Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cherry blossom time

Tidal Basin view, 2011

Growing up near the nation's capital, cherry blossoms were the joyful harbinger of spring. Even though the trees encircling the Tidal Basin are the best known blooms, there are masses planted throughout the area.

By the Basin, 2011

With these other trees, you could celebrate your own private cherry blossom festival: flowering branches arched over the sidewalk on the way to school, trees lined the streets of a nearby community, and a specimen brightened the backyard. If you climbed to the top of a tree in bloom, you would find yourself floating on a frothy pink sea. The fallen petals could be tossed like confetti.

Somerset Elementary School, Chevy Chase, 1998

It felt like old times to catch a glimpse of these pink flowers on a recent trip to Washington.  But then, on returning home to Massachusetts, I realized that I keep a reminder of a mid-century Maryland childhood on the walls and in the curtains of my bedroom and master bath. These cherry trees are always in bloom . . . and, marvel of nature, fruiting at the same time!

Schumacher and Co. cherries

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring, snow and ice

On this first day of spring, the little hillside behind our house is still harboring a few patches of snow. A line of hemlocks and a spirea hedge shields this area from sun and wind. A few bulbs have started to poke up through the frozen crust. I'm betting that these pale chartreuse leaves belong to the appropriately-named "Ice King" daffodil.

Across the yard, snowdrops blanket a sunny slope. Now, this looks like spring!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Defense in depth

Back in the day, when I was struggling with the Spartan children model of British university education, typologies of crossbow brooches, and living quarters warmed by a single coin-operated electric heater, I ran across Edward Luttwak's provocative book, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century AD to the Third.  The basic thesis of this book was that by the fourth century, the Roman army had abandoned a forward defense along its imperial frontier and instead employed a military strategy called "defense in depth." This involved delaying barbarian attacks, in part by dotting the countryside with minor forts.  (Remember that opening battle scene in Gladiator? Those guys weren't interested in stopping for anything.)

I'm implementing my horticultural version of defense in depth here.  To combat these last days of winter, flowering plants are being forced throughout the house.  Those springs of forsythia last month are leafing and flowering in the living room.

A big tray of L'Innocence and Gipsy Queen hyacinths is set out on the dining room sideboard.

Last weekend, all the amaryllises were removed from their refrigerator dormancy, potted up, labelled, and stuck in an upstairs bedroom window.  The radiator should provide some warmth from below and spring should bring in more sunlight through this south-facing window.  Here's hoping!

And always, and on any spare surface, there are Ziva paperwhites.  And more Ziva bulbs tucked away in a cool dark closet, waiting for their roots to form before being brought out into the light.

I know that my side is going to win.  Eventually.