Rafts of flowers appeared this week, some of them riveting and bold, like the flamboyant forsythia. I’m not fond of forsythia for just those reasons, but also because it seems to have no transition period. One day you have sticks, the next day you have eye-popping yellow flowers. A more charming look-alike is the Abeliophylla, which slowly produces pinkish buds followed by delicate white petals.
I like slow transitions, and I especially like a cool spring, when everything in nature seems to gather its breath, poised to shake off the doldrums of winter. The early daffodils hang on while their mid-season sisters open up, sometimes even allowing the tulips, grape hyacinths and scillas to catch up and complete the picture you had in mind when you planted them last fall.
Shakespeare wrote about “the darling buds of May” which is odd, considering that England is usually a month ahead of us, and we enjoy fabulous buds in April. Whatever he had in mind, this trout lily and its tightly-rolled buds seem darling to me.
Today as I drove to the Wadsworth Mansion I noticed some of the Norway maples on my route had opened their buds into the fluffy chartreuse flowers that precede the enormous winged samaras characteristic of this species. If you have any doubt as to whether your maple tree is a sugar maple or a Norway, now is the time to look before those flowers disappear.
Almost every saucer magnolia except mine has unfurled its giant flower petals – which must presage a good, hard rain. Mother Nature can’t contain herself at this point in spring, routinely smashing magnolia petals to the ground for the sport of it.
Prettiest of all is the yellow-green haze of spice-bush (Lindera benzoin) which deer don’t eat. A hike through the woods at Long Hill revealed many spice-bush shrubs, and exactly one other recognizable shrub – a small American holly that deer declined to devour. Soon these pearl-sized spice-bush flowers will yield to waxy leaves that smell heavenly when crushed. Perhaps not so heavenly to a deer, but then, they have other choices.
(Once upon a time, the woods in our area had seedling trees and shrubs, but now deer eat everything but the really unpalatable items: barberry, spice-bush and garlic mustard. The result, unfortunately, is woodlands that can’t regenerate themselves.)
Azaleas and rhododendrons are beginning to show color – some of the exotic ones are already leaping in with their clear purple flowers. Best of all is the movement of cherry trees from bare and wintry to lightly frosted with rose to a sudden blaze of clear pink. The cherry trees at left, the ‘Okame’ variety, were humming with honeybees yesterday – a cheering sign in these troubled times for honeybees.
Nature may be red in tooth and claw, and certainly she delivers us some remarkable one-two punches of weather. Still, spring offers all this serene beauty: even if there is no intelligent design behind it, I find its regular re-appearance comforting.