A single robin's urgent morning call awakened me on Sunday. I could hear him through windows still closed tight against winter's damp and chill as he beckoned dawn and announced the arrival of spring. His chirrupy song is the one thing that tells me winter has finally lost its grip on time and space.
He's early this year. As are the crocuses filling my flower bed with small flames of white, purple and yellow. The hyacinths almost in bloom by my front door and the tiny pink beads sprinkled all over the naked branches of my flowering plum don't usually appear until next month at the earliest. Every part of me revels in this early passing of the season of death.
The sunshine and weirdly warm air pulled us outside to work in the yard this weekend. There's always more to do on our five acres than we ever get to, so we had lots of possible directions to go. I've learned from past experience that it's a good idea to choose jobs carefully on the first day out in spring. If I push my body to its limit, which it will allow, there won't be a second day for a very long time.
So I cleared last summer's stalks and seedheads from my front flower bed, then moved on to something that didn't require bending. Pruning the two rose bushes hardy enough to survive my chronic benign neglect was the perfect job, but ended way too soon. With pruners in hand, I started to trim the butterfly bush that doubles in size (at least) every summer. One thing led to another, and before long the trim became something much more serious. What started as ten feet of graceful dusty green leaves is now a four-foot high arrangement of sticks.
I realized as I was carefully pruning away shoots, the butterfly bush was crowding my forsythia and quince and red twig dogwood, like a bully pushing her way to the front of a line leaving those behind with nothing.
I always plant things too close together because I never believe they'll really grow. By the time I accept that the plants aren't going to politely negotiate with each other for space, it's usually too late to transplant any of them. That leaves two choices: allowing the bigger, faster growing plants to smother their smaller more delicate cousins - or pruning. Which I've always hated because it feels like undoing all the growth that seems such a miracle to me.
More often these days, though, I'm willing to cut away the aggressive growth of one plant, especially one I know will respond well to equally aggressive pruning. Coaxing the younger, shyer plants into the light feels right in a way it never has before. Giving each one the room to grow, and its fair share of sunlight, brings a balanced variety into the yard that satisfies my soul in the same way this lovely spring does.
The forsythia and red twig got trims as well, which did not go to waste.