Looking for signs that 'spring has sprung'
It is time to look for signs of spring.

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11:44 a.m., March 9, 2011----It's staying lighter later in the evening, buds are swelling on trees and the mercury has risen into the 50s on several days. The official start of spring is still more than a week away but harbingers of the season are already here.

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The signs of spring may be enjoyed at locales such as Winterthur's March Bank. In early March the bank is abloom with thousands of snowdrops, adonis and winter aconites, along with early flowering dogwoods. The UD Botanic Gardens is another good spot to see early spring blooms, according to Sue Barton, ornamental horticulture specialist for UD Cooperative Extension. Crocuses, snowdrops, glory-of-the-snows and snowflakes will soon be adding a splash of color to these 12 gardens set on 15 acres,

Even while driving to work, or doing errands, there are signs of spring to be enjoyed, for those who open their eyes to the natural world around them.

A few local naturalists and nature-lovers here share the indicators they watch, to know that “spring has sprung.”

Dot Abbott, renewable resource agent for UD Cooperative Extension
“My favorite signs of spring are red maple buds that have swollen from their winter cover. Once I can drive down any road, glimpse into the forest and see that glow of dark red throughout the tree canopy, I just know spring has arrived. The air temperature may not be so forgiving but native red maple trees never fail in their prediction. Next comes the sounds of spring peepers and the smell of warm rain.”

Doug Tallamy, chairperson of UD's Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology
“My wife, Cindy, and I look for the arrival of woodcocks doing their mating flights. They usually arrive to Delaware the first week of March and stay for about two weeks.”

Sue Barton, ornamental horticulture specialist for UD Cooperative Extension
“My favorite spring buds are beech buds. They are pointy and when the leaves unfurl, the pleated leaves look as pretty as any flower. They aren't out yet but you can cut branches and force them indoors. You can force forsythia, pussy willow, redbuds, crabapples and many other deciduous branches. Forcing can be done as soon as the buds start to swell.”

Richard Pratt, gardens and grounds supervisor, Hagley Museum and Library
“I always look forward to the blooms of a small patch of winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, here at Hagley. They're in bud now and soon to open up to a bright yellow flower. What a great sight to see after the gray days of winter. This patch is on the west bank of Hagley's parking lot at the beginning of the lower path.”

Bob Lyons, director of UD's Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture
“I hate winter and am delighted to see the weather changing ever so slightly toward spring. What I'm looking forward to seeing are

--a pinkish-red hue surrounding the branches of red maples as they start to flower;
--a slow, progressive and permanent melting of ice away from the edges of slow-moving streams and brooks; and
--a softer feel beneath my feet as I walk where the soils are 'defrosting' after winter's prolonged frigid temperatures.

“I haven't experienced any of these yet, but I'm waiting!”

Linda Eirhart, assistant director of horticulture at Winterthur
“For me, I feel like it is really spring when March Bank changes from the white of snow to the white of snowdrops. It is also spring when Winterthur's Bank to Bend program comes around. (Landscape architect Gary Smith will speak at Bank to Bend on March 12.)”

Helen Fischel, associate director of education, Delaware Nature Society
“Now that spring is on the horizon the blue birds are active. I enjoy watching them checking out territories and choosing the blue bird boxes where they will build their nests and lay eggs.”

Brian Kunkel, UD Cooperative Extension entomologist
“My favorite indicators of spring include: warmer temperatures, longer days, the smell of freshly cut grass, thunderstorms, pollen resting on the car, birds singing, carpenter bees, lady beetles, only needing a jacket, ground beetles scurrying across the sidewalks and the return of the color green to the landscape.”

Article by Margo McDonough
Photo by Danielle Quigley

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