The First Day Of Spring

Reading time 6 minutes

Early each year comes that single, magical, joyful, often unexpected day when winter turns to spring. It doesn’t come when the astronomers or meterologists tell us so, but when nature decides the time is right. The first day of spring can come as early as February and as late as April, but gardeners know it’s upon them the moment they wake up that morning. So do the birds, bees and flowers, all hard-wired to leap into action on the precise day when the sky clears and the white-gold sun sends temperatures into double figures.

Beach Boardwalk
Beach Boardwalk

Those that can’t sense it instinctively should know the first day of spring by when the birds change their tune and the earth starts to smell rich and comforting again. It’s when it’s warm enough to garden in a t-shirt but the air is still chilly in the shade, and when your plants seem to start growing before your very eyes. Spring is here when subtle perfumes you had to enjoy at close quarters suddenly fill the air like a fragrant cloud; when the atmosphere in the greenhouse becomes intoxicatingly tropical. It’s when you find buds forming on plants you hadn’t expected to be awake yet and when a gardener’s mind swells with ideas for the year ahead. (The latter is hard to spot, but is given away by a wistful look and a sudden urge to pot, sow, graft, mow, write plant lists or simply gaze intently at various parts of the garden.)

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is one of the first wild plants to flower on the clifftops
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is one of the first wild plants to flower on the clifftops

The first day of spring arrived today in Broadstairs. I knew it before the sun even rose. It began tentatively; a haze in the sky, a remnant of the previous day’s fog, thinly veiling the sun. As I opened the front door I was greeted by cool rather than cold air, and stillness, and birdsong, and a softness of light that’s been absent since autumn. On the beach the storm bank had gone and it could have been 5am on a summer’s day, the sun climbing high over the harbour arm. I took my first walk on the sand this year. It felt warm, and good. Up on the cliffs pied wagtails darted manically through the faded flowerheads of Cineraria maritima, whilst the first wild wallflowers began to scent the air with their unmistakably old-world fragrance.

Beach Huts, Broadstairs
Beach Huts, Broadstairs

As someone who wishes it were spring all year round, I look forward to this day more than Christmas and my birthday combined. It means that soon the garden will be flooded with delicate blossom, elegant tulips, fragrant roses and fresh green foliage. But, gardeners beware, the first day of spring does not mean that spring is here to stay. It can disappear again without a trace, leaving us in suspense as to when the second, third and fourth day might dawn. Put down that trowel, hang up the secateurs and sit a while, the sun illuminating your pale complexion, and consider all the fun, happiness and opportunity your garden will reward you with over the coming months. The first day of spring is here. Enjoy it whilst it lasts.

Has spring arrived in your part of the world yet? (I assume some while ago in the case of my readers from the Southern Hemisphere!). What tell-tale signs announce the first day of spring where you live?

A collection of colourful spring flowers outside Polegate Cottage on the first day of spring
A collection of colourful spring flowers outside Polegate Cottage on the first day of spring

Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Flowers, Musings, Our Coastal Garden, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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32 comments On "The First Day Of Spring"

  1. Wow! How I envy you that beautiful “First-Day-Of-Spring”. The smells, the sun, the songs of the birds. Enjoy it as much as I enjoy your today’s post and pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oddly I think it happened in Cornwall today as well. A very dead looking Rosa rugosa looked dead earlier in the week. Today it is sporting very small but definitely green buds.


  3. Definitely yesterday here in Cornwall, I don’t know how but you’re right, you just know before the curtains are back. I spent two hours outside weeding and brushing up pathways, can’t wait to get planting, and until the grass is dry enough to walk on.

  4. It does feel Spring comes in earlier this year, even in Hong Kong and before the Spring Equinox. Now, I am listening to the birds…have a great weekend!

  5. That was a beautiful description! I know exactly what you mean! I can tell you that the first real day of spring has come and gone here in Portland, OR, and I felt as if I was in jail, as I couldn’t get out there and enjoy it. I spent three weeks in Sweden, and once I got back in mid-February, I had so much work to catch up on, all my pent up gardening yearnings had to go unattended. I have been so grumpy! This morning, I had a long-overdue meeting with a client. It was the last “must” on my catch-up list, and went very well, so I went home and celebrated by playing outside – finally! As you can imagine, it was just WONDERFUL!

  6. I’ll have to wait still for that day to arrive here in Berlin, I’m afraid. But I do practice already, with “simply gazing intently at various parts of the garden” 🙂

    1. Add foxes and the effect can be quite devastating. I’ve almost given up with bulbs in London. Today is going to be a bit more blustery, but I am hoping to get at least 4 hours in the garden. Have a lovely Sunday Candy.

  7. A lovely post. It happened here on Thursday. It is the quality of the light, the chattering of the sparrows in the hedge; but mostly you know spring is here because you open the door and you can smell it. Absolute heaven!

    1. You are exactly right. I miss the sparrows, they seem to have abandoned us temporarily, perhaps because I’ve been a little frugal with the food. I have two days of solid gardening planned this week so hope spring sticks around a while longer!

  8. You’ve surpassed all previous blogs with your “The First Day of Spring” – I keep returning to read it again!!! Dan, you have a wonderful command of the English language. I feel that a book of ‘musings from the garden’ is waiting in the wings!!! And, as for that table of pots of spring flowers, well…………………….

    1. Thank you Sally, you are very kind. I am not sure about having a good command of the English language, but I do know it’s better than my command of punctuation, which I am never very sure about! I should have paid more attention at school ;-). Happily day 2 of spring is here, so I am out in the garden potting up and on, enjoying the warmth in the greenhouse. Have a lovely Sunday. Dan

  9. We don’t have such a contrast between ‘winter’ and ‘spring’ here in Bermuda, but our so-called first sign is the return of the longtail birds to nest on our sandstone cliffs. Pale freesias in the long grass give the first scent and at road sides nastutiums are tumbling over. But like me, these are both endemic ‘ex-pats’. The longtails are the really native ‘first sign’…any day now!

    1. Sounds blissful Jill. I should like to visit Bermuda one day. I had a friend from the island when I was at university and have always wondered what it’s like. I gather you have a lot of ex pat plants, and the most northerly coconut palms? I like the image of pale freesias growing among grasses. Must be a pretty sight.

    2. I’ve been thinking about your comment and the longtail birds, Jill. Such a good reminder that Spring has many messengers. Here in the Ozarks it is the chorus frogs . . . so lovely to hear their song rising from the river on a warm evening. Hope your longtails arrive soon.

  10. A beautiful description of Spring. Yes, as a gardener the sight of new leaves and buds just draws you outside. It is like witnessing a miracle every year when the plants come back.

    1. Thank you. It was such a topsy-turvy winter that some plants never went away whilst others came back too soon. I am hoping this week of high pressure will mean everything gets back into some kind of rhythm.

  11. We have been having warm weather, but the ground is still frozen. There are a few bulbs poking through, but we’ve got some sleet coming. Your photos are lovely.I have one question – what do folks do with the beach huts? Store chairs? 🙂

    1. Well Judy, now you’ve asked! People do all sorts. The ones in my photograph are the smallest kind so tend to act as storage / changing room / tea making facility. The larger ones are often decorated very elaborately inside with Cath Kidston prints or in 50’s style and have little kitchenettes and an entire family’s beach kit. Some are big enough to sit in when the weather is bad. The only rule common to all is that you can’t spend the night in them, even if you wished to! In the summer I’ll get you some snaps of them when they are opened up.

  12. We had our first day of spring on Saturday here in Ontario as well. I may have gotten a little too much sun, but it feels so good to be out in short sleeves and have the sun on your face. I spent half my time cleaning up the garden and half of it looking at the bulbs in pots that I forced in my garage this winter. It seemed like a lot of trouble at the time, but having crocuses in bloom even one day earlier is worth it, and the squirrels don’t eat them up on a table.

    1. I don’t think one can have too much sun at this time of year. It will boost your vitamin and energy levels nicely. It sounds like we both had very similar jobs to do outside. We don’t have squirrel problems in our seaside garden thank heavens, but it’s been so mild that the greenfly are all over everything. I hope you are rewarded with a fabulous display for all your hard work. Spring bulbs produce such happy flowers.

  13. I’ve been invited to help with three vegetable gardens this year with three different collections of friends. So many wonderful aspects to shared gardening . . one of which being flowing with the decisions other gardeners make . . . while wondering how in the world — planting potatoes in February for example — they will actually work out. I am taking the light hearted “why not” approach. We’ll see how it all turns out as the weeks progress.

  14. What a lyrical post Dan you certainly do have a way with words! Lovely descriptions of Spring accompanied by terrific photos as always. Hope the Kent garden is looking good this weekend…don’t overdo it out there…you don’t want the return of “the cough”!

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