Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lilac Buds

Weather: Rained Monday. Seeds germinated Tuesday, probably unwanted. Spits since with winds and occasional thunder. Stronger winds yesterday. 13:08 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Apple, crab apple, flowering quince, forsythia, wisteria, tulips, first bearded iris, moss phlox, donkey tail spurge; lilacs almost open; silver lace vine leafing.

Beyond the walls and fences: Choke cherry, cottonwood, western stickseed, alfilerillo, hoary cress, purple and tansy mustards, dandelion; tree of heaven budding.

In my yard: Sand cherry, purple leaf sand cherry, Siberian pea, daffodil, baby blue iris, vinca; buds on spirea, yellow alyssum; snow ball leafing.

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum, petunia.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geranium, pomegranate.

Animal sightings: Small birds, gecko, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: There’s something to be said for Nits and Lice, a tiny plant you don’t know exists until you see the flowers. Growing lilacs is more like raising elephants - there’s a long gestation period when anything can go wrong. If you thought much about it, you’d go insane.

Last year promised to be one of the best. It had been cold, if dry. The flowers opened April 20 and immediately attracted bees. The next morning I could smell them. Then, before they’d had a chance to completely open, on the first of May, it snowed.

The snow turned to ice. The open flowers turned brown.

The unopened buds died, but didn’t fall away. The shrubs’ hormone systems abandoned them. The carcasses hung around until a week or so ago when the repeated high winds finally broke them lose.

New leaf buds appear as soon as the leaves all drop, usually late November.

Then you wait. In December, after our heaviest snow I went out to see if there was still snow protecting the roots when the sun threatened to evaporate the snow covering just as temperatures fell.

The buds stayed hard shells. Then the weather warmed prematurely. The middle of March, a bit a green showed through the tips. A week later, the expanding buds outgrow their wraps.

Then, the first week of April, the incipient flowers showed themselves, tight little cobs of tiny dark buds, rather than miniature ears of corn.

Within days, the stems between the buds grew and the clusters were revealed, still skeletal versions of themselves.

This past week, the shrubs nearer the river were close to blooming. On mine, the individual florets inflated into round balloons, and turned rosier.

Then, the floret throats extended

before, then, the four petals opened to reveal the true lavender color.

In the village, the shrubs are farther advanced, some in full bloom,

while the weather forecast for the weekend is rain or snow, depending, with temperatures falling below freezing, or not.

It’s one thing to watch something unfold in the time lapse photography of Walt Disney’s Living Desert, when there’s no suspense to suspend. You just know they wouldn’t show something they couldn’t complete. With lilacs, you have the time lapse with no assurance there'll be a happy ending.

1. Persian lilac, with buds and leaves, 6 April 2012.

2. Common lilac the day after last year’s late snow storm, 2 May 2011.

3. Paul Thirion lilac a few days after last year’s late snow storm, 5 May 2011.

4. Persian lilac, with last year’s dead buds and this year’s new leaves opening, 29 march 2012.

5. Persian lilac with new buds, unchanged from late November, 4 March 2012.

6. Paul Thirion lilac in snow, 23 December 2011.

7. Paul Thirion lilac with expanding buds, 21 March 2012.

8. Persian lilac with just emerging racemes and last year’s dead buds, 27 March 2012.

9. Persian lilac with extending racemes, 6 April 2012.

10. Common lilac with inflated buds, 12 April 2012.

11. Common lilac with extended throats, 14 April 2012.

12. Paul Thirion lilac with first florets open, 14 April 2012.

13. I have three lilacs, but there’s little difference in timing between them. The differences come from distance from the river, with the one in the village closest to the river the first to bloom (picture taken April 2014)

14. and the one a quarter mile up the road, still rosy and bursting open the same day, 14 April 2014.

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