The dark sky glowers. For the last few hours, fast melting sleet has peppered the ground. Mere days ago, I’d pulled on shorts and flung all the windows open, sweating when the night’s low hovered near 70 degrees. Texas weather changes abruptly, and and the needle on this particular February day has swung back toward winter.
My plants, however, signal spring.
By the backyard fountain, succulent aloe vera spikes are at their tallest. Only a few more days before all the fire-colored blossoms have opened. Happy sunbursts of milkweed stand ready for monarch butterflies, glowing against brackets of bright red possumhaw holly and yaupon berries and slick green cherry laurel leaves, its shiny black fruit surrounded by soon-to-be-bursting buds.
The first small puffs of white dot the Mexican plum tree outside my window. Any day now, its gray-barked limbs will be completely covered in sweet-smelling floral popcorn.
Patches of bluebonnets push at the walkway, those first deep blue beans with their white eyes crowding thick stalks. Tears of glistening diamond moisture shine in every cluster.
Trailing lantana sprawls its purple legs, the dark-tinged, older stalks sheltering minuscule new growth close to the gravel. Close by, lavender and rosemary dream of bees busily working their blossoms and spires.
Orange tubes of Texas firecracker bush wait expectantly for battle-ready hummingbirds to mark their territory in March. Off to the side, tucked behind the waxy green Cape honeysuckle, shy snowdrops bow their dainty heads.
A vase of fragrant paperwhites fills my warm office with heady scent. The cat sits close by the window, avidly watching a lone mourning dove hunker down against the sleet. A swooping mockingbird startles them both; its nest, hidden high in the branches of the variegated pittosporum, surrounded by almost invisible buds transitioning into masses of small, citrus-scented flowers. They’ll have stiff competition from the showy Texas mountain laurel, with its heavily hanging clumps of hard-to-miss grape KoolAid.
A pair of cardinals chit and hop in the bare branches of the oak tree. Spring, they know, is here. Almost.