Friday, April 26, 2019

Alaska Cedar

Sitka Totem Poles

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that “botanical classification is a human endeavor, and that it is not a necessity of the natural world.* Nature doesn't care to arrange itself to fit into the cubbyholes of horticultural or botanical convenience.” Native Americans – and there's another classification – were intimately familiar with the plant and animal world, and learned what could be eaten, used to cure diarrhea, and what would help to keep mosquitos at bay. Of course the plants were known by local names, but I doubt there was any inclination to group them in any organized, international scheme.

*I recently read The Tangled Tree by David Quammen which inspired this thought. A fascinating book that expands your understanding of life.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis

The learned European cubbyholists have given different scientific names, for example, for the “Nootka cypress.” Scotsman Archibald Menzies first (scientifically) discovered the species in 1793 while on the Vancouver Expedition to the western coasts of the Americas. The Nootka cypress, or yellow cypress or Alaska cedar was originally classified by the Scottish botanist David Don (1799-1841) as Cupressus nootkatensis. However taxonomically it didn't fit in with the Cupressus genus and by 1841 it was placed with the Chamaecyparis genus because the foliage was borne in flattened sprays, and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis is how I came to know it when I began my career.

Nootka Woman

Nootka Raven
The specific epithet of nootkatensis – regardless of which generic name you subscribe to – refers to its discovery on the lands of the Nun-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who were formally designated the Nootka. The natives tell of the trees' origin, where a raven encounters three young women drying salmon on the beach. The raven asks if they are afraid of...bears, wolves and other animals, but they respond that no, they're only afraid of owls. The raven was thrilled to hear of their fear and hid in the forest making owl-sounds. The terrified women ran up the mountains but turned into cypress trees, which explains why the species is usually found on the sides of mountains. It also explains why the Nootka bark is silky like a woman's hair, and why the young trunk is smooth like a woman's body. The conifer's foliage, when bruised, has a disagreeable (like cat piss) odor, but I don't know if that has anything to do with the Indian maidens.

Xanthocyparis vietnamensis

We're informed today to call the cypress Xanthocyparis nootkatensis, the new name coined by Farjon and Nguyen to accommodate a near identical relative discovered in Vietnam, Xanthocyparis vietnamensis. In the Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs 2014, I read: “Just a few hundred trees are known to remain in the wild. Young plants from wild-collected seed raised by Don [should be Dan] Luscombe in 2011 are now established at Bedgebury...” The new discovery is a BIO (Botanical Interest Only) plant, and I'd wager that every one of the “few hundred” are ugly as hell, and probably not nearly as hardy as our west-coast nootkatensis. The Rhododendron Species Garden in Washington state has the Vietnam form planted out and it looks hideous with its mixture of adult and juvenile foliage which has the color of vomited asparagus. Nevertheless I am excited that new genera and species of plants continue to be discovered from distant lands on our tired old planet.

Anders S. Oersted

But not so fast, my friend, because there lurks the different botanical name of Callitropsis nootkatensis. Anders Sandoe Orsted (1816-1872) was a Danish botanist and marine biologist who published works on Arctic nematodes and marine algae, but he too weighed in on the cypress name. Callitropsis nootkatensis (D. Don) Oerst was published in 1864, but was overlooked or ignored by other authors. According to Oregon State University's Landscape Plants, “the name Xanthocyparis was proposed for conservation, but until that is decided on, it is correctly classified in Callitropsis.” OSU continues, “However, there is still more, Eckenwalder (2009) states that leaf chemistry and DNA sequences show that Alaska cedar belongs in Cupressus.” For what it's worth, the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, states that “On January 2016, the scientific name of this species was changed from: Chamaecyparis nootkatensis to Callitropsis nootkatensis.”

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Sparkling Arrow'

Enough! At Buchholz Nursery we continue to propagate and market the cypress as Chamaecyparis like always before. Cultivars of the species, and over 100,000 plants, have been distributed by my small company, and we are responsible for the introduction of the now ubiquitous 'Green Arrow', the variegated 'Sparkling Arrow' (seen above) at the New York Botanical Garden and the less-than-stable 'Laura Aurora'. While I normally pride myself on correct nomenclature, I'll probably finish my career by keeping the Chamaecyparis name, mainly due to the great inconvenience and confusion it would cause my employees with trying to keep up with all the recent changes. They don't care about proper nomenclature, and frankly neither do my customers.

Thuja orientalis 'Blue Cone'

In the late 1970's I noticed that C. nootkatensis – which easily roots – was being grafted onto the rootstock of Thuja orientalis, which we are now to call Platycladus orientalis, and the vendors of these grafts were east-coast nurseries of Dutch origin. It was a “secret” I learned when my nursery employer at the time purchased lining-out plants from a New Jersey company, and a sucker of P. orientalis appeared below the graft union. There were a few P. orientalis cultivars in the trade at the time, so I rooted one named 'Blue Cone', and then grafted the nootkatensis onto it. I was then a “propagation” nursery, mainly because I had no money so I had to sell plants when small. There was a niche back then for a grafted-liner nursery and I was one of the few who could provide the product. Other nurseries, however, were trying to figure out the details so they wouldn't have to buy from me. When I was asked about my rootstock's identity I would reply, “Thuja,” which was the truth, but only part of the truth. One nursery grafted about a thousand onto Thuja occidentalis 'Pyramidalis' and the owner was proud that they all appeared to “take.” A couple of years later he asked why they were all going into decline, so I fessed up that not just any Thuja would do, that it should be T. orientalis. Of course, he had no idea where to procure the orientalis species, so he resumed to buy my grafts.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis seed

The rootstock is no secret anymore, but a few years ago Dutch propagator Nelis Kools questioned the use of T. orientalis, that perhaps it caused the mature nootkatensis specimens to “go to seed,” a condition which is often unsightly in a conifer. He used nootkatensis seedlings instead. In soggy Oregon – yes, Holland is wet too – the nootkatensis rootstock does not seem as reliable in my experience. Our rich Willamette Valley soils, and perhaps our 100 degree F summers, are not to the liking of the mountain-side-dwelling species, so we continue to use, Platycladus orientalis.

Poly greenhouse

I certainly don't have all aspects of nootkatensis production figured out. I've been very careful to not come across like the old Dutch coot I worked for while starting my own business. He had a big, round, white head but I often questioned just what was inside. He once proclaimed, “You cannot graft plants in a poly house; it must be in a glass house.” Well, I've produced far more grafts than he ever did, and all of them in my poly houses.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'

Perhaps equally as dubious as his glass-only propagation, I have a theory (well, experience) that nootkatensis grafting is cultivar specific, that the cultivar 'Van den Akker' does not perform as well on P. orientalis rootstock as say, the 'Green and Sparkling Arrow'. For me, a crop of grafted 'Van den Akker' will grow inconsistently, with some taking off with great vigor, but with others languishing as if the root's juice doesn't flow sufficiently above the graft union. Therefore we produce 'Van den Akker' exclusively via rooted cuttings. Other nurserymen scoff at the notion, and they continue to graft the cultivar. Too bad I don't have time and energy for empirical experiments to see who is correct.

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis

Xanthocyparis – ok, I'll go current – nootkatensis ranges from southwest Alaska to northwest California, and as with glaciers, at the northern end of its range it occurs at sea-level, then at higher elevations as it is found more south. I have seen it in Alaska, in the Mt. Baker area of northern Washington, at Mt. Hood in northern Oregon, and in the Klamath Mountains in northern California...but relatively close to the Pacific Ocean. At Mt. Rainier in the middle of Washington I have hiked through old-growth stands – yes, growing on the mountain sides – where the trees were enormously wide with bleached-white trunks and branches, and without a trace of elegance. Near Timberline on Mt. Hood, in contrast, the trees are slender and epitomize the perfect “alpine” appearance.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Mt. Aldrich'

Imagine my surprise when I learned of a disjunct population in central Oregon at the Aldrich Mountains, with the highest point being Fields Peak at 7,362' (2244m). I almost didn't believe that nootkatensis really existed there. On a summer day I excused myself from the nursery and drove four hours east into the arid sagebrush environ, hoping that I would be able to discover at least a few Alaska cedar specimens. I was pleased when the road led to a parking lot at a trailhead, where there was actually a US Forest Service interpretive sign explaining that the 26 acre population has persisted since the Pleistocene, a left-over of a time when the climate was more wet and cool. I found some tall trees, none of them particularly attractive, but sadly most of the population was dead even though other conifers were thriving. I was happy to find them, and especially as they were easily seen along a well-groomed trail. But I was sweating at mid-day, and constantly swatting mosquitos that had just hatched after the recent snow melt. Let's just say it was a hurried affair when I stepped behind a tree to take a leak. For “research purposes” I felt it would be ok to harvest a few scions (totally harmless) but I made sure nobody was watching. I grew the 'Mt. Aldrich' form for a dozen years, but since the trees never looked “ornamental,” the last one was sold and that ended that nootkatensis chapter.

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'

I remember reading a plant profile of Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula' in Horticulture Magazine, where the author/editor extolled the tree's virtues. That was about 30 years ago and the author, who I won't mention, described the species as a perfect garden tree – a “delicate nymph” – and smaller and more suitable than, say, the large-growing Colorado blue spruce. “Delicate nymph” – hardly! Of course I have never gardened on the east coast, but I thought it was a ridiculous description. Besides, in my Display Garden a specimen of nootkatensis 'Pendula' grew half-again larger than Picea pungens 'Bakeri' and twice the size as P.p. 'Hoopsii'. The two spruces have since been edited from the garden, but the cypress remains and every time I look at the behemoth I question its garden worthiness. I don't produce 'Pendula' any more and I don't know many who do, as 'Green Arrow' and 'Van den Akker' are much more garden worthy. Both were available in the trade when the article was written, unknown to the author, and I unsubscribed to the crappy publication soon after.

I have made a lot of money off of nootkatensis cultivars in my career, but they are hardly my favorite conifer. If you agree with me, this must have been a difficult blog to endure.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Here Comes The Sun

I'm somewhat boggled to reflect that millions of plants have been distributed by Buchholz Nursery, a relatively small company “from out in Gaston, Oregon.” Yes: literally millions. We were lining-out players in the industry, especially 10-25 years ago when we employed about 40 earnest souls. These days our propagation is only about one-tenth of yore as we are supplying the competition with less and growing more to specimen size ourselves. I'd like to know exactly how many plants we have sold, but I only keep my records back to seven years per IRS requirement; still it's like counting the stars in the heavens.

Back when we were producing 150,000 maple grafts (alone) per year (pre-recession), you could say I helped create the maple glut that rocked Oregon's claim to “Maple Capital of the World.” My numbers were obscene when one Oregon company ordered custom grafts of 60-80 thousand per year, providing us with both rootstock and scions. Everybody was joining the 'Bloodgood' party, and one wonders where all of those hundreds-of-thousands went. Did most of them survive the journey form nursery to retail market to homeowners' gardens? It would be fascinating to know not only how many plants and dollars I generated with my sales, but also the ultimate sales statistic paid out by the gardening public. For example, if I sold a maple for $5 to another nursery, and they grew it on for 5-8 years and commanded $50-100 per tree, and then if the retail nursery or landscaper doubled or tripled that price to the home get the point: did my beginning efforts add up to over a billion dollars to the world economy in the long run? Probably so, probably much more so.

Oregon Gov. Brown
We ship plants every month of the year, but about 80% leave in the months of March, April and May. Over 90% are sold to out-of-state or out-of-country customers, so I'm the perfect Oregon employer: I pay a ton in Oregon taxes, I give Oregonians a job, I purchase a lot of Oregon goods and services. Nevertheless, no Oregon politician has ever thanked me for my contributions. I think they're pleased that I'm subservient and apparently stupid enough to just keep grinding and financially supporting their arrogant vision about what's important and what are the highest priorities.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'

Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'

Though there are times when I feel like my career has been a troubled dream where I am unable to gain control, nevertheless it is rewarding to witness the parade of trucks being filled with our product and heading to far-flung destinations. Hopefully everybody will continue to request our plants and view us as a reliable, professional supplier. I was proud the other day when a long-time customer was being loaded up with 1) maples, 2) conifers and 3) all the others – our three major plant groups – and in the plant mixture was Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace', Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess' and Cornus kousa 'Summer Fun', all Buchholz introductions.

And look – the sun is out this morning and birds are singing in my spring garden. I actually have it pretty good.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

Spring can mean a number of things, like a source of water, a metal coil or the season between winter and summer. I remembered to spring forward – I sprang – on March 10th with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, and I am only now getting used to the loss of that hour. The word spring is derived from Old English springan “to jump,” and that perhaps from Greek sperchestai “to hasten.”

Plant namers are fond of the word spring and I have used it a number of times myself. It's an appropriate adjective because many plants “do their thing” in spring by producing fresh lively foliage or blossoms that people love to see in their early gardens.

Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight' original tree

Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight'

There are a number of green laceleaf maples in the trade, but one of my favorites is Acer palmatum 'Spring Delight', and largely because the fresh yellowish-green new growth is edged with red. As the season progresses the foliage darkens to green and the red margin is not so evident, but still it's as nice as any other green laceleaf. 'Spring Delight' originated as a seedling at Buchholz Nursery but I don't have any record of the parent tree. It was at least ten years old when a visitor admired it and wanted to buy it. For some reason I said it wasn't for sale, but that event prompted me to propagate and name it, and I sold the first grafts in about 1998. The original tree was planted in the Display Garden, and I see it every day when I look out the office window. I have sold a couple of thousand I suppose in the past twenty years, mostly as one-year grafts, even though as a named cultivar its origin seems most accidental.

Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring'

Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring'

Acer palmatum 'Strawberry Spring' was selected from a group of seedlings with 'Amber Ghost' as the mother tree. 'Amber Ghost' is the strongest grower with the best canopy-shape of all from the original “Ghost” series, and about 100 of its offspring were planted out in full sun in the “real world” at Flora Farm. Every spring I would admire one's happy foliage, even though the original seedling grew as a runt compared to most of the others. As a grafted plant, however, the propagules grow as vigorously and with as good a shape as its 'Amber Ghost' parent. I've mentioned a number of times that an original seedling's growth characteristics are of no importance when describing a cultivar crop, and I now have a vigorous group of 'Strawberry Spring' stock plants that are twice as large as the original seedling.

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' 

Many cultivars of Japanese maples feature purple-red foliage, and they are judged by how well they “hold” that color in the heat of deep summer. The world doesn't really need an Acer palmatum 'Red Emperor' if we also have Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood', but oh well, we have both. Why would we need an Acer palmatum 'Inaba shidare' if we already have Acer palmatum 'Tamuke yama'? The answer is that one might perform better than the other in certain climates or garden situations. Still, there are way too many cultivars that resemble each other, and maple aficionados such as myself are responsible for the cultivar glut.

Acer palmatum 'Spring Plum'

Because one can tire of the purple-red selections, some of us feel attracted to different kinds of red, like brown-red, orange-red, or what I call: plum-red. Acer palmatum 'Spring Plum' has a delicious foliage color, and you're tempted to drop a few of the burgundy leaves into a glass of pinot noir while you sip and read this blog. Also attractive are the lime-green veins which appear on the young plum-red leaves. The original seedling – from a 'Purple Ghost' mother tree – always looked spectacular in spring, but it wasn't a very strong grower, and worst of all was that many of the leaves would defoliate by August. But as I mentioned earlier (with 'Strawberry Spring') the growth habit and/or problems of the original seedling might not be apparent with a grafted crop, and indeed 'Spring Plum' grafts have impressed us with their vigor and retention of leaves throughout summer.

Acer palmatum 'Rite of Spring'

The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring (French Le Sacre du Printemps and in Russian Vesna Svyashchennaya for “sacred spring”) is a ballet and orchestral work by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It is also a red palmatum upright that is particularly vibrant in spring, followed by brilliant scarlet autumn foliage. I describe the emerging foliage of maple cultivars as wildly different from the norm, same as with Stravinsky's music. This weekend I walked through four greenhouses of one-gallons that contain hundreds of named varieties – the colors mind-boggling and other-worldly. Reaction to the Rite of Spring music was usually intense, both pro and con, with composer Edgard Varese feeling “drawn to the cruel harmonies and stimulating rhythms.” Composer Julius Harrison said the Rite demonstrated Stravinsky's “abhorrence of everything for which music has stood these many centuries...all human endeavor and progress are being swept aside to make room for hideous sounds...” And some would feel the same about the visual overload of my maple cultivars. Has Buchholz gone nuts with hideous colors?

Acer palmatum 'Spring Surprise'

A pretty maple seedling germinated here and it impressed many with its cream-white variegation on otherwise green leaves. Peculiarly it originated as an offspring from a Japanese maple from the “Ghost series” even though it was totally different from any of them. That illustrates the great fun that can be had here: that in an open-garden setting one maple can befriend another and produce seedlings that result in various Toms, Dicks and Harrys. The vigorous variegated seedling was christened 'Spring Surprise' and early propagation proved successful. Unfortunately the next-generation plants grew lustfully but the variegation virtually disappeared. I planted the original at Flora Farm and the variegation on it is very sparse. So, what I have now is a “cultivar” that flashed-in-the-pan but didn't work out. Worst of all is that I don't remember if I sold or gave away any of the dud...but then in someone else's garden it might grow spectacularly variegated.

Acer palmatum 'Hana matoi'

Granny Smith

So, all of my “springs” have been good, worthy selections, with the exception of 'Spring Surprise'. A few customers still wonder about the surprise, like when will I have it available again? Like I said, one specimen was planted at Flora Farm, while the remainder of the non-stable – for me – stock was converted to rootstock. We grafted Acer palmatum 'Hana matoi' at about 8' into the top branches of the useless 'Spring Surprises'. They do the same thing with apple orchards. For example, if Granny Smith is no longer in favor, you can top graft Gravenstein or Braeburn and you will achieve a harvestable crop of the latter in three or four years by borrowing the hefty trunk and the roots of the old Granny Smith.
Question: What did Granny Smith say to Mr. Gravenstein?
Answer: Can't say – it's incider information.

Ok, another question: If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does an onion do?
Answer: Keeps everybody away.

Another question: Why did the boy choose the apple over the pear?
Answer: He liked the apple butter.

I won't, but believe me that I could go on and on, for I have a bushel-load of funny apple jokes.
Oh, one more then – Question: What's the best thing to put into an apple pie?
Answer: Your teeth.
Ok, stop me – no more!

Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'

Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost' original tree

Picea pungens 'Gebelle's Golden Spring'

Before any of the maples mentioned above were named and introduced, my first “spring” name was for Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost', a selection of Colorado blue spruce that was discovered in a landscape in Minnesota. Gordon Bailey Sr. approached me about 36 years ago to see if I would be interested to custom propagate a tree that he described as having the most incredible spring flush that he had ever seen. I requested a photo which he sent the following spring and I was on board with 200 grafts propagated that winter. Unfortunately only one-half of the grafts took, and some of them only shot a bud or two of sideways growth. After a couple of years of poor results – when great results were attained on other cultivars – I realized that 'Spring Ghost' was not going to make me wealthy. The early grafts didn't shape up into a nice full tree, and besides in summer the new cream-white shoots would burn in full sun. One ex-employee wagged “Spring Ghost, Summer Toast,” at least in Oregon, but in more humid Minnesota it grows much stronger. To my knowledge, no one is currently growing it in commercial numbers. At its best it is a spectacular cultivar and I continue to keep a dozen or so at all times at the nursery. Other spruce cultivars are similar (with the attractive new growth) and much better production items, such as Picea pungens 'Gebelle's Golden Spring' and Picea glauca 'Mac Gold' (AKA 'McConnell's Gold').

Picea pungens 'Spring Blast'

Actually it's not rare for a spruce to produce cream-white or golden new growth...which later hardens to blue or blue-green foliage. Another improvement over the burning 'Spring Ghost' is Picea pungens 'Spring Blast' and it is probably the most blue of the cultivars. It was discovered at another nursery from a crop of about 5,000 seedling-grown Colorado blue spruce – it couldn't be missed – and I named and introduced it in about 1990. A sister seedling from that crop displayed subtle pale-yellow new growth but it wasn't as vibrant. It might still be in the trade as Picea pungens 'Mellow', but I haven't propagated any in the past 10-15 years and I doubt that I even have one left in the collection.

Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring'

Another 'Golden Spring' is Corylopsis spicata 'Golden Spring', but unfortunately it also goes by the cultivar name 'Aurea' which can't be valid. It was discovered in Gifu Prefecture, Japan by Seiju Yamaguchi and was patented by the bankrupt Hines Nursery Inc. of Irvine, California. I guess I never understood the politics or legalities of the patent, but since I only propagate in small numbers I don't really care about the details. Anyway the selection is very colorful but requires thoughtful siting, usually in rich, well-drained soil with PM shade. In deep shade it is more green, but in full sun in Oregon it will scorch. The “golden spike winterhazel” blooms in March for us, profusely, before the leaves appear, but it's the rich golden-to-butterscotch foliage that draws my attention, and I can easily rank it into my top ten of favorite shrubs.

Corylopsis willmottiae 'Spring Purple'

The winter-hazel Corylopsis willmottiae 'Spring Purple' is another favorite, and it is aptly named for its lustrous, deep-purple leaves that soon follow the precocious spring bloom event. The leaves eventually evolve to green as the season progresses, and though the type displays early purple foliage, 'Spring Purple' is simply a more-exaggerated version. In my experience all of the Corylopsis possess dubious nomenclature – I'm certainly no expert – so I wonder if 'Spring Purple' is of the species spicata or of the species willmottiae. Is it perhaps a hybrid? I've also seen it described as C. what then? – spicata, sinensis, willmottiae or a combination of the above? I don't know...and I suppose that I'll never know. Remember one thing: that botanical classification is a human endeavor, and that it is not a requisite of the natural world. Nature, and its Kingdoms of Life, don't care or arrange themselves to fit into the cubbyholes of horticultural or botanical convenience.

Magnolia kobus var. loebneri 'Spring Snow'

Magnolia kobus var. loebneri 'Spring Snow'

I've never been certain about Magnolia classification either. In our Master Plant List – our bible of correct spelling and nomenclature, we hope – we list Magnolia kobus var. loebneri 'Spring Snow'. In Magnolias, A Gardener's Guide by Jim Gardiner, it is listed as Magnolia x loebneri 'Spring Snow', with the hybrid being M. kobus and M. stellata. The name loebneri honors Max Loebner who was working in Germany over 100 years ago with Magnolia development. Of course, chance hybrids have appeared in various gardens around the world in the meantime. 'Spring Snow' was selected by Professor Joe McDaniel of the University of Illinois and registered in 1970. At first I assumed that it received its cultivar name due to a preponderance of white tepals which litter the ground just after flowering, but in fact it occurred at flowering which often coincides with the last spring snow of the year in Illinois. In any case, great name.

Ribes sanguineum 'Spring Snow'

Archibald Menzies
Another 'Spring Snow' is the “Flowering currant,” Ribes sanguineum, an easy-to-grow deciduous shrub that blooms in dangling white racemes in March (in Oregon). It's tempting to bring a bouquet into the house to cheer things up, but in less than an hour you'll throw them out for their disagreeable smell. The generic name is from Medieval Latin for “currant,” and that – surprisingly – from Arabic ribas for “rhubarb.” The specific name sanguineum refers to “blood” or “blood-red,” and the species was first discovered by Archibald Menzies in 1793. Menzies (1754-1842) was a Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist who visited western North America on the Vancouver Expedition. Of course our native “Douglas fir,” Pseudotsuga menziesii was named in his honor, and I can show you in our local woods where Menzies's fir and the Ribes sanguineum grow among each other, and not far away you'll also find the “Pacific madrone,” Arbutus menziesii.

It's easier to spring out of bed now in April with the morning light than it was last winter in the cold and dark. Frogs were croaking and the birds were singing this morning which helps inspire this old geezer. After all, I'm not a spring chicken anymore.