Old Friend: Spring
Message from the Executive Director
Spring comes softly in Virginia. Not the weather necessarily, which can be gentle or harsh, with snows and gales not being uncommon. For our plants, though, winter can seem like the overture of a Broadway musical: the composer introduces all the major themes the audience will hear throughout the evening, so when the melody of the second act’s opening number comes around, it feels like an old friend.
Across the northern tier of states with their shoulders up against the Canadian border, plant dormancy is a survival mechanism. Some trees will not ‘break dormancy’ until they have experienced weeks of low temperatures. Dormancy, by comparison, is a relative thing in the mid-Atlantic at the break of the Piedmont. Obvious buds appear on many trees early in winter, and a warm December can prompt cherry blossoms. As winter recedes and the days begin to warm, different species move to the fore, each taking their turn in the limelight before gently bowing out and making way for the next star to shine.
There is a quiet rhythm as we move from winter to spring. And while not dramatic, it can be wholly satisfying. This spring, I invite you to walk into a garden—your garden, the neighborhood garden or this botanical garden— and spend a minute or two with new growth. Notice the blossom in a bank of spring snow. Get up close to a low-hanging branch and observe how impossibly small and delicate are the new leaves at the tips of twigs. Stand way back from that tree, way back, and notice how the hint of new leaves makes the tree look like it is surrounded by green mist. And, because this is the 30th spring of your life, or the 12th, or the 80th, these new young plants will seem very much like the return of old, familiar friends. We know it instinctively, as these plants have been our companions for millennia, and we know it immediately and personally.
It is not a surprise when our old friends re-emerge from the overcast months of winter; they have been providing clues all along that they would return. Welcome them with a glad heart, as a friend should.