Remember the Magnolias

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For once the groundhog was right. Or was he? It wasn’t so much that spring had come early, but more like summer had! How could it possibly be 28C – in March – in Ontario, Canada!? The first day of spring, 2012 felt like the first day of summer. It was so warm, in fact, that in some areas night-time low temperatures exceeded the previous record daytime highs! Is it because of “global warming”?   Some did acknowledge concern. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed it!

Of course everyone was caught unprepared by this unseasonable weather. Summer clothes were still in storage. “Snowbirds” were still in Florida – where it was now cooler than in Ontario! Farmers quickly readied their equipment and began to plant seed. Nurseries had no product available yet for those - like me - who suddenly had the urge to garden. Yes, yes, I know, you should never plant anything here before the 24th of May weekend, or at least not before Mother’s Day. But I couldn’t resist planting at least some patio boxes. In the event of frost, I can always tuck them into the garage for the night. After all, everything else was blooming!

Having lived in Australia for a number of years, I had missed the drama of northern seasonal changes. Here we plant bulbs in autumn. Seeds lie dormant for months, subjected to the harshest winter conditions. Breaking seed dormancy sometimes involves hydration and, of course, the warmth of the sun which, in turn, trigger changes in the protective membrane, and allow the life force to break through the seed coat. And then spring begins. Ah, spring! It’s what we Canadians look forward to so much after a long winter.

As the snow recedes, the crocus is always the first sign of colour. It is soon followed by the forsythia, always dazzling with its yellow boughs. Then, before long, there are brilliant splashes of colour everywhere, as, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths emerge. And from the bare, brown branches of fruit trees, the most delicate petals of white, pink and red spring forth in clouds of colour, blossoms that will one day become fruit. And oh, the magnolias! They were magnificent this year! Here in Ontario, the creamy pink magnolia buds usually begin to open in late April and will last right through May. But this year, they bloomed in March; and they were awesome!

But, of course, it was early, well ahead of schedule; and that was too good to last. After only a few glorious days, temperatures dropped back down to more normal seasonal levels. Unsurprised, I tucked my patio boxes into the garage. Fruit farmers erected huge fans in their orchards, and reportedly lost only about 5% of their potential fruit. But what of the magnolia? Overnight those beautiful creamy pink and white blooms withered and turned an ugly brown, bitten by the sudden, but not unseasonal, frost. The magnolia trees themselves are fine, of course; and they will bloom again. But that won’t happen this season.

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted…

~ Ecclesiastes

As I was thinking of all this, I was reminded: I had recently launched a new project myself; and I did it with great fanfare. But, like the magnolia blossoms, it was just a little bit premature. And so, after a brief blaze of glory, things quickly cooled off, and withered. But it is certainly not dead. The source is still solid, the roots firm, and the soil fertile. So I may just pull it in for a bit, give it more time, allow the seeds to germinate fully, allow the environment to warm a bit more, tend to it a bit more carefully, nurture the growth of tender branches, and ensure that is very well established before we enter the next season. But, of course, the experience prompts some journaling.

Allow me to share those prompts with you:

What season are you in?
What lies dormant in your soul?
What season(s) are your projects in?
What is waiting in the darkness, eager to emerge?
What can you do to create the right conditions, to till the soil, to make it fertile, ready?
Perhaps you have watered it with your tears? Now, how will you nurture its growth?

Happy gardening! But remember the magnolias; and don’t rush it!