True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

Sharply shorn, shaven hedges;

Rusty brown and brittle sedges.

Peering out amongst rock ledges,

Frosted flower, an epiphanic hour.


All that and bitter cold as well, for the most part in February. However there usually comes a day, or a few days, in February, with spring-like conditions, i.e. a soft, moist south wind, laden with more humidity than is the case for most of winter. 

It is just at such a time we sometimes witness our own little epiphany with the sight of some precocious wee thing that emerges before its brethren awaken. Often, in my own case, it is a single flower on a creeping phlox, usually a startling pinkish mauve, not a color that sets with a lot of us in high summer but one we’re blessed to find this time of year. 

And, just as the little ditty says, we sometimes find it peeking out amongst rocks. We have a stacked rock wall, some 80 feet long by about 18 inches high that holds back a rise to its west, thus the face of the wall looks east. Even in winter, it catches the first rays of the sun and soaks up what little heat is offered until past noon. That token of warmth is ample enough sometimes to force forth a little dianthus or creeping phlox or other adventuresome bloom embedded in the rocks. Just one flower is valued all out of proportion to its seeming size and simplicity. 

We talked already here this winter of things that habitually flower forth between Dec. 21 and March 20, the astronomical winter. Those things are more abundant than you might think though they must be planned, and planted, for. 

But that little dianthus or phlox, though both are spring bloomers, usually aren’t seen en masse until April, when they are vying with abundant other spring things, mostly azaleas and daffodils. 

Here, however, we’re talking of just a single flower. Its effect is way out of the expected significance of its size for anyone suffering angst from a long, cold and dreary winter. This feeling is, unfortunately, sometimes more than a mild case of the blues or cabin fever, and can border on clinical depression for some who are predisposed to such.

No, a single phlox or dianthus will not cure a serious mental or emotional disease, but it can play a significant role in pepping some of us up to the point we may reach for the pruners or trowel that have laid unused in the shed or garage since sometime last fall. After that, who knows? Few things are more conducive to cure of a down spell than exercise and activity that gets one’s mind off one’s self.


From Poor Willie’s Almanack — To do this week if duck weather holds off: dig, and dig some more. Set out hardy deciduous trees and shrubs. Early planting gives them time to establish roots before hot and dry weather comes. Pick your first daffodils, but a caveat: folklore says it is bad luck to bring just one daffodil bloom into the house. I suggest three. 


Coming up at the end of this month and on into March will be the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show. I guarantee it will get your pulse going for spring. It runs Feb. 28 through March 3, with exciting speakers every day and buildings full of vendors’ merchandise. It is easy to access, just off I-65 south at Wedgewood Avenue. You can Google it up and get all the info you need. I have attended for years and learned a lot there. 


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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