Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Garden of Spring's Abundance: No Maybes in May

Coming home last week from a quick visit to New York -- including two perfect weekend days, with irises blossoming in the back lanes between Henry Hudson Parkway and, considerably downgrade, the actual Hudson River, so quiet and lyrically vernal that you can't believe you actually are still in New York City -- we discover that the month of May in Massachusetts has achieved its major statement in our absence. 
        Come on, May, say it with flowers. 
         I've been hoping that our streetside lilac bush (or tree; photo at left) would actually blossom in a way that produces the immediate undeniable pleasure of lilac scent. The blossoms have been on the plant for a month, but didn't seem to want to open. And weeks ago we did see and smell lilac blossoms in the abundance of the Arnold Arboretum (in Boston). 
          But on returning home Sunday night, we could smell the lilac halfway down the block. This plant is a Korean variety.  You can tell the difference at a glance. The Asian lilacs are sold these days as a replacement for the classic New England/New York spring flowering plants, cited by the poets for centuries -- as in Whitman's lament "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd" -- which suffered from disease a few decades back and either died or stopped blooming. You can still see them on old properties. Often you can also see where the old trunks were pruned away in attempts to revive the plant. 
             So, I'm fine with a new approach to lilac -- but hey,  we've got a "dooryard" and we've got a lilac in it, so listen to the poet and bloom already.
             Anyway, this year at least it's worth the wait. An opulent parfumerie. 
              Right beside it is a wiegelia (third pic down), probably too large for the space I have it in, which I've also been expecting to see a bloom. Sympathetically, its blooms opened in rhythm with the lilac, but that means it's getting less attention.
              And the other thing you notice about all these classic spring perennials, is the bloom while sweet is tragically short. 
               The poppies (top photo: orange) lead the way in the quick-show category. We watched the floppy stems reach out with their fat, alien-looking pod-like buds for a couple of weeks. A few finally began opening in the days just before our weekend away, so I said, 'Fine, wait till we go away to do your show. See if I care.' 
               The poppies did open en masse in the two sunny days we were away (I did care). A couple of sunny days dried them out. Then came the latest re-make of spring stormy weather striking the Massachusetts coast. A couple of big rain days to make up for the no rain last spring (and summer) along with some lashing winds. The poppies started dropping their petals. They are all such conformists, these European imports. They bloom at once, blow at at once, decline at once, and wither away. No second acts in poppies. Still, they are a specialty act, a rara avis. And seem to know it.

           And the clematis started climbing. Somehow, thick and rich and darkly purple (fifth photo down) in the blossoming, the plant forgot how to pull itself up on the dried-out vines from last year's climbing days and fell to rolling around on its own new exuberant growth. I found enough string to attach one of the most vigorous vines to the porch railing. I figured I would tie each of the others in turn, but a couple of fast-growing days later found to my happy surprise that the other vines had shot upward and latched on to the porch rails on their own. Good clematis; getting smarter every year. 
          I've also been watching the columbine blossoms sit coolly in some demi-monde state, not quite the lush dark-pink performers I recalled from other years (sixth and eighth photos down). Clearly, the only problem was my impatience. They plumped up into shapely forms, tumbling upside-down trumpets of descending posture and tone. 
             As for the irises (fourth and bottom photos), I have no schedule for them, though I think of them as a June bloomer. Depends on the climate, probably, and the earliness or lateness of any given spring. Late May has triggered these white blooms. A very classical shape. You can say only that it looks like nothing else but what it is: Iris. Named for the "personification of the rainbow" and the messenger of the gods. 
            The message of the gods seems pretty clear these days: spring beauty.