Last night we had frost in the bottomlands of the Litchfield Hills. Today the air is clean, the sky clear, and the nascent Spring is revealed in every flower and twig. The rich, moist woodlands boast trillium and starflower, hepatica and bloodroot, while trout lily and ramps drift beneath the greening trees. Marsh marigolds are a burst of yellow in dark woodland pools. Ostrich ferns push their fiddleheads out of the ooze.
The invasives are emerging in force, too. Barberry leafed out before all but the first Spring ephemerals, and Norway Maple blossoms fall in sickly green. Garlic Mustard is in flower and the Japanese Knotweed is over a foot high, soon to surpass the height where it can be cut and served as ersatz rhubarb for those with a taste for it. Coltsfoot blooms by the roadside and also deeper in the forest. Bittersweet twines anew. The early leaf gets the sun.
When I was in Virginia a week ago, the redbuds cast their ethereal sprays of color beneath the forest canopy. In these latitudes, flowering shadblow hovers in the understory. Named for the anadromous fish that often appear in our rivers when the tree is in flower, shad trees are among my favorite harbingers of Spring. To walk in our forests in late April is a pure delight, with warm sunlight still reaching through the leafless trees and wildflowers unfurling at every step. In a few short weeks, foliage closes in and vistas contract, but now the woodlands are airy and light.
I have a wildflower garden at home with nursery grown spring ephemerals predominating. Dutchman's britches and maidenhair fern sway beside many of the species previously mentioned. There are even two clumps of large yellow ladylippers Cypripedium pubescens and another of little white ones Cypripedium x andrewsii, laboratory grown and divided by the New England Wildflower Society without the need for the mycorrhizal associations that natural propagation requires. Rare plant gardens are a bit like zoos - moving and satisfying at some levels but no substitute for the real thing in the wild. Still, I spend hours in this garden as spring progressing, noting how the plants rearrange themselves over time and form their own associations. The trout lilies and wild leeks are delightfully intermingled, now.
"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour."
- William Blake