“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote;... I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. ... Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I'm nuts. ” ― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
We made it! After another long winter, cold's grip is letting go, and we begin the magical transition from one season to another. Despite 6 inches of snow last week and forecast for more snow this weekend, the signs of spring are unmistakable: the smell of moist earth, birdsong, green shoots, fuzzy willow buds.
For me, I really know that it is spring when the early flowering trees share their blossoms. That they are among the first sources of color in the garden after months of drab, just adds to their spectacular impact. Their bloom time is governed by science - through light and temperature - and a plant's sixth sense about the weather.
And behind every blossom is a story. The photos above are some of my favorites from around the world:
Cherry blossoms line “Cherry Walk” in New York City’s Riverside Park. These trees date from 1912 when the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented 2,000 cherry trees to New York City as a gift. They are from the famous shipment that can be seen in Washington, DC. Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons laid out Riverside Park in a picturesque style starting in 1875.
Red cherry blossoms provide a show of color in the late spring garden at the Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China. The Lingering Garden was built in the 1590’s by Xu Tai to deliver an idealized vision of nature. Through a series of intimate courtyards and garden rooms, the 6-acre design focuses on harmony and balance, seamlessly integrating buildings, stonework, and plant material. Cherry trees are revered for their beauty in the Chinese garden.
Magnolia blossoms light up a walk at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois. The Chicago Botanic Garden, with roots dating back to the 1890’s, opened to the public at its current location in 1972. Its work was grounded in the belief that “Beautiful gardens and natural environments are fundamentally important to the mental and physical well-being of all people.”
A branch full of cherry blossoms begs to be admired at Suzhou, China’s Pan Gate. Suzhou is an ancient city that dates back to 500 BCE. Pan Gate was built to protect the city by controlling both land and water access. Its current structure dates from the 1300’s. It is now preserved as a scenic area planted with cherry trees and peonies.
Fallen blossoms float in a canal leading to the Pan Gate, in Suzhou, China. Their soft pink petals contrast with the deep blackness of the water.
With so much to look forward to, what is your favorite sign of spring?