Will someone stop hitting the fast forward button, please? Over the past seven days we have progressed about three weeks—flower time, that is. We have gone from smelling the spicy scent of star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) to the perfume fragrance of lilacs (Syringa vulgaris cvs). It makes my head spin even more to think that just a month ago we still were snow covered. This is a whirlwind spring if ever I can remember one. Both extremes in Mother Nature’s weather forecasts have made us have to rethink and prioritize our gardening tasks, tabling some until fall or even next spring since the window for some of our horticultural work has been greatly condensed—or even passed by.
Our saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangiana) and cherries are still in flower but are beginning to drop their petals. The emerging leaves from some of our canopy trees are shedding their protective bud scales as well which, along with the petals, can form pretty “debris” on the ground below. One garden task that is ephemeral but a celebration of this above described moment is moving the petals aside—usually with a blower, but a broom or rake will do, too—and creating a pathway that is lined in pastel flower petals, sprinkled with a few spring green bud scales. The grove of magnolias at Magnolia Bend is a perfect setting for this petal pathway as there is a bench placed at the end to draw you in; if not physically then at least visually.
I gave a tour to a group from The Morris Arboretum on Tuesday and we stopped along the Pinetum allee and admired one of our specimen cherries, Prunus ‘Accolade’ at the height of its flower. A light breeze was coming off of the adjacent field and along with the sunlight, created a shimmering effect as the petals fell. Everyone reveled not only in the tree’s beauty in full flower but the magic captured in that moment. As we stood out away from the tree, petals still in our hair, a higher breeze came through and whisked the petals from the tree and in “mid flight” the breeze changed direction and the petals—still high in the air—went back toward the tree, glimmering in the light. We had never seen anything quite like it. Spring can be a frenzied time in a gardener’s world but it is capturing moments such as petals dropping or a first flower opening that allows us to pause for a moment, catch our breath and feed the soul.