Miraculous spring.

In the midst of the worry and panic that currently grips the nation, I am thankful at least that the Northern Hemisphere is emerging into this soul-lifting season. The weather is warming and the earth is awakening – just as we need more access to our outside world and more opportunities to be reminded of the resilience of nature.

In the Mid-Atlantic, we are experiencing one of the gentlest winters and transitions into spring that I have ever seen in my twenty years here.  My edgeworthia has never had a better, longer season of bloom and fragrance – the magnolias are absolutely out-of-control-beautiful (a horticultural term), and the daffodils continue to shine in the absence of heavy snow falls or unseasonable (yet ever-expected) heat waves.

edgeworthia chrysantha smalltowngardener.com

Edgeworthia chrysantha has never had a better year.

It is a gift, if we can allow ourselves a few moments to receive it and be thankful.

The domino effect on the garden industry

Although I am aware of the incredible number of service industry jobs and businesses that are being terribly affected by cancellations and mandates, as a garden writer and speaker, I am perhaps more painfully aware of those in the garden and green industries who rely on the upcoming season to keep their businesses running throughout the year.

Spring is a make or break season for garden centers – particularly for independent garden centers run by small staffs and with small budgets.  Warming weather and blooming pots get people shopping. Even those who don’t ‘do’ gardening find themselves throwing a six-pack of pansies in the cart. Or a succulent.


garden merchandise, potomac garden center


With the current crisis, normal foot traffic has been severely curtailed in nurseries and garden centers nationwide and is likely to continue for a few weeks if not months. Plant sales that represent a great deal of the revenue for non-profit entities like Master Gardeners, garden clubs and public gardens have been cancelled.

This in turn affects the growers whose product is no longer needed, and the economic effect ripples throughout the green industry and through people’s lives and businesses.

What can we do to help?

As you have the ability to, patronize your local garden centers – some of which are still open for business (depending on your state) and able to provide plenty of social distance in an outside atmosphere.


mertensia bluebells smalltowngardener.com

Bluebell planting (Mertensia virginica) – past and present at Oldmeadow.


If your garden centers are forced to close for retail business, there are still plants to be tended within those greenhouses, and still employees and business owners ‘manning the fort.’ Call and ask to buy a gift certificate over the phone. For you, for your mother, for your neighbor next door.

Online seed companies are selling seed – buy some.  Sow it. We’ve got a little more time on our hands right now.  Sounds like a win/win situation.



Consider buying a little more than you usually do when life returns to a new normal.  An extra six-pack of annuals…a perennial you’ve been wanting to try…a special tree or shrub to remind yourself years from now that life continues on, even when it is tough to predict the journey.

chickens and weeds smalltowngardner.com

My chickens are unaffected by the world’s troubles, and keep my mood bright in the mornings as I toss them trugs of weeds.

Make this the year you join a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) through a local farm or garden center and benefit from incredible local produce throughout the growing season.  Chances are, you’ll be hooked – and learn something about vegetables you’ve never tried.

Buy a new gardening book online.  Authors that have put years into a book that launches this spring are seeing that spring launch season dissolve, knowing that the first six months are critical to a book’s success.  While bookstores are closed, go onto Amazon and see what’s new.  Then stop binge watching Netflix and read it.

If you really like it, buy one for a gardening friend – or better, for a friend who might like to get started gardening.

I’ve given you a few excellent options and links at the end of this post.

Finding moments to be thankful for

Because I am not an epidemiologist (or a Hollywood influencer for that matter), I cannot add anything of value to the current conversation regarding the COVID-19 Virus itself, but I do wish to convey my sincere hope that during this very difficult time in our nation’s history, we allow ourselves moments of joy, discovery and quiet observation in that outside world; and allow ourselves to share them with others without feeling (or being made to feel) that we are somehow making light of all that is going on around us.

Those little moments of joy are critical in moving forward.

tulips breakfast

Tulips for breakfast. Spring is here.

I am also hopeful that when we feel the urge to react harshly to those around us, we instead reach down and extend grace – for missteps, for accidental slights, for harsh words and innocently humorous ones, and even for moments of pure stupidity – knowing that there is always a time where we too may need to have that grace extended to us.

In short, be kind.

We are glued to our screens, but disconnecting for an hour and going outside for a walk, a jog, a potter in the garden – or simply to sit on a patio and listen to bird song will have a remarkable effect on your state of mind.

I urge you give it a try – even if you don’t feel like it.

However inconsequential spring might feel to some right now, it is a glorious and beautiful season and should remind us that as a people we have recovered from wars, economic depression and natural disasters, and will recover from this too.

We are a resilient people and this is a resilient Earth. Be thankful for that resilience, and do your best to stay healthy.

My very best to you and your families at this time,

signature Marianne Willburn


A version of this article originally appeared in The Frederick News Post and is published here with kind permission.