Spring has arrived and brought with it renewed life all over the farm. The birds are very busy gathering nesting material and laying eggs. The land is slowly but inexorably turning green. The buds arrive and create a feeling of Manet- the images are soft and blurry. I could imagine Manet painting the landscapes that I see all around me. How I wish I could paint, instead I capture what I can through thoughts, pen, paper and camera.
Spring is my favourite time of year especially after a long winter on a farm. The gentle increase in temperature and the gradual greening warms my heart and is a visual treat. Glorious weather… it is wonderful to be alive and to see the world explode first with green – and then with wild flowers and perennials planted by all those faithful and hopeful gardeners that I thank from the bottom of my heart for enriching the beauty of the landscape. various shades of yellow, purples, pinks blossoms. Spring is the time for Blossoms, Birds and Bees…. Single bird calls become a day time chorus and at night time the spring peepers serenade me. Individual flowers emerge and bloom and become a varied sea or tapestry of colors and scents. Nothing smells so sweet as lilacs or lily of the valleys or the subtle apple blossoms that the bees swarm to.
The real gift to me is this gentle few weeks when I do not feel the pressure to prepare the soil beds, to design the garden, to head to the garden centers and to figure out why my seedlings didn’t take. I can stroll about the property and just enjoy the arrival of the sounds and sights and scents of Spring and the joys of lawns dotted with yellow dandelions
For me it is a time of flooding memories. I grew up in a part of Toronto called Rosedale. It was a charming architectural place filled with enormous brick homes that held large families. The streets were full of flowering and fruiting trees and gardens held many delicious secrets.My love of the natural world and its embedded jewels was seeded in my early childhood. My mothered adored pussy willows,lilacs and lily of the valley.
We never had much of a garden as my mother was preoccupied with running the household of a family of ten. When my father chopped down her beloved lilac tree it was one of the few times I saw her cry. I remember thinking I was going to have to find another way to get on the garage roof and a way to find lilacs for mamma.
It is this time of year, May that brings back so many memories for me. The streets of Rosedale were lined with lilacs, forsythia, spirea, magnolia and crab apples. The chestnut trees in Chorley Park were bursting with pink flowers- I was already imagining returning in the fall to climb the wide and chunky speckled limbs to gather the glistening chestnuts. The air was full of delicate blossoms that fell gently on the streets and collected in small piles that I would play gather with my feet.
Gardens were bursting with scilla, peonies and lily of the valley and of course tulips and hyacinths. I was captivated by the bleeding hearts and the centers of the magnolia. I played with the confetti that the spirea provided and was sad when it disappeared. I recall sucking on the tips of the weigelia and honeysuckle in search of the nectar.I remember the childhood delight in sharing that sweetness with my little sister. Pots of pansies and geraniums were de rigueur, flowering baskets adorned the porches. My father always chose fuschia and I mean always. I longed for more.
I discovered that each home had a few different trees,bushes or flowers and I would visit them to get the pleasure of these fleeting beauties. I do not recall many people having vegetable gardens but one neighbour had an enormous rhubarb plant. He would pull out a ruby red stalk and sprinkle it with salt and share it with me. I was hoping for sugar but did not complain. My best friend Jenny had bleeding hearts, my next-door neighbour had a quince and one of the many Doctors down the road had the sole magnolia on the street. Kathleen down the road had a row of peonies unlike any other. I would walk the streets on an expedition and found myself excited about spring, knowing that the trees and bushes would soon be in bloom. This ritual taught me that nature is dependable and life returns no matter how harsh the winter. And yes the snow banks were taller than me in those days.
I will admit to the terrible crime of heading to the park and picking flowers and then bringing lily of the valley and lilacs home for my mother, as they were her favourites. I had more than one neighbour suddenly open their enormous wooden front door and yell at me that I was a naughty little girl for picking her tulips and that she was going to tell my parents. Neighbours had no qualms about providing me with moral guidance when I was young. Flowers brought out the thief in me. But it was for a good cause after all, my mother.
I learned very early on how ephemeral the flowers were and that spring lasts for such a short while. I also learned that picking peonies meant ants running all over the table. And yes I did make dandelion necklaces- Rosedale park was full of dandelions. If I were feeling generous I would make necklaces for my sisters, but never for all five of them. Which little girl did not play he loves me he loves me not on the wild daisies that we would find in cracks along the streets? Who recalls rubbing the yellow pollen of the buttercup on our friend’s chins and giggling?
Spring in Rosedale was a magical time and each time I smell the lilacs or lily of the valley I am transported back to my childhood. Those were the days when I could name but a few flowers and trees, the days of innocence that instilled a life long passion. I never could have imagined a country farmhouse surrounded by lilac,honeysuckle, weigelia ,spirea,irises,peonies. roses,forsythia,lily of the valleys and fruit blossoms. I have planted many many perennials that I never knew in my own childhood but will be in those of my three children. Flowers both wild and untamed and those that I have chosen to surround me are one of my greatest pleasures. As I tend the many gardens I feel connected to the earth, to eternity and to this day.
P.S. Who did not love making a wish and the blowing on those dandelions that had gone to seed.watching in awe and hope as they scattered in the sky carrying your secret wish?