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“Shall we survey the property?” This is a little joke we share, my husband and I. The invitation suggests that we might be endeavouring to review the status of a few acres of farmland. This is not the case. But still, we pull on some rubber boots and head to the backyard, which remains streaked by patches of ice and snow. We walk, with hands clasped behind our backs, hemming and hawing and calling out to each other when a pleasing discovery is made.

Perhaps we should be dressed in argyle sweaters and tweed chapeaus, armed with  knotted walking sticks and accompanied by a fleet footed border collie.

The temperatures are beginning to rise and, at long last, we are feeling the promise of spring. This past weekend marked our first stroll around the yard, seeking out signs life returning to the gardens. And so today, I bask in the coming of spring and celebrate the colour, texture, light and shadows of this transition into a new season.

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Sage and lavender — odd companions among the river rock

The fruit trees, both plum and pear, are teeming with leaf buds and new growth as are the lilac trees. The flowers that will appear on the pear and lilacs are highly anticipated as they introduce such beautiful colour overhead.

In the herb garden, hints of new greenery are emerging in the chives, oregano and mint. A Turkish restaurant once served us green tea steeped with torn mint leaves., and I’ve been hooked ever since. I planted chocolate mint last year which is divine as a desert garnish.

It will take a while before the lemon balm makes its appearance. The same is the case for the dill and coriander which seed themselves each year. I pleased to find moss growing in patches among the herbs. They’ll be transferred to a new home, between the slate stepping stones in a pathway that winds through a shade garden.

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Ornamental grasses against the Irish garden shed

The sage is hardy and held its own against the harsh winter conditions. Tinges of colour are returning to the lavender also. I’m completely romanced by this plant following last summer’s visit to a lavender farm and so, I determine to introduce it in other gardens. My husband’s aunt grows the most beautiful clouds of lavender along a garden path at her home in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands.

Beneath a thick blanket of mulch, the garlic sprouts are pushing on. Many are already two inches in height. Eagerly anxious to make their appearance, are the tulips which have ventured to peer through the dirt as well.

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My favourite groundcover makes an elegant return

Along with burgeoning plant life, comes the return of wild life.  The birds are coming back to us. We’ve spotted cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves and chickadees. There’ve been signs of rabbit activity throughout the winter — droppings and tracks in the snow — but we actually saw a pair enjoying the warmth of the sun one recent afternoon. They munched on bits of green grass, then hid themselves among the hydrangeas and boxwood hedge. I’m sure they are as eager to see the vegetable garden as I am to plan it.

A garden is never a finished project, but rather, a work in progress. It’s time to dream and plan again. What seeds to buy? What will yield the highest quantity in the soil and weather conditions found here? This undoubtedly was a question that faced by pioneering families throughout North America. In this growing season, I am choosing to think like a pioneer gardener when I make these choices. And so  the research begins!

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Photographer for this post: Gwen Tuinman

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