Forsythia remind me of my grandmother who died when I was a little child. I suspect that my mother at some point (or multiple points) must have said, “Forsythia were Nana’s favorite.” Or perhaps she said, “Forsythia are my favorite” and several memories merged into one impression as they are prone to do. “They’re the first sign of spring,” someone said. Or maybe that’s just what I said to myself.
This jewel in DC’s spring floral crown, the cherry blossom, is a family favorite in spite of its moodiness, or perhaps because of it. “It looks like a weeping willow!” Ms6yo exclaims, affirming her father’s declaration that this particular specimen is one of the prettiest on our neighborhood walks. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival has been cancelled in the name of physical distancing. I’ve only been once or twice anyway. “Locals don’t go to the Cherry Blossom Festival,” my mother used to say. As a local, I follow the directives of my local mother. But there’s nothing in local DC doctrine that precludes us appreciating the flowering trees in locales other than the Tidal Basin on a specified weekend and perhaps especially on these days when flowering tree appreciation can be practiced a safe distance from our neighbors. This time three years ago, we were appreciating the cherry blossoms/ “sakura” in Tokyo, Japan, where my dad went to medical school before following a near-direct latitudinal line to DC to complete his training. Locals don’t go to the Cherry Blossom Festival, but apparently admiring the pink blossoms with the charming, foreign doctor from the hospital where you both work is not against the rules. (Or, if it is, photographic evidence indicates that my mother was a rule-breaker.) No doubt, they had much to talk about as the original trees had been a gift from the Japanese government, which had also gifted my father a scholarship to attend medical school. I have much to thank Japan for.
Is this the specimen to which the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas referring? I am struck by how unseasonal it feels to be talking about Pear Trees right now. I have nothing else to say about this tree or its flowers.
The Tulip Magnolia possesses larger petals and potential growth than the Cherry Blossom, which overshadows it only in name recognition. I love this tree and the way it reminds me every spring that we really are south of the Mason-Dixon here. As the saying goes, “DC combines the congeniality of the north with the efficiency of the south.” I’d heard this characterization before, but it was only when a Midwestern transplant to the east coast said it after I had introduced myself as being from DC that I realized just how mean a thing that is to say, on par with “no one is from DC” after you’ve just said you’re from DC. Does this look like a swamp to you?
The girls call these ones “blue bells” (which makes me think they’ve been reading too many victorian diaries or poetry) and collect the errant ones to place in fairy houses. An offering for fairies or bait? I’m never quite clear. Nor are the fairies. Gardeners and botanists call them the more luscious “garden grape-hyacinth“, which unfortunately sets one up for an inevitable disappointment of inedibility. I have no memory of substance with these little wine cups hanging as if from bar rack (a familiar sight from my childhood at the family restaurant) to say about these ones as I do not recall them from my youth.
I thought this might be the resurrection of a dead hive, but my husband insists these are robber bees. Ours absconded (ok, they died, not their fault) some time ago, and as such I think “scavenger bees” would be more generous and more accurate for these honeybees visiting our hive.