Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Is (Finally) Here!

The weather of the past couple of weeks reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite silly movies, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail:

"Winter changed into Spring; Spring changed into Summer; Summer changed back into Winter; and Winter gave both Spring and Summer a miss and went straight into Autumn."

To be sure, there has been quite a temperature fluctuation!  While autumn is one of my favorite seasons, I'd like for the weather to stay in keeping with spring for a few more weeks.  And this week, the weather was rather obliging!  Trees, shrubs, and flowers of every color have come into bloom at Welkinweir.  The cherry and magnolia trees are particularly stunning:

Can you spot the honeybee visiting the cherry blossoms?

Looking up through the canopy of the Kobus magnolia, along the exit drive.

The weeping cherry to the west of the estate house is one of my favorites in the arboretum.  The curtain of delicate white flowers (or, in summer, shining green leaves) makes you feel like you're in your own secret world. 

Welkinweir has six weeping cherry trees throughout the arboretum, besides several other, more upright forms.

On your next visit, try to find them all!  But you'll have to come soon if you want to take advantage of these beautiful blooms.  Cherry tree blossoms don't last very long; in Japan, cherry or sakura blossoms were held to symbolize life's ephemeral nature, and festivals are held every year to celebrate and admire the trees.  There are several cherry blossom festivals held here in the U.S.; while the most famous is the national festival held in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia also has its own festivities, presented by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.  The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is happening right now, so be sure to check it out!

While ornamental cherry trees did not originate in North America - they are all cultivars of the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata - we Americans have our own version of these fleeting beauties.  Allow me to introduce the Amelanchier, or Serviceberry:

There are several species of serviceberry tree, ranging in size from low, suckering shrubs to multi-stemmed small trees.  Each of them have smooth, gray bark and clouds of delicate white flowers that light up our native woodlands in early spring.  Those flowers then yield delicious blue-purple berries that taste like blueberries - if you can sample them before the birds do!  These trees are also called shadblow, because they would bloom or "blow" at the same time that shad would make their spawning runs up rivers in New England.

While the serviceberry trees display their white flowers with a subtle beauty, the magnolias are loaded with comparatively huge, show-stopping blooms.  There are many different magnolia specimens at Welkinweir.  They range from the pure white Star Magnolias,

to the pink-and-white blooms of the Saucer Magnolia and 'Leonard Messel' Magnolias;

to the dramatic, crimson-and-white flowers of the 'March  'Til Frost' Magnolia. 

In the early spring garden, we even have yellow-flowering magnolias, which will make their perfumed appearance in a few weeks. 

And let's not forget the flowering shrubs!  Some of the early-flowering azaleas have bloomed, including the 'Cornell Pink' azalea, which combines with the Chinese Winterhazel shrubs to color the early spring garden in cheerful pastel shades.
Close-up of the winterhazel's pendulous clusters of yellow flowers.

The Japanese Pieris are one of my favorite flowering shrubs.  Their lush clusters of bell-shaped flowers have a spicy-sweet fragrance that is intoxicating.  The bumblebees agree with me; every pieris shrub in the arboretum is buzzing with them!

The early-blooming perennials are also putting on a show at ground level.  Along Azalea Lane, 'Multiplex' Double Flowered Bloodroot positively glows in the shade- this spring ephemeral is a cultivated relative of the wild bloodroot.  
Wild bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex'

Pink clusters of bergenia have also appeared.  Near the Pinetum, the hellebores' flower show is far from over...

...and the 'Pagoda' trout lilies have also sprung up, seemingly overnight.  The Virginia bluebells are just about ready to bloom as well.  Welkinweir is welcoming spring with a colorful celebration of flowers; visit soon and enjoy the show!

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