April Showers, May Flowers

While I’d heard of ‘April showers’ before, I’d not heard the full phrase until I was flat-hunting in DC. It was said to me, philosophically, by a realtor who had kept me waiting in a downpour, but I’ve certainly seen how it’s true in this town – May really does bring ALL the flowers.

Of course it’s the cherry blossoms that get most press in DC (there’s even a website: http://havecamerawilltravel.com/cherry-blossoms/) and they’re usually out by the end of April.

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But following the cherry blossoms we get the most amazing few weeks of spring flowering. First it’s the magnolias, which have always been my favourites. Some of these in DC have grown almost out of control, and the scent, especially during late April showers, can be overpowering. Meanwhile, this spring we got daffodils, crocuses, tulips all at once.

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Sadly, before I could get many pictures we had a huge thunderstorm and the hail destroyed some of the best of these.

However, I did manage to get some pictures of the azaleas that burst into flame a couple of weeks ago. Gardens in the Northwest put on the best show – it was like the golf course in Augusta, only over whole neighbourhoods – but a few days later the bushes in the very well-tended Capitol gardens were out as I was walking to the library.

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Again, though, this blooming was brief. This has been an unseasonably warm beginning of May, so after about a week the azaleas had lost most of their glow as their blossoms had scorched and shrivelled in the sun.

There are plenty of Japanese sayings about the brevity, and intensity, of the blossom season:

Fallen blossoms do not return to branches; a broken mirror does not again reflect.

(Japanese proverb)

If there were no such thing

as cherry blossoms

in this world,

in springtime how untroubled

our hearts would be!

Ariwara no Narihira (ninth century poet), trans. by Hiroaki Sato & Burton Watson. Thanks to Open Culture for this.

In DC these quotations could refer to the whole, brief, spring flowering season.

Lilac is still doing well though, following close on the heels of wisteria. Like the magnolia, these plants grow on a completely different scale than they do in the UK, and they can be found growing wild on the Georgetown slopes, rising from the canal, and along the banks of Rock Creek.

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Once the lilac is done though, I was told, we only have ‘what’s left’. Most people find it too hot to work in their gardens in the summer months, so there’s no more planting, except by city employees.

In shady gardens though, the roses are flourishing, and honeysuckle will soon be out. So as I see it, ‘what’s left’ is still pretty good.

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