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Snow. Suddenly we know who shares our terrain, who crosses our ground while we sleep. I've come to expect coyote tracks up at the nursery, but this winter a fine atavistic shiver accompanied the discovery, between the rows of nursery tables and around the main greenhouse, of cougar tracks. If it watched me from a forest redoubt I was unaware.

      A few years ago a coyote shared the nursery openly. On certain summer afternoons he curled up and slept in a clump of dry grass just beyond the tables. We kept a wary watch on each other. I forgave him for chewing up a new hose and tried not to disturb him when I watered. He taught me that a human, having spotted a predator, will instinctively glance at that place over and over again, in a rhythm that punctuates days. Even after he disappeared that fall, it was a long time before my unconscious forgot to watch for him.

      His successors are stealthy tenants. They leave signs, but not for me. Sometimes I invert nursery flats over the scat and watch it decay, revealing dense hair, bird beaks, claws, bits of bone. Meanwhile, the cougar has probably glided back into the ravine. I worried that it had taken the nursery coyote, who bedded under a full-skirted hemlock near the old nap site, but I spotted the coyote a few days ago, sniffing around its usual ground before trotting into the forest.

      Meanwhile, there are plants to propagate and care for. The greenhouses are so overflowing that I have to move plants outside just to maneuver through with a hose. I sold at two farmer's markets this February, and watched joy animate faces as people spotted the blooms of hellebores, cyclamens, corydalis, ranunculus. Flower therapy.

      I had planned to provide a list of plants to watch for this year, but this evening I'm caught up in the natural calendar and can't focus on nursery stock. The local raven pair harassed the red-tailed hawks yesterday. Both are recent returnees from their late fall/winter rambles. Perhaps I should tie birds' regimens to the plant sale schedule: the ospreys show up about a week before the Arboretum sale; the male rufous hummingbirds depart around the time of my last farmer's market in late June.

      No doubt you associate the blooming times of special plants with events from your own life. Perhaps lilacs perfumed your garden wedding, or you planted a Royal Anne cherry to celebrate a child's April birth. Lily of the Valley for Mothers' Day, Dierama over a pet's grave; our connections make our stories.

      As always I'll try to provide a fine range of plants for you, both traditional favorites and a few surprises. See you at a plant sale!
March 1, 2009

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