Friday, March 18, 2011

March Madness

By mid-March, the annual spring awakening at the Arboretum is usually in full swing, and this year is no exception. Lengthening and warming days of spring stimulate an unstoppable force of expanding buds, emerging leaves, and opening flowers that once started, is difficult to keep up with. This is not the season of patience. Spring, especially early spring, is fast and it's furious -- and then it's gone. If you're a gardener, a horticulturist, a landscaper, a bird migration follower, or a wildflower enthusiast, spring starts out of the blocks at full speed and sprints to the finish like a runaway steamroller.  

If we rewind back to early February, spring just couldn't come fast enough. The toll that the frost took on many of our tender plants seemed to look a little worse every day for the first few weeks. Leaves that we thought might have survived soon turned  brown with a Saltine cracker crunch, and many of our most sensitive aloes had the look and consistency of a boxful of month-old bananas. Finally, in the first week of March, both dormant and damage plants began the welcome spring emergence from their winter funk. By mid-March, a large mass of Tazetta Narcissus bulbs were flowering in the Demonstration Garden, and there was no doubt that the game was on. March's march had begun.   

Now, near the beginning of the third week in March, the jig is up, and the springtime flood of new growth and rapid-fire flowering is upon us whether we're ready for it or not. Dormant plants are budding, bulbs and wildflowers are blooming, and many damaged plants are surprising us with their resilience. The plants have received their official wake-up call, which means that we have to follow suit. A visit to the Arboretum from now through April will yield just about as much springtime bounty as you can handle. But don't take my word for it.

Kim Stone

Friday, March 4, 2011

A poem inspired by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Deep Frozen Desert

Beneath the ice light of the northern sky
in a mountain six hundred miles
from the nearest tree,
where frost runs deep into stone
and the only star is a signal
from a disappeared world

the seeds of a desert go along
the blue tunnel for storage
in a vault where they wait
for springtime to flower
from snowdrift and memory.
Here is mesquite and a crystal
of cold to preserve it; here

are prickly pear and sage
held in trust for the day
when the sun reappears; here
are agave and ironwood labeled
with ink that glows in the dark
like each golden segment
in the scorpion’s tail

and the hourglass of fire
on the spider who crawls
between the stacks
of silver packages bearing
the indestructible seal
of night-blooming hope.

                                    David Chorlton, Phoenix, Arizona
                                    February 2011