Hole in the Clouds
Feb 22, 2010
Winter is still with us, or at least with many of us, and there will soon be at least one more quick glance at icy cold stuff through that hole in the clouds. But let's hear it for daffodils in February.
This photo was taken yesterday in Tuscaloosa. The thing about spring in Alabama is that it starts right about now and goes on and on and on, growing flowerier and flowerier, month after month, till finally, some time in May, the air disappears and it's just too hot.
The daffodils are nothing but a tease, along with the quince blossoms and the Japanese magnolias. Then the wisteria and the redbuds. Until finally, around the beginning of April, it's seriously spring, with dogwood above and azalea all over. (The big Southern magnolias don't bloom till June, when it's hot, so I count them as summer flowers.)
They had hard freezes this winter in Alabama and even a little snow. But by yesterday, according to our Tuscaloosa correspondent, it was 70 and sunny.
(Image credit: Anna Singer)
Apr 13, 2011
This time of year, in this part of the world, the greening up is happening fast, and the procession of blooms is even faster.
First came the quince, and then before the quince petals could hit the ground, the forsythia was everywhere, schooling us in the meaning of yellow. Meanwhile, up in the sky, the first trees to let loose were Japanese magnolias, with blooms as soft and big as a baby's head and so ridiculously showy that the other trees don't even try to match them. Down on the ground, crocuses went over to daffodils, and in pots and boxes there were suddenly big happy pansies and delicate little violas.
But those were the warm-up acts. Here in the mid-Atlantic states, the star of springtime is the Japanese cherry tree, with branches that arc so heavy with blooms that it's an excuse to declare a festival. Two weeks ago in Washington and last week here in Philadelphia, official festivals drew tens of thousands of cherry-blossom admirers into the parks.
But that was then. Already, the cherry blossoms on my street have mostly drifted on down to the pavement. In the spotlight now are plum trees and redbuds and an old-fashioned kind of ornamental pear tree; its clouds of flowers look just like apple blossoms but smell like . . . like . . . old fish?
And soon enough, or almost soon enough, we'll move on to dogwoods and azaleas and tulips and then my personal favorites, the lilacs. Then it gets hot, and that's it for spring.
My brother-in-law Sandy Fuchs took this picture during a recent walk through the Kenwood neighborhood of Bethesda; I remember riding a school bus through Kenwood on my way to junior high school, tunneling through the flowers.
(Image credit: Sandy Fuchs)
Apr 22, 2011
This windowful of April is in Toronto. Let the May begin.....
(Image credit: Sam Javanrouh, via Daily Dose of Imagery)
Apr 25, 2011
This was the scene on Fifth Avenue in New York City during the 1904 Easter Parade.
Easter Parades are different from all other parades: no floats, no marching bands. They began spontaneously in the 1870s, according to what I read on the intertubes, as people got dressed up in their finest and went downtown to promenade. Easter parades still existed in Washington when I was a little girl, I believe along Connecticut Avenue. I never actually saw one in person, but I did get new clothes, new white gloves, and sometimes even a new hat with a ribbon.
If you click on this picture and study the enlarged version, there are plenty of details for your delectation: a horseless carriage amidst the horsey kind, a boy delivering flowers, men with tophats amongst the men with bowler hats. . . .
New York City
(Image credit: Detroit Publishing Co., via Shorpy)
Sep 24, 2013
Gull with a spare tire.
May 3, 2011
The snowline has retreated most of the way up the hillside above the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula, and the well-tended campus lawns have turned seriously green.
Still, the sky sometimes spits snow, and the trees daren't yet display a hint of green. If on some afternoons the spring air is gentle enough to warm an upturned face, you can take it to the bank that a few minutes later the wind will stir and whip and sting, and push the people back indoors.
Must be May in Montana.
University of Montana
May 4, 2011
Every fall and spring, civic organizations add new saplings to Philadelphia's complement of street trees. Here, our neighbor Carolyn Duffy points out proper technique last month with one of her tree-planting crews.
Carolyn is a volunteer "tree-tender" working under the auspices of Schuylkill River Park and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; she and her volunteer crews plant about sixty trees a year in neighborhoods near Rittenhouse and Fitler squares. This tree is going in across the street from the public swimming pool near 26th and Lombard streets.
It's a big operation. Trees this size–with trunks about two inches in diameter–are expensive, often $200 each, if not more. Growing conditions on each particular block dictate different varieties of trees; for example, only short-growing trees can be planted under power lines, and only narrow, columnar varieties can be planted close to parking spaces. Some narrow old streets are so dark that many kinds of trees will not thrive; other spots are so open and windy that big, sturdy varieties are most appropriate.
Nearby homeowners are asked to supply mulch and to make sure the new trees are watered during their first two summers. The Pennsylvania Horitcultural Society supplies urban arborists who match trees to sites, check up on the trees' health, and see to any necessary pruning.
This spring, Carolyn and the neighbors planted gingkos, sycamore-like London plane trees, Bradford pears, ornamental cherries, and pretty little oak trees. In the upper right corner of this photo, behind the man in the red hat, you may be able to make out the green leaves and white flowers of a pear tree planted just last fall. In a few more years, all the real estate ads for houses on these city streets will boast of "lovely" tree-shaded blocks.
Schuylkill River Park
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
May 16, 2011
Every April, the town of Annapolis, Maryland, gears up for the annual croquet match between the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy and the Johnnys of the small liberal arts college across the street, St. John's.
Although the Naval Academy is an athletic powerhouse and St. John's is a haven for bookworms, the Johnnys routinely win the contest. But there is a non-athletic dimension to the event as well: costuming.
Spectators from both colleges show up in Gatsby-esque 1920s attire, notably including hats. And the St. John's team dresses in different uniforms every year, top secret till the day of the game.
This year, the Johnnys' secret uniform was . . . the same as the Naval Academy uniform, white pants with letter sweaters. The two teams were distinguishable, however, because the midshipmen wore shiny white dress shoes while the Johnnys wore whatever shoes they felt like wearing.
St. John's won, 3-1.
St. John's College
Apr 1, 2012
Hard to believe, but April hasn't even really gotten started yet, and the time of blooming is already behind us, at least for the Bradford pears on Kater Street. That afterbloom is just so messy.
Apr 8, 2013
Pace, Mother Maybelle.
Mar 14, 2014
This year in Philadelphia, spring is coming ridiculously late, but it's coming. One sign that gives us high confidence in spring's imminence involves the tips of the crocus stalks, which are just now beginning to poke their way up out of the cold, wet ground. They'll be blooming soon, maybe within the week.
In the high meadows of Bulgaria's Rila Mountains, tallest peaks in the Balkan Peninsula (2925 m), spring always comes late, and crocuses don't bloom till the middle of June. This picture was taken two springs ago on June 19, 2012.
To catch the bright red glow on the ridge rocks, photographer Evgeni Dinev had to climb up here the day before, hauling up a tent, tripod, and all his camera gear. He snapped the shot at sunrise.
(Image credit: Evgeni Dinev)
Mar 23, 2014
It's been the proverbial March so far, but we must be up around LANE if not even LAME by now.
(Image credit: Little Fuji)
Jun 10, 2014
There are places in Switzerland that lack the scenic drama of Alpine crags and cliffs. Still and all, Switzerland is Switzerland, what with the daisies and the rolling meadows and the happy, happy cows. The postcard is complete. There's probably chocolate in those villages off in the distance.
(Image credit: K. Maldre)
Apr 11, 2015
One week ago, on a chilly but sunny New York afternoon, this espaliered pear tree in the Cloisters medieval garden was trying really, really hard to leaf out.
New York City
(Image credit: Fuji T)
Mar 10, 2016
Here in Philadelphia, the sun is smiling on us this week; it feels like spring, and it will look like spring very soon. We'll know it when we see it. Even in South Dakota's appropriately named Badlands, where life is tough and the weather is bad pretty much all seasons of the year, faint green hints of spring can be discerned in the landscape–not in March, however; the photo above was taken in mid-May 2014.
(Image credit: Little Fuji)
Mar 11, 2016
On the afternoon of March 7, 2009, the ice went out on the White River in South Royalton, Vermont. For hours, the river roared and groaned, as its thick cover of winter ice was ground to bits by rampaging ice chunks from miles upstream. By the next morning, the river ran free, except along the banks, where rocks and logs had snagged some of the frozen slabs and beached them on dry land. Over the next few weeks, the jumble of beached ice melted very slowly, and then it was really spring.
Mar 27, 2016
The tulips aren't here yet, but May is close now, just a wing and a prayer and a hop and a skip and a whiff and a shrug away.
(Image credit: Little Fuji; h/t Edie Kieffer)
Apr 25, 2016
In the mid-nineteenth century, the area around the northern Japanese city of Towada was designated as imperial ranchland, devoted to raising horses for the samurai cavalry.
The most famous of these horses was probably First Frost, which Emperor Hirohito rode for propaganda purposes during World War II. The U.S. Navy claimed to confiscate First Frost but actually left it with Hirorhito's personal property. Admiral "Bull" Halsey had promised to ride Hirorhito's horse when the Americans arrived in Tokyo, so another all-white horse was substituted for a ceremonial ride through town, for propaganda purposes.
Towada recalls its heritage with bronze horses spilling out onto a main street designated officially as Government Administration Road, nicknamed Horse Road. There are also 151 cherry trees along the road.
May 29, 2016
The Little League games were in full swing when Mister Softee showed up at Taney Park. So the players couldn't just leave the field and run over to the truck–but the grownups could.
The park entrance is red, white, and blue for Memorial Day, and also for every other day; a nearby plaque memorializes neighborhood boys who died in Vietnam. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, though the scene will look the same today, albeit with a wardrobe adjustment to deal with much, much warmer and muggier temperatures.
(Image credit: Fuji T)
Mar 22, 2017
This showed up the other day on the wall next to a parking lot in our (Seattle) neighborhood.
(Image credit: the phone)
Apr 14, 2017
Here in the Puget Sound Lowlands, it's hyacinth season down the alley.
(Image credit: Fuji T)
Feb 2, 2018
A man wears his cat in a backpack for an evening stroll past cherry blossoms in Shanghai.
(Image credit: Reuters)
Mar 22, 2018
The Cornish daffodil fields produce 90 percent of England's commercial daffodil crop. In my neck of the woods, almost 5,000 miles from Cornwall, daffodils are blooming noncommercially even as we speak.
Perhaps in your neighborhood they're already fading, or maybe the new tips of their leaves are still hidden in the snow–no matter; spring is trundling on in these days, and if it's early spring, There Will Be Daffodils.
(Image credits: top, Image1.me; middle, cornwalls.co.uk; bottom, Jim Peters)
Mar 23, 2018
(Image credit: Michele Manno)
Mar 28, 2018
Ticket sales stopped about a week ago, but we're still looking forward to the main event: the Iron Mountain Car Plunge, when the ice on the water in the East Chapin mine pit finally gives way and the orange car sinks into the depths. At that moment, it can truly be said: spring has begun on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Tickets were three for $10–three chances to guess the day, hour, and minute of the ice-out; whoever guesses closest to the actual sinking of the car, as determined by video evidence from a webcam trained on the car on the ice, wins $1,500. The local Rotary club uses the rest of the money from ticket sales to support local organizations and events.
Ice-out raffles like this one are an old Upper Peninsula tradition, popular into the 1950s. The Iron Mountain Car Plunge was revived four years ago, using a donated 1998 Saturn stripped of its engine, battery, fluids, and anything else that might be environmentally hazardous. Students at the local technical school scrubbed the car inside and out to remove all traces of road salt and grime, and then painted it orange to attract attention. A chain on its rear axle allows it to eventually be hauled up out of the water and stored till the ice comes back next year.
The East Chapin pit looks like a good-sized lake but is actually an abandoned underground mine that collapsed in on itself and flooded.
As of this writing, the ice is still looking solid. Last year, the car did its plunge thing at 4:07 PM on April 2, 2017; in 2016, it sank in mid-April, and in 2015 in late March. For those who may be thinking about buying some chances on next year's plunge: data clearly show that the car always goes down in the late afternoon.
Below is a webcam image from right around the moment of last year's plunge.
East Chapin Pit
(Image credits: Iron Mountain–Kingston Rotary)
Mar 29, 2018
(Image credit: the phone)