Astrid and Graeme Schaefer, 2½-year-old twins, shed their coats then made a beeline for rows of yellow, red and purple primroses stacked up at Estabrook’s greenhouse in Yarmouth on Saturday.

The children of Andrew Schaefer and Jennifer Beall of Yarmouth were displaying the classic symptoms of spring fever in Maine that only a visit to the bright, moist interior of a greenhouse can assuage.

“It’s been nothing but snow for six months. This is basically candy,” said their father.

The Schaefer-Beall family was among many seeking relief over the weekend from a wearisome landscape of dirty snowbanks, salt dust clouds churned up by traffic, and sand-encrusted sidewalks. Although spring officially arrives Thursday, some people are already searching out the scents of warming soil and daffodil blooms at the nearest greenhouse.

“You can smell spring when you walk in,” said Jane Martin, retail manager at Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester, which attracts a crowd when it opens its doors for its annual Cabin Fever Art Show in early February.

Martin said people come in just to look at the flowers and dream about green.


That may explain why hundreds of people showed up at Skillins Greenhouses’ open house in Falmouth on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Terry Skillin, president of the 129-year-old business, said his father and uncle kicked off the first open house in 1964. Fifty years later, the annual homage to the impending growing season remains a hit.

“This year everyone was hunkered down and now they are really wanting to rebel against this winter,” Skillin said Saturday as customers filled carts with seed-starting kits and Gerbera daises.

The open house featured a spring garden filled with lilac bushes, apple trees and azaleas in full simultaneous bloom, which doesn’t happen in nature. Landscapers demonstrated their skills. Visitors wandered through the aisles fingering fresh herbs and sniffing the narcissus.

“I am pretending when I walk outside it is going to be just like this,” said Susan Gallant of Falmouth, who spends the late winter months paying visits to her favorite greenhouses around Maine.

“It does your spirit good,” Gallant said.

Taisey Giddinge, 8, of Pownal who was making her first visit to a greenhouse at Skillins on Saturday, said she was surprised by what she found.


“It’s really pretty and I get to smell the flowers in winter,” said Taisey.

Some people with their own private greenhouses say they suddenly become popular this time of year.

Bob Cleveland said fellow members of the Maine Orchid Society descend on the lean-to greenhouse he erected to house thousands of orchid plants at his South Portland house.

“I describe it as walking into July. At this time of year it is humid, 85 degrees, with 50 to 80 percent humidity,” said Cleveland.

Still, despite a winter that doesn’t seem to want to quit, spring is beginning to creep into Maine.

“We saw some great signs of spring this morning on a bird walk here,” Doug Hitchcox, staff naturalist at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in Falmouth, said Saturday.


Hitchcox said red-winged blackbirds, a genuine sign of spring – unlike robins, which live here year-round – arrived a few days ago. Groundhogs began to emerge from their burrows, even though they had to dig through the snow, a couple of weeks ago.

“There are signs all over the place,” Hitchcox said.

The raptor counters are back at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal to record the spring migration. Pussy willow catkins have been spotted in Kittery. Sap is flowing, although slowly, in Alfred.

Stephen Gile of Gile’s Family Farm in Alfred said sap started to run on schedule in mid-February. But spring is not exactly rushing in as it has in recent years, he said.

“I wouldn’t say this is normal – more like an old-fashioned spring,” Gile said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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