Spring is my favorite season in the garden. It’s a little like lifting the cover from a winter scene; under all the dried and brown debris left from last year, little spots of green begin to emerge.
Sometimes it reminds me of those fast forward videos you see of a flower blooming right before your eyes. The plants really do seem to grow overnight.
The spring bulbs, hidden from view all winter, give forth their amazingly colorful and complex blooms. Think of the hyacinth, for instance, the bud grows fully formed and then proceeds to expand vertically as each individual bud matures into a fragrant flower that offers an expanding color palette from white to deep purple. It’s actually one of my favorites because it’s complex yet simple in form, and I like the way the star shaped blossoms line up in a row.
Just this morning, looking out of the kitchen window, when the sweet light was just emerging, I thought of the beauty and mystery of nature and how much these simple plants enrich our lives. We tend to notice the mass plantings that dot the landscape, especially in the public spaces. Those masses of daffodils, usually, that create yellow clouds for a week or two. I never had the foresight in creating such a sight in my own garden, but I enjoy it whenever it appears.
There are some meadows in Guilford that look like a storybook setting for a Hallmark movie. Yet I noticed this morning, a single yellow tulip and a bookmarked red one along my driveway, and I thought that the simplicity of that design had some charm of its own.
Bulbs also have the additional appeal of disappearing after they bloom, no unsightly lingering foliage to have to look at through summer. The leaves die off and then allow you to twist them off.
But the most anticipated event of my spring garden is the blooming of the pink dogwood that sits just behind our little water garden. Matt and Frank gifted it to Angela many years ago, she loved the beautiful dogwood flowers that emerge before the leaves, they announce themselves separately, sitting in the tips of the branches. Angela was really pleased at the thoughtful gift, while I was more concerned with finding the appropriate place to plant it.
Our garden is mostly shade and it’s been a challenge for me to find the right plants for the various levels of sunlight that’s available throughout the day. My decision to plant the tree was as much determined by the visual effect that I was hoping to achieve as it was based on sun/shade requirements.
So I planted the tree and we looked forward to the spring blooming the following year. It seemed healthy enough; it grew vertically and expanded its reach, but it didn’t bloom. Each April Angela and I would look for signs of blossoms, but they just weren’t there. I fertilized the tree with those spikes that you drive into the ground, I watered it, I gave it some friendly advice, but nothing worked. We resigned ourselves to a blossom-less dogwood garden. It just wasn’t a very attractive feature because the tree wasn’t all that pretty on its own. I even silently contemplated cutting it down, putting it out of its misery - a flowering tree without blossoms just isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.
Then, a few years ago, after a waiting period of at least five years, the first pink blossoms appeared one day. At first it seemed like an optical allusion, thinking there were flowers where they were supposed to be, but it wasn’t, the tree was blooming, quite sparsely, but blooming nonetheless. Angela was thrilled to finally have dogwood blossoms in the garden, and it has continued to flourish and bloom steadily ever since. I’m looking at the cloud of pink blossoms right now and I’m smiling.
The tree has become a metaphor for persistence and resilience in our family. The little tree now represents the triumph of grit and determination over the tendency to give up when you don’t get what you want right away. The dogwood is my reference point when I sometimes think it’s not worth the effort. It’s a treasure for us all, and it’s gives me hope and fosters a belief in a future that can bloom, even if it takes longer than you expect.