Bloomin’ lovely

A few days ago Matt and I had the pleasure of romping through the Arnold Arboretum with our friend Miles, who led us on a tour of the blooms currently gracing the landscape. We have had a very strange and mild winter, and while we may eventually get the snow one expects from a New England February, for the time being the ground is soft and the air smells like an Easter basket. This is throwing plants into confusion, with buds that typically bloom in March baring their pastel colors, hopeful stamens, and hungry stigmas many weeks earlier than usual.

Hamamelis mollis – Chinese Witch Hazel. Many witch hazels bloom in the early spring, as opposed to our native H. virginiana, which flowers in the neighborhood of November. (Another beautiful Hamamelis that is flowering right now is H. vernalis, a shrub native to the central and southern U.S.)

Lonicera standishii – Fragrant Honeysuckle. These flowers smell amazing – not like anything a nose typically experiences in the wintertime.

Acer griseum – Paperback Maple. One of the Great Grandaddies of magnificently barked trees. I could write poems to it all day long.

Chimonanthus praecox – Wintersweet. This is a shrub with such a strong preference for warm climates that it only rarely blooms at the Arboretum. The gentle temperatures that we’ve been experiencing are coaxing them out of their buds, releasing a delicious scent laden with citrus.

Stewartia pseudochamellia – Japanese Stewartia. Stewartias are another tree famous for their wonderful bark patterns. Winter is the perfect season for admiring their understated beauty.

Can you find the diamond in the rough amongst this pile of twigs that masquerades as a shrub?

Ah – Jasminium nudiflorum. Right. This was the single flower remaining on a shrub that typically blooms in mid-March. How’s that for a sign of a wonky winter?

Prunus mume – Japanese Apricot. You could  almost miss this most wonderful of arboretum trees. It’s very tiny – only a bit taller than I – but its spate of precocious blooms sets it apart from the rest of the Prunus collection at the Forest Hills gate. As we were walking to the car I just so happened to see some wisps of white out of the corner of my eye, and started running toward them with a toothy grin and a one-track mind. The wisps, of course, were lovely little fluffs of flower situated all over the tree. This apricot always reminds me of the pear tree that Janie dreams under in “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” It is one of the first trees in the entire arboretum to bloom, and as with Hurston’s famous pear tree, tends to be teeming with bees and wasps and other grateful creatures getting their fill of nectar and pollen from one flower to another and another.

13 responses

    • Well, if we get a hard frost or freeze – and it’s extremely likely that we’ll get both, not to mention snow or freezing rain – then we’ll have a really bad year for fruit. Many buds at the Arboretum are extremely swollen and look like they’ll break very soon, exposing flowers and other tender, new growth to the whims of winter. It’s pretty nerve wracking.

      That said, today I went to a reservation just outside the city (about a twenty minute bike ride from my house), and everything there seems really dormant and normal. I was kind of expecting everything be in apocalyptically full bloom, but was happy to only find skunk cabbage flowers. They aren’t yet open, and according to my walking companion – a botanist who works at the arboretum – they are pretty spot on with their phenological schedule. Phew.

      How’s Milwaukee looking?

    • Thank you! It is one of my most beloved trees. I have a sapling in the garden and am crossing my fingers that it has survived all of the rabbits’ nibblings.

  1. For a minute I was rull confused cause I’m all, she said she was in Boston . . . what is she doing with the honeysuckle and the japanese apricot? Then I was like, oh. Arnold Arboretum. She at that fancy Harvard plant place.

    It’s all clear to me now.

    I was tickled that you stopped by mah blawg though and commented about the lack of pansies up there in the chilly beantown. What with me being down here in the deep deep south one might not catch at first blush that allllll my family is in and from New England (most of them in Mass). It’s a long story but, suffice to say I’m the only southern belle (ahem COUGH) on any side of my family ever. I pine for New England and fancy Hahvahd tree places and snow and vermont maple syrup and maine balsam and bruins games. The winters? meh. Those I do not pine as much for.

    Anyhoo, I’ve done hijacked yer blog. I’ll be back though . . . and so glad to have found you. I’m looking forward to spring when I can share the beauty of The South. (And yes, we will rise again. Jest you wait.)

    ps, their eyes were watching god . . . i cannot. one of my most cherished all time favorites. i mean, i just, i can’t even. i can’t. you = awesome, the end.

    • Hello!

      Thanks for such a great comment! Yes, New England is certainly pretty different from Georgia, but I do love it down there, too. I biked through a chunk of your state in 2006 and enjoyed some of the prettiest views of my life. I would love to return eventually, as I didn’t know much about plants back then and would love to relish in the different kinds you have down there. (Atlanta is nearly two growing zones warmer than Boston, and I’d really like to see the different variety of trees and flowers that that allows.)

      And Their Eyes Were Watching God – yes! So happy that you know what I’m on about.

      Thanks so much for hijacking this place. Come back anytime! There’s plenty of New England here to go around.

    • I’m sure that you will be successful in your search! When I visited Seattle for the first time it was during March and I was blown away by the amount of beautiful things everywhere – a real riot of green and blossoms. I had just come from Milwaukee, where everything was either dormant or only just beginning to peek out, so I was especially swept away.

  2. Pingback: Stories of Song and Remembrance | spokes and petals

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