Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Spring flowers distract from drought worries

Daffodils don’t read the weather report. Neither do tulips or lilacs or a basket full of other early spring bloomers.

Like most Sacramento gardeners, I fretted through the dry winter months, worried about drought and what it would mean to my flowers. Would there be any color in my garden besides dead-grass brown?

But during this first week of spring, I’m awed by nature’s resilience. That deep soaking provided by late February’s long-awaited rain seemed to wake everything up.

Suddenly, golden freesias perfume our walkway. Regal blue and purple Dutch iris stand like sentries along the patio. Magenta azaleas and red camellias cover the shrubs under the front windows. In crayon-bright colors, tulips pop out of pots and flower boxes.

Despite the drought, spring arrived anyway with all its vibrant display. Maybe the tulips look a little smaller this March; they’ve been barely watered since November. But they did bloom along with many other flowers, and that raised my parched spirits.

A look around my garden reassured me. Although historically dry, our weird winter weather brought some positives, too.

December’s deep freeze made the lilacs and peonies happy. Lavender blue flowers are just beginning to open on the lilacs, which benefit from winter cold. Another chill-lover, the peonies are already forming pale pink blooms.

Our recent warm afternoons have pushed spring into high gear. My roses are blooming six weeks earlier than last year. Even the lawn looks lush. It’s like all this pent-up plant energy just can’t wait to break loose (while there’s still enough moisture in the ground to keep them growing).

Gardeners feel spring, too, which is why so many events crowd the March and April calendar. This weekend, hundreds of dedicated gardeners will be on hand to share their knowledge – and sell plants – at the Shepard Garden and Art Center’s annual spring sale.

From African violet aficionados to perennial plant collectors, experts of almost every leaf will turn out to help the Shepard Center and other gardeners. Dozens of clubs meet every month at the center, located in Sacramento’s McKinley Park. The spring sale is the center’s major community-wide event as well as a chance for clubs to recruit new members.

“This is a great time for people of Sacramento to meet the clubs of the Shepard Garden and Arts Center as we once again join together to meet the community and raise money to keep this wonderful center alive,” said volunteer Kathy Norton, who is active in the Capital City African Violet Society.

“At this event, we will be having wonderful, unique items for sale as well as fantastic plants,” she said. “There will be hundreds of plants for sale including California native species, cacti, fuchsia, irises, orchids, carnivorous plants, cymbidium orchids, African violets and much more.

“Additionally, there will be pottery, glass artwork, jewelry, floral arrangements, ceramic self-watering flower pots, used books, antiques – just to name a few categories of items. We will have music and wonderful food as well,” she said.

According to its organizers, this spring sale will be 20 percent bigger than last year’s event. Vendors will be on the center patio as well as fill the main hall.

Next weekend at Shepard, the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club takes over that same space for its 13th annual vendor sale. A one-day event on March 29, this sale features lots of hard-to-find and unique plants from several specialty nurseries. As a special guest, internationally known agricultural expert Amigo Bob Cantisano will share his experiences as an organic farming pioneer.

Also next weekend, the Sacramento Orchid Society hosts its 67th annual show at the Scottish Rite Center. If you think it’s a little early for this orchid extravaganza, you’re right. The group usually holds its show the third weekend of April.

But this spring, April 20 is Easter. Instead of hoping to outdraw the Easter bunny or church, show organizers opted for an earlier date.

Of course, the drought hasn’t gone away and we still need to find ways to keep our plants happy and hydrated through the hot summer months to come. The Sacramento Suburban Water District is hosting a free “gray water” workshop at 1 p.m. April 5 at the district’s Antelope Garden, 7800 Antelope North Road, Antelope.

The workshop will show how to reuse household water from sinks, showers and washing machines to droughtproof landscapes. Register in advance at

And make time to smell – and see – the old garden roses. Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery hosts its annual Open Garden Day on April 12 with guided tours of its world-renowned collections of old roses, perennials and California native plants.

But don’t wait until April to catch the cemetery’s early spring bloom. Its famous (and mammoth) Lady Banks banksia roses are already in full flower.

How big are these bushes? One white banksia climbs nearly to the top of a 80-foot pine. Near the cemetery entrance at Broadway and 10th Street, this tree-climbing rose can be seen for blocks. Its tiers of delicate white flowers cascade down like waves of lace curtains fluttering in the spring breeze.

It’s another example of abundant beauty to appreciate in the moment and remind us why we love spring flowers.