I always see a garden as a magical place, and the most enchantment is contained in seeds. Looking at those brown and shriveled things, some of them smaller than a grain of pepper, it is hard to believe the Creator has packed all that life and growth in such an unexceptional shell.
The gardener does not even have to get involved unless he wishes.
A plot of ground left untended for a while soon will be covered with plants. I remember the bomb sites during World War II displaying the pink blossoms of willow herb that covered the destruction and debris until the time for rebuilding arrived.
My seed orders arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I have seven flats already planted and germinating under the lights in the basement.
This year, I am sticking to two varieties of tomatoes after last year's adventurous choices which did not do well.
I have chosen Celebrity for their close to perfect appearance, round and red and only rarely blemished by any of the diseases and bugs that attack the fruit, and Brandywine for delicious flavor - and just because I like them.
A flat of each is growing well.
This is a bit early to be starting so many seeds, but with the wet fall and mild winter, who knows? We may be planting in April this year.
Then, I have peppers and eggplant up already. A full packet of mixed hybrid peppers should give me enough plants to eat fresh from mid-summer on, and plenty to fry with onions and stock in the freezer to use with - mmm! - bratwurst on the grill or under the broiler.
I have fairy eggplant, lavender colored and small, and I have to find space in the flower border for the Easter egg variety with its cream and white egg-like fruits.
I know my cucumbers are in too early, and they will be climbing the walls before it is warm enough to put them outside, but it is a joy to watch something grow with such exuberance.
There are flowers growing already, the Dolcissima petunias that are so frustrating to plant with tiny seeds that are impossible to sow singly or in pairs and so have to be thinned, and some assorted misty mauve shades of impatiens to go in the new shade garden in the front.
I also fell for a packet of seeds of "assorted rare succulents" - and it wasn't until they arrived, I read the packet instructions and found "germination is slow, possibly one to two years."
But two little green shoots are up already, so that was rather pessimistic.
It is necessary to hold back for a few weeks with sweet peas and black-eyed Susan vine that grow in an undisciplined manner, and wind around one another and anything else within reach. Admirable characteristics on their trellises in the summer garden, but not so nice in my bedroom window.
All these seeds are on the workbench in the basement, under an assortment of fluorescent light fixtures collected from all over. I don't bother too much whether the bulbs are particularly suited to plant growth. I have so many different types that the mixture seems to work well.
The flats all started in the warm spot on top of the refrigerator until germination took place, and then went to their basement home until they outgrow their small pots and need to be repotted and are moved to shelves in my bedroom window until time for them to go out to their summer homes.
And so the magic begins.
I can hardly wait to go down and turn the lights on every morning, coffee cup in hand, to see those green shoots of hope and promise.