Maya An­gelou

NZ Gardener - - Contents - Jo McCar­roll

Jo McCar­roll waxes poetic

Spring is here, my very dear friends, spring is most def­i­nitely here. I mean I would say by Oc­to­ber, spring has been here for a month al­ready but when­ever I do say that peo­ple rush to email me that

actually spring starts on the ver­nal equinox not the first of the month and they’re sur­prised and also frankly dis­ap­pointed by my ig­no­rance of that fact given I claim to edit a re­spectable gar­den­ing pub­li­ca­tion. And to those peo­ple, I’d like to say just two sim­ple words, very loudly.

It’s spring! And spring is not the time for pet­ti­fog­ging point scor­ing, my nit-picking chums. Spring is not the mo­ment for hair­split­ting over ob­scure chrono­log­i­cal con­ven­tions. For trees have no cal­en­dars, my best beloveds, flow­ers have no clocks (caveat: ex­cept dan­de­lions). Plants just know spring has sprung and so spring they do, forth from the earth.

And yes, yes I know many plants actually spring forth in re­sponse to the chang­ing day length, and so the equinox, which is when the days start to get longer than the nights, is in fact a more use­ful marker of the as­tro­nom­i­cal start of the season. But to any­one still huff­ing and tut­ting over the is­sue can I say two more sim­ple words, words which I sus­pect it would do you good to hear a lot more fre­quently.

You’re right! Com­pletely and ut­terly cor­rect. You are right and I am wrong but I do not care be­cause it is spring. “Nothing is so beau­ti­ful as Spring,” wrote Ger­ard Man­ley Hop­kins in his poem Spring. “When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.” I could not have said it bet­ter my­self Gerry. For even the weeds are loved and lovely to me right now.

Po­ets write of other sea­sons too and of­ten in terms that gar­den­ers would un­der­stand. In the Bleak Mid­win­ter Christina Ros­setti de­scribes the earth as “hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow”. Po­ets write of sum­mer. “I love to see the sum­mer beam­ing forth / And white wool sack clouds sail­ing to the north / I love to see the wild flow­ers come again” is a cheer­ful son­net writ­ten by John Clare in 1841 (in­ter­est­ing fact: that’s just one year be­fore he was con­fined to a lu­natic asy­lum where he died). And they write of au­tumn too. John Keats’ “season of mists and mel­low fruit­ful­ness” or our own Kather­ine Mans­field’s Au­tumn Song (“Now’s the time when chil­dren’s noses / All be­come as red as roses / And the colour of their faces / Makes me think of or­chard places / Where the juicy ap­ples grow, / And toma­toes in a row”).

But spring is what sends po­ets rush­ing for their quills. From Wordsworth’s daf­fodils to Shake­speare’s dar­ling buds, spring might not turn gar­den­ers into po­ets, but it cer­tainly turns po­ets into gar­den­ers. There’s a line in Shake­speare’s Henry VI that could have come straight from the pages of this mag­a­zine: “Now ‘tis the spring, and weeds are shal­low-rooted; Suf­fer them now, and they’ll o’er­grow the gar­den / And choke the herbs for want of hus­bandry”. In The Waste Land TS Eliot writes of “Lilacs out of the dead land, mix­ing / Mem­ory and de­sire, stir­ring / Dull roots with spring rain”. Robert Burns also loves lilacs: “O were my Love yon lilac fair, / Wi’ pur­ple blos­soms to the spring, / And I a bird to shel­ter there, / When wearied on my lit­tle wing”. That last one might be a metaphor for sex, but then in spring, isn’t ev­ery­thing? And fi­nally just to let any­one who didn’t hear me and the

NZ Gar­dener team shout­ing about it from the rooftops know – last month, we were named the best mag­a­zine in the con­sumer spe­cial interest cat­e­gory at the Mag­a­zine Me­dia Awards and I was named best ed­i­tor at the event too. A great re­sult for this amaz­ing mag­a­zine which I feel so lucky to be part of. Have a great month.

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