The Greening

Something magical is happening.  Right now, as we speak.  Maybe metres away from where you’re sitting.

Can you hear it? I expect it crackles, just a little bit.

It is the buds bursting.  One by one by one.

In February there were tremulous catkins quivering, palest green and yellow.  It was easy to miss them.  They were right to be nervous.

The elder were the first leaves to go, in March.  Little explosions of green in the hedgerows, like hands reaching out to us.  They are brave little souls.  They survived the snow.

Then, in the thaw, some hard little buds began to break.  White tufts of blackthorn and bird cherry, hesitant at first, but growing in confidence, candyfloss-soft against bare branches.  There are great bursts of these now, punctuating the lanes.

There’s the palest green pussy willow, at hand-level: it’s impossible not to stroke them.

The brightest green flecks in the hedgerows are hawthorn.  Tiny sparks at first, bursting in the sun.  First speckles, freckles, but spreading.  Sunny spots get clothed first.  But once they start they can’t stop.  The dots get joined up.

Weeping willows are shimmering and spilling yellow.-green showers, like fountains.

The buds are swelling on the apples and pears.  And the end of each spur is a bobble, fat with blossom.

There are bed-knobs at the base of the sycamores.  Horse chestnuts are just waiting for the signal.  The pressure is building from the roots to the tips: they will split their seams.  After this great rupture, there will be half-opened umbrellas for a day or two, just taking the air.  Deciding it is safe, they will spring up and out into brightest green parasols.  They will make great candelabras for each upright blossom.  They will whisper to the oaks, who are just biding their time.

Then, the highlight: there are a wondrous two or three weeks at the end of April, beginning of May, when the oaks show us what green really is.

There is nothing to beat the myriad greens of a sunny oak on a spring day.  I cannot help but exclaim “green!” when I see it.  There is something about the newborn translucence of an oak leaf, as it overlaps with its partners.  It is like a marvelous mosaic of brightest green.  A jigsaw, slotted imperfectly together, overlapping to make new greens.

Whatever you do this spring, make sure to stop what you do to gaze upon an oak tree.  Stand directly under one and just look up.  Get your fix of green.  Savour it.  Drink it in.

What is your favourite tree?  Why?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

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44 Comments Add yours

  1. annpappas says:

    It’s very difficult to have a favourite tree but for it’s beautiful flower, I’d go with Cape Chestnut: We have one in our garden and I have blogged about it.

    1. Ali says:

      That is very pretty, Ann. How long does it stay in flower?

  2. annpappas says:

    I think altogether about three months for our tree which is quite old now. The ones at Kirstenbosch seem to flower for longer.

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I agree with Ann when she says it’s hard to have a favourite tree- so much beauty to choose from- but I do love the native frangipani, hymenosporum flavum for its glossy green leaves, fragrant flowers and wonderful shape. Your post is beautifully written btw, I feel as though I’m experiencing the excitement of spring too!

    1. Ali says:

      I love frangipani too. I’m happy to share the spring!

  4. Emma Cownie says:

    Spring is on hold in the UK right now. I am looking forward to that just-burst-from-the-bud green of the leaves of the horse chestnuts and beech tree.

    1. Ali says:

      I know. It will be all the more special when we do get some sun!

  5. croftgarden says:

    Living in a virtually tree-less landscape, I really miss this spring explosion of green. Beyond the garden wall, spring is still on hold, but when it arrives it will transform the our grasslands into a carpet of flowers. Until then I shall enjoy your photographs of trees and image the sound of buds popping and the fresh smell of new green leaves.

    1. Ali says:

      You live in a very special place, though! Wishing you a lovely spring!

  6. Echoing everyone else’s response, I’m not sure I have a favorite tree – I love them all! Here, in northern NY, I especially love them all in the autumn. But I guess, given my northeastern roots, I have a special affinity for the maple.

    Loved the post btw…

    1. Ali says:

      They are beautiful. Would love to see the maples in their natural setting.

  7. How to choose a favourite? I love that fresh zingy green of young beech leaves, especially with the classic carpet of bluebells beneath, but they all have their own springtime beauty that lifts the spirits, don’t they? Here in Asturias, it’s the brilliant lemony mimosa that heralds the end of winter – such a show off!

    1. Ali says:

      Beech and hornbeam are also favourites, especially as you say you it’s a carpet of bluebells. Hard to beat.

  8. Jade C says:

    Too many of them. My favourites range from flowering ornamentals like Frangipani, Jacaranda sp., Magnolia sp, Cassia fistula, etc. to non-flowering ornamentals like Willow tree, Dalbergia oliveri , etc., many types of palm trees, to big, magnificent jungle trees. I wish I have them all but then I can’t. Not even one. My garden is just far too small . So, you are really blessed, Ali!

    1. Ali says:

      We are blessed to be surrounded by trees, not all in the garden, but in the surrounding landscape.

      1. Jade C says:

        I agree. You are right Ali.

  9. Your words show such loving kindness toward nature, Ali. This could so easily be a poem, an ode to “the greening.” I love it. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. Your words are poetry. I don’t know how you do it, but you actually made me anticipate Spring MORE because of how you wrote about it.
    My favorite tree is the willow. I’ve always wanted to have one nearby so I could sit under it and pretend I lived in a fairy world beneath its fronds. Second favorite would be my crabapple tree when it blooms (though it’s aging and not as interested in blooming anymore.)

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, thank you Angela! Willows are lovely. And crabapples. My eldest daughter used to call them ‘popples’, so they have a special place in my heart!

  11. bcparkison says:

    Spring green in all of her many hues is my most favorite color.

    1. Ali says:

      It is the most invigorating, life-affirming colour, isn’t it?

  12. Heyjude says:

    How beautiful. I’m afraid my lanes are still quiet. But hopefully this sun will waken some of those greening buds up. As for a favourite tree, I suspect I’d have to go for a Ginkgo. Just extraordinary. But I love most trees, especially ones with blossom and/or fragrance.

    1. Ali says:

      I love the leaves on ginkgo!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Me too! Such a buttery yellow in autumn.

  13. I adore trees and find choosing a favourite very difficult. But I think I have to go with the basswood, or linden, tree at the end of our big meadow. It is splendid in every season and the shape is perfect — like Plato’s idea of what a tree should look like. I planted muscari underneath the shadow line and when the tree begins to leaf out and the muscari come into bloom, the sight is magnificent. Bees swarm in the branches when it blooms, and sitting underneath the tree then is like being inside a bee hive.

    My second favourite tree (for now, at least) is the avenue of 100+ crabapple trees I planted last fall. I am eager to see them bloom for the first time. (Well, saying I’m eager isn’t strong enough!)

    1. Ali says:

      I just had to google linden tree: i did not know it is another name for lime! We have a wonderful lime tree, which is my favourite tree in our garden. It is all the more beautiful for having some slightly misshapen branches from when it used to be crowded by larger sycamores. I love it in all seasons with its graceful dangling branches. Stevie and I were talking about planting some limes for pleaching around a new pond too. Your crabapples sound wonderful – hope you will share photos!

  14. Ali: I NEED your blog. Because I study so much, I spend way too much time indoors even though I love nature. Your blog is continually pushing me back into nature, and I am so grateful. I LOVE the description in this post. Also, my favorite trees are the giant trees in my backyard, which I don’t know the name of, but I love them. They form this gorgeous green canopy.

    1. Ali says:

      Shelly, we enjoy a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship! I need your wisdom and you need my green! I love it!
      For anyone else who needs wisdom, visit Shelly’s blog!

  15. Chloris says:

    Lovely post. It is impossible to choose a favourite at this exciting time of the year. Mulberry buds are said to open with an audible pop but I have never heard mine.

    1. Ali says:

      My dad has a mulberry – I will have to sit under it to see if I can hear anything!

  16. Eliza Waters says:

    Sugar Maple is my favorite, closely followed by American Beech. No green can match it! 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      I would love to be to see the sugar maples.

  17. fredgardener says:

    What a poet you are with these words….I enjoyed reading this !

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Fred, am glad you enjoyed it.

  18. This is a wonderful post. It’s difficult to choose just one tree since they all have such beauty. I think I would have to say my favorite is Coral Bark Maple with it’s changing colorful foliage and coral colored bark in winter, For a flowering tree, Kwanzan Cherry wins for its magnificent double pink blooms.

    1. Ali says:

      Maple seems to be a real favourite. I do love acers too, though don’t grow any. That flowering cherry is a stunner!

  19. Anonymous says:

    What a lovely post it read like a poem to me xxx

    1. Ali says:

      Was inspired by green! 😀

  20. A beautifully lyrical post, Ali – you paint pictures with your words. We don’t often think of the sound that trees make yet you brought that to life. I am surrounded by oaks in my garden and I love them for their beauty as well as for the way they sustain hundreds of different pollinating insects, dozens of bird species, and the ever present gray squirrels. But my favorite tree in the garden is a mulberry whose curving shape is so graceful that I constantly photograph it. The birds and squirrels love it for the juicy berry feast it provides every June.

    1. Ali says:

      Your comment has made my day! Thank you! Yes, oaks are so rich with life. They are wonderful. Did you read the earlier comment that mulberries are supposed to make an audible pop as the buds burst? I am going to investigate this!

    2. Ali says:

      And the berry feast is wonderful! I have fab memories of my children climbing the mulberry at Great Dixter and coming down looking like bloodied savages!

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