Never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me I get a fever that’s hard to bear
You give me fever (you give me fever) when you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight (you give me fever)
Fever in the morning’
Fever all through the night
I’m pretty sure it was 1958 when Peggy Lee made the charts with those lyrics. At that time I already had about all of her kind of fever I could stand and a boy child to boot.
Spring fever, however, was a whole different ball game. When spring’s warm arms wrapped around me I surely got a fever all right. The bass were striking and bluegill were bedding, and spring fever demanded I harvest them while the sun shined. I caught enough of both to keep a young family in fresh and frozen fish for a whole year.
We’re nearly a month into astronomical spring and stuff keeps bursting out all over. Who could not get at least a touch of spring fever, what with dogwoods and azaleas all over the place and Fish Fry coming up?
There is an old myth that spring fever brings on a lethargy that puts some people into such a state of funk that they are housebound for days on end. For any of us gardeners, however, that negative kind of spring fever can be the ruination of most of our year. Just let the heart of planting season slide by and for all practical purposes the majority of your enjoyment is crippled for months.
Don’t tell me there are old leaves still crumpled into corners here and there on your place. If so, lethargy won’t get it. They need to be attended to immediately if not sooner. Same thing with any other work that should have been attended to on a crisp autumn day or an unbearably frosty winter one.
That is not to say that enjoyment should not be a significant part of your spring. Indeed, it comes only once a year and, sooner or later (probably sooner), our climate in the mid-South will yield up oppressive heat and humidity well before we expect it. We’ve all experienced 90 degree days in April that shrivel young flower buds and even emerging leaves. Your assignment is to take a stroll or ride on a sunny 80-degree day before things get unreasonable and observe the delights of our bucolic county and town. Even if you have to “borrow” someone else’s garden for a few minutes it will do you good, though perhaps not quite as much as it would do if it is your own garden that holds forth.
The star of our late March and early April garden was a spectacular (why me modest?) specimen of Corylopsis spicata, the winter hazel, that cranked up a few days before the end of winter and held our (and passing motorists’) attention well into April. The common name is winter hazel (it is related to witch hazel, which bloomed a month earlier) which has little pendants of palest banana yellow flowers, much softer than forsythia, which blooms at the same time.
Resources say this large shrub or small tree will reach 4-8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Ours is some 25 years old and is at least 20 feet across and about 8 feet tall. I well remember getting it and another one from friend Sam Jones of Piccadilly Gardens near Athens, Ga. The second one is in our woods while the first is in our front garden and visible from the street. The woodland one hasn’t grown as large because of root competition and shade, but is still worthwhile. Shade inhibits flowering a little.
Winter hazel is an easy little tree. Too bad it is so hard to find.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Don’t let spring pass you by.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.