Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring in the Greenhouse

Thinking back to my childhood, I try to remember what first signaled Spring to me those many years ago. I remember snow – lots and lots of snow. Piled high along the edges of the streets where the snow plows had pushed it, stained dark gray from the dust and months of shoveling, it often rose higher than my head. And then, almost unperceptively, it became a soggy brown slush that was fun to splash through, but not so much when spewed up from beneath a passing car. It ran in dirty rivulets down street gutters, disappeared into corner drains, carrying with it the muck from a long, frozen season. As hillsides, yards, and gardens again became visible from under the sodden blanket, new green growth gradually pushed up. Most of all, I remember crocuses – brilliant splashes of deep purple and sunny gold against dark, soggy earth.

In our greenhouses, spring arrived early. Entering them was like arriving at some other, more exotic, part of the world - warm, humid, and sweetly scented. The heat was generated in a huge, gas-fired boiler in the basement which heated water that passed through cast iron pipes that ran under each of the long, wooden benches.
Photo from homedepot.com

The benches were filled with dark, rich, soil and tall carnations of red, pink, and white. To this day I love the white ones best because of their spicy, cinnamon-like scent. There were also potted plants set on flat wooden platforms on top of some of the unplanted benches.

 Photo from flowers-in-world.blogspot.com
I can picture the pink and white azaleas, magenta cyclamens, calceolaria with their purse-like spotted yellow and orange flowers, daisy-like cinnerareas, and row upon row of Easter lilies. The super-sweet smell of the lilies trumped all the other scents as Easter neared and their number increased. Many began to sport brightly-colored foil wrappings with satin bows, lined up like so many spotless children ready for a birthday party.
Photo from plantsrescue.com
These plants all needed care – weeding, fertilizing, watering, and occasional pest-removal. The daily watering increased the humidity, which caused the single paned glass houses to fog up with the still frigid air outside. The heat and humidity were in there all year long, as were some of the flowering plants, but the lilies only came around Easter time.
 Photo from writeopinions.com

We could, and did, bring plants and flowers into our house most any time we wanted, which was a privilege and a luxury that I now know I didn’t appreciate at the time. We always had an Easter lily and a lovely spring centerpiece for our dinner on Easter Sunday. Even though it sometimes snowed then, signaling that winter was not “quite” over yet, it was always Springtime at Easter inside our home. If I close my eyes and remember those times, I always smell the sweetness of the lilies.

No matter what date it fell on or whether it snowed again, Easter always ushered in Spring. We knew that it was only a matter of time before tulip and daffodils sprouted and bloomed, followed by lilacs and crabapple blossoms. The snow finally disappeared altogether, the air warmed, mud dried up, grass turned green and grew tall. The morning came when we awoke to the familiar song of the robin, back from its winter migration and by evening we’d hear the mournful cry of the mourning dove perched on the power line above the back alley.
Photo from flowerspictures.org
Everything was fresh and new again – sun, warmth, growth, flowers, scents, and song.
A stimulating renewal after a long, frozen winter.
To me, this truly signifies what Easter is all about.

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.            Song of Solomon 2:11-12

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