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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Warily, heart above head, go I into April





Walking out the front door on April's eve, taking in the warm-at-last air, I look left and am greeted by flowering trees that, in various colors, light up each springtime in Georgia – dogwood and cherry. Mine are a white dogwood and two cherries, one pink, one white – all just on the verge of flowering fully. All three grow in the area I'm turning into a meadow.

It is difficult to believe this really is spring, though it clearly is April; the calendar says so. But this is the year of false starts, of promises given, then snatched away, of weather-guessers who uncharacteristically did their did their jobs too well, reliably predicting bad news and delivering it.

What would Edna St. Vincent Millay say to a spring like this? To an April that barely skidded in on temperatures above freezing in Georgia. Not to mention the winter-like conditions north of here. She'd of course say what she said in one of my favorite poems:


To be sure, the unpredictable weather, the dire warnings about worldwide climate change, make me cynical about April's arrival, knowing it may not long remain as beautifully benign as its flowery entrance. Still, we only have one day at a time. And on this day, though I am wary, I cannot help loving what I see and feel. Renewal. Energy. Anticipation. Hope.


Any day now, the leaves on these Japanese maples will be fully open . . .






. . . and Cat Bo will have bountiful red leaves to dress him up. (Click here to read his profile.)










In these early days of April, many of us, especially those of us who dig in dirt, have a willing suspension of disbelief – as Millay must have had, even as she noted the fallacy of falling for the hype. How could any of us resist the almost-open panicles of a purple wisteria?




















Or a daphne that was planted in fall, then survived a winter of winters and came back blooming.








No one I know even tries to resist. The fragrances of daphne and wisteria intoxicate, as do so many other plants growing from the sun-warmed earth. We are drunk on April. As was Millay. We're all sailing along willingly if warily, wanting just one more round. Go ahead, April. Hit me again.

41 comments:

  1. So spring has more than sprung for you Lee! What a breath of fresh air. Even though spring has made some advances here, three or four inches of "surprise" snow yesterday tossed us a curve ball and set things back a bit (at least psychologically). Did you ever find out who lays claim to Bo? Happy April!

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    1. Happy April on you, Sue. I saw the reports for your part of Connecticut, and I felt for you. Could that be the last "surprise snow?" You'd love spring down here, especially after last winter.

      I did learn about Bo from my next-door neighbor. Turns out Bo lives a block away on the street that intersects with the cul (de sac). His servant lets him out each morning, and he's known around the cul for his boundless energy. The other day, as he approached, he broke into a full horse gallop in a 30-meter dash. The boy's feeling spring. Here's hoping you will too. Soon.

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  2. Thanks for using that wonderful poem. I've always loved Millay's work. Enjoy this beautiful day!

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    1. Kindred spirits, Elizabeth. Kindred spirits. A day like this is what I signed up for. Enjoy the day in *your* part of metro Atlanta.

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  3. Drunk on April. Perfect way to describe it. Cheers to spring!

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    1. Here's hoping you too are drinking some of the season. Or, will be soon. Happy April on you!

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  4. As Pat Benetar sings 'Hit me with your best shot, fire away...' This April first was the most beautiful day of the year here. I couldn't hardly stand to come inside this evening. Daffodils are finally blooming. I saw my first bee today. Heaven. It is grand seeing all your blooms. This means it will be so here in no time. Happy Spring!

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  5. We've been hit, and we've taken the fire, and we're still standing, eh, Lisa. Same here on staying out for hours today. Then I dragged myself in to collapse. The season is young, so you'll get your share of buds and blooms any day. Enjoy, and Happy AprilSpring on you.

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    1. Your post reminds me of this quote from Shakespeare "April hath put a youthful spirit in everything"

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    2. That quote so speaks to the universality of April revival – and the timelessness of experiences shared through digging in the dirt. Lisa, I appreciate the high praise of your putting me in the same thought as Shakespeare.

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  6. Lee, you are such a good writer! Spring (as we experience it in the north) is making an appearance here, too. Yesterday the high was 65F--a temperature we haven't experienced since Halloween. It was a long winter, wasn't it?! But now the migrating birds are heading back, the perennials are emerging, and the cats are thrilled with the show outside their window. Joy!

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    1. Thank you much; I'm fortunate to have passion for the subjects I write about, which helps any writer.

      Indeed, the longest winter I can remember. It was a prison. And finally, we're all free – the cats, birds, us. And all enjoying it together. Happy spring!

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  7. Right, April here we go ... when I walked outside today I was delighted to see my grandmother's irises starting to bloom. I've been watching plump buds for days now, and I actually laughed out loud when I saw one fully open today. I got a few from my mother's yard years ago; she had gotten them from my grandparents' yard. So even though my grandmother has been gone for more than 30 years, every spring those brilliantly white flowers appear as if to remind me of her love and beauty.

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    1. Ahhh, passalong plants hold a special place in a garden, and the bud and bloom of the iris calls for special celebration – as you can almost see those buds slooowly unfurl. What a lovely connection you have to your loved ones and to the earth.

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  8. It's hard not to fall under April's spell! But oh so brief. My mom always loved this poem by Robert Frost:

    Nothing Gold Can Stay

    Nature's first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf's a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf,
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day
    Nothing gold can stay

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    1. Laura, your mom sure loved a fine one. Frost's poem shows the power of nature, and this season in particular, to make us think about the inevitable transitions we all see and feel. Let's enjoy our now – as it goes.

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  9. What a poetic post, Lee.

    After temps in the 20s only a week or so ago we've shot up to around 80 for the past three days. Seems like everything is bursting into bloom at once. Then tonight - lightning and torrents of rain for a good few hours now. At least I don't have to go out and water the new plantings tomorrow. Mother Nature has graciously done that for me. In spades. More thunderous weather expected on the morrow.

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    1. Aaron, thank you. I'm inspired.

      If you're like so many of us, you're having a hard time keeping up with the sudden changes that light up gardens. And pour water on them to keep them lit.

      Isn't it grand to have proof: Spring lives. Have a good time trying to see it all before it goes.

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  10. Hey, Lee,

    Spring, at last. There is so much to love in addition to Millay's "April" and "Trains".

    The most wonderful part is the parade of flowering trees and shrubs, especially cherries. Oh, yes, all of it; including the grand new dress of the Japanese maples that give our senses such a beautiful experience. Maybe we appreciate it more this year because we thought it'd never come.

    Enjoy!

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    1. Hey, Barbara,

      You speak truth. Autumn colors are beautiful, but spring has the added value of fresh, young, new. And, yes, revival after a winter from hell. It certainly felt as if spring would never come. And I keep looking over my shoulder for winter to double back. Oh, wait! That's a tornado. Enjoy! But watch your back.

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  11. Glad you have plants and trees that are blooming. We have nothing blooming up here. But I expect the daffodils and hyacinths to open in a day or so. The trees are way behind. Only a few have swelling buds so far.


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    1. What a long and awful winter you had. I hope you're right about those blooms breaking through. With the trees lagging, it seems you'll have a short spring. Or, maybe you'll get lucky and have a long spring and a short summer.

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  12. As a rule, Millay's writings reflect her preoccupation with death so are rarely up lifting. I certainly prefer Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales as a salute to Spring. And, I agree with his pilgrims that it is a great time to hit the road to parts unknown.

    WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
    The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
    And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
    Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
    Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
    Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
    The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
    Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
    And smale fowles maken melodye,
    That slepen al the night with open ye,
    (So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
    Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

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  13. Thank you much for the reminder of the great range of poetry that spring inspires. Chaucer and Millay and all between give all of us choices aplenty, mirroring the myriad flowers we love or don't love. While I favor Millay's attitude, I certainly appreciate Chaucer's impassioned embrace of the season – and his language, which appeals to my love of linguistics. I appreciate Chaucer, and I *love* Millay.

    Are there other spring poems that strongly resonate with you?

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  14. Yes. Here is another of my flower favorites.

    "Flower in the crannied wall" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

    Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies,
    I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
    Little flower—but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all,
    I should know what God and man is.

    Janet

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    1. Thank you, Janet Walters. Inspiration is a wonderful thing in gardening and life. Clearly, you have found it. I look forward to hearing from you again. All the best.

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  15. Oh, yes April can be cruel, but not here, not now! I cling to the sweet promises, the abundant blossoms, all that freshness! Your dogwood and cherries are beautiful in bloom; how gorgeous they will be when surrounded by meadow! By the way, there is a nasty rumor that we may have another freeze next week...

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    1. You know April. It's one day at a time. We've had warm, we've had chilly, we've had rain. And we've had wind. Still, we push on and enjoy while we can. The meadow grows steadily.

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  16. I do believe the flowering trees are my favorites - even better than bulbs.

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    1. It's hard to beat a big ol' tree with blooms all over it, isn't it.

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  17. I am so happy to hear that April has set you free from that long winter, when I say I can imagine how it has been I actually KNOW how it has been. I hope April behaves and don’t bring something silly for you like more snow!

    Spring over here has been a long, slow process and I can’t really say when it begun….first week of February? Mid January? Hard to say, it depends on what you use to judge the start, we still haven’t had any frost at all, at least not in my part of London, and we probably won’t get any, although the nights are rather cold right now with a high pressure.

    And guess what, my Acer palmatum is flowering again! Yippee! Only second time it’s doing that, probably the result of that amazing summer we had last year. I will take photos when the flowers are properly out.
    Thanks for your lovely photos, looks so SPRING!

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    1. I don't know if you'd enjoy the explosion of spring that we get here. It does come in a heated rush. When it's really good, it holds for a while in its flowery show.

      Speaking of flowers, that blooming maple you have rivals any "official" flower I know for interest and looks. Is it the threadleaf or broadleaf?Enjoy. I'm glad you like the photos.

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    2. I know that kind of spring you mean, that’s what we have in Norway, where I am from. Five days of an explosive spring and then it’s all over and summer has arrived.

      I don’t know the terms you are using regarding the Acer, so had to look them up, my Acer is a Japanese Acer and its full name is Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’ - and it definitely don’t have broad leaves but I am not sure if it has is thread leaves either. RHS characterises it as ‘Leaves with usually seven deeply dissected lobes’. You can see lots of nice pictures of it if you ask Google :-)

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    3. Ahhh, I know and love that tree, Helene. Confession: I am addicted to Japanese maples. My last two gardens grew more than two dozen, including a few bonsai. If I'm not careful this new garden will have that many too. Do you have a favorite tree?

      At least your Norway summers were bearable, unlike some summers here in the American South, with high heat and humidity.

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    4. Two dozen Japanese maples? You must have had a big garden, or only had the smaller varieties? Mine is 10 years old and still quite small. I would have had many more Japanese maples if I could find room for them, they are so lovely with so many beautiful colour variations. I have thought of buying a small Acer and make a Bonsai out of it, but this year I bought two conifers for Bonsai, and my miniature fuchsias have arrived – three fuchsias I intend to grow as Bonsais. Will let them grow normally for a good few years though to develop good stems before doing anything, at the moment they are just tiny cuttings.

      But my favourite tree? Hmm, how can I choose?? I suppose right now magnolias are top of my list, but I don’t think I would put that on top. If I had to choose just one it would be the most typical Norwegian tree I can think of, a weeping silver birch, as tall as possible! Something like this:

      Summer: http://www.reiersol.no/produkter/lauvtr%E6r/hengebj%F8rk
      Autumn: http://www.photosight.org/photo.php?photoid=132226

      Ahh, I’d love to swap that tall cedar tree in my garden with a mature weeping silver birch, if only that was possible!
      What about you, do you have a favourite tree?

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    5. Well, some of both: My most previous garden covered an acre, and some of the maples were small varieties – that is, upright instead of wide like the weeping forms. Annnd, I love to prune, so I kept them in scale by using bonsai pruning techniques even if they were in the ground.

      What beauties are those birches in the links you sent. Alas, you have to love them from afar, in your mind. I love a lot of trees, but if I could only have one type, it would be an easy choice. Japanese maple.

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  18. I am a sucker for April and powerless against May. They are seductive and I collapse into them. I don't even try to resist.

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    1. Smart. You know when you're hooked, so you go with it. I hope you have enough spring by now to enjoy some collapsing.

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  19. Cold cold ground here still.... I am discouraged by white falling on the ground and remaining there. Even when it leaves, there are thousands of dollars worth of tree damage to deal with. Color will be a very great treat when it happens.

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    1. This truly is a most discouraging winter; I say that having lived in several American states with hard winters, including Ohio, Connecticut and Kansas. Let's hope the color will wipe away the memories.

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    2. Like giving birth to a baby....

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