Saturday, March 29, 2014

Horticultural Seasons

Well it is officially Horticultural Spring for me – before the end of March – just (as described in a previous post) like I hoped it would.

At one time I did not know that there was more than one definition of the seasons – not how many of them, or what their named, but when it is that they actually began and ended.

The most commonly used denotation is that which is based upon astronomical and solar reckoning: that is to say, the equinoxes (“the time or date (twice each year) at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length”); and solstices (“either of the two times in the year, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest and shortest days.”)  For calendar year 2014 these dates are: Spring Equinox March 20, Summer Solstice June 21, Autumn Equinox September 23, and Winter Solstice December 21.

But there are also the “Meteorological Seasons”.  “Meteorologists generally define four seasons in many climatic areas: spring, summer, autumn (fall) and winter. These are demarcated by the values of their average temperatures on a monthly basis, with each season lasting three months. The three warmest months are by definition summer, the three coldest months are winter and the intervening gaps are spring and autumn. Spring, when defined in this manner, can start on different dates in different regions. In terms of complete months, in most north temperate zone locations, spring months are March, April and May, although differences exist from country to country.” (

If meteorologists can have their own seasonal schedule, why not we horticulturalists?

Such a seasonal schema makes total sense to those of us plantsmen who view our goal as trying to create our own exemplar of a perfect world – if only nature thought about its creations in exactly the same way that we (and by “we” I of course mean “me”) did.   

This solipsistic view of reality leads directly to my somewhat parochial view that seasonal progressions are marked by when I am able to do the gardening things that define to me the beginning or end of that segment of the year – in my case, e.g., that “OMG, spring really is here” moment of clearing away the winter debris from my perennial beds, and seeing those first glimpses of coming-to-life green emerging from the still-cold soil.

 So astrologers and meteorologists – get down here on earth, dirty your hands, and experience the change of seasons instead of just calculating them.

I did it yesterday – and OMG…!

“Surprise Spring Snow Slaps Swath 
Down The Center Of The State”
(Hartford Courant – 3/31/2014)

 So, three days later
 four inches of sodden snow
 re-bury my dreams.

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