As an adult, and teacher, I grew to love fall. The start of the new school year, a time of fresh beginnings, the vibrant fall colors, and the promise of Christmas at the end of the calendar. But growing up in California also meant hot, dry temperatures, Santa Ana winds, fire danger, and drought. Fall has become an extension of summer, and for a person who doesn’t like temperatures over eighty degrees, fall is not as enjoyable as it once was.
But then there is spring. Spring in California means quixotic rain showers, fog, overcast skies, breezes that tickle wind chimes and yes, rising temperatures on occasion. If America is the melting pot of cultures, spring is the melting pot of weather changes. And it has become my favorite season of the year.
I love spring flowers. I eagerly await the first rush of roses after my husband and I prune them down. Seven years ago we planted ten rose bushes in our back yard, the long-stemmed, tea roses if you are an aficionado of the flower. That first batch of blooms is happening now, and I can hardly wait to cut an armful of them and bring them into my house. I will place bouquets on the kitchen table, at my kitchen sink, and in the bathrooms; everywhere I frequent so that I may breathe deep their rich fragrance. With any luck, a giant vase of them will grace my Easter dinner table.
While roses are relatively easy to care for after their initial planting, spring gardens take a little time to plan, yet yield so much happiness. My husband and I normally plant bulbs in the fall, and then watch tulips and daffodils sprout during the spring months. This year we bought “pony packs” of snapdragons, carnations, and petunias, and now our little garden is beginning to flourish. I love tending the young plants: pulling off the spent blossoms, fertilizing, and of course, cutting them to display indoors. For a person who has spent most of her life killing plants, enjoying the fruits of my labors in the garden and in the home is the highest reward.
Yet spring would not be spring without one of my other favorite flowers: the sweet pea. I have been planting sweet peas for twenty-five years, and I don’t think I’ll ever quit. My father introduced them to me when I was newly married. He lovingly built a trellis in his and my mom’s backyard, and planted the seeds in the fall. My young sons and I would visit weekly, and they would stare at the dirt, looking for the first little seedlings to burst forth from the ground. It would be a competition of sorts, to see that first curl of green and once they did, we could hardly wait to watch them grow.
This year my sweet peas are already blooming, and I walk out every day to cut more blossoms from the trellis my husband built with as much care as my dad used to. Their fragrance cannot be duplicated, and even the smallest vase of them fills the room with their heady perfume. My dad lives with us now (he’s ninety-four next week), and his eyesight is going, but I still let him smell my fresh-cut sweet peas and he smiles to himself as if to a particular memory. His inner eye is 20/20, and the sweet pea fragrance takes him back in time, I’m sure.
I wish spring would last longer in California. I adore waking up to early morning fog that clings to the window screens and deadens the sound of the ever-present workaday traffic. I enjoy stepping out into my back yard with my dog and inspecting all the flowers I will cut just as soon as I have my first cup of tea. Yet all too soon summer will arrive with its eighty-and-ninety-plus temperatures along with the lack of any breeze. My rose heads will shrivel to half their size, and the sweet peas will produce peapods instead of blossoms. It will be time to turn to vegetables, which reap their own reward. But while I still can, I think I’ll head out the back door with my trusty shears and my faithful dog, and I’ll enjoy that special bounty that only spring can deliver.