Signs of spring

Just one week ago, amid chilly showers and dipping temperatures, spring seemed to be receding even as the calendar advanced. The early bloomers–the winter jasmine and forsythia–were still blazing along for all the world as if it were February, while I had  spotted only one flowering tree–a lonely little apricot–giving a show from the median strip on Preston Avenue.

It was so lovely and I was so starved for signs of spring that I took a picture of it as I exited the Bodo’s Bagels. …

The only natural color on Preston Avenue… other than the sky, I guess.

Then things got busy. Baby had a birthday Thursday–St. Patty’s Day, a bit of a blowout. That was followed by class Friday morning, then an interminable afternoon of meetings. Next thing I knew, Saturday had dawned–and a long Saturday it was to be, of gardening on 10-1/2 Street in the morning and pitching in at a church workday in the afternoon. I put on my work boots, and a few layers against the chill, stepped outside–and got slapped full in the face … with spring.

What a difference two days makes…

Suddenly, that little apricot had some company. And my neighborhood, the portion of Rose Hill that backs up to Preston Avenue–a section of the city that it would be something of an understatement to say is not noted for its natural beauty–was suddenly awash in Yoshino cherry blooms.

Here’s a closer look at those two in the median strip:

And right outside Bodo’s today, there was this, a redbud in full bud break:

Not to mention this sweet thing, one block from the garden on 10-1/2 Street:

I spotted this right across the street from the garden.

This magnificent Yoshino was just off of Harris Street and Dale Avenue…

Impressive age and form on this Yoshino.

This beauty next to the cop shop on Dale Avenue:

A purple leaf plum, perhaps a “Thundercloud” or “Newport,” according to Baby. These have been in cultivation, he says, since the 16th century. It just seems amazing…

And these gorgeous specimens at Preston and Forest:

It’s Yoshinoland over on Preston Avenue! And I didn’t even bother to take a snapshot of the Bradford pears, which are going nuts as well.

If you’re getting the feeling that we were winding our way around the neighborhood checking out the views, you would be exactly right. The Rose Hill and 10th-and-Page corridors are highly urbanized, especially right around Preston. There’s not as much opportunity here, as there is in places like Greenbrier or Woolen Mills, to see large, beautiful specimen trees. And while I love the convenience of my neighborhood, I do mourn the fate of so many of the trees.

So many have been butchered by people who appear to have as much idea of pruning as the average 8th grader has of string theory. Others have been hacked  by people like my across-the-street neighbor, who cut down two gorgeous, mature dark rose-colored dogwoods–the prettiest trees on the whole street–because she didn’t like to rake the leaves in autumn. Yeah, you heard me–she CUT THEM DOWN–then had the nerve to dress the stumps with potted pansies. I’ll post the picture sometime–you won’t believe your eyes.

Needless to say there’s nothing like these incredible saucer magnolias on my street:

In France, according to Baby, there were over 250 named varieties of these spectacular trees. Now they’ve dwindled to just a handful… but oh, how lovely!

So I had to eventually go to work and I tried my best to settle down, but this was the view from my window:

A guerrilla garden planted by rogue English professors at the University of Virginia.

After about an hour of staring moodily out of my window, I decided to go for a walk around the pavilions to see what was blooming. And the first thing I saw after stepping around the construction at Garrett Hall was this:

Another magnificent saucer magnolia, surrounded by construction debris at the end of the Lawn.

Wandering in and out of dappled shade in the pavilions proper, I feasted my eyes on white quince.

I think this might have been the first time I ever saw white quince.

One of my favorite things in spring is standing under a flowering tree on a sunny day and looking straight up…

Foamy cherry blossoms against a bright blue sky–such a pretty sight.

Meanwhile, these lingering camellias reminded me of home:

Camellias seem much more common further south where their blooms are a cheerful sight in winter.

Frankly, I have no idea what this is, but the blossoms were striking and lovely against the backdrop of a carpet of periwinkle.

Who are you, little pink blossom?

Hellebore–just in time for Easter.

This stand of hellebore was surrounded by scilla, periwinkle, and the most fragrant blue hyacinths.

Saucer magnolias apparently caught the fancy of the pavilion gardeners:

This one looked to be about 30 feet tall. It made a stunning show.

A close-up of the blossoms…

This looked to be an early viburnum:

It was in flower next to the most magnificent weeping cherry. My little camera simply could not do justice to its beauty:

I’ve lived all over the South–mostly in subtropical, hurricane-prone zones. Each of the states in which I’ve made extended sojourns–South Carolina,  North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas–had seasons of beauty. And, no, I’ll never forget the smell of sweet olive in Baton Rouge–or Charleston’s magnificent azalea season–but I’ll say for the record, there is no spring like a Virginia spring.

And wait–it’s only just begun! We still have the dogwoods and redbuds, the tulips and late daffodils, the lilacs, rhododendrons, the spirea … And so much more.

I repeat, there is no spring like a Virginia spring.