And yet the tulips are still at their peak.
After temperatures in the 80s Fahrenheit, a couple of nights ago it snowed at the higher elevations while we received over three inches of rain in two days. I find this fascinating. Why? Because I’m stuck under it. This is all the weather I have. Animals and plants of course live out in it the whole time, so to a squirrel or a tree this is not so much weather as it is reality.
Snow on the Blue Ridge, April 15, 2020.
The conical hill in the center right of the photo above is Buck Mountain. The ridge in back is Bear Den Mountain. Our view of sunset on the Summer Solstice is along that ridge. My son Ted and I, several years ago, used an actual solstice sunset to calibrate the first scientific device either of us had ever actually built, a solstice-pointer with an extremely precise heel stone. We did not invent this. We used a proven and reliable public-domain design for it.
It’s a little unpolished, but it absolutely works!
In our upland garden, the roses and bearded irises are thinking about blooming simultaneously, which is two weeks early for both of them. The 80-degree days set their clocks off. They have to bloom. And yet, despite the unseasonable cold, even Mother Nature cannot fool lilacs. When the lilacs bud out, there is not going to be another frost after that. No idea how the lilacs know. We ourselves only know this local lore because of generations of observation passed down as a legacy that once actually meant something when people around here mostly lived by farming. Back in the day.
And yet the tulips are still at their peak.
Wild Tulipa clusiana.
Why an early wild tulip would bloom at the same time as a Chinese peony is something to ask the lilacs about.
.Just above, I remarked that some roses were contemplating bloom. Don’t know why I said that; the yellow Banksia wild rose along our abandoned lane is one huge puff of bloom. It usually blooms around May Day so it too is a couple of weeks early.
Yellow “Lady Banks” Rose.
Banksia, a native of Western and Central China, has been cultivated there for many hundreds of years or even longer. The wild form is a single with five petals per bloom, and the fragrant cultivated version is a double, as the picture shows. The English botanist J. D. Parks purchased the yellow Lady Banks rose in a nursery in China in 1824 and brought it back to Europe aboard the ship Lowther Castle, part of a celebrated haul of Chinese garden plants, shrubs and trees. Lady Banks falls somewhere between shrub and small tree, a formidable plant.
The least demanding rose I know of.
Bridalwreath Spirea (Spirea prunifolia) complements Lady Banks.
Along the abandoned lane.
Gardening is delving and toting, transforming our lives into Weed Bug Hell and living out God’s notorious warning, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” We did not really need God to tell us that; our grandfathers told us that much, as they heard from their grandfathers and the grandfathers before them. There is a long tradition of comparing gardens and Edens and using gardens as metaphors for divine encounters, but to those who actually make gardens, Jeremiah 12:2 is actually more like it: “Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.” Of course Jeremiah was having a Jeremiad and speaking of the wicked specifically, not plants; “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?” (Jeremiah 12:1). But the gardener who has knuckled at Ragweed in the mud "knoweth" the answer and finds weeds wicked. Why are weeds wicked? Because they interfere with our Paradise, when all we really want is to let our tulips speak for us.
Oh were my tulips to speak!
Gary Dale Mawyer has been writing for over four decades, and to date has published four novels, Rockfish, The Southern Skylark, Exemptions, and The Adventures of Reese Macaque, P.I., as well as a biographical history, Sergeant Wolinski and the Great War, and a short story collection, Dark and Other Stories. Gary's writings draw on a wealth of history, lore and lived experience. He has a B.A. and an M.F.A. from the University of Virginia. Gary is a Central Virginia native with over 40 years of publishing and editing experience. His interests include American and Virginia history, military history, geology, hiking, travel, landscaping and gardening. He is the father of four grown children and has four grandchildren. He lives with his wife Karen and two cats in Albemarle County.
Sites I like