Spring is my favourite season. This year, it’s a special gift. As the world fights the COVID-19 virus and the number of infected people in my area increases, the cycle of the year continues unabated. Cherry blossoms, crocuses, violets, and other flowers are blooming where I live. Birds are partnering and building nests, butterflies and other insects are appearing, and the blue sky offers a blanket of hope. The future is unknown. For those of us who are currently healthy and able to leave our home or who have a garden to explore, however, nature offers a lovely distraction.
In this article, I describe some features of the blooming plants that I saw on a recent walk. Some were growing in the wild and others on the edge of gardens, which enabled me to photograph them. Flowers in shades of blue, yellow, pink, and white can be seen at the moment. The reds will follow, even in the presence of the virus.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual celebration that takes place in April. Multiple events take place around the city as part of the festival. They are very popular. The ones that draw large crowds have been cancelled this year, but the ones in which people can maintain social distancing remain. The haiku and photo competitions will still take place and the self guided (and socially distanced) walks to see cherry blossoms will still be encouraged. The events that draw large crowds of people in close proximity have gone.
The festival has been reduced in size, but the cherry blossom buds are opening as always. They’ve started their eruption and will soon display their full beauty. The lovely, delicate pink flowers are a joy to behold, especially at this time.
Crocus flowers appear very early in the year. They are always exciting to see because they tell me that spring has really begun. The flowers are purple, blue, pink, white, or yellow. Some have striped petals. The flowers in my neighbourhood grow on grass verges and beside trails as well as in people’s gardens. It’s wonderful to discover such vibrant colour amongst the much duller hues of winter.
The flowers have yellow stamens and a yellow style that branches into three stigmas at the tip. They are pollinated by insects. It’s a pleasure to see the animals in the flowers. Though insects may not be a favourite type of animal for many people, their presence is another sign that spring has started.
Forsythia plants produce a lovely splash of yellow flowers. As is true for crocuses, the plant grows in gardens in my area and as an escaped plant beyond gardens. It’s named after a Scottish horticulturist named William Forsyth (1737-1804). Bruce Forsyth (1928-2017), a popular entertainer in the UK for many years, was William’s descendant.
The collection of Forsythia flowers sometimes looks like a fountain. The flower has four petals that are joined at the base to form a tube. If the plant isn’t pruned carefully, it can look untidy, as is the case with the escaped plants. The flowers are still a lovely sight, though. One shrub in my area bloomed in January, which surprised me.
Daisies (Bellis perennis) are a cheerful sight. They are sometimes referred to as the English daisy or the common daisy. Their name is believed to have come from the phrase “day’s eye”. This seems like a very apt description. The flowers have a yellow centre surrounded by white petals and do remind me of the sun. The petals sometimes have pink areas.
Daisy flowers can be seen all year in the Greater Vancouver area. The ones that I see in winter are sparse and lack the vibrancy of the spring flowers, however. The flowers are a link to my childhood and my past. They were one of the first plants that I learned to identify as a child and remind me of my life in the UK, where I grew up.
Wild violets (Viola odorata) are another lovely sight. The plants are small, but the pretty blue flowers and the heart or kidney-shaped leaves attract my attention. I have read that the plant can spread far and be a nuisance in gardens, but I’ve only seen it in semi-wild areas.
Like the English daisy, the violets are edible. Please note that I’m sharing this information for general interest and am not recommending that anyone gathers the plants for food. There are multiple points to consider when foraging for food, including the correct identification of a species and the location where the plants growing. There are some plants that resemble the English daisy and the wild violet that are not safe to eat.
Grape hyacinth is a colourful spring bloomer that grows in my neighbourhood gardens and has escaped or been planted on borders outside the gardens. The species that I see is Muscari armeniacum. Its leaves are long and narrow and its flowers are bell-shaped. The flowers remind people of little grapes in a bunch, which gave the plant its name. The grape hyacinth is currently classified in the family Asparagaceae. True hyacinths are classified in the same family but belong to the genus Hyacinthus.
Though grape hyacinths are not my favourite type of spring flower, I appreciate them for their early appearance and the splash of colour that they create. In addition, I appreciate any flower that is planted beside or spreads just beyond the border of someone’s garden, where I can enjoy and admire its appearance. In some cases, I can tell that this location isn’t accidental. Gardeners can be very generous.
The Cycle of Nature
It’s a lovely thought that the cycle of nature will continue despite the presence of the virus and the accompanying worries and uncertainties. Viruses too are part of nature, as are we. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I appreciate the cycle of nature in the plant and non-human part of the animal kingdom. These are areas that the virus can’t affect, at least with respect to the wild animals that I see in my environment. Their resilience in much appreciated.