The Dirt Diva

Tailoring your garden to your needs!

The Phenological Wonders of February


The first week of February is significant in many cultures, for it’s the point in the year which signals the arrival of spring, long before the spring equinox on March 21. Pay attention outdoors and you’ll notice the earth has begun to show signs of awakening from its winter sleep, even when snow remains. Have you noticed the quality of sunlight has changed? Have you heard more birdsong lately? Doesn’t the air smell different?

These collective signs are known as phenology:

phenomena + ology=

1:  a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (as bird migration or plant flowering)
2:  periodic biological phenomena that are correlated with climatic conditions

Cultures all over the world acknowledge this time of change with various rituals. In North America, the arrival of early spring is heralded by a furry hibernator emerging from its winter den, known as Groundhog Day. Christians celebrate this time as Candelmas, the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, since Feb 2 is forty days after the birth of Jesus. On Candelmas, candles are blessed, feasts are held and the drab days of winter begin to seem brighter. In ancient Rome, the time between the winter solstice and the spring equinox was known as Lupercalia. For them, it was a celebration of the founding of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus. During Lupercalia, thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of hide from a sacrificial goat as part of a purification ritual. Yikes! The ancient Gaelic celebration of Imbolc symbolized rebirth. In the Imbolc tradition, a serpent emerges from its underground den on February second, forecasting the eminence of spring. Candles and bonfires were also lit to honor the Irish goddess Brigid, the guardian of the hearth and home. For ancient agrarian societies, and to modern farmers, this time of year is marked by preparation for lambing season, and for gardeners it means planting time is around the corner. I celebrate this time by sewing some spinach in my cold frame, taking longer walks to observe the changes in the woods and fields, and hosting friends for a night time bonfire to welcome back the light.

What changes have you noticed taking place lately?


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