Uncovering April

As April moves along and we enter the heart of spring, it can be easy to appreciate only the beauty that is thrust upon us. It may be the noble cherry specimen that stands proud outside your living-room window, or the endless white of the pear trees that line our streets. Maybe it’s the bursting forsythia hedge next to the striking purple P.J.M. rhododendrons that you see every day on your morning walk that gives you a sense of joy. Yes, these plants are very beautiful, and they bring happiness every spring to those who see them, but there is also more veiled beauty to enjoy. In order to see it, you’re going to have to look a little closer.

While we usually have to wait until around Mother’s Day to see the lilac’s bloom, I have a hunch that they’ll be a little early this year. The buds of the variegated common lilac (Syringa vulgaris ‘Aucubaefolia’) have emerged from between folded leaves and their rich purple color is quite pronounced. Also eagerly budding are many of the viburnums. Perhaps my favorite shrub, the double-file viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum), looks all set to unleash its flowers for the world to see. The Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii), however, is next in line to flower, and this could happen any day now. Its cymes (convex or flat inflorescence) glow cherry red.

Variegated common lilac.
Double-file viburnum budded and ready to go.
Beautiful color, pre-flower from the Korean spice viburnum.

As you all know, now is the time when many trees and shrubs are leafing out. Some plants do it far more gloriously than others. Next to the Visitor’s Center, the young foliage of the bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) has a very metallic appearance, a coppery luster that stands out even in the shade on a cloudy day. Over in the Enclosed Garden, another plant emerges copper, the female katursatree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). Young leaves are joined by subtle red and green flowers (top image), which, perhaps, gives the entire specimen a darker color than its male neighbor.

Unique shape and color from the bottlebrush buckeye leafing out.
Difference in color between the two magnificent Katsura specimens.

Finally, I’ll leave you with some flowers. Common periwinkle (Vinca minor) has been in bloom happily for a few weeks now. This low ground cover produces violet flowers as new growth emerges, and is a great plant for a spot with dappled shade! The Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) in front of the Mansion is also in bloom. Like most conifers over the last month, its male flowers are generating pollen at an astonishing rate, producing small dust clouds with a slight tap of the finger. People with allergies, such as myself, take caution!

Flowers of the Common periwinkle.
Male flower of Japanese umbrella pine.

Be sure to take time to seek and enjoy the little beauties nature blesses us with every spring!