Sunday, 23 March 2008

Spring 2008

Spring is my favourite time. After Winter, which always seems to last forever - especially for boaters and gardeners, the unmistakable signs that warmer weather is around the corner are the ever-faithful snowdrops. Their delicate green and white are a welcome sight, often peeking out through a covering of snow. They'll spring up anywhere; in the lawn or wherever they please.

Snowdrops are closely followed by clumps of crocus shooting up through the frozen ground; bright yellow, purple or white. Then comes everyone's spring favourite, the bright Yellow Daffodils, narcissus. They're planted in drifts beside the road and in garden beds all over the country where winter temperatures provide a consistent 40F or below.

What daffs have going for them that tulips and other tender bulbs do not, is that they repel critters, who would otherwise like to dine on their ample bulbs. A toxin in the bulbs makes munching a bad idea. Many varieties naturalize freely, appearing to be the most cheery and generous of the spring bulbs, not at all narcissistic.

For me, the most amazing of all the flowers in the garden are the Helleborus, or Lenton Rose. What looked like a clump of frost-bitten leaves has suddenly turned into a mass of tall, sturdy stalks with multiple buds, flowers and very attractive serrated leaves. The Hellebores tend to go unnoticed, quietly flowering alone during the latter part of the winter when it is too cold to go strolling in the garden. These are the first flowers I look for as winter draws to a close and I venture out to wander around with a morning coffee. While the purple variety I rescued from a home demolition site is very striking, with large flowers and leaves, and the cream and green variety in my garden is adorable, I'm very fond of the green and pink variety in the photograph.

The trees are budding up. The red maples are looking like their branches have been dipped in bright red paint. They glow a gorgeous red in the sunlight. The Bradford Pears lining the streets are fit to burst into a sea of foaming white blooms. My Autumnalis Cherry is showing signs of tiny pink blossoms and my Magnolia Soulangiana will burst into flower any day. Let's hope there are no hard frosts then, or the blooms will turn to brown mush.
I planted the spikey Mahonia years ago because of the foliage and the gorgeous blue "grape" clusters, never realising how beautiful the shrub can be when the chatreuse buds are dusted with fine snow. Soon the yellow Forsythia will be in full bloom as they are already showing shocks of yellow along the roadsides where they grow wild.
March 27 to April 3, 2008 is peak viewing time for the hundreds of Yoshino Cherry trees planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The National Cherry Tree Festival parade has to be one of the prettiest! Kwanzan cherry trees are growing in Howard County, with the county's Blossoms of Hope project helping to raise awareness and support for cancer survivors. The photograph is of Kwanzan cherry blossoms. The ruffled petals remind me of cotton candy.
Spring is always a miracle to behold. Maybe more so for us, coming from half a world away, the products of the Sunburnt Country. No matter how cold the winter, all these stunning natural wonders truly burst out of the ground on cue, each spring. It's the most wonderful thing to see.

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