At 7:02 Wednesday, the vernal equinox occurred, marking the official start of spring — as you can tell by the snow on the ground. To paraphrase the great American writer Henry van Dyke, in New England, there is a big difference between the first day of spring and the first spring day.

According to meteorologist David Epstein, the only thing typical about New England weather on the first day of spring is that it’s not usually typical.

"It can run the gamut from a snowstorm to a temperature of 75 or 80 degrees, so it really is an indication of how volatile the weather is this time of the year," he said.

If you look over the numbers, you'll see there’s roughly a 15 percent chance there will be snow on the ground (like today). The record high and low are extreme. Back in 1885, it got way down to 10 degrees. In 1945, it was a balmy 79.

Not exactly the kind of weather that Lord Tennyson would say "turns a young man's fancy to thoughts of love." Besides, even if it were one of those unusually warm and sunny days, Epstein points out that it still probably wouldn't really feel like spring.

"Spring is temperature, but spring is also, 'What does the grass look like? What do my trees look like? What are my bulbs doing?'" he said. "So even if it were warm today, everything is still not really popping."

Maybe not outside, but how about inside the area's garden centers and nurseries? On the last day of winter, Mahoney's Garden Center in Brighton was abuzz with activity — an oasis of fertile soil, lush greenery and a kaleidoscope of colorful flowers.

Bob Roos, the nursery manager there, explained, "Most places around here have been covered by snow repeatedly for the last 4, 5, 6, 7 weeks or whatever it is, but we are starting to show spring here."

Preparations for the start of Spring began at Mahoney's way back in in November, but this week things have finally started to come alive.

"We just received in all our fruit trees so a lot of blueberries and apples and pears and self-pollinating cherries," Roos said. "And as far as flowering things go we have bulbs, pansies and violas that are ready to go — all from our own greenhouses."

Some backyard and balcony gardeners here in the city have already started. Roos says it's an excellent time to start vegetable seeds. But most gardeners are still planning and preparing, like Johnny Ballinger — a Cambridge pediatrician and garden enthusiast who relishes this time of the year.

"I like to think about clearing the land, and think about my garden, and what annuals I might plant this year to give a splash of color, as they say," she explained. "Then look forward to the plants that bloom that I like to see."

"It's a process she poetically calls "forward reminiscing."

While it still might be a few weeks until we experience that first 'spring day,' the equinox means that spring has officially, undeniably sprung.

"The start of spring in that sense is excellent," Roos said. "It’s a time to start again. To do the things that you want to do in your garden."

Billinger agreed, and summed up why she — and so many gardeners — are so excited.

"It is calming, and peaceful and, um, you get your hands dirty, you get to play with worms, and you get to look at bugs and its all alright," she said. "It’s all good. It’s being in touch with the Earth."

Earth that, soon enough (I promise!) will no longer be covered in snow.