Monday, April 16, 2007
Flower Walk in April
After sending out my essay on learning the Names of Plants in my newsletter,
I got an invitation from my friend Fred (of Frog Hospital)
to go on a plant walk. He knows a lot about plants from working as a landscaper, which is exactly the sort of expert advice I needed as most of the plants I observe are cultivated, not wild plants.
We wandered around my neighborhood for over an hour today, noticing all the plants that were blooming. He taught me the names of pieris japonica (tiny little white bells) and leatherleaf viburnum (white fragrant flowers on a shrub with dark green leathery leaves) and barberry (bright yellow berries on red thorny branches) and I introduced him to one of my favorites, daphne odora. We also observed the blossoms on the trees: the big leaf maples have white flowers that droop down (I learned that these trees only blossom after they’ve turned 20) and the candles on the horse-chestnuts (white blossoms that point up).
Fred cleared up one of my prevailing scent mysteries. In recent weeks, I’ve frequently been stopped in my tracks by an incredibly strong, slightly musty fragrance, but I can never find the source. Fred pointed out the cherry laurel flowers and I realized that’s the source of the scent. Generally the white spires of the blossoms are at the very top of tall hedges and I just wasn’t looking up. Sort of like my experience with sarcococcus humilis, which is always the first fragrance of spring for me, but in that case, I wasn’t looking down for the tiny white flowers on the undersides of the leaves.
Many of the flowers we saw are ones I associate with May eve (April 30) when I roam through the alleyways picking flowers to bring indoors, including lilacs (just beginning to open their buds), woodruff (ditto), pieris japonica and the flowers on what I call the snowball bush. I now believe that’s another species of viburnum. Everything seems to be blooming earlier than usual here in Seattle.
Illustration: Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) from Thome, Flora von Deutschland, Osterreich und der Schwiez 1885 (found at Wikipedia.org)