By February winter's starting to get tired of itself. Night no longer presses down as firmly as it did in January, letting the gloom lift a little around the edges of the mornings and evenings. On Saturday mornings shafts of sunlight illuminate the cobwebs that have been invisibly accumulating on the light fixtures since October, along with gently drifting motes of ambient cat hair. Slugs are awake and busy chewing off the emerging daffodils as fast as they sprout.
So it's only right that we Seattleites should start to stir as well. Daylight in the garden reveals winter weeds growing with the unkillable tenacity of a horror movie villain, and that rake (or, if you live in a rural area, that 1981 Oldsmobile) that's been missing since Veterans' Day.
The sap's flowing, the birds are trying out a few scratchy notes of half-remembered songs, and Seattle girds for gardening season.
For five days every February tons of rocks and soil are trucked in to the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. The concrete floors, usually covered with legions of lawyers and CPAs wearing "Hello, my name is..." tags are covered instead with mulch and filled with tulips, hyacinths and flowering crabapples forced into early bloom.
Every year I tank up on coffee and Zyrtec, grab my camera and a big shopping bag and head downtown. At the Convention Center I fall in with the army of my fellow middle-aged ladies. The escalators hoist our bodies, which by now are designed more for comfort than speed, up to the show floors.
I wander around the crowded display gardens, trying vainly to snap photos devoid of my fellow show-goers' elbows and posteriors. Eventually, though, I succumb to the siren song of retail.
Like those who claim to read Playboy for the articles, I and many other garden show attendees profess to be there to get ideas. But the real lure is swag. The garden show is the only place at which the newest varieties of orchids, dahlia tubers, rhododendrons and lily bulbs are all available at once. I load up on dahlia tubers, hoping as always that my husband will not mistake them for potatoes while they're waiting in the vegetable crisper for warmer weather.
Then there are orchids. I've grown them for many years, hiding the rather ugly plants in the guest bedroom like an embarrassing secret fetish until they bloom and can be brought out into polite society. The flower show brings a kaleidoscope of vendors from around the country, particularly Hawaii.
Best of all are the non-plant items. The show has a "midway" area with touts hawking the latest and greatest combination slug bait/aphid spray/deer repellent. But it's the quirky handmade items I like best. Who doesn't need a moss purse?
Or perhaps a unique garden ornament?
The show's over now. I've got new orchids, lily bulbs, and a nifty weeding fork. My feet are worn down to little stubs from hours of tramping through the display gardens and retail booths.
My husband's volunteered to make dinner tonight. I just hope those aren't dahlia tubers bubbling away on the stove top.