By Ashley Walshe

In March winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too.

— Jean Hersey

March is an age-old prophecy: a great thaw followed by a riot of life and color.

Some said it would start with a single daffodil. A field of crocus. The soft warble of a bluebird.

All the signs are here. And in the bare-branched trees, where wild tangles of dead leaves resemble papier-mâché globes, newborn squirrels wriggle in their dreys, eyes closed.

Weeks ago, winter felt eternal. The cold air stung your face and fingers. The world was bleak and colorless.

Now, the red maple is blooming. Saucer magnolia, too. You build the last fire, sweep the hearth, return to the garden and its wet, fragrant earth.

Frost glistens in the morning light, but you know it’s true — that spring is coming. You know because the birds know. They cannot help but blurt it out.

Beyond the flowering quince, a woodpecker drums on a towering pine.

A towhee gushes drink-your-tea.

A robin whistles cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.

Soon, spring peepers and chorus frogs will join the band. The first bee will drink from the first hyacinth flower. A young squirrel will open its eyes.

Sunlight kisses wild violets, purple dead nettle, tender young grasses. Everywhere you look, you notice a new warmth, a new softness, the gentle pulse of life. By some miracle, spring has arrived. A sweet mystery born from the icy womb of winter.

A Gardener’s Luck

Let’s talk about three-leafed clover (genus Trifolium), a flowering herb in the legume family that just might be what your lawn or garden has been missing. Common as weeds — and often disregarded as such — clover can grow in most any climate, tolerate poor-quality soil and resist most pests and diseases. Here’s the best part: clover can “fix” spent patches of earth by restoring nitrogen levels. In other words, it’s a natural fertilizer and often is used as green manure crop.

Using clover as a ground cover between garden beds will also attract pollinators. Mix some clover with your grasses and your lawn will look greener. An added bonus: It’s impervious to dog urine. Even if you never find a four-leafer, that’s some good garden luck.

Spring Forward

Daylight saving time begins Sunday, March 13. Longer days inspire evening walks, birding, a quiet hour in the garden. Notice what’s flowering: breath-of-spring (winter honeysuckle), brilliant yellow forsythia, lemony scented star magnolia. Notice what needs to be pruned: ahem, the rose bush. Although the vernal equinox occurs Sunday, March 20, spring has been here for weeks, present in each glorious inhalation. Allergy season? Coming soon.  PS

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