Before I began to Look Around (see what I did there?), the only clue winter was waning was this:
Daffodils are still pure cheer, but they aren’t the only yard flower to signal spring.
In the front yard, under the Sugar Maple, are a few Spring Beauties. Too early this year, but always welcome. They are native and considered “common,” but could there ever be enough Spring Beauties? Old Nashville lawns are sometimes sprinkled with these like snow. The pink pollen is irresistible to bees and to me.
Throughout the entire yard are teensy flowers of chickweed, ivy-leaved speedwell, bittercress and purple deadnettle. You won’t see them unless you try. All are considered winter annuals, all are from Europe, and frankly, they move in and take over, but when they aren’t clogging my one garden bed I rather like them.
Young chickweed is a tasty nibble. Bittercress pods are mustard-sharp on salad. Did you ever run through a scraggly yard in summer and feel tiny projectiles hit ankle-level? Those are bittercress seeds. They explode when touched. One kid was so relieved when I told him. He thought they were fleas.
Dandelion was blooming today, too. They are perennial (and a perennial pain to gardeners), and can flower every month of the year. I use to hate them, despite all the famously edible parts. Now, I hardly flinch when my kid plucks a full seedhead (a “clock”) and blows it bare. And after meeting grownups on public wildflower hikes who could not identify dandelion seedheads — which means they’ve never played with one or even watched a child play with one — dandelion shifted itself in my imagination from scourge to Worth Knowing. Everyone needs to breathe on a dandelion clock at least once.
Unless your lawn is comprised of rolls of imported sod or unless you’ve drenched it with weed ‘n’ feed, these winter annuals are winking outside right now. And if you do happen to be the tidy type, just look on the side of any street.
Signs of spring for the seeing.
Ivy-leaved speedwell / Veronica hederifolia
Common chickweed / Stellaria media
Purple deadnettle / Lamium purpureum
Hairy bittercress / Cardimine hirsuta
Spring Beauty / Claytonia virginica (native to the U.S.)