Firsts

Several “firsts” have occurred in the past few days. I have loved magnolias since my childhood. A stand of them can be found in Central Park by Cleopatra’s Needle, and my mother, sister and I used to ride our bikes there every spring to have a picnic under the trees. They seem so lush, almost tropical. Unlike the tidy crabapples and cherry blossoms, magnolias have oversized flowers that open in a glorious mass, and then fade dramatically by dripping huge petals to the ground.

A few years ago I purchased a magnolia, and it seemed doomed from the start. We were doing some work with a backhoe, and the tree got clipped and severely damaged. We thought we’d killed it, but the next year its wounds had healed. The tree continued to grow, slowly, never blossoming. Then one winter during a storm, several major branches broke off. The following spring we almost pulled it out to plant a new tree in its place…but as if hearing the death knell, it began to grow again. Now the trunk is misshapen but sturdy, and for the first time, ridiculously large blooms appeared. They are sweetly fragrant and luminous—you can see them glowing in the moonlight.

Our first fall in the house I planted lots of bulbs, including about 25 tulips. Year after year they emerge, only to be eaten to the ground before even a hint of a flower…until this year, when one lone tulip surprised us. We kept expecting to lose it, but the other day it opened to reveal a bright yellow flower.

We’ve had peaches for a few years, and last year, two (delicious) Asian pears. But we’ve never had a single apple blossom on any of our five trees. We asked at Fedco (where we’d purchased them) what might be wrong, and were reassured that apple trees simply took awhile to get established. Yesterday we discovered our first apple blossoms…so we have a chance at apples this fall.

And always a thrill, the first asparagus of the season is emerging. We’re having an auspicious spring.

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