Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Virginia in Spring

This time of year, all of Tidewater becomes a garden.
Flowering trees and shrubs fill the vivid green landscape 
with swaths of vibrant color.
I think there's nothing more lovely than spring here in Virginia.

Here's a breathtaking garden in the north part of the state:

This one is from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens:

And home sweet home:

To live with the flowers each spring...what more could we ask for?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Showers

Yesterday and today have been cool, cloudy, and gray.
Thunder and rain have prevailed.
However, everything has turned the most exquisite shade of spring green
because of the moisture.

So here finally are the April showers 
we have come to expect.

The issue here is that we expected 
April showers would have arrived--and departed--
earlier than a couple of days before May.
Better late than never?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bridal Wreath Spirea

I've  mentioned in this blog before
that my grandparents' house was surrounded on three sides
by bridal wreath spirea.
Their house was painted a crisp white with a sky blue roof,
so when in bloom, the spirea gave the whole place an unequaled charm.

I thought of my grandparents' spirea after seeing a magnificent one in bloom
in our neighborhood yesterday.
Funny how an image can  instantaneously transport us back to an earlier time.

If I ever live on a sunny plot of land again,
I will surround my house with flowering shrubs,
and I'll save at least one spot 
for a bridal wreath spirea.
For old time's sake, of course.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Snowball Bushes

Today we went walking around the neighborhood 
since it was such a beautiful April day.
And I was pleasantly surprised to see 
a snowball viburnum, laden with round white flower heads.

There were so many flowers, 
the whole shrub bowed down under their weight.
Such are the riches of spring.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pink Creeping Phlox

Rain and thunderstorms last night
gave way to a perfect April day today.
The rain must have been good for the wildflowers,
for it seemed that everywhere I looked 
there were masses of buttercups and creeping pink phlox.

There just isn't enough sun around my house for "moss pinks"
to thrive, but it's a treat to see them carpeting medians and meadows
around the Shire. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Maple Seedlings

This time of year,
the trees let fly all manner of seeds 
to ensure their species survive and grow.
They release so many that there are plenty to spare;
the extras litter the ground, mess up decking,
and clog old-fashioned gutters.
Everyone you look there are catkins, 
strings with thousands of tiny seeds that pop off
at the slightest provocation, 
infinitesimally tiny denuded pine cones
and maple seedlings.

The messiness of maple seedlings I can forgive
because they spin to the ground with such energy,
delighting in their release to the waiting arms of spring.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


To see a world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.

Beautiful spring weather today
brought out fields of buttercups.
I love the way they look,
so golden in the sunshine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An April Day

Yesterday, 80+ degrees and we all luxuriated in a preview of summer.
Today, cool winds under blue skies.
That is capricious April, isn't it?


Robert Frost captured the fickle nature of April well
when he wrote:
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Acknowledging the mystery of wisteria,
the 18th century Japanese poet Yosa Buson once wrote:

In pale moonlight
the wisteria's scent
comes from far away.

Here in the Shire, just before Easter,
the dusky lavender wisteria began to bloom.
Cascades and waterfalls of pale purple 
spill over trees and shrubs along the roads,
and for a time, we will drive past a tangled wall of violet.
But in the still of night, if you are standing in the right place,
its delicate perfume will encircle you.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday after Easter

Although the weather has been gray and cloudy
for a few days, today is sunny.
The added light makes all the flowers in the neighborhood extra lovely.
From my home office window, I'm fortunate enough to see 
 a lush yellow Lady Banks Rose, like this one:

Photo credit: S. G. Rager, 2008 via 

and a pink dogwood, and one of my most favorite trees:
a sweet bay magnolia about to produce its white, lemony sweet blossoms.
Blue Monday?
Not here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Lily

Happy Easter 2014!

Easter is a special spring holiday,
a quiet celebration of rebirth in all its forms.
This time of  year, Easter lilies are a favorite decorative choice.
And I've often wondered about the symbolism of the white lily at Easter.

According to an article in The Edmonton Sun,
white lilies are said to have sprung up on Mount Gethsemane,
where Jesus wept and prayed before his betrayal by Judas.
Therefore, white lilies are said to symbolize hope, peace, and the renewal of life.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dyeing Easter Eggs

I've always loved dyeing Easter eggs.
But I generally stick with the Paas dye tablets.
No wax, no stickers. Just the dyed eggs. 
Of course, a lot of people get more elaborate.

These are charming. They remind me of tissue paper:

These eggs have a Polish "Wycinanki" design 
(the art of intricately cut paper).
It makes a beautiful Easter egg:

These show off a bit of country charm:

I think these are my favorites. I love the flowers and the bright colors:

Beautifully decorated eggs,
the symbol for new life.
One of the best parts of Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Trees

In recent years, people have not been content
to leave decorating trees confined to the Christmas holiday season.
Whether outdoor or artificial,
decorated trees have become a creative opportunity
for Halloween, Valentine's Day, and now Easter.

Can you imagine taking the time to hang over 9,000 easter eggs in an apple tree?
Christa and Volker Kraft don't hold back 
when the urge to decorate for Easter takes over:

Here's another view of a Christa and Volker decorated egg tree.

These next ones don't elicit the same kind of awe and wonder as the Krafts' trees,
but I love the simplicity of these:

Here's a designer's take:

Finally, there is the Christmas tree shape:

You knew somebody was going to do it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Table Decorations

My mother's family always celebrated Easter Sunday with a breakfast
--a tradition that dated back to the early 1880s
when my great grandparents immigrated from Germany. 
My grandmother always decorated the Easter table with a white table cloth
and a large glass bowl filled with dyed Easter eggs.
I'm curious to see how people decorate their Easter tables nowadays.
It seems decorations are more elaborate than in my grandmother's day.
Here are a few from around the internet:

I have to admit, a blue Easter table is something I never thought of:

How about a vigorous carrot orange for all the bunny lovers out there?

I have to confess, when it comes to Easter,
I still prefer the bright pastels like this pink centerpiece:

Or this, which I think is my favorite:

If you don't have time for an elaborate table decoration,
there's always time to pull off a little napkin art,
like this napkin bunny from Ingrid Brown Interior Design:


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Wreaths

I always like to see the different ways
that people decorate their doors with wreaths.
This time of year, a lot of doors
become the backdrop for wreaths and garlands with an Easter theme.

There are bunny wreaths:

and  wreaths of bunnies:

And some wreaths with bunnies 
tucked in the shelter of their curve:

Not to mention wreaths of colorful Easter eggs:

All designed to greet guests
--and Easter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Crafts

Easter arrives this weekend,
so I thought it would be fun to see 
how others are celebrating the holiday.
I thought I'd start with Easter crafts.
After a brief perusal of Google images,
there appear to be two stars of the Easter craft show:
bunnies and chicks.

They show up in all kinds of craft projects, 
which seem to focus primarily on utilizing drinking cups: 

and paper plates:

I'm sure there are more sophisticated Easter crafts out there,
but probably not as much fun.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Carolina Jessamine

Early every spring, I like to walk the nature trails nearby
and see if I can find the first of the Carolina jessamine winding through the trees.
Ordinarily, the blooming jessamine is the first sign of spring here.

But this year I got busy and didn't go out.
And I assumed I had missed the bright yellow trumpet-shaped blossoms.
But not so.
Like a lot of plants this spring, it was just delayed.

This afternoon I took a break from work to walk outside.
And to my delight, I saw a few of the five-petal flowers on the ground.
They smell so sweet, a little like talcum powder.
Yellow Carolina Jessamine blossoms against a sky of Carolina blue.
Another nice thing about spring--
whenever it arrives.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dame's Rocket Wildflower

While driving around the Shire today,
I spied a small meadow full of dame's rocket wildflowers.

It's always a lovely surprise to find a field of tall purple rocket.
Another nice thing about spring.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Edible Violets

Just a week ago,
one shy violet peeked out from beneath its green leaf.
Today, there are dozens of purple violets standing on slender green stalks.
There are more  this spring than I've ever had, 
and since they are supposed to be edible,
 I've been tempted to "harvest" a few
to try some recipes.

I found recipes for violet syrup,
violet sugar,
sugared violets,
violet vinegar,
and violet tea made from the leaves.
Apparently both leaves and flowers are edible, 
so I can also make a violet salad.

And yet ...
I think I'd rather look out my kitchen window for a few more days
and see dozens of purple violets instead of  
picking them and eating them up.
But I keep thinking how lovely sugared violets would be 
on a white-frosted Easter cake.
Stay tuned ...

Friday, April 11, 2014

A New Leaf

This spring, I observed the emerging leaves.
It's interesting that spring-green leaves
begin as tiny burgundy red buds.
Then they turn a rusty orange.
And the pale rust of orange evolves into a light yellow gold.

And then, warm temperatures and longer light
turn them into the palest of spring green.
And that's where we are today.
Tender green leaves coloring the trees.
A new leaf...the most recent pleasure of spring.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


A Dandelion by any other Name

As I was driving home today,
I noticed the lawns and grassy medians 
were filled with bright yellow dandelions.
I know some people regard them as weeds,
but to me they are a beautiful little flower available for the picking.

Dandelions have been around for hundreds of years,
and in that time, they have accumulated
some pretty interesting nicknames.*
For example: 
Blowball, cankerwort, and cochet, which means young chick.
Also lion's teeth, swine snout, and wild endive.
To some, it's exalted as priest's crown.
To others, the more vulgar pisse au lit, 
which to put it in polite terms means urine on the bed.
Then there's also Pu Gong Ying in Chinese.
I don't know the literal translation, but given the latter French example,
perhaps it's better not to know.

One term that I thought sounded very romantic,
but which in reality is less so is salade de taupe.
And while salade de does mean salad of, 
  taupe in French has two meanings:
 tawny gray-tan color 
and vole.
Those darn voles again. 
Even the dandelions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Azalea Gardens

I'm sure they have azaleas in other parts of the country,
but I was never aware of them until I moved to Virginia.
Since azaleas love acid soil and the shelter of pine trees,
they are happy growers here. 

Norfolk Botanical Gardens from

Azaleas are prolific bloomers and ubiquitous--you see them everywhere.
They are so popular here that Norfolk 
used to have an Azalea Festival every April.
Along with a lot of people,
I was really happy to see the first azalea blooms popping out this week.
Another good thing about spring in the Shire!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dogwood Trees

It's Dogwood Time 

When Joyce Kilmer wrote
 that he had never seen a poem as lovely as a tree,
he must have been  referring to a dogwood in full bloom.
I noticed today that the dogwoods around my part of the Shire 
are loaded with blooms.

The early flowers are still a rich yellow cream color,
but with another day or two of good weather,
they will turn pure white.
And other dogwood trees will show off blossoms of pink.
I can't wait.

Monday, April 7, 2014

April Showers

Sometimes rain arrives at just the right time.
The dreaded yellow pollen has just begun to sift out of the trees
and this rainy Monday helped clear the air.
This evening with the windows open,
the air smelled so fresh; 
and the first chorus of summer insects
softly serenaded from outside.

The sunset was the most exquisite blend of violet and pink,
and the blooming redbud trees provided the perfect counterpoint.
It would appear that today's April showers have washed the rest of winter away,

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tulips for Spring

I love tulips. 
In the past I've grown black ones like this:

And pink and white striped ones like these:

But as much as I like them, 
 I don't plant tulips anymore
 because the voles 
that tunnel secretly underground
think I have planted the bulbs
for their dining pleasure.
Theoretically, I should be able to plant them in a vole-proof pot like this:

In reality, the ones I grow in pots
never look as good as the ones you see in photos.
They end up with pale foliage or blossoms that unfold too quickly 
and blow away with the first gust of wind.
Somewhere, a few voles are having a good laugh at my expense.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Violets in Spring

While flowering trees and shrubs make a huge show
of their gifts, the first violet of spring appears with humility.
This morning, one perfect purple violet appeared 
amidst the deep green leaves in my planter box.
It makes looking out the kitchen window a treat.

Sometimes the simple joys are the best.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Signs of Spring: Cherry Blossoms and Flowering Quince

This week has brought warm temperatures and sunny days.
Consequently, all the blossoms on the flowering trees and shrubs
have begun to emerge from their hiding places. 
One morning earlier this week, I passed by a house in my neighborhood
that has cherry trees planted in front. No blooms.
But when I drove past it later that day, blooms.
Spring had worked its magic.

And this afternoon, I noticed flowering quince 
blooming in front of a house not far from here.
I love the bright orangey-rose blossoms:

Could there be anything more lovely than flowers in spring?