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.