First Day of Spring

Kage Baker always opined that calling the Vernal Equinox the first day of Spring was simply a courtesy – at least in California. There’s no argument with the fact that it’s an Equinox: the lengths of the day and night are not changeable by either public opinion or legislative fiat. But the season doesn’t much care about the marks on the calendar, either.

In the meantime, this post is just for pretties.

Spring here in Southern California began two months ago, when the hills began to turn green. We had our first generous rainstorms, and the meagre half-inch of soil on the Hollywood Hills became a carpet of lush fertility. The wild poppies have been springing up everywhere, incandescent golden-orange; over the last month the lupin has joined in as well. Lupin grows in ragged places and in every colour of the spectrum, and now there are patches of blue, yellow, purple and silver springing up on every free foot of wasteland.

Ceanothus is blooming, too, and its blues are even better than the lupin’s. It comes in white, a perfect bridal-veil , sea-foam white, but its dozen blue shades are the best display: cerulean, powder, baby, navy, royal, ultramarine … it’s a more civilized plant and is often seen in gardens But the wild white form grows all over the Hollywood Hills, outlining the slopes and sheltered places, and it’s called deer-candy then. The mule deers come down right beside the freeways and nibble the bouquet-shaped blossoms, demurely eyeing the motorists zipping by.

But the private gardens of Los Angeles are a mirror of the world: damn near anything will grown here, given enough water and sunlight. And it does. Roses to rival any English garden are blooming already; even the slower bushes are covered in shining new leaves. The spear-heads of iris and tulip are sprouting; wysteria and honeysuckle are in bloom. Citrus trees are ubiqitous; there’s a dwarf lemon at least in every apartment court and an orange tree in each back yard. They’re all in bloom, and the perfume is paradisial. Even our baby plum tree has a blossom, like a first tooth.

The storm that is now drifting off was a right gully-washer, and we have a fine crop of mud and rocks slides here, too. And there is more rain due in a few days. The chill is still deep in the earth and stone. But the sun is bright between the squalls, and given half an hour’s uninterrupted work will warm the air into the 70’s. The balance of the seasons has changed for good. We may yet have floods and the skiing isn’t over yet – it’s snowing on the Tehachapis right now – but Winter’s hold is broken. When the snow above Gorman melts, the hills will emerge like glowing coals: gold and scarlet and gas-flame blue and the tenderest pale silver-green …

So while the Earth spins in one place, neatly balanced on one toe like a ballerina, the most subtle shift of weight is taking place. The plants have the jump on the rotation, right now, and the weather is lagging behind them both. But it’ll all even out. The days will  be longer than the nights, now, the perfume in the air will grow stronger, the earth will warm to the air. We are falling every faster toward the sun, and the colours of the bright Midsummer burning are beginning to show on every slope and hilltop.

“Plant when danger of frost is past” say the instructions on all my new seed packets. I think that’s … right about now.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to First Day of Spring

  1. Mark says:

    Hey, I planted the seeds last week & the week before… And despite the gully-washer of the last few days (my mop bucket left out on the porch was FULL), I’ve got radishes, long beans, beets, and onions peeping their sprouts out of my raised bed. My friends back East and in the Midwest are gonna be so jealous. And I really ought to pick some Nasturtiums for a salad this week…last fall’s planting is spilling out of the planter by the front door with round green leaves like miner’s lettuce and a profusion scarlet, yellow, and orange flowers that taste kind of peppery.


  2. Buffalo says:

    Ah, Kate, me heart, you do spin a right nice glamour of words, and sure you do.


  3. Kate says:

    Thank you, Buff. And Mark – this weekend is Tomatomania at the Talapia Brothers in the San Fernando Valley, and I’ll be out there to get heritaga and heirloom seedlings. Time to plant! Salad greens this year, too, and peas, and my sister Kimberly wants to try corn. I’ve done that before – it’s not hard. We have the best garden weather!


    • Mark says:

      I’ll agree with your “best garden weather” with the proviso that summer gets too hot in the West Valley for some things, and requires diligent watering or everything shrivels & dies…especially come Santa Anna season. Hollywood at least gets the coastal influence that keeps things under control.

      Tomatoes are a garden sore spot for me… Since dad (whom I’m living w/ and looking after) is on dialysis, and forbidden tomatoes, potatoes, and other high potassium/phosphorus/sodium foods, I’m not planting any this year in solidarity. My passion for heritage tomatoes will be limited to sneak out & occasionally indulge away from home. Add that to my own diet peculiarities (anticoagulant therapy limits dark green veggies) and garden planting gets a little odd this year. Lots of herbs, summer squash & sweet peppers. Radishes and beets, peas & green beans, and some onion sets for green onions. Had to pull out an enormously productive artichoke plant because neither of us could eat them now…and it was taking over my raised bed. (about 6′ x 6′)

      I’ve never had much luck w/ corn at home (O.K., living history sites have had bumper crops)….but I know the problem is that I don’t have the room to plant a bunch….corn really wants at least a couple of dozen hills to get good cross-pollination


  4. Kate says:

    Mark – yeah, artichokes will eat a whole garden. I love the things, but they are too labour intensive for me. However, squash and peas and beets – mmm-mmm, even with your restrictions that’s some nice eatin’ there. Corn is a little problematical, but if you plant it in groups, it does do better. I always plant three seeds to a hill, at least a dozen hills – and with the traditional fish at the bottom. Though I learned from sad and hilarious experience not to use smoked or salted fish from a can … I can only plead youth and ignorance for that one. Since then, I’ve found bait fish to work very well indeed. And there is even a soft eating corn that comes in colours like Indian corn – great stuff!


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