my Mexican bush sage. the spent branches die back to the ground during the winter and become stiff (and scratchy – see “blood sacrifice” above). They need to be snapped off at the base before the new, tender growth comes up on spring. This year I am very late and am blindly groping in the new growth to find the old stems and snap them off. In the picture to the right you can see the finished product to the right. The remainder on the left is guaranteed to have me on my knees, getting scraped, and grousing at myself about doing things at the right time.



Renewal – Despite the blood sacrifice and penance, there is always signs of hope and renewal in the garden. Here’s a shot of one I saw while digging around. It is a ladybug pupa, a sure sign of a healthy garden where ladybug will be frolicking. There were many more signs of renewal that I saw. Just a few feet away from this ladybug pupa were seedlings from my stevia plant. We are warm enough here in Fort Worth that several herbs will reseed for me in my garden. I often get volunteer plants from my catnip, lemon balm, and basil. This last winter was so mild that several of my scented geraniums overwintered nicely and are just now putting out blooms. Nice!


So that’s what it’s like for me in my spring garden – blood sacrifice, penance, followed by joyous renewal. It may seem like a lot of work for a small reward but for me the work is part of the reward. A morning spent grubbing around in the garden is guaranteed to improve my mood no matter what else is going on. And that makes it all worthwhile.

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Gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes, it is the triumph of hope over experience.Marina Schinz
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