Every street in every neighborhood has flowers blooming this week. The annual garden party is in full swing, and all our neighbors are there in their finest. The huge rhododendrons that anchor our summer landscapes are in full color right now, giant faces of lavender, pink and bright red are smiling from atop their giant green shoulders. They look out over the landscape and find it just to their taste. They all look very satisfied.
Lilacs are waving to each other across the streets and down the alleys, the majestic old ones all over the downtown and Douglas are holding up their big ice cream cones of color, and the aroma that fills the streets is so sweet that even with eyes tightly closed you can navigate the familiar paths. Spreading grand dames fill front yards in dark purple, elegant and willowy groups cluster along side yards in clear white, and gossipy light pink clusters mark the borders across the back fences. The Lilac clan is here to have a good time.
Even the older members of the family have shown up, giant and aromatic as if they were creatures from another world. There is a beautiful Late Blooming Lilac on Rivercourt Way that is taller than the house and fills the neighborhood with traces of her perfume as she blushes over the same joke every year. Last season there were over 200 flowers on her shoulders, a corsage to remember.
Crabapples are blooming too, jazzy, rhythmic and full of good humor, telling jokes where no one gets hurt. The tales they share are so funny that they all sway into each other as the stories spread around town. Brilliant reds, bubbly pinks and soft, subtle whites are just fading from their branches and the tiny fruits that will fill their tops like tiny golden or ruby beads are barely beginning. These embroideries will call to the flocks of twittering Juncos as they ripen, and Cedar Waxwings will feast on their bounty when they turn soft in the winter and spring.
In the parking lot of the KINY radio station stand a group of brilliant red Tatarian Honeysuckles. They’re newcomers to the party. There are dozens of older ones around town, but they are mostly paler forms. These are the deep red Arnold Arboretum selection and this season the flowers are so full of color they are stunning. They look like bright red bumblebees filling the branches of the shrubs, and since most views are at 30 miles an hour they are just a flash, but stop and look at them as you take a lunchtime stroll, they are something delightful.
Japanese Maples spread their crimson skirts over the mown grass as they settle onto the lawns for am afternoon picnic, the lovely one on the curve above Calhoun by Gardener George’s memorial bench just past the museum is perfect right now, lacy and soft and so deeply red it absorbs the colors of the other things planted nearby. Down on the waterfront in Douglas, below the Island Pub, Clay McDole’s beauties put on a beach show. The elegant one planted right at oceans edge has the backlighting of the channel so it shows all the rich variety of colors that a fine Japanese Maple can display. Look over his pleasure grounds the next time you are in town, in this out of the way locale he has created a fantastic setting full of delight and so carefully maintained.
Roses enter slowly, softly at first as the tender petals just barely peak out of their green caps, then with a rush and a torrent into color. Big banks of Sitka roses, in deep pink and purest white, open at once all over the place, in downtown neighborhoods, up on Star Hill and out past Norway Point. Old fashioned they may be, but they can put on a show like nothing else. The rich furry greenness of their leaves is so perfect for showing off the depth of color of the flowers that it is easy to see why we all love them. Never mind that they can grow anywhere and never fear the blast of winter, their summer color is why we love them.
Closer looks into the neighborhood gardens reveal the party is going on in perennial flower beds too. They are full of color this week as the foxgloves and delphiniums begin their summer climbs. The amazingly fragrant old yellow daylilies open and the masses of dames rocket fill the corners of properties.
Smaller groups gather at the edges of the party, like adolescents learning at the heels of their elders, Siberian Irises calling to the Summer Blooming Primulas, “Hurry Up, let’s join in, the Party will be hoppin by the Fourth of July, and we want to be there too.