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Green Acre # 100: Spring Is Bustin’ Out All Over

THE PRINCE and I found ourselves unexpectedly in the land of pina coladas and crystal blue water last week and upon our return found early spring still in full roar. What a relief.

I thought when we left that we’d return to flopped tulips and completely miss the grand flowering of the kwanzan cherry tree, which by now would be a carpet of pink petals on the path to the carriage house (aka the garage). But here it all is, still in full bloom.

Huzzah for a chilly April.

The cherry this year is even more alarming than anticipated, winging its branches over the alley fence on the east. Or is that the west?  I’m not particularly mindful about directions – preferring to just point, which I’m doing now, not that you’d notice.

In some other direction, maybe north, maybe south, anyway toward the house, it is smooshed up against the windows of my little second-floor greenhouse.

Underneath its branches, the aforesaid tulips are a riot of pink and purple, all up at once, defying the claims on the packages that said they’d arise early or late.  It’s quite a sight.

With the risk of a frost so small at this point in the season, we’d carried down the various jasmines, the lemon, the maybe it’s a kiwi but I forget, the hibiscus, and other tropicals that had wintered over in the greenhouse. It seemed safe enough to plop them in the garden and cajole a neighbor into keeping an eye on the temperature, though what she would do short of splaying herself out on top of them if temperatures plummeted, I haven’t a clue.

This left me in the south with half an ear to the weather up north, which those who live in the south generally consider with smug glee, at least outside of hurricane season. Several announcements of late snows and frosts gloated down, initially causing some anxiety, but by day three I shrugged my shoulders and stuck my face back into the pages of my book.

Have you read any of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels?  Start with the marvelously silly “44 Scotland Street” series. I defy anyone to stay gloomy after a chapter or two. This is, of course, is neither here nor there.

South Florida is a magical place for plants, things we (meaning I) covet and occasionally pay for pop up like weeds. Small palms grow thick in vacant lots. Bougainvillea in popsicle shades of incendiary brilliance romp up tree trunks and dance along phone lines.

Out for a walk one evening, we caught a whiff of splendid sweetness and stood with noses twitching for the source. A British woman in hot-pink shorts walking by with a large black dog of uncertain breed told us “they’re corn plants. They look like corn stalks.”  I scratched my head, wondering if I needed subtitles. “They’re in there somewhere,” she added helpfully, circling an arm around a curbside jungle.

We found them in the morning and my my, didn’t I have one of these for decades. In fact I had one until just a few months ago when I “forgot” to bring it in from the cold. More pompously known as Dracaena Fragrans, it looked like a straggly palm that only Dr. Seuss could invent and after wasting who knows how many gallons of water it did nothing. Nothing. It scarcely even grew, not that I wanted to see more of it, but still.

Who knew the thing was actually capable of flowering?  Not as a regular event indoors in the north (I find after three minutes of web research),  but when it does, the blooms have a pungent scent, like jasmine on steroids. On reflection, after you’ve whiffed it for a few hours you can’t get the smell out of your head and you want to… how to say this politely…upchuck.

Well, that was a lengthy never mind, wasn’t it?

A couple of plants came back with us, a palm and a purple leafed thing growing along a roadside. Both were uprooted with an oops movement of my wrist, and wrapped in a damp bathing suit for the plane trip home. Amazing how shallow some roots are, how easily plants are plucked.

And now, back to here.

Last year, I do believe, I announced would be the perfect spring. When everything would manage to flower at once and remain for weeks in full bloom. This did not happen. A late frost did it in, destroying a season’s worth of hydrangeas for most of us, and nipping in the bud whatever was in bud.

A disaster.

Ah, but this year is something different. We are now well past the last frost date for DC, and the variety of blossoms is fabulous to see, lingering weeks longer than usual even as the roses and other May flowers get set to frolic.

It’s quite a show out there. Go forth and enjoy. They’re threatening summer temperatures in a few days, and spring will be kaput.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” shares her horticultural aperçus with us every Thursday.


One thought on “Green Acre # 100: Spring Is Bustin’ Out All Over

  1. Jean Gordon says:

    I was just about to ask you about the plants you kidnapped (wrapped in a wet bathing suit) on your exit from your favorite vacation spot and whalla its all in your new article…loved it!!
    thanks …..keep writing Stephanie.

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