I’m totally addicted to Spring.
When I left for the NH, our oak looked like this.
From the moment I got off the ‘plane back in Melbourne I could feel the difference. I’d been a full month in the essentially contracting system of Autumn. Days were shortening. Temperatures were cooling. Plants had begun their bedtime routine.
I stepped back into a diametrically opposite dynamic. Days were lengthening. Temperatures were on the increase. Plants had wiped the sleep from their eyes and were feasting on a fattening breakfast in preparation for the breathless growth of the next few months.
I was buzzing from the moment my feet touched the ground. It wasn’t (as some have said) that I’d returned to good weather. The weather in Italy (where I’d spent most of the last month) was total perfection, with days varying mildly around mid-20’s. What I was responding to in Melbourne was the palpable expansiveness of the season.
How is that detected? How, on the first day, can I be aware that I’m in a day-lengthening phase? Wouldn’t have a clue, but it’s a stimulus that plants respond to, so it’d be plain stupid to think that our physiology is ignorant of it.
Loads of plants are induced to flower by day length, or more correctly, night length. But more complicated still, they do so when nights are either lengthening, or shortening, depending on the species. Chrysanthemums flower when autumn nights get to a certain length. Clearly there’d be nights in spring when nights are the identical length, but they know the difference between a shortening or lengthening night phase.
(BTW, the image to the right is of a terrifyingly trussed chrysanth – a single plant grown so that every indiviudual flower is perfectly evenly spaced. (Just be glad someone does this, and that you don’t have to)).
And it’s not just flowering. The legendary girls that gardened for Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst in the late 50’s early 60’s, then continued on there for another thirty years with The National Trust, told me the curious fact that dahlias, which will root from cuttings throughout the growing season, will simply not form a storage tuber if rooted after the longest day. They’ll form roots and grow happily, but will just die with the frost, and not reappear the following year. Who would have thought?
What I do know is that the sudden shift from dying autumn to new-born spring induces a fabulously buoyant natural high. I’m lapping it up. And when, as it eventually must, this fragile spring turns to autumn, I’m out of here.