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Winter Into Spring

March 12, 2011

Witch Hazel - Hamamelis virginiana - in bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In south-central Pennsylvania, March is the month when winter transitions into spring. The transition is not a smooth one. Winter doesn’t give up without a struggle, and weather patterns can be erratic as warm and cold air masses slide back and forth across the Mason-Dixon line.  One day, the temperature is 17 (F) when I leave home in the morning and over 50 (F) when I return at the end of the day. Another day, temperatures are in the fifties at sunrise, and it is snowing by nightfall.

These ups and downs can sometimes be discouraging to those impatient for spring. But I can be reasonably sure that spring will have well and truly arrived by the end of March; and if I open my eyes and look, I can see many signs that spring is already triumphing over winter.

Last week, I took advantage of mild temperatures on Saturday to go out and clean up the small flower beds by the patio on the south side of the house. (Working here allowed me to turn my back on the patches of snow still hanging on in the front yard.) As I cleared away old stems and foliage, I found hyacinths and daffodils poking up through the ground, and I could see the first new green growth of daylilies, Siberian irises, sedum, and columbines.

I’m most aware of spring’s arrival as I walk to and from work. This walk takes me down a street of lovely gardens. And although these gardens are only half a mile away from my own, they are in a warmer microclimate where plants bloom earlier. I was stopped in my tracks recently by the sight of heather blooming by the front steps of one house. Heather in bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Magnolia buds (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Another house is graced by a large magnolia whose buds seem to be getting fatter and fuzzier every day.

On the Gettysburg College campus, too, signs of spring are everywhere. At the edge of the parking lot, a tree flaunts its red flowers against a vivid blue sky. And behind the building where my office is located, a witch hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) is covered in cheerful yellow flowers.

A tree blooming with red flowers (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Witch hazel in bloom (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Soon winter will be just a memory.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2011 3:56 pm

    Another enjoyable post, Jean;-) Spring is springing here, too. Two houses down the heather is blooming in my neighbors garden, too. I don’t see witch hazel growing anywhere around here and I just ordered a small one to plant because I love it. The weather can be so fickle in March. I sure hope April will be mild. I can;t wait until winter is a memory. I don’t have any particular reason to want to cherish any of its memories this year so it can’t end soon enough for me! I know if I dig deep there were many good things that I could treasure BUT I just want to move on into spring and stay there for a while;-) Happy almost spring to you!

    • March 12, 2011 10:09 pm

      Hi Jan, I’m up in Maine for the week on “spring break.” There are few signs of spring here yet; the snowpack is still about two feet deep. With temperatures above freezing, several days of rain, and the warmth of the March sun, however, winter is transitioning into that dreaded season that comes next here — mud season. Ugh!

  2. March 12, 2011 10:21 pm

    Yes indeedy, soon winter will be a memory..even here, a few mild days and rain and fog have vanquished much of the snow, and there are snowdrops stirring and we WILL make it through to real spring. Your hamamelis is glorious…my ‘Diane’ is just starting to open her flowers, and I hope my wild native species puts on real growth this year and flowers this autumn. Hope springs eternal.

  3. March 13, 2011 3:32 am

    Boy do I know the back and forth dance of winter into spring…we have just started to lose big portions of our snow pack and bulbs are springing up with new growth…no blooms yet anywhere but I await the first bloom so I can run around yelling, “I have a bloom” and then proceed to show everyone…I know our spring is finally here but alas we will still see snow weekly…beautiful blooms you are seeing and how lucky to be able to walk to work…

  4. March 13, 2011 4:42 am

    Glad to hear winter is loosening its grip on your area. Hope your daffs are soon in bloom.

  5. March 13, 2011 9:14 am

    Jean, how lovely that your walk to work is filled with flowers. and the sight of witchhazel and buds about to burst must make you feel pretty darn good. We are slowly starting to thaw out here too, very exciting, but I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself. There is a nasty history of St. Paddy’s day storms here so we’re not out of the woods yet.

  6. March 13, 2011 11:36 am

    Hi Jean! Our spring is SO wet, I can’t even clean a lawn from the fallen branches. But I see the fresh green tops showing up here and there!

  7. March 13, 2011 12:10 pm

    Just for my own personal edification, am I right in assuming you are in Maine during the summer and Pennsylvania in the winter??? I get confused because you all them both home 🙂

    • March 13, 2011 5:20 pm

      Jess, I can see why you might be confused. LOL. As far as I can tell, my bi-location lifestyle is confusing to everyone but me. My friends and family are never sure where to find me. If I leave phone messages for them, I have to remember to tell them where I am calling from. Otherwise, sometimes they leave a message on my answering machine in one place while I am waiting to hear from them in the other! What makes this so complicated is that I only have to be in Gettysburg when school is actually in session — two 15-week semesters plus a week at either end of the school year. (I can do my research and writing from anywhere with an internet connection.) The other 20 weeks a year, I’m in Maine. For the long school breaks (3 months in summer and a month at Christmastime), I make the 600-mile drive. For shorter school breaks, I fly up to Maine. I actually posted this reflection on the arrival of spring in Gettysburg from Maine, where I am currently enjoying my “spring break” (which includes activities like shoveling 2 feet of rain-saturated snow slush).

  8. March 13, 2011 1:27 pm

    Ah Yes! Jean winter will soon be but a memory. Snow is melting here too!

  9. March 13, 2011 6:39 pm

    Walking is such a wonderful way to enjoy spring – I used to love those long walks that let you see it unfolding every step of the way. We don’t get witch hazel out here – too alkaline and dry, so it’s a real pleasure to see your photos; does it grow as far north as Maine? In a way it must be nice that you get to experience two springs a year, in two different growing zones with all their different fortes, but right now when you’re shoveling slush, maybe that’s not foremost in your mind. 🙂 Enjoy your spring break – don’t spend it all grading papers!

    (I love how you pick which flower beds to work on.) 😀

  10. March 14, 2011 6:26 am

    Hello Jean! I enjoyed seeing those first few hints of spring arriving in your area – the photo of the magnolia buds is particularly lovely! Of course, as you are turning one way, we are turning the other with the first hints of autumn just starting to show – but at least I know my garden will not end up submerged under snow!

  11. gardeningasylum permalink
    March 14, 2011 6:51 am

    Jean, You describe perfectly the seesaw nature of spring – yesterday was a nice warm one, this morning it feels as though winter has returned. Thank goodness we can have faith that in the end warm weather will win out 🙂

  12. March 14, 2011 7:29 pm

    It’s looking very spring-like where you are Jean. I love the fuzzy Magnolia buds, and of course, the Witch Hazels are always the first heralds of a garden’s reawakening. Beautiful!

  13. Lula ( permalink
    March 15, 2011 2:19 pm

    What a lovely images of beautiful spring colors! Today in Brussels was unusual warm, it definitely is winter into spring. Enjoy it!

  14. March 15, 2011 10:57 pm

    How wonderful to be able to walk to work, and past such lovely scenery! I am glad spring is finally making its way to you. March is erratic here, too, but there’s no turning back to winter now.

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