Monday, April 30, 2012

To the Swamp

My reminiscence about the honeysuckle along the Dismal Swamp Canal
prompted me to go back on Sunday.
Instead of driving Highway 17, my dearest and I were able to walk along
what is now  The Dismal Swamp Nature Trail, "old" Highway 17, so called
because a newer faster version of the highway was built just to the East.

The Great Dismal Swamp is a thicket of trees, vines, and groundcovers.
Everything grows in or near black water.
Legend has it that if one wandered into the Swamp,
he might not be able to find his way out again. 

If the mosquitos or poisonous snakes like water moccasins and copperheads 
didn't get the traveler, the bears might have:

Join me this week for a walk through the Swamp's primeval forest.
We will encounter its history, its flora, and  ??
Find out this week if we met a bear
 or something else ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Scent of Honeysuckle

My first summer in the Shire,
my dearest and I took a drive along Route 17,
heading south along the Dismal Swamp Canal towards Camden County, North Carolina.
I was enchanted with the deep woods along the Canal and, most particularly,
the massive banks of honeysuckle vine
that blanketed the undergrowth and appeared to go on for miles.
The afternoon was humid and very still,
and the smell of the yellow honeysuckle's perfume permeated the air.

The scent of honeysuckle blossoms is one of my favorites,
so I was happy to see that the fragrant yellow blossoms were back again this week.
Honeysuckle is native to the Shire, although it turns out
that the yellow and white blossoms I have enjoyed for years
are not from our native plant.
They are an Asian variety, one that is considered invasive.

Here are two examples.
The first is an Asian honeysuckle overtaking the marsh grass along the Elizabeth River:

And in this one, a non-native honeysuckle cascades over a ligustrum hedge:

I must say I was a bit disappointed to learn 
that the honeysuckle I've loved is an unwelcome guest,
one as careless and destructive as kudzu.
The honeysuckle native to Virginia,  lonicera sempervirens,
blooms with a coral-red or a bright lemony yellow trumpet flower.
Its blossoms form fans of narrow trumpets that hang straight down,
and it has black or red berries in the autumn.
It is on the endangered plants list.

Here is a newer cultivar of honeysuckle,
but the star-shaped flowers don't look like the native plant.

To see a photo of the native trumpet honeysuckle, click on this link:

Alas--just when I think I've found a plant born and bred in the south,
it turns out not to be so. And worst, of course, is the knowledge
that the yellow and white imported honeysuckle, lonicera Japonica
is considered a noxious weed, one threatening to supplant our native species
and to eventually change the very nature of our forests.

Here is a vine weaving its way through the trees:

Dear honeysuckle, I guess what they say about you is true.
Oh well. As Gandhi said, "Hate the sin. Love the sinner."
And I do.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chasing the Pink Air

Pink sky at night, shepherd's delight.
                                              --an early version of the adage 

My sister once worked with a man who told her
that he, his wife, and their children loved sunsets,
which is not so unusual because many people do.
But this man and his family loved sunsets so much,
they would all pile into the car and take off for a spot
that could give them the best vantage point.
He said they called it "chasing the pink air."

I have always loved that story. I can easily imagine
this family hurrying into their car and speeding off to catch a beautiful sunset.
I have thought of chasing the pink air myself sometimes,
especially since our forested spot here in the Shire often obscures the sunset.
Occasionally I can catch the sun in descent,
a bit of glimmering gold coming through the trees, but
I sometimes long to see a vast expanse of pink sky as the day ebbs.
Some day, I may actually drive off into the west to find one.
But remembering the spectacular ones I've seen will do for now.

To close, here are a few fitting lines from Keats' "Endymion,"
who was a young shepherd loved by the Moon goddess Selene:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep a bower quiet for us
and a sleep full of sweet dreams ... .

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Night of the Pink Moon

According to the 2012 Farmer's Almanac, April is the month for the Pink Moon.
The Full Pink Moon appears on April 6, then wanes through the following weeks until
May's Full Flower Moon appears. It's a charming custom, naming the full moons.
The Farmer's Almanac says the tradition began with the Algonquin Indians,
and was continued by European settlers.

I am always interested in why things are named as they are.
There is actually an obscure branch of linguistics called onomastics
which is devoted to the study of naming.
So the idea of naming the April moon the Pink Moon made me curious.
The Farmer's Almanac says it's named for moss pinks, a wild ground phlox.
I doubt that was the Algonquin's name for it,
but it's an attractive name regardless of who thought of it.
Even so, I considered it a rather unusual choice and a bit far-fetched.

But one day this month, I passed by a house here in the Shire
that set on a large plot of uncultivated land.
The entire field behind the house was a brilliant pink from the wild ground phlox.
And then I understood.
That bright pink field must have been spectacular under a shining full moon.

I don't have a photo of it, but this variety of pinks planted by one of my neighbors
under her roses is the same color:

There will be more about pink in tomorrow's blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In the Pink

To the Old Spring garden... And the wenches gathered pinks.*

Our heirloom pinks, the ones we got from my husband's mother decades ago,
are just beginning to bloom. They are one flower we eagerly anticipate,
not only because they remind us of Mom, but also because they are so fragrant.
Our pinks have a sweet, spicy clove scent that fills the air.
The plant has an unusual mat of bluish-gray foliage that remains year round.
Its roots don't go too deeply into the soil, making it easy to transplant.

I found a very interesting article online
that describes some of the history of our variety of pinks.
According to the article "A Dianthus Primer"
by Rand B. Lee on,
this variety is dianthus plumarius, "Wild Pink."
Lee says wild pinks or "feathery pinks" were brought to Britain before the 16th century,
most likely by Crusaders returning from North Africa. His writing is very informative,
so here's a link to the whole article for those interested:

The origination of "pink" as a color term is no less mysterious.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
 the dianthus flower was probably called pink, not because of its color,
but because of its ragged, "pinked" edges. This supports
Lee's suggestion that the color term pink may have come
from the dianthus and not the other way around.

On the other hand, the term "pink" also could have been a lexical borrowing
from the Middle French, oillet pink, meaning small eye.
The dianthus flowers do have a small eye at their center.
 Or perhaps, as the Oxford English Dictionary also says,
the flower is called pink becasue of the Dutch pinck, meaning small.
An interesting Dutch phrase, pinck ooghen,
refers to half-closed eyes,
and may be responsible for the expression "in the wink of an eye,"
which was originally "in the pink of an eye."

Regardless of the etymology of the word, 
we treasure the "baby carnations" in our garden.

But we aren't the only ones.
Affection for this little flower has endured through the centuries.
The pink's sweetly perfumed blooms
 entice passersby, causing them to forget their tasks and linger awhile.
I think Jay Marston said it best in 1601:
I'le lay me downe upon a banke of Pinkes.**
  *1662 S. Pepys Diary 29 May (1970) III. 95, cited in Oxford English Dictionary
**1601 J. Marston et al. Iacke Drums Entertainm. i. sig. B3, cited in Oxford English Dictionary

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jasmine, Marshmallows, and other Sweet Things

My research into jasmine plants digressed  into jasmine as a food source.
And that is where I discovered a tenuous connection between jasmine and marshmallows.
It seems that jasmine syrup is a specialty in France. According to Monin,
a French company that has been making flavored syrups and drinks since 1912,
jasmine syrup is symbolic of "feminine sweetness and beauty."
The Monin web site also asserts that the scent of jasmine imparts
feelings of optimism and confidence.
They recommend adding the syrup to drinks like lemonade and tea.
But they don't say anything about marshmallows.
That little bit of information comes from the results of a search I did for "jasmine syrup."
And what did I find?
A gourmet foods company that sells a packaged mix
 for making jasmine marshmallows, flavored with French jasmine syrup, at home.
One website I found is selling handcrafted marshmallows
for $25 per pound. Another,  $12.00 for an even dozen.
Personally, I can't imagine loving marshmallows that much.
Using sugar syrup and gelatin to make marshmallows is a commercial recipe.
Before the modern age, marshmallows were always made
from the roots of marsh mallow plants.
But not just any marsh mallow; there are different varieties of them
and they don't all yield the sticky confection.

Hibiscus moscheutos is a marsh mallow, more commonly called a rose mallow
because of its rosy pink flowers.
It is native to the mid-Atlantic region along the Chesapeake Bay.
It grows about 4 to 5 feet tall and
looks very much like a hollyhock, to which it is related.
This is a stock photo of a hollyhock:

The "true" marsh mallow is an althea officinalis,
which is native from Massachusetts to Virginia.
This marsh mallow is usually pale pink or white with a pale pink throat.
I've never actually seen one growing in the marshes here in the Shire,
but I have seen them growing in low, wet ditches along roads.
It is the althea officinalis that is the source of marshmallows.  
It's pretty amazing that the common marshmallow
is originally a plant-based confection with a global history dating back centuries.
That's pretty sweet!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Confederate Jasmine

The Madison Confederate jasmine planted at my mailbox has flower buds! 
That may not seem to be a fact warranting an exclamation point,
but it is indeed a cause for celebration.
There has never been a vine with a more intoxicating and delicious perfume
than this jasmine, also known as star jasmine
because of its tiny star-shaped flowers.

Along with a lot of Southern gardeners, I thought because of the names
 "Madison" and "Confederate," this plant would be an old Virginia heirloom.
But it's not.
According to Deborah Green, contributor,
Madison refers to Madison, Georgia where the cold hardy cultivar was developed.
It doesn't refer to President James Madison,
whose home Montpelier is in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains;
nor does it refer to the confederacy of the Civil War.

Like the azalea and the wisteria,
jasmine is an Asian plant,
transplanted to the Middle East, then into Africa and beyond.
And the confederacy it refers to is in Malaysia, not here.

But with all the different varieties of jasmine, who wouldn't be confused?
I have two types growing near one another.
The first, the Madison Confederate  /  star jasmine,
trachelospermum jasminoides,
has overtaken the mailbox:

 and the flower bed around it.
 There used to be Bravo red chrysanthemums in there.

Just a few feet away, there is an Asian jasmine, trachelospermum asiaticum,
that turns out to be not a true jasmine.
It is as prolific as the star jasmine, but it doesn't bloom.
 The cheery little wings of its green leaves
belie its toughness. It is thick and tenacious.

My research turned up other jasmines:
Arabian jasmine, also called Sacred jasmine, jasminum sampac, is one.
As one may guess by now, the only thing Arabian about it is its name.
It's considered sacred in Indonesia where it is the national flower. According to,
Sacred jasmine has long been a wedding flower and a symbol of life there.

As I was reading, I wondered which one of the many jasmines
is the source for delicately fragrant jasmine tea, which I love.
That honor goes to Sacred jasmine. The best jasmine tea, made from jasminum sampac
 is said to come from Fujian province in China.
It's available in the US at most Asian markets.

I discovered some other interesting information during my research
that connected jasmine to marshmallows, of all things.
I'll write about that tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When April Rains Begin

Imagine an adage so old
that even a child from the mid-16th century would recognize it.
Here it is:

Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers

written by the English poet and gentleman farmer Thomas Tusser in his 1557 book
"A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, April Husbandry."*
Of course, since this is the 21st century, we say it a little differently.
More like this:

April showers bring May flowers.

Either way, the meaning is the same;
and the showers-flowers proverb is the first thing I think of when April rains begin.
So when a soft rain began to fall  in the wee hours of Sunday, 
I said the words to myself.
And again in early morning when the rain came down straight as a pin. 
And still again in the late afternoon
as I walked outdoors and the wind whipped the rain  in spirals around me.
And once more at dusk, when the rain fell in trickles and rivulets,
alternating with  fat pelting drops.
And I heard it whispering in my head again when the rain evaporated into a fine mist, 
leaving nothing but wet grass, puddles, and water-heavy leaves.

I like rain; I always have.
It renders grass and leaves a gorgeous emerald green and 
ebonizes tree trunks and branches.

It clears the dust and pollen, quenches the earth,
and what else?
Springs  May  flowers.

by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996), as cited in:


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dandelions and those who Love Them

My recent blog about dandelions sparked a number of responses from readers
who reported their own happy experiences with the ubiquitous yellow edible.

One such comment came from a dear friend of mine,
who once lived south of the Shire, then moved far north of it,
and eventually settled at the edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest,
 west of the Shire. Her dandelion story takes place in the north,
and she has allowed me to share it with you here. She writes:

"My view of that weed changed when we lived in Caribou.
Our first year, after surviving our first winter there, Spring was reluctant to arrive.
But the snowpack eventually gave way, and seemingly overnight, the vast expanses of
white gave way to golden yellow. I have never seen anything like it,
and was simply stunned that giant dandelions, with blossoms as big as silver dollars,
lay as far as one could see. ...
We suddenly realized
that there were these large black splotches here and there
across the expanse of yellow that were moving!
Turned out to be BEARS, blissfully rolling in the dandelions,
biting mouthfuls, snorting, and obviously so very happy to be alive
and feasting on such an abundant treat.
Bigger black splotches turned out to be moose,
also gorging on the weed with obvious pleasure."

She recorded the scene with 8mm film,
but it's not been converted to the newer formats.
So I thought I would see if there was any video
of bears and moose lolling among dandelions.
And in fact, I found 3 videos chronicling various wildlife's dandelion-affection. 

The first is a goldfinch eating dried dandelion seeds:

And here's a baby bunny eating a yellow dandelion for lunch:

And finally, a black bear demonstrating its rite of spring, Caribou style:

Many other videos showed dandelions being eaten. 
Here is a "you tube-filmography" of animals enjoying this taste of spring:
ground hogs, 
guinea pigs,
and elephants.
But unfortunately, no moose.
We'll have to use our imaginations for that one.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Curious Case of the Fallen Figs

I was outside yesterday because the weather had finally changed
from cool and cloudy to warm and sunny.
So I walked over by the fig tree to see if the leaves had unfurled.
And they had:

Fig leaves are without a doubt the largest leaf I have ever seen on a tree;
no wonder they are mentioned in Genesis.

But while I was admiring the leaves,
I also noticed the nascent green figlets had shrunken
 into tiny blackened withers.
I reached up to touch one and it came off in my hand.
And then another fell and then another.
I picked them up and brought them indoors:

I took a stroll later and observed that my neighbor's figs are getting plumper,
in contrast to mine which are drying up and falling off.
 Either the recent dry weather has had an ill effect on my small tree
or its pitiful specimens are an example of a "breva" crop,
the first crop that grows in spring on old growth.
The second fruit crop follows later in the summer on new growth.
However, I can't say with authority this is the cause of the figs' condition
since in past years I never gave the fig tree much attention, 
unless I was plucking ripe figs off and savoring their sweetness.
I hope a new crop forms. But if it doesn't,
at least the delicious fig perfume still permeates the tree.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Juniperus Virginiana

Although I have lived here for decades,
I wasn't born in the Shire,
making me a "come-here" to the local folk.
Even so, part of me always knew I was a Virginian,
 misplaced from my real home by an accident of birth.
From my childhood paintings of old mansion houses
surrounded by azaleas and live oaks,
to my affection for the melodic 19th century songs about Virginia,
my heart was here even before I knew it.

So imagine my interest
when I discovered a tiny bit of "Virginia" had come to find me first.
Decades and decades before I was born,
a cedar tree took root and grew a few yards
from what would become my childhood home.
Not just any cedar tree, a juniperus virginiana Eastern red cedar tree.
It stood watch at the edge of our lane like a sentry: still, stately, and stock straight.
I always enjoyed the redolent fragrance of the cedar,
the tiny blue berries on its silver-gray foliage, its shaggy ridged bark.

This reminiscence about our old cedar tree was sparked
by a recent visit to the Arboretum,
where two beautiful Eastern Red cedars stand side-by-side.

Then, coincidentally, when I was driving home one day,
I noticed another towering cedar: 

 Its trunk, with its deep ridges, is particularly fascinating:

 And this last photo is my favorite. The afternoon light gives it
a warm, cinnamon-y quality and accentuates the shadows,
making the greenery and cedar trunk look somewhat magical.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Walk in the Shire

Yesterday at the end of a very, very long day,
my dearest and I decided to go for a walk
to see if the nesting goose was still there.

We saw two noisy geese on a lawn just before we got to its nesting area.
They flew off low over our heads, so we thought they might be headed to the nest.
But no one was there.

But our walk yielded some surprises.
Last week I had searched everywhere for yellow iris and found none.
This week I discovered a cluster of them, where?
In my neighbor's yard right behind my house.
I'm pretty sure there's a life lesson in there somewhere.

Another surprise was our discovery
of wild blackberries growing along the marsh.

And along our way, beautiful clematis in flower.
There were so many planted under mail box posts,
I wondered if they weren't symbolic of  messages or greetings.
They are called Traveler's Joy in Europe,
and they certainly did brighten our walk.

Finally we turned the corner for home and
passed under this plaque on one of the obelisks:

It is a quote by Van Dyke: 
 My heart is turning home again and there I long to be.

It's a pleasant way to end a walk in the Shire.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Wild Crossvine

Each spring here in the Shire,
a mysterious plant blooms high in one of our oak trees.
We had given little notice to the woody vine
that wrapped around the oak tree's trunk,
until one day we noticed a cluster of yellow and red flowers
co-mingled with the tender oak leaves.

What is that, we wondered.
Some kind of exotic swamp orchid? A trumpet vine, perhaps?
We didn't know, and didn't particularly feel the need to find out,
so we didn't. We referred to it as "our orchid."

For years we've been content to mark the flowers' arrival each spring
with a sense of wonder and satisfaction at the vine's reliable continuity,
but then to pay it scant attention
beyond sweeping up its spent blossoms from the deck.
For a long time, we considered ourselves to be the keepers
of a horticultural secret.
We did think our flowering vine was special and rare--
one of those gifts of nature
that not everyone has the good fortune to share.
Except last spring I happened by a vacant lot in Norfolk,
only to find our exotic rare flower smothering a rather sad chain-link fence
along a weedy, crumbling expanse of concrete.
So it turned out we weren't the only ones to experience it.
But it didn't diminish our sense of wonder
that it appeared in our oak tree every spring.

This year, I decided to find out its proper name.
It's not an orchid, not a trumpet vine.
It's a wild crossvine, bignonia capreolata,
said to have a rather pleasant chocolate scent.  
Although we've never climbed the 30 feet to find out for ourselves,
we did pick up a fallen blossom to see if we could discern an aroma of chocolate.
And they do smell like sweet chocolate--quite delicious, actually.
And the reason for its name?
When the vine is cut, there is supposed to be an image of a cross inside.

And there is a bit of folklore that goes with the wild crossvine.
According to the 18th century naturalist William Bartram,
the Cherokee Indians boiled the sweet-tasting crossvine and sassafrass root in beer
and drank it as a tonic (source: 
Sounds like an interesting beverage,
but I'll let knowing its name be the extent of my knowledge.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Secret Life of Dandelions

Every spring dandelions reappear in my part of the Shire
as they do in many places.
They pop up in cultivated lawns and along untended city streets alike.

While some people appreciate the dandelion's yellow flowers,
it seems more people plot their extinction,
not realizing that  dandelions are more than just a lawn weed.

There is something compelling about dandelions.
From the bright yellow head
to its jagged, serrated leaves and
the tap root that defies half-hearted attempts at removal,
the dandelion persists. 
Its survival is ensured with every puff of air
that sets loose hundreds of tufted white seeds.
But dandelions do more than proliferate,
for they have a secret life as a wild edible.

I have a small collection of herb books, and they all describe
dandelion leaves as a delicious salad green. But there are other uses.
According to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs,
prescriptive uses for dandelions are described
in Persian texts as early as the 10th century. Decoctions of the root
were used to treat anemia and diabetes and to tonify the liver.
Dried and ground, the roots are still used as a coffee substitute the way chicory is.
And dandelion wine has been made from the flowers for centuries.
Rodale's also advises that the flowers can be steeped in herb vinegar
or minced and added to butter
to give both a deeper yellow color.

But one use none of my books mention is a recipe I came across
years ago printed in a newspaper; I don't remember the source.
It is a recipe for dandelion pancakes.

I have always thought about making some,
especially since I'm from a family of pancake lovers.
But two things dissuade me:
First, childhood attempts at splitting bitter dandelion stems
and then using them as a whistle makes me wary of  meeting
that astringent flavor again in something as sacrosanct
as a Sunday morning pancake. 
And I don't want to go to all the trouble of making pancakes
fancied with bright dandelion blossoms
only to find they are unpalatable and, therefore, inedible.
Second, I'm concerned that any dandelions
I would pick here may have been previously doused
with some noxious lawn chemical.

But I'm including the recipe here
for any soul brave enough to take on the challenge.

Dandelion-Blossom Pancakes

Combine 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Add together 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter
and stir into dry ingredients. 
Add 1 cup of dandelion blossoms and mix well.

This recipes suggests serving the pancakes with yogurt and jam.
But I think having dandelions in one's pancakes is adventure enough.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Beyond the Fence

As I was leaving the arboretum last week,
I saw something that caused me to turn around and go back.
On the arboretum's east side,
along a wide stretch of asphalt and concrete,
ran a length of pristine fence.
And through its white pickets, rose-colored heads of tall phlox had grown.
 I thought the scene was evocative
of the metaphorical poem by Helen Steiner Rice,
the inspirational one that describes a rose growing through a crevice in a garden wall
in order to bask in the warm sun on the other side. 

When I saw this next photo,
I thought the lower part of the fence was reminiscent of
 the white keys on a piano keyboard
with its interplay of light and dark.

When I arrived home I decided to find out more about tall phlox,
and I came across an interesting bit of information
about a recent cultivar ironically called the Franz Schubert phlox,
named so by the late British horticulturist Alan Bloom
 because Schubert was his favorite composer.
(This according to the Blooms of Bressington website.)

If anyone has ever taken piano lessons,
they have probably played a composition by Schubert.
His music is very melodic and hauntingly beautiful.
His version of Ave Maria is just breathtaking,
so I decided to include it here.
Once you hear it, you will never forget it.
This recording is a little over six minutes long.
While you listen to it, close your eyes and
imagine the rosey phlox growing beyond the fence
in search of the warm sun.

 If the link doesn't work, go to
and type in the search words Schubert - Ave Maria (Opera);
or copy and paste the link above into your browser.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Pecan Grove

I have always loved trees.
When I was a child, I climbed them during spring and summer.
I particularly loved a small cherry tree that stood
in an old orchard near our house.
I also loved a grove of stately old pecan trees
growing in a low area near the river that meandered south of our place.

So when I went to the Arboretum this week,
I was delighted to rediscover the small pecan grove there.

The pecan tree's bark is brownish gray and rough,
and its branches spread high and wide across the sky.

Standing in their shadows reminds me of the first line
in Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata":
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
These pecan trees quietly abide.
Perhaps that is the secret of their tranquility.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

At the Arboretum

During one afternoon this week, I was able to spend a brief interval
at the Chesapeake Arboretum.
Usually my husband and I hike the nature trails there.
I like them because they wind through more than 40 acres
of a thick hardwood forest that has been preserved
in the midst of suburbia. 
But there is another part of the Arboretum to explore--
the varied landscape around the original farm.

There is an old house there which,
according to the web site,
was built in the 1700s. The addition visible in this photo
probably dates to the mid 19th or early 20th century:

A  garden full of pink roses and other plantings
soften the hard edges of the house:

Cheerful flowers are planted around trees:

And a mature lilac shrub is just beginning to flower:

Here's a close-up of one fragrant blossom:

Further out from the house, there's a relic from another time:

But there's more to see.
I'll show you my favorite part of the grounds tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watching the Fig Tree: A Spring Update

With warm weather and longer days, our fig is finally opening its leaves.
And they are growing larger everyday.

Here's what it looks like this week:

This photo shows some of the leaves still slightly curled, but nearly opened. 

Even so, being a young tree and planted at the edge of the wood means
our fig lacks the bravado of its neighboring figs.

Here's one that belongs to a neighbor;
this tree is sturdy and full:

The figs are just slightly larger than the ones on our tree though:

Here is a much larger fig that grows at the Chesapeake Arboretum:

It's still coming into full leaf because, like ours,
it's near a canopy of large trees.
Even so, by summer it will form a nearly impenetrable wall of green,
squirrels will perch in its branches and savor its juicy figs,
and turtles will nibble on the fruit that drops to the ground.
And if we're fortunate, our small tree will bear a few edible figs itself.