Sunday, May 29, 2011

English Rose

A spell of unusually warm weather made everything in the U.K. bloom about three weeks early this spring. The bluebells had come and gone but we reveled in the roses, already in full bloom in sunny spots. Roses are a part of English history. Images of the Lancaster and York roses abound. A beautiful young woman with a specific kind of delicate beauty is often described as an English Rose. I found this particular English rose climbing up a sheltered wall in the Oxford Botanic Garden. Pale blossoms, pale wall, curving canes entwined with ivy---it speaks to me of ages past and delicacy and a sense of place. This is my English Rose.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garden Arbor

It has been ten years since I first visited Kelmscott Manor, the country home of William Morris, in rural Oxfordshire, England. Here I stood, once again, under the twig arbor that shelters the main walkway in the walled garden. Iris and columbine in every shade and tint from white to lavender to deep purple stood in little crowds, scattering petals on the stones. Climbing vines, arching grasses, lines of moss, each claimed its own shade of green. The stone walk, stone wall and worn wooden door quietly mingled in a neutral browny-gray harmony, setting off the purples. Yes, I do understand why William Morris found this place to be an endless source of inspiration.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Paddle Punts

Oxford, England is known for its colleges. I have a lingering fantasy of what my life might have been like as a student there. I would learn to navigate a bike over cobblestones, study ancient manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and drift down the river in a punt, one of the small boats steered by a pole. Last week I walked along the Cherwell River early in the morning. Two guys were wrangling the punts, getting them ready for the day. At the back of the flotilla were some brightly colored ones. They were "paddle punts," Similar to the little boats you can rent on any lake. Traditional punts are notoriously hard to steer. Perhaps these punts are the equivalent of a bike with training wheels. I’m game!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blue Hydrangeas

Potted hydrangeas usually appear, along with the lilies, around Easter time, but they come into their own as Mother's Day approaches. Outside of the grocery store, a crowd of hydrangeas sat on ascending shelves, set up like bleachers at a ball game. Swaddled in purple paper, they were an arresting sight. Shoppers stopped for a moment, in spite of the chill and drizzle, to enjoy the colors. Every shade that could possibly be mixed from the blue-to-violet end of the spectrum was represented. Can you ever go wrong with an analogous color combination, those hues that are friends living next to each other on the color wheel? I don't think so.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pink Blossoms

The Japanese cherries have leafed out but the pinks and whites of redbuds, crabapples and dogwoods now punctuate the fresh greens of the trees. Most spectacular are the later-blooming cherries, which don't pretend to have the delicate, minimal elegance of their Japanese cousins. Flowers and leaves share space on the same branch, green mixing with shades of pink that run from shy to bold. Last week, the branches were so laden with flowers, packed tight with dozens of petals, that they almost touched the ground. The wind catches the petals. They scatter all over the neighborhood and gather along the edges of streets and fences. When it rains, they collect in damp carpets under the trees, the last of the confetti remaining from the celebration we call Spring.