We are having May in April this year, thanks to that hot couple of weeks in March, so everything is early. But it always amazes me, the progression of flowers, many of them enticingly fragrant, in May and thereabouts as spring works its way through the land.
First of course are the crocus, which burned off almost after they bloomed in the March heat this year, then the daffodils, the first fragrant flowers of spring. They give off an earthy scent, redolent of the newly thawed ground they rise from, and sometimes they are available in February in the grocery store, so I can smell them even before they bloom in the yard. Then the tulips, a very mild scent, slightly sweet, and the hyacinth, a riot of perfume. I always bring some of all of these into the house and take in the scents whenever I pass, especially now that I am getting older and it’s harder to kneel down to their height in the yard.
Now the lilacs are in full bloom, the first time I have seen this in early April! An intoxicating scent that also requires me to pick some and bring them in the house and smell them each time I go past, even though they quickly wilt and I have to go back for more. They don’t seem to mind that I pick them freely, there are so many blossoms on my two bushes; and one bush blooms slightly later than the other, so my chance to smell lilacs lasts a bit longer.
Meantime the bleeding hearts are blooming away on the corner of the deck. And the violets, plain old violets that I could not find anywhere for sale but had to dig from my daughter’s yard, despite my husband’s warning that they would spread and become pests (they have spread, but I love the riot of purple in the yard). They don’t have a scent, but they are so beautiful and dainty, and I bring some of them in the house too.
At about the same time the glorious apple trees bloom, and the sweet smell of the apple blossoms nearly knocks me off my feet. We don’t have a tree so I have to find some elsewhere to get my fix of apple blossoms, the best way being the UW Arboretum with my daughter, usually a Mother’s Day tradition though this year we went last week. Amazingly, the apple blossoms will be all gone by May this year.
The lily of the valley are the only flowers to go on their regular timetable this year, not rushed by the early spring. They aren’t there, and they aren’t there, and they aren’t there, and then suddenly they sprout up as if to say: Surprise! Here we are! And oh, the scent of the lily of the valley! And meanwhile the columbine are growing again and will soon be in bloom.
And then, finally, the peak and climax of the fragrant spring flowers, the peony bushes!! They are my absolute favorite, their rich, roselike scent that I drink in greedily and also bring in the house until the bushes are finally depleted for another year.
All of these bloom for a week or two and then they are gone for another year. And each year I forget again how they smelled, so every spring they are again a surprise. Annuals, planted later in the spring, bloom all summer, they are reliable and long-lived, but they seldom have a scent, and those spring perennials are one of the reasons that May is my favorite month. The temporary presence of those ethereal smells must not be missed, because once the week or so of bloom is gone, they are gone, until next spring. You can’t say: I’m busy now, I’ll enjoy the peonies next week—because next week they will be gone.