Today in the garden my heart leapt at a lovely sight: this year’s first flower.
It was a Speedwell, specifically Veronica persica, known by many names including Persian Speedwell, Common Field Speedwell, Winter Speedwell, and my favorite, Birdeye Speedwell.
The flower had four petals. The outer 2/3 of each was sky blue, with violet stripes that converged into a scalloped ring around a white center. It did indeed resemble an eye, but with an iris white instead of black.
The blossom was only about the size of a small shirt button or a jean rivet. The entire plant would barely have filled my cupped palm. Though diminutive, it jumped out at my attention anyway. I dropped what I was doing to grab my camera.
The timing of this new flower is just a few days after the lunar new year commonly referred to as the “Chinese New Year,” which took place with the new moon on January 25th this year.
The timing is also just a couple days before Imbolc, a European pagan holiday that marks a solar event: the approximate halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
Happening between these two astronomical/astrological signifiers, this flowering of Birdeye Speedwell is itself a signifier; in this case, of local cycles of plant growth.
As a former farmer and a current gardener, seeing this flower was like hearing a bell being rung to mark an hour. I presume that day length and temperatures have reached a certain point and that now it’s time to seed cold-hardy spring vegetables like Spinach, Arugula and Radishes.
I had already noticed other plants waking up. In the low spots grasses have been greening. The Elderberry tree is unfurling its leaves like hundreds of tiny flags. The lacy rosettes made by the wild Mustards are showing their first signs of bolting and blooming. But Birdeye Speedwell made the first flower.
Veronica persica is a typical late winter/early spring annual: quick-growing, fast to flower and soon to pass. In botany, this brief seasonal life cycle is described as “ephemeral” (in one of the few instances when that science’s clinical jargon rings poetic).