One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Spring’s Sweet Song

Skylark, have you anything to say to me?

Won’t you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist, where someone’s waiting to be kissed?

yellow-violasAnd so here was Spring.

After living here on Cape Cod for 11 years or so now, it’s no surprise at all that the arrival of spring would be heralded with yet more wintryness.   This doesn’t mean it’s not still tough to take, especially when we’ve had a taste of warmer things.  On Sunday night, gale winds gusted down over us, sweeping away our sunshine and warmth and leaving ocean effect snow flurries fluttering about in the air, as though we’d been transported to the inside of some early-spring-themed snowglobe.


Fortunately, I already had an arsenal prepared against just such an eventuality (not to mention a slowly-growing army of ladybugs who’ve made the Nest their home this winter).  I’d forgotten to mention in the last post how Heather and I had spotted spring blooms at the grocery across the parking lot from the Homeport as we’d headed for the ocean on Sunday.  Closer examination revealed that they had indeed some of the violas I was seeking, who’s smaller faces are the perfect foil for the larger blooms of the pansies.   I picked up three:  two that came home with me and another which returned to Norwood with Heather.

So, you’re asking, what’s the difference between pansies and violas, Greg?  Well, they are quite similar, except the violas are actually perennial, meaning that – if all goes well – they’ll come back every year.  Or at least for a bunch of years in a row.   I think most people treat them as annuals, as they are a nice contrast to the pansies for container planting.  Which for now was exactly my plan.


I was off on Monday, so I was able to stay inside away from the sudden cold and sharp, bitter winds.  Unlike Sunday, it was a brilliantly sunny day and the golden light poured in the windows of the Nest, inspiring rainbows to dance around the place, which by Monday morning was redolent with the normally-delicate scent of the violas.  Why go outside, when Spring’s right in there with you?  It was a nice day to relax a little and enjoy the Nest, as it was still newly-cleaned (well, tidy) from the previous days  visit.

Here’s a shot of the dresser in the dining room, which I’m happy to say is finally no longer the home to anything more than mild clutter.  Mostly, I show it off to share with you how nicely my ivy plant has taken to being trained on the form I created for it in January.

But also, you can see one of my favorite pictures of the Catsby,  just above the pot full of treats he only occasionally deigns to eat.  The rest of the time he’s content to fling those pouches across the dining room, in hopes of being presented with some new, less boring treat for his efforts.  Also, here’s another look at the ever-changing orange of the walls of the dining room; as you can see here, they look completely different in coloration than in the above photo.

The big project for the day was addressing those rapidly-growing morning glories.


It will still be over a month (and possibly closer to two) before it will be warm enough for them to find their proper growing locations outdoors.  But I had planned on many of them being hosted in a large container on the deck, anyway, as I have this vision of them trained up and over the door.  A visit to Christmas Tree Shop provided me with a nice large, heavy-looking container…which is actually made of some kind of light-weight foam.   Just the ticket, and quite attractive, too.  The sticks I’d gathered on St. Patty’s Day were waiting to serve as trellace in the planter and Monday was the day I brought it all together.


There’s the finished product, taking up almost more room than I had available, but still in line to get some nice southern exposure sunlight to help encourage them in their growth.   A few more seedlings have continued to appear from the batch of morning glories, but they can be addressed next week or so, same as the slowly-emerging sweet peas.

I also transplanted the smaller of the two marine heliotropes, to give it a chance to get big and bushy like the other one, so that as things continue to warm on the approach to summer, I’ll have two of those lovely plants and their sweetly-scented purple blossoms to anticipate.

And of course, there were the pansies and violas, making the house smell like springtime, who also had some attention as the afternoon wore on.  I’d recently found these great Louisiana-style planters (fabrique au Canada) at Benny’s for a song, and picked up the pair of them to host – for now, anyway – these springtime sweeties.

louisiana-planterAlthough the week began with a temperature drop into the 20s, things are slowly beginning to warm back up into what we have by now been fooled into believing are more reasonable temperatures.

The signs of spring are everywhere, not only in the drifts of crocii and surprises of snowdrops and early daffodils.  I believe I have spotted an osprey on the nesting platform in the marsh and the other day I may’ve seen a kestrel perched on some power lines as I drove by.

On the way home from work Tuesday evening, I spotted a jumpy red fox alongside the road, who was anxious to get away from the car that slowed down to see him.  I thought that sighting was over, but a few minutes later – once I’d arrived home – I watched as the Catsby spotted him from the living room window, as the foxy made his way into our part of the neighborhood and bounded through the yard.  Badum gave chase, at least to the dining room door, where he  watched as the skittish creature made its way through the yard and to the Parking Lot of Justice.


Another night, I spotted a pretty good sized coyote (I swear they look more like wolves out here) on the way home from work and I thought I heard a distant late night coyote council meeting recently, too.

The grackles have now joined the red-wing blackbirds in creating louder and even more imposing clouds of blackbirds in our neighborhood’s treetops…and yesterday, I saw no fewer than six downy woodpeckers plying the tree in the back yard for potentially-yummy bugs.

As always, it’s great fun to watch the season beginning to unfold.  I know people who live in warmer places, where the summer season never seems to go away.  I’m sure they have their own signs for how to know that the months are passing, but despite my occasional whining about winter’s cold, I do enjoy each season in its turn.  I know that, without the past few months to chill my soul, I might not thrill to the return of spring like I do.

viola-and-pansyOh skylark

Have you seen a valley green with spring,

where my heart can go a-journeying
Over the shadows and the rain, to a blossom-covered lane?


gray-basking-1I was joined at the end of the potting project by my roommate, who’d spent most of the day snoozing in one location or another, alternating with tearing about from end of the place to the other for no readily apparent reason, or sauntering in from somewhere to rub up against me to offer a little hello.  In this case, however, I think he wasn’t so much interested in what I was doing, as he was seeking out a patch of sunlight he’s come to expect in the kitchen most late afternoons.

Encouraged by the sun, I did attempt one of my usual walks to the bay and I bundled up against the cold.   However, I discovered, once I was out there, that I hadn’t bundled up sufficiently against the biting winds and so my trip was short-circuited, delayed for another, more delightful day and I returned to the interior springtime of the Nest.

More signs of spring are apparent outside, as well, despite the chill.   The tulips I hastily planted in the tiny garden bed by the drive way last fall are beginning to emerge and nearby, there’s a nice clump of garden heliotrope (white valerian) which is showing signs of early growth, its unique foliage still more reddish-purple than it’s customary green, due to the cold temps.


And in your lonely flight haven’t you heard the music in the night
Wonderful music, faint as a will o’ the wisp
Crazy as a loon, sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.



Last night’s walk to the bay was an enjoyable one, with some wonderful late day sunshine.  On the way back, I spotted a momma doe on the road ahead of me.  I was quite a ways off, as evidenced by the sketchy nature of the photo I captured of her.   My telephoto’s pretty reasonable and this was the best of the bunch, but her caution reveals why I’ve not seen her along the path before now.

After I’d closed up the camera and put it in my pocket, she continued across the road, and at some unseen signal, a juvenile deer bounded across after her.   It is, I think, a little soon in the year for fawns, so this was probably a yearling, but there was an eagerness that made it plain to see this was only a deer-let with a few things to learn.

Fawn or not, the sight of them made my heart sing a little more than it already was and I know this is only the beginning of Spring’s sweet song.

purple-crocuses-upOh skylark,
I don’t know if you can find these things
But my heart is riding on your wings
So if you see them anywhere, won’t you lead me there?

Skylark“,  Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, 1941.



Comments on: "Spring’s Sweet Song" (12)

  1. Nice post.
    I, too, may whine about the long winter months, but I can’t imagine being without four distinct seasons.

  2. The colors are gorgeous as always, and welcome after the months of gray. But I really like that last photo of the birds in the bare tree. There is some symmetry there that I find appealing.

  3. we seem to be out of the deep freeze now as well, though i hesitate to say it because it’s been known to dip frigid in late march and early april. the snow is melting, roads are wet and messy and my snow mould allergies are in full swing.

    ah, the joys of spring.

  4. adkchrisshaw said:

    Hope! You certainly serve up a tasty portion of that to us here! Gorgeous photography, as always! News and perspective from the Cape is always good to hear. Blog on, brother!

  5. I’ve been watching the birds pick out twigs all week in the front yard. That last pic is so cool.

  6. Is that Opuntia growing near the crocus in the next to last photo?

    Doug, I can’t say I know what “Opuntia” is, but then, I also have no idea what that cactus-y looking thing is which the crocus is growing around. I notice great plantings of whatever the stuff is in many yards along my regular walking route to the bay. I was thinking I’d keep my eyes peeled for seasonal residents as the summer comes on, and maybe see about getting a division to play with.

  7. Fun to have an army of lady bugs amassing in your place; what do you attribute that to?
    The photos are gorgeous as usual, and I agree with Birdie, the last one may be my favorite.
    I love pansies and violas, partly because they’re related to violets (all in the viola family). I hadn’t realized pansies were annuals, but I guess that explains why they’re suddenly in all the stores each spring.

    The Plant Geek speaks: I think, technically speaking, pansies are biennials, meaning that you grow them from seed one year (in the fall) for bloom the following spring. I have had them seed themselves in from time to time, always unexpectedly. Most do treat them as annuals, but they are hardy little buggers, and easily planted in these still chilly spring days. Mine are just getting to know the deck today, since we appear to be headed for the fifties today.

    As for the ladybugs, either one was already here when I moved in, or she/they came in with plants (maybe the canna lily) in the fall. Who knows?!? Happy to have them here, tho! Didn’t you host a colony in Seattle?

  8. I do so love watching as you chronicle spring coming in. We have signs of spring, but I don’t know if they are as bold as yours. Our winters aren’t as bold as yours, to begin with. It may just be that I don’t observe our signs of spring as closely. I have noticed more birdsong lately.

    I have irises blooming! There are a small handful of deep purple irises in that plot I want to use as an annual bed. I will wait until later to transplant the irises.

    I didn’t know that about pansies and violas. I wondered, since they look so much alike. But with plants you never know.

    I like your morning glory trellis. Can’t wait to see them climbing all over it.

  9. That last shot gave me the creeps. I think of Alfred Hitchcock.

    CJ, I wish you could’ve seen how many MORE of them there are than appear in this photo! This one’s hardly Hitchcockian compared to the rest. I’m no Tippy Hedren, though, so I prefer to see them as one of those signs of spring. And how I wish I could sit up there in the treetops with them, as they soak in the last bits of heat from the sun as it sinks over the western horizon!

  10. I always find it interesting how birds on trees and wires place themselves fairly evenly spaced. As if they know a thing or two about wing-room. :)

    I love it when ladybugs infiltrate during the cold, (unless they are the biting kind, in which case they lose their fun quickly).

    Looks like the Nest really has shaped up nicely.

  11. I look forward to the day when our natural surrounds will look as spring-like as yours. First we need to get rid of all the snow. What a deep purple skylark you share with us.

  12. I really like your morning glory trellis. It’ll be a shame to part with it when it comes time to set them out! We have wild vining morning glories out this way that have been blooming, though their flowers are just white with some occasional slight pink blushing. I’m looking forward to pictures of your more colorful ones.

    James, I don’t actually have plans to part with the trellis. Those MG will be for the deck and by the time I can set them out, they should have covered that pretty well and I’ll just bridge the distance between that trellis and the strings up over the door. That’s the plan, anyhow…we’ll see.

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