Musings and Amusings

It’s official.

After 64 years, I’m declaring spring my favorite season.

Quickly.

Before summer and autumn fool me once again into thinking I like them best.

Springtime in Michigan as a child was a time of joy and wonder; a time when each of my five senses came alive.

Robins chirping at dawn like a faithful alarm clock, and the ground springing to life as if stretching its giant arms after a long winter’s sleep.

What I remember most is the aroma of the newly awakening outdoors. The minute I stepped outside, the scent of rich, dark soil moistened by melting snow filled my nose. That raw, loamy aroma was as pungent as any singular bloom and lingered for several weeks, enhanced by occasional spring rains – the kind without wind, thunder or lightning when walking under an umbrella was novel and fun.

The sidewalks were littered with fat, juicy earthworms who’d wriggle their way out of the soaking soil, bringing with them an earthy scent all their own. The lucky ones made it back to the safety of their underground abodes before a robin gobbled them for lunch, or an inattentive human squashed the life juice right out of them, leaving a flattened, brown leathery string glued to the sidewalk.

While I can’t choose a favorite flora, I can pinpoint five that immediately transport me to my first spring memories. Just as the robins woke my ears and the soil twitched my nose, these plants gave me visual, touch and taste sensations.

Forsythia from Google Images

Forsythia from Google Images

Forsythia – An early spring bloomer, growing in the southwest corner of our “near” back yard. A four-foot shrub with long, gently drooping limbs and tiny brilliant yellow flowers running up and down the branches. Such delicate blooms that a hard, windy rain shower or a late-arriving snowstorm would prematurely knock the flowers from the limbs, leaving shocked naked branches quivering for a green leaf robe.

Daffodils Google Images

Daffodils Google Images

Daffodils – another early bloomer. We had a large back yard. In the 50’s there were few fences, although we had a wire fence along the southern edge of our “way back” yard. Mom grew daffodils along that fence. What seemed like hundreds of daffodils. Plain yellow was the only available variety and they bloomed in such abundance it was like sunshine beaming from the ground. I’ve tried, in vain, to grow them; alas I don’t have the ‘daffodil touch’.

Spirea from Google Images

Spirea from Google Images

Spirea – these 4-foot bushes formed a hedge that separated our ‘near’ back yard from our ‘way back’ yard. They have an abundance of small whitish blooms and dime-size, scallop-edged green leaves.  I haven’t found a spirea here in Colorado, which is a shame, because I can’t teach Sparks and Raqi one of my favorite youth pasttimes – picking a spirea leaf; placing it front-side down on my tongue; and pressing my teeth against my tongue while blowing air in such a way that the leaf vibrated against my tongue producing a shrill whistle. Simple pure kid-in-nature fun. Tasted kind of bitter but worth it for the whistle.

Lilacs from Google Images

Lilacs from Google Images

Lilacs – Giant shrubs, tall enough I could squeeze in between the vertical old-growth stems and the new shoots as a child and pretend I was in a mini-forest. Seven or eight lilacs formed the border of our ‘way back’ yard, with just enough space between them that I could scamper through for a short-cut to Teddy’s or Margie’s back yard; still within shouting distance if Mom needed me.

Many yards had lilacs – some white; some deep purple, but I liked ours best – the pale lavender ones with a fragrance so strong I’d get punch-drunk from the nectar scent and lie in the grass for hours … inhaling.

Red Buds

Red Buds

Red Buds – if you’ve never seen a red bud tree, you are missing one of God’s most beautiful gifts.

My maternal grandparents lived in a small town about twenty miles away, and the road between towns followed a river with undeveloped woods on both sides. That stretch was called ‘The Red Bud Trail’ because so many red buds grew naturally in the woods. They were quite small and fragile-looking, dwarfed by larger maples and oaks, but there was no mistaking that occasional flash of pink as we drove by.

People who don’t know might think – in landscaping – they are looking at a crabapple tree when, in fact, they are seeing a red bud in bloom. But for those who have taken red buds into their hearts, there’s no confusion. The red buds are much daintier blooms appearing well before any greenery and rationing themselves along the full length of their branches. From a distance, they have a distinctly fluorescent pink that no crabapple can imitate.

Red Buds Worth a 2nd Look

Red Buds Worth a 2nd Look

Red buds are also prized for their unique leaves – a light, bright green palm-size, heart shape that is all the more reason to love this tree.

I could name many more beloved spring blooms – magnolias, yes – but I’ll close with an anecdote about peonies because Luanne, poet and blogger at Writer Site, and I had a conversation about lilacs and peonies yesterday.

Don’t you love peonies?” Luanne asked.

Yes, Luanne, I do’

But Dad isn’t especially fond of them. When we moved to a property that included a farmhouse, barn, out-buildings and ten acres, Dad had a lot to manage when he got home from work. The previous owner had planted three rows of seven peonies – 21 peonies to mow around, weed, prop up during flowering season, and trim every fall. All which took time away from Dad’s vegetable and fruit gardening. One night, he bulldozed the lawn mower across those peonies, shredding them to the ground. He kept doing it until they finally died.

That’s the only living plant (besides poison ivy) I’ve seen Dad purposely murder!

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Comments on: "Five Favorites for Spring" (65)

  1. A lovely, evocative piece of writing.

    I have spirea and daffodils in my garden and have plans for a forsythia to go behind the garage if I’ve left enough room! I’d love a magnolia tree, but sadly my garden is way too small.

    I’m never sure if spring or autumn is my favourite season. There is a sadness to autumn as the plants prepare themselves for the winter, but I adore the colours, probably more so than the bright colours of spring.

    Eileen @ In My Playroom

    • Hi Eileen – those Michigan magnolias grow to full trees. They are fragile in the blooming season but oh-so-a-work-of-art!

      I hope you have room for a forsythia. What about your spirea? Is it the white flower, bushy shrub and do you whistle with a leaf ??

      • My spirea has purple/pink flowers and is quite an open shrub. I bought it from the ‘neglected plants, probably dying’ shelf last year at the garden centre but it’s done well so far in my garden. We used to whistle with blades of grass when we were kids but I’ve never done it with a spirea leaf – they’re quite small on my plant but I’ll have a go in the summer.

      • Eileen – I’m not sure that leaf will work for a whistle. I know that plant because it grows here, but the spirea in Michigan had very different leaves – thicker and almost a waxy feel.

        I’m impressed you could whistle with a blade of grass. I never could master that!

    • And … You’re so right about autumn colors. I also love the way the angle of the sun drastically changes at the end if August. That’s why I had to quickly choose spring because it doesn’t last very long and suddenly I’m embracing autumn!

  2. Just GORGEOUS Sammy thank you! God’s beauty made manifest. Loved this post. Just yesterday I looked at my orchids (don’t know what kind) outside on the patio and was THRILLED to see buds appearing! This makes me excited even though here in the s. hemisphere we are in autumn. Oh when those orchids bloom! – I have several pots which when the orchids bloom are such a delight to the eye! 🙂 🙂

    • Thank you, Susan. I love your enthusiasm 🌻🌺🍁🍁🍂🌾 orchids are a gorgeous bloom I don’t dare try to grow. I think I’d muck it up and feel terrible (like the one time I bought a bamboo plant and killed it posthaste). Thus you’ll need to send me photos of your orchids when they flower 🌛

      • I certainly will. I checked on them today and they’re coming along. Orchids also do well with little attention. Sorry about the bamboo .. boo hoo 🙂

  3. Argh! Crime against peonies!! I adore peonies 😦

    • I know!! I think it was either cultivate fruits and vegies to put food on the table or eat the peonies!

      I’ve grown peonies in two of my urban gardens and enjoyed them immensely. Even after the blooms are done, the leafy growth thrives in our hot Colorado sun all the way through summer and autumn. That success makes me feel like an accomplished gardener!

  4. We are patiently waiting for the Forsythia and Lilacs to wake up. Thank you for pointing out the smell of spring in the dirt and worms and the other smells associated with a retreating winter. It does come before the flowers and I do welcome it to the bland smell of winter. I think I might still like fall better, but that might be because winter has cheated us out of a proper spring for two years in a row here in New England.

    • Thanks, Dan! Our clay-based Colorado soil just doesn’t have the same spring aroma, no matter how much we try to amend it with ‘the good stuff’. Amending is an annual spring project and it’s hard labor to break up that clay (for some reason I’ve not seen a single gardener using a rototiller in all my years here, thus I couldn’t ‘cuz I’d look like a wimp!)

      I do hope you let your forsythia spread its sculptural free-flowing branches instead of trimming the shrub. Here they are trimmed (butchered) into round mounds; it kills me that Coloradans don’t guve them the proper space or understand the natural form is part of what makes them so special.

      You definitely deserve a spectacular spring season after winter’s slog.

      • We have forsythia between the driveway and the neighbor’s fence, so it does have to be trimmed but I would never use the word “sculpted” since I’m doing the trimming. Hacked and butchered, maybe but not until well after it blooms.

        If you want to see a rototiller in action, you need to watch my wife churning the good stuff into her garden. She lets me shovel it (because she says I do that well 🙂

      • I could learn a lot from your wife. I don’t know why Dad never taught me to use his rototiller because we sure participated in a lot of the other heavy duty chores.

        Thanks for being kind to your forsythia blooms! i’ll accept a little trimming post-bloom 😋

      • It’s kin of like the wood stove, I can help her start the roto tiller, but I’m not allowed in the garden with it. I want to go too deep too fast and I don’t care enough about neat rows and I leave big footprints behind and… She had a 1977 Troy-Bilt Pony for a long time but it finally died. We replaced that a few years ago for Mother’s Day, but it was her selection.

      • I think you guys do that on purpose to get out of chores.

        I never let Hub ‘help’ me in the garden either. For every plant he ‘helps’, he kills two or three others by stepping on them or pulling them ‘cuz they look like weeds!

  5. Oh Sammy, I’m just so glad you wrote this post!
    Spring is my #2 season, as fall has always been and will always be #1. All the things you described are happening here, too. Mud, gorgeous, loamy rich black mud — and pips and stems and blooms! Oh the smell of rain. The rain doesn’t smell so good everywhere as it does here. For three seasons the smell of rain remains most intoxicating. Worms. Soil. Oh yes.
    I love all the things you’ve written about. We no longer have Forstythia, and I do aim to correct that one day.
    Our lilacs will soon bloom, and I will cut a small section to bring inside — but it’s my neighbor Jim whose old, enormous lilacs will permeate the entire neighborhood with such a density of aroma, I will be oohing and aahing every time I step outside!
    The peonies will bring ants, but they’re worth it. Oh peonies and all their splendor!
    Although when I lived away from this region, I missed EVERYTHING, I did pine especially for redbuds each spring.
    I found it hard to keep time when I lived outside of my home state. How do you know it’s spring without robins and redbuds? How you you know it’s fall without an abundance of colorful leaves littering the entire landscape? How do you know it’s winter when it’s not cold and there’s no snow? I’ve been back home for just over two years now, and I still find myself saying, “I’m so happy to be home!”
    I love this post! ❤

    • Oh yay!! Thus means I won’t get booted for being on your list of half-crazed, inept bloggers, huh?

      Sometimes I think my enthusiasm for childhood springtime is over-the-top, but you reassure me that we are both tuned into one of life’s greatest natural pleasures.

      What about May Day – did you ever make little baskets filled with flowers on May 1st and surreptitiously hang them on your neighbors’ doors?? I vividly remember using wallpaper scraps and shaping small square baskets with glued on handles then filling them with violets, tulips and daffodils to take to the neighbors.

      • I can’t say that I ever did anything like that for May Day…But that’s sweet 🙂 Maybe I should!
        I always enjoy your posts!

      • Thanks, Joey. If I started a few baskets now, I might actually follow through – It was a fun tradition all those years ago.

      • Simple mussy tussies from paper plates will do just fine for us 🙂 Moo would probably enjoy painting them, too!

      • Great idea! Photos if you do, please!!

        I forgot to say reagarding the peonies and ants – i never verified this but heard the ants – attracted by the nectar – are instrumental in opening the single petals into the full blooming flower. My experience was they pratically swarmed the darker red blooms but not so many on the lighter pink and white. Each type definitely has its own scent. And the ants do disappear once the bloom is full. A marvel of nature!

      • Yes! I do know about the ants opening the peonies — I think my mother is the one who told me, when I bought a house with a series of peonies RIGHT NEXT TO THE HOUSE! Gah! I’ve got pink ones here, had white ones there, and I haven’t noticed a change in the number. 😦
        I will totally take pics. I think we’ll do it. The neighbors will like it and Moo and I will enjoy making them. It’s a lovely idea! 😀

      • Well if your Mom and my Dad said it, it must be true 😋

        I never noticed any problems with the peony ants getting in the house or building underground nests but we’ve had some unrelated pesky ones that prefer the comforts of our den to the great outdoors. It can’t possibly have anything to do with the popcorn and chocolate that litter underneath my chair!

      • Right? Well we had them swarming for almost a week every spring in that house. But then, we did have a pile of kids…so crumbs, and half-eaten fruit, and sweet sippy cups…lol
        Here, I put out the ant traps, in the greenery outside the foundation. Works well.

  6. Ahhh – I feel so much better having walked through your spring-time memories with you 🙂
    My only beef with spring is that the glorious flowers don’t last nearly long enough. It’s like they are too frail after fighting for life from the long winter and their delicate existence can be enjoyed for only a short while.
    My favourite is the lilac. The world just feels like a much happier place when the lilacs are in bloom … although I’ve never seen a Red Bud. I suspect I would love it too!! ❤

    • They don’t last long enough! That’s probably why I get a tad happy-crazed (like Snoopy doing his Happy Dance) in spring because we have to hurry and enjoy such a fleeting miracle of nature.

      Lilacs are showing their purple buds right now. Fingers crossed we don’t get our killer Mid-April snowstorm!!

  7. cardamone5 said:

    Bulldozing peonies? They really must have pissed him off. I had a row of them by my old house and treasured the few weeks they bloomed and perfumed my dining room. Red buds look amazing. Not sure I’ve ever seen one.

    Love,
    E

    • I know!

      Dad is such a nature lover; it shocked us all. I don’t think it was hating peonies per se; it was just too many chores and not enough time. Something had to go ( at least he chose the peonies and didn’t give away us 4 kids). 😍

  8. I never liked anything as much as spring ~ welcome to the club

    • ‘Giddy’ is the word to describe spring fever! I look forward to seeing more of your gorgeous watercolors as things come into bloom!

  9. Your opening lines made me laugh, because I’m the same way. Every fall I declare autumn to be my favorite season. But then spring comes along with all its new promises, and I seem to change my tune.

    Lovely post to read, and I enjoyed the pics and the flower and tree descriptions. I am terrible at naming things in the plant world so this was good for me. The lilacs were probably the only ones I could identify by name. Well, maybe the daffodils, too.

    Happy spring!

    • LOL we’re a fickle pair in loving our seasons!!

      Whenever I declare something my favorite, i should cross my fingers because I know it’s just a matter of time before I realize I have more than one favorite of most things.

      That’s why I hate those online sites where the security questions are all “what’s your favorite movie, book, song, pet …” Ackkk I ALWAYS have more than one favorite -how am I going to remember my answer?!?

  10. Your post embodies the many joys Spring so very wonderfully. I never realized until I moved to a place where the seasons were truly defined just how beautiful Spring really is (you tend to take it for granted in a place like Victoria, BC, where the blossoms are often out in January!). Thanks for this lovely piece of writing.

  11. Although I love living in southern California, I do envy the seasonal joys that people get to experience in other parts of the country. I love spring also. Most of my succulents are in bloom and are just beautiful.

    • See, Janis? That’s what makes declaring favorites so hard. If I lived where you do or in Arizona, I’d be buzzing about the succulents and cactus flowers. I still remember how awestruck I was at my first sight of desert clime in bloom. Talk about ground awakening!

      And glacier tundra on our highest peaks claims its unique blooming beauty as well. Magic all around us!

      You doing ok? Haven’t seen you in awhile 😋 shoot, now I gotta check my follow list and make sure I didn’t lose you!

    • Janis, as a native California gal So Cal has definite seasons. I know them all. And the beach environment has different seasons than the valleys and the deserts. I can even bring the smell of the seasons into my mind’s eye. Yesh, I sometimes miss home . . .

  12. Well, you’ve just ticked off some of my fave flowers. I have never seen a Red Bud. It looks amazing.

  13. Oh yes… there is nothing like the budding of spring. We had a huge lilac tree in our “old” house and I miss it so. I could almost pretend it was wisteria (which doesn’t grow in my nec of the woods, unfortunately) because it would hang over the gateway to our back yard.
    Spring, Glorious Spring!

  14. I might have to withdraw my ‘like’ because of the peony brutality, Sammy 😦 And you’ve got me desperate so see a redbud! I love cherry blossom and magnolias, and rhodies are my all time favourites. When they get here we’re really talking Spring 🙂

    • Poor Dad 😍

      Arlington National Cemetary in Wahington DC is a virtual treasure trove of Azaleas, Rhodies, Red Buds and dogwoods in the spring. I’ve been there several times in early May – it is such a spiritual, deeply patriotic setting made all the more precious by the landscape so beautifully embracing the tombstones.

  15. BOO Dad!!! I love peonies!
    I saw my first redbuds when I took my mom to DC. Amazing.
    Forsythia remind me of Oregon, as do Daffy-dills, because they are not a Southern California plant. Their cheery yellow tells me Spring is coming. When we first moved to Oregon I would catch flashes of the bright bush everywhere. And we’d moved to our home in the woods in October, and so when little wild daffodils came up in spring it was a delight.

    • DC is definitely the place to see all those gorgeous plants and trees – especially Arlington Nat’l Cemetery. I’ve spent many days/hours there honoring our fallen and being swept away by the beauty of the landscaping. A plethira of azaleas and rhododendrons, red buds, magnolias, dogwood …A little slice of Heaven!

  16. I absolutely love lilac, but am torn between spring and fall. For the sake of lilac, however, I will side with spring. Beautiful homage to all things springy, Sammy. Amazing image of the Red Buds. I can see how it would evoke so many thoughts, bring on so much inspiration.

  17. It was spring when my kids and I first visited Wisconsin before moving here from California. None of us had ever seen spirea before, but they were plentiful here–and the kids promptly dubbed them “Sideshow Bob” bushes. We still call them that.

    Beautiful, evocative post. Love the descriptions.

    • Hi Melinda! How nice of you to drop by! I love your Sideshow Bob nickname for spirea. Midwest springs are the best.

      How have you been? I haven’t seen a post from you in ages so I hope you’re happily engaged in other pursuits 😉

      • Hi! All is well here, but I’ve definitely let the blog slide. I thought about participating in the A-Z Challenge again this year (and I wanted to) but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay caught up. I just noticed that I’m still getting a couple of visitors almost daily, though, even though I haven’t posted in forever (other than a couple of short stories for the NYC Midnight competition, posted under “Fiction”). I will get back in the swing–don’t give up on me! Glad to know you’re well!

      • Ok 😋 i’m not. participating in A to Z this year either. Good to hear from you. Enjoy your midwestern spring (soon)!

  18. […] was a child prodigy as a contemporary artist. Remember those springtime wriggly worms that so fascinated me? Mom tells me  when I was about four and she’d send me out to play, she’d […]

  19. Aww you’re making me miss spring. We don’t get spring out in HK. It’s winter, which isn’t that cold by most standards, and then it gets humid and the heat spikes, and bam! Summer has arrived. I love the first daffodils and the first crocuses when they pop out of the earth. That’s my favourite part of spring.

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