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Bloomin, on a sunday afternoon

July 12, 2013

I like the spring and summer flowers. It seems that there are more of them now than when I was growing up. That is probably because now I take the time to notice them and have learned their names.

The progression of blossoming plants and trees from equinox to equinox is one of the non-disheartening ways for an adult to measure the passage of time. So much less aggressive than the steady march of months that leads to another year and a digit of age. Or the passing of the seasons that always remind you of the better times you had before or the opportunities you let go by. Oh well, next year. But there comes a time when next year is no consolation. The progress of flowers is a span of birth to birth. A beautiful present that promises to become lusher when the specimen comes into season. Every new day brings improvements. Disappointments are overrun by a heartier variety.

First crocuses push up through the last snows and white snow drops do the same. Violets with heart-shaped leaves and thin stalks come up at the borders like an advance guard to see if it’s safe for Jonquils, Narcissus and Daffodils to follow: Lily-of-the-Valley, a line of tiny bells with the first scent of spring. Forsythia—She -Who-Must-Be Wild.

Columbine, a flower I didn’t know before Buffalo. Its a romantic name made terrible; a flower that stands for horror. The first to grow well up above the ground, its stands like a mourner, alone with her unanswerable “why?”

Tulips are a mystery. A pleasing anxiety—will they come up? Will they flower? Which are where? They’re a present you’ve hidden from yourself.

Bleeding heart, pansies (tougher than the name suggests) lilacs and prunnus, the big event. These are the flowers I miss most of all. The cherry, crab apple and apple trees. There were two big apple trees on the street where we lived. I loved to walk under them at night; like walking in a patch of bright, sweet scented moonlight. I’d stand underneath and just be thankful.

Flowers are proof of Divinity. For God so loved the world He gave them flowers. So many beautiful colors. Such amazing forms. And the scents. It can’t all have happened by chance. Yes, Burpee and Burbank—but they did not start from scratch. I can’t go by a flowering tree of shrub without admiring it.

Wisteria sounds as romantic as it looks.

Back to the blooming cycle: Late spring peonies arrogant and immodest and a good biology lesson too: ants eat the waxy coating off the buds so the buds can bloom. Symbiosis. Then the ants hang around so the blossoms can’t be cut and secreted indoors. Outside they stay where everyone can see them. What a fate—pimped by ants. Calendula and Campanula beautiful names, ripe and sexy in your mouth. Coreopsis, Cornflower, Cosmos, Cleome. Wisteria. Veronica.

Delphinia, sounding so classical and aristocratic, is also plain old Larkspur. So called for the  velveteen horn on the blossom’s back. What’s plain old mallow up north becomes refined Hibiscus in the south.

Pansy, Hosta and Hydrangea play nicely together.

Clematis with crazy grasping vines and hairy spider centers sounds about the way it should. Datura, morning glories and moon flower, has a clinical sound. Or it can be Japanese Da-TUR-A (like Datsun and Acura mashed together) Scabiola is dreadful in the ear and on the tongue.

High summer is Honeysuckle, Day Lilies and Hydrangea. Orange day lilies grow along the side of the house we don’t live in. We bought the property in Winter. When the lilies came up to count off the day of August I was glad we’d bought the house all over again.

My grandmother had hydrangeas and they grew around our house on Cape Cod. Big puffs of four-petal flowers that slowly turned blue. Now I see them in several shades. Pink and purple too. They are easily preserved so you can keep them through the winter. The same for Chinese Lantern. The papery orange balloons are the last color to be seen when everything else has died away. Cut the stalks, strip off the leaves, hang them in the basement for a few days, and you have something for your Thanksgiving table. And a reminder that spring will be round again.

When dried, Chinese Lantern preserves the color of Summer until the blooming season begins again.

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