This year's unseasonably warm weather has at least one upside: an earlier start to growing area gardens.
On Saturday, members of the Ayr Hill Garden Club started its annual spring cleanup of the W&OD Trail community garden several weeks early, spending the morning cleaning up the plot from the winter and preparing it for the rest of spring.
For nearly 31 years, the club has kept the garden blooming in the summer and saved it from dying in the winter, member Cherie Lejeune said. The garden, along with the group's four other public gardens, is funded largely by its annual plant sale on the town green, scheduled for May 5.
Bikers, runners and walkers along the W&OD stopped to watch as members began their work this year.
"This is the earliest we have ever been able to do this sort of weeding and clean up [since I joined 10 years ago]," member Sally Recinos wrote in an email. "In previous years the ground has been frozen and the wind chill too dreadful."
More mild temperatures also encouraged weeds to grow earlier and faster, Recinos said, which made Saturday's cleanup a bit more regimented.
Trash pickup came before any other task this year, Recinos said.
"The trash that accumulates between our visits has been a discouraging surprise," Recinos said. "We find bottles, cans, assorted paper, dozens of cigarette butts and strangely enough several articles of clothing.
Twelve volunteers then weeded the garden, laid down newspaper and covered the area with leaf mulch provided by the Town of Vienna.
"The mulching has been ongoing for the last 10 years since gardening in a railroad bed of large stones is a challenge," Recinos said.
The garden's Witch Hazel tree and crocuses are already blooming; some members expect daffodils to start soon, too.
The group plans to plant summer annuals in late April or early May. It is aiming to use more perennials and shrubs this year, because they require less labor, but "nothing provides color over a long period of time as well as annuals," Recinos said.
The most rewarding part of Saturday's effort, Recinos said, was hearing compliments from those who passed by.
"We are always gratified by [compliments] as our aim is to provide a lovely tranquil spot for people as well as for birds and pollinators," she said.
For more on the Ayr Hill Garden Club, click here.