Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Floral Report

Yes, it’s true!  It’s the long awaited, and oft asked for Floral Report, direct from the Rose City!

And, here’s the thing, this report is late.  Very, very late.  But, not too late!  No, there are still flowers everywhere.

Spring is the season of petal carpets, of petal storms, of sidewalks and gutters running with pink.  (Why, oh why is my camera broken?!)  The early blooming bulbs are long gone.  The crocus and snowdrops were a couple of months ago, the daffodils last month, the tulips are nearly finished.  The earliest of the cherry trees already bloomed, and the glorious parade of cherries in the Japanese American Historical Plaza was spectacular, as usual.  Right now, in my close-in Northeast neighborhood, the very pink double-blossomed, Kwanzan Cherry trees are in full regalia.  They are so LUSH!  I have to write it in capital letters because they are so ridiculously floral!!!

What else is blooming?  Plenty.  The lilacs are just getting started.  I was worried because I have two lilacs that grow in the fence line between my yard and my neighbor.  Three years ago these lilacs were cut way, way back.  It was necessary, as they had gotten to be around 20 feet tall and were bending over into a ‘U’ shape.  They were cut back to about 4 feet tall.  Now, I don’t know if you know this, but lilacs bloom on second year wood.  That means that there would be no flowers the following year.  I knew I could tough it out, but then the neighbor hired some idiot who was pretending to be a gardener to do some yard work and he butchered the lilacs yet again.  That means that my lilac blooms were still two years away… argh!  But, this year they are beginning to bloom.  There are two varieties, the standard and the very fragrant “French” lilac.  Both are lovely. 

Amelanchier alnifolia is blooming right now, also known as Western serviceberry.  The birds are supposed to love the berries, but they don’t seem to eat the ones on our shrub.  That’s ok, the flowers are pretty.  The ribes sanguineum (western red currant) that we planted in the backyard last summer had a glorious display of deep pink flowers. 

A biggie that is just getting started is the flowering dogwood.  Oh my goddess!  They are so beautiful!  The great thing about the dogwood is that those pretty pink and white petals are not petals but bracts.  That’s why they last so long.  Bracts are modified leaves that serve the purpose of petals in attracting pollinators.  Everyone knows a couple of plants that have bracts  instead of petals: such as that winter favorite Poinsettia, or if you are currently hanging out in the southlands, Bougainvillea.  But, around here, the best example is the dogwood.  Some genius in my neighborhood, actually on my street, planted a series of dogwoods, alternating pink and white in the front yards of about twenty houses.  When you realize the scope of that kind of urban landscaping, you appreciate that there are people who see farther than a yard full of grass and one rhododendron. 

Whoa, did I say rhododendron?  Yes, they are starting to flower as well.  The sturdy, plain, natives are not ready yet, but the fancy, fabulously colored ones are starting to show off. 

Related, in that they are flora but not floral, is the greening of the deciduous trees.  Right now the alders and the cottonwoods, the oaks and the maples, are all putting forth their tender green new leaves.  It’s that time of spring when the leaves are pale and chartreuse.  Later they will be darker green and sturdy looking, but right now they are bright and contrasting with the dark green conifers.  The alder and cottonwood catkins are hanging in clumps, and really they are flowers so I guess they count in the floral report!

It’s a beautiful time here in the Pacific Northwest.  A lovely time for walking and seeing and sniffing.  Especially sniffing, if you are an allergy sufferer.  We were sitting in the back yard a day or two ago and the cherry blossoms were drifting down to cover us in a white blanket.  The air was mild and soft, perfumed with fragrance, the dappled sunlight shining through the mock orange cast a pale green light around us.  And, for that moment, all was right with the world.


  1. I truly feel plant and flower ignorance now. I very happy to know what a bract is though. I even googled it so I could see a picture! This makes me miss home :(

  2. Spring and summer are glorious here, it's true! You'll be back for summer, but the flowers won't wait...

    Hey! Cool that you looked up bracts! :-)