Spring: If you are like me, the mere whisper of the word is enough to make your ears perk up from across a room. Every year, from the time the first leaf drops in autumn, the wait until spring’s first blooms seems interminable. But the seasons have a way of gently turning, and more years than not, it seems that a new season sneaks up on me just as I have finally grown accustomed to the wait. This year is no exception, as today, March 19, it has officially arrived—the first day of spring.

Little Girl hybrid magnolia (Magnolia ‘Betty’)

Walking out into the Arboretum today, you might notice the daffodils whose nodding heads sway gently in the breeze, seemingly caught in their own world of thought, or observe how a handful of determined crocuses linger among the foliage of later blooming bulbs that are gearing up to make an appearance in the season’s second act. Perhaps you would marvel at the bare branches of early-flowering magnolias that burst forth with new life after their period of rest, as fuzzy buds unfurl to reveal an explosion of magenta flowers. You might even stoop to observe the tiny shoots of new growth emerging from the ground where perennials have long lain dormant.

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ (Photo Credit: Rebecca Ayres)
Narcissus ‘Tête à Tête’ with Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ (Photo Credit: Gregg Solms)
Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ with Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) in the background
Lungwort (Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’)

Today is the perfect day to take a moment to revel in the quiet beauty of the flora around you, and I encourage you to stop and get to know the plants in your surroundings.

One of the benefits of viewing plants in a setting like The North Carolina Arboretum is the incredible resource of our labels. Take note of the names of the plants and flowers that captivate your attention and try to commit them to memory. You might find that you begin to see these plants all around you—not just at the Arboretum, or even just in the spring. Part of the beauty of gardens is the way they change and evolve from season to season and year to year. Even moment-to-moment, they can vary wildly. It only takes watching the light dance across the petals of a crocus, casting shadows and illuminating bright green foliage to realize the truth behind this statement. Watch as trees sway and bend in the breeze, petals fall from the canopy of a magnolia in full bloom, or a crocus closes up with the approach of a storm.

Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
Espaliered Kieffer Pear (Pyrus communis ‘Kieffer’)
Common floweringquince (Chaenomeles speciosa)

In these moments, as we escape into nature, we open ourselves up to a world of discovery. Novel details surface that you might have never noticed before—details like a sunny daffodil bloom like the one at the beginning of this post, which has emerged with an extra set of tepals by chance, bringing the total to eight instead of the typical six. Escape into the momentary beauty of dewdrops refracting light over a whorl of freshly emerging hosta leaves or the pleasant hum of the bees as they dizzily laze from perfumed daffodil to daffodil.

This spring, I encourage you to find your way outside and soak in the warm, hopeful glow of the first days of a young season. In this present climate of uncertainty and mandated social distancing, I believe that a contemplative walk in the solitary company of nature could do us all a little good.

Plantain lily (Hosta ‘Fire Island’)

About the Author

Will Coleburn is The North Carolina Arboretum’s marketing content specialist. In his free time, he is an avid home gardener with a particular affection for irises, daffodils and magnolias.