Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brambly Fence

When the wild blackberries bloom, they cannot keep secret their genealogy. These untamed cousins of the garden rose may have smaller blossoms but they retain their ancient arsenal of deadly little thorns. Almost overnight, one section of the picket fence across the street was overtaken by brambles. What a perfect set of design contrasts: the orderly white pickets and the organic, near-chaos of the flower clusters and leaves tumbling over and through the fence. That was days ago. The blooms have faded, leaving green leaves and of course the prickly stems. I hope my neighbors won't notice so that we can witness the remaining stages as the brambles set fruit. I will look, but I don't dare touch.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fence Roses

Although June is the month that claims the rose as its symbolic flower, May is when they bloom here in Virginia. We are in the midst of the most glorious show in years, thanks to our rainy spring. Roses have vigorously conquered every trellis. They have draped themselves across fences in solid thorny blankets laden down with bright clusters. I am especially fond of the humbler roses, those with a closer resemblance to their wild ancestors. Most of them flower only once. On a gray morning, I trotted down the street to visit a favorite "fence rose." I love the way the petals shade from white to pink, setting off he golden centers. My feet got soggy as I stood in the tall grass and admired the way the raindrops had settled on each petal and leaf. Yes, May is definitely my month of roses.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Perennial Cornflowers

A large clump of perennial cornflowers is blooming on the corner of a quiet street. They tumble over the curb and poke through the sturdy iron fence that edges the yard. Unlike their wild cousins, the foliage is lush but the blooms are fragile, almost feathery with centers that remind me of pincushions. Looking straight down at them, I see a perfect example of radial symmetry. Each overlapping whorl of leaves leads my eye out and yet also draws me back in to the blossom. Blue, violet, black and white, the blossoms spread out in their own dance, one that is more delicate, but in harmony with the symmetry of the leaves

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hidcote Peonies

It has rained at least part of the time during each of the past eight days. All over the neighborhood, peonies fairly bristle with buds, round balls on straight stems sticking up from among the leaves, ready to burst open. Our spate of "English weather" made me think of another May day, spent at Hidcote, a magnificent garden in the Cotswolds. We wandered into the Pillar Garden, where the walkways were lined with peonies. The sun shining through the petals made the peonies look as if they were lit from within. This week I will take a morning walk and enjoy my neighbors' more modest gardens graced with peonies as beautiful as those in an illustrious English garden.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

London Laburnum

On an overcast day in May, we walked down a quiet London street. A row of laburnum trees lined the sidewalk. Long chains of blossoms exactly the color of lemon peels swung delicately in the breeze. What a dramatic contrast to the almost-black branches! I had never seen a laburnum in person. To be surrounded by such an exuberance of yellow was almost more than I could absorb. We stood there and looked and tried to take in the wonder of it. Ever since that day, this is what comes into my head when I think of yellow.