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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring, Lovely Spring

Autumn, I often say, is my favorite season.  My birthday falls toward the end of September and from there the celebrations and holidays of the fall and early winter promise plenty of interest and excitement.  The weather is, at long last, friendlier, and the harsh light of summer fades to an altogether more flattering glow.  It is, to me, a magical and welcome time.

I am not sure how I forget about Spring, though.  Each year I am somehow surprised at the joy I take in the first signs of new life as they push their way through the hard, gray earth.  Little piles of old, dead leaves are no match for the strength of even the tiniest purple or bright yellow crocus as it seeks the sun.

Although each Spring I anticipate filling my somewhat empty flowerbeds with bulbs when Autumn arrives, I either don’t have the money or the time to put this plan into action.  And so, every year, I am impressed by the golden yellow swathes of daffodils in neighboring gardens and wonder why I didn’t just get on with it in October.  Yet, my own yard is never entirely bereft of color and flash and I find myself delighted at each new bloom.

First, there are the tiny crocuses that I bought almost twenty years ago from one of those catalogs with all of the showy bulbs.  They range from the lightest lavender to the deepest purple with a few cheering yellows to brighten things up.  There aren’t many of them, but I rather like that.  Just little hints of what’s to come here and there.

The next to bloom is the deep pink camellia at the corner of my front porch.  When I first arrived at this one hundred year old house, the bush was no more than three feet high and barely as wide.  It didn’t bloom for years when, quite suddenly and with no urging from me, it was covered by thickly petaled flowers with canary-colored centers.  The dark, glossy green leaves are the perfect foil for the showy pink blossoms.  Today, my camellia towers at nearly eight feet in height and is, again, nearly as wide.  If I want to pick a bower of its abundant flowers I don’t even have to leave the sheltering dryness of my old porch to fill vase after vase.

Soon other bushes are making their presence known.  Tall spikey branches of bright yellow forsythia are next.  I cut them just when the buds start to fatten so that I can force their bloom inside.  A bunch of them in a tall, blue and white Chinese vase is almost a clich√©, but for good reason.   They seem to last for a very long time, providing a springy touch with absolutely no fuss.  That’s one of the lovely things about blooming branches.  They look terribly elegant and dramatic yet one needn’t do a thing to them.  Even arranging them is easy as they look best when artfully shoved into the narrow mouth of tall containers.

Flowering currant, originally bought because I liked the name (“King Edward VII”) is another timeless favorite.  With leaves that are the shape, if not the texture, of strawberry leaves, its branches drip with pendulous carmine blooms.  The whole of the bush looks like it’s been decorated with the most marvelous Christmas baubles, expertly spaced for maximum effect.  Like forsythia, flowering currant can also be forced inside and are wonderful when mixed with any other blossoming branches.

We have several other flowers around the yard, many of which were unwittingly placed there by birds on the wing or seeds floating in the wind.  My favorites are the cornflower blue Forget-Me-Knots with their cheery tulip yellow centers.  Forget-Me-Nots are exquisitely flower-shaped.  By that I mean that, if instructed to “draw a flower”, nearly everyone would draw something with a lovely yellow center and five or six perfectly shaped petals surrounding it.  Every year my little patches of these lovely flowers seem to spread and I have to be careful to look out for them as I trim the lawn.

Johnny Jump Ups are another delightful little volunteer that pops up in interesting places.  One tiny patch is in the very center of my lawn.  I wouldn’t mow over them for anything.  Another larger bunch makes its home at the bottom of my front steps, just beneath my box hedge.  They even take over part of the crack in the pavement.  Like the Forget-Me-Nots, I never disturb them.  Their unexpected appearance only increases their charm, their lovely purple and yellow faces looking up to the sky hopefully.  When the breeze touches them, they really do seem ready to jump up!

In a week or two the very best of my Spring blooms will start to appear in my woodland garden.  “Procured” from a forest of unknown ownership across the street from my house, my beloved English bluebells come in shades from snowy white to deep azure.  These little, cheerfully nodding bells on their perfectly postured stems of bright green never fail to make me feel happy and a little nostalgic.  I well remember being a little boy and taking bouquets of them, wrapped in tin foil with a damp paper towel in the bottom, to school as gifts for my teachers, Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Lobb, on Teacher Appreciation Day.  I recall how the stems seemed so satisfyingly crunchy when I cut them and how sweetly they smelled. 

And so, when I am next asked what my favorite season is, I will still say Autumn, but I’ll give an appreciative nod to the lovely, cool months of Spring with their heavenly scents and days of watery sun or blustery rain. 

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