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What a difference a year can make. As we celebrate the first day of spring, with new plants emerging from their winter hibernation, we also celebrate the possibilities of us emerging from our homes slowly and cautiously, having small gatherings with friends and family.

Much like the perennials who retreated into the ground for winter, we retreated indoors, nurturing our roots and building a strong, healthy structure to reappear when our environment and climate were ready.

The first signs of early spring to make an appearance in my garden were snowdrops. The brave, tiny bulbs pushed through the soil, grew 4 to 6 inches tall, and produced their white bell-like flowers, earning their name, looking much like drops of snow in the late winter garden. After the long winter, this was such a joy. They have begun to fade, but the next blooms are ready.

Clumps of dwarf daffodils are blooming. Their sunny yellow color is the bright spot in my garden. These dwarfs are 6 to 8 inches tall; their leaves and blooms look much like their full-size relatives. My full stems are getting tall, and they have buds. A few more warm days, and they too will show their familiar yellow blooms.

In a perfect daffodil field, I would stagger the plants with early, mid and late bloomers, but so far I have not been that thoughtful about planting. I have not grown white or apricot. Mine are the traditional yellow. Don’t hesitate to bring a little spring into the house; daffodils make a lovely cut flower bouquet.

Looking for more yellow? While driving around town, I have seen forsythia beginning to bloom. The long stems arching and full of blooms can reach 8 to 10 feet in length. Again, bring them indoors to brighten your displays. Use a tall vase and cut long stems to create a tall, dramatic arrangement.

I am slowly removing the leaf cover from my beds. I know that in the Kanawha Valley we have the possibility of frost until early May. Oh, I will pull back the leaves and, after a bit of clean up, lay mulch long before then, but I do take my time. The leaf cover is a winter home to helpful insects.

Continuing my walk through the garden beds, I see my sedum and creeping thyme beginning to green up. The irises are about 2 inches tall, and several other plants are starting to wake up.

Also providing color are the blooming crocus, mostly purple, although I have one yellow that has invaded the mix. I add bulbs every fall. Finally, I have found the mix of spring blooms that are happy in my garden.

The hellebores or Lenten roses are in bloom. These dusty pink flowers, more than any others, reassure me spring is here. The evergreen leaves are a garden fixture, but the blooms appear just as the name suggests during the Lent and Easter seasons. These blooms are not perky, reaching for the sun blooms such as daffodils. They tend to drop over and make you work to see their centers. Make the effort; they are worth it.

Another sure sign of spring: the March full moon known as the Worm Moon. This moon is named for the return of earthworms that will draw the robins, and robins bobbing along mean spring.

I am not one to bird watch, but a friend and I saw the most remarkable sight: three pairs of red-headed pileated woodpeckers flitting among the trees and enjoying the sunshine. Because of the bare trees, they were easy to track; it felt like they were having an afternoon party, and we were invited to share in their enjoyment of the day.

The past year has felt long and challenging, but with spring comes hope and new growth. If the tiny bulbs planted in the soil can survive and flourish in the snow and cold, so can the gardeners. As we safely venture out into the world, the wonders of nature and the beauty of sharing it with others will greet us; I have missed the blooming garden, and I have missed spending time with my friends. I am always happy to welcome spring, but this year maybe more than ever.

Jane Powell is a long-time West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the author of “Gardening in Pearls,” a blog that combines her love of gardens, fashion and design. By day, Jane is the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Find her blog at gardeninginpearls.com/. Reach Jane at janeellenpowell@aol.com.

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