I've been something of an observer of the first stirrings of spring in Portland and other towns for a number years, even making logs of what flowers and blooming schrubs come first and in what order.
Today is the first day of spring and the season is always amazing and reassuring - that we've made it to another start when nature is renewed.
This year it seems things were held up in a literal deep freeze by the solid pack of snow everywhere, and 2- to 3-feet deep in my part of Portland. But recently there has been heavy rain, the temperatures soared to more than 70 and the last of the heavy ice and snow melted or evaporated. I was out gazing at the ground outside our house and I was somewhat dazed as it semed like it was the first time in months without solid white in all directions.
Suddenly, I spotted a bright bead of color in the muddy dirt and matted leaves just next to the house. Upon examination, it was a single crocus, and if you look at the photos that accompany this closely, it actually pushed through a leaf to blossom. At best, crocus blooms grow to about 2-inches long on a very short 1-and-a-half-inch stem.
Then I saw other plants. A few were thin blades like grass with white stripes that could only be additional crocuses. Others chutes came into view, with rounded ends and will soon surround daffodil blooms.
So, the question I ask myself every year came rushing back to me. What is the first flower to bloom in Connecticut in the spring?
I started to check my logs and then went online with the U.S .Department of Agriculture Plant Database and the UConn Extension Service websites. There is plenty of solid information about early flowers, but only estimated ranges for their appearance.
My logs consistantly show crocuses are first, but another site had a report about columbine (wildflowers) pushing through rocks and snow in rugged Massachusetts terrain as a very early flower. Another says crocuses push through snow when it's time to bloom. An opinion on About.com said it was "definitely" the crocus that is first. Then another report surfaced in the New York Times from 2009 about snowdrops, whose dedicated cultivators insist are always first to bloom. Snow drops are tiny white flowers that hang like bells from a delicate stem.
I submitted a question to the UConn Extension Center and it started a debate there as I found in several emails. Finially Dr. Mark Brand, Professor of Horticulture in the Department of Plant Science responded.
Dr. Brand said: "The following are typically the first 2 plants that I see blooming in Spring.
"Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)."
In any case, flowers are starting to pop up, in yellows and purples, and soon I relish the thought of seeing bright yellow forsythias schrubs. There are some great examples along Main Street, in Portland. And recently, I saw one! It's just two doors down from Fire Station No. 2 on Main Street.
According to my dog-eared schedule the next plants will be daffodils, then a tree, the magnolia. Those are follwed closely, by dogwwod, cherry ornamental pears. and blackthorn. Then it will be a riot of color with Rhododendron, and many hues of azaleas, followed hard by the iris.
So now it's your turn. If you have an opinion about the "First Flower in Spring," you can share it.
Above all, please share your photos or general comments as spring begins.