It seems that every year, at some point during the Spring season, I am utterly amazed and mystified by the beauty of nature. The dormant winter landscape, devoid of all vibrant colors except for the white of the snow, comes back to life over the course of a month. It seems like just yesterday that I was driving down the road, staring through the barren branches of trees and wondering when spring would finally take root. Within a few weeks, the buds emerged on the trees and soon afterwards gave birth to the leaves that seemingly float at times on the errant currents of the wind. Watching the transformation, its like watching autumn in reverse. The colors that appear on the trees in the spring are muted versions of what we see in the fall, deep reds, pale yellows and golds, the occasional faded orange; all emerging from a well deserved winter slumber. Concurrently with the trees, the earth seems to erupt with growth, flowers emerging for a new year of growth, more numerous than before and with such gusto as to make it seem like they had been sleeping for decades. Every morning in the spring, after seeing my wife and son off, I take a walk around our yard to inspect the new growth. I search for the new flower buds, the new stalks, the new leaves, anything new that populates our gardens. And every morning that I take that walk around our yard, I always find something new. Spring, as I am sure I say about every season at some point, is my favorite time of year. The air is brisk and cool, devoid of the humidity that weighs heavy during the summer months, and all seems right with the world. Wherever you look there are flowers in abundance, every color in the rainbow and then some. Whenever I think I have seen it all, I spot something different in the landscape that I travel every day, some new flower emerging for the summer months, or a tree I had not noticed before gracing the world with its shady embrace. Yet for all the growth that I see around me, there is one plant that truly amazes me every year, and that is the hop plant.
About 4 years ago now, I planted two hop rhizomes in our back yard and built a 12' tall trellis for them to grow up. I had heard that they were prodigious growers when I got them, but every year I am continuously amazed at how quickly and vigorously they grow. For those of you that don't know what hops are, they are one of the main ingredients in beer. And while I have not brewed any beer of my own yet, I have been saving the hops for the day that I do. But back to the hops and their growth. This year they seem to be growing at an exponential rate. They broke through he ground a little over a month ago, the little buds of their bines pushing upwards, searching for something to grasp on to. (Bines are different than vines in that bines actually move clockwise as they grow to grab hold of either a rope, twine, or some other means of support) If you watch hops long enough, you can actually watch them grow and move. I would love to do a time lapse project with the hops as they would be amazing to watch. As it is, when I would go on my daily walk around the yard in the morning, I would track how much they had grown the previous day. By the afternoon, they have usually grown an extra 2-4". Currently, after growing for a little over a month, some of the bines are nearly 10' tall and fast approaching the top of my trellis. I can't wait to see what they do this year after witnessing last year's growth. Last year I calculated that they grew about 24' in all. They grew up the 12', came back down about 6' before grabbing hold of the rope and working their way back up. At the end of the season, about September, they die off and get cut back to nothing. I know that there are other plants out there that can grow at an amazingly fast pace, but for such a short season, the hop plant is one of the most amazing to me. In any case, I must now cease my writing and move onward with my day, getting ready for my daily walk around the back yard to look at the flowers and see what is new out there.