Soft Spring – a ramble

lilacs Well!  You all know the Midwest suffered through the worst Winter in (my) recorded history this past year, right?  After not one but TWO Polar Vortexes ..with deadly cold draping itself over us like an icy dragon…Nature decided to reward us with a real Spring.  Warm days become coolish nights, with that wet greenness that only happens in April and May, when Spring decides to put in an appearance, beating Summer back to its appropriate venue.  This Spring has been slow in coming, with bulbs taking their sweet time showing up…trees looking pretty lifeless…then, all of a sudden…BLAM-O!  A full riot of sights and smells!  I remember, back when I was about 14-15 yrs old, there was a maple tree on the parkway, three houses down.  For months it’d lain dormant and it looked as if it would never even bud, let alone leaf out for the Season.  I passed that tree at least twice a day, not giving it much thought.  One day, though, in late May…I’d passed it and was suddenly aware of a ‘disturbance in the Force’ – I looked back and nearly jumped out of my teeth!  That tree was in full leaf!  Trees are funny like that, verrra sneaky.  So, watch it!

I was going to write this really in-depth post about Spring frags but then I took Bruno (who says “hey”) out for a walk…and I realized:  Spring, done right?  It’s its own perfume curio cabinet.  The moderate temps have allowed those lilac buds to open slowly – something about that intensifies the aroma, I think.  They waft on the breeze and just delight the senses.  Usually I cut a few branches but this Spring I’m leaving all of them on their bushes.  It’s just too lovely to watch them dance and sway in the light Spring winds.

At the onset of Spring, when the grass was just coming out of dormancy, we had a surfeit of rain.  So no one could cut theirs, not even my OCD neighbor (and no, I’m not dissing him – I love looking out at his perfect lot (I don’t think he uses pesticides, just cuts it – a lot).  There’s a curious sense of calm in his cutting ritual – as long as he’s out there on Saturday or Sunday I know North Korea has not fired off a serious WMD and the zombies have not invaded Des Moines.  All is right with our little corner of the world.  This weekend everyone in town cut their grass.  Alas, that rich ‘just-cut grass’ smell usually eludes me, so I don’t really get the olfactory jolt that so many of you rave about but this year I did get a bit more of the not-quite-hay richness…and it is sublime!!!

Plum blossoms.  Not the fruit tree…those purply-red tree bushes that Japanese Beetles love to devour.  In blossom they have a faint Spring aroma.  They don’t smell like anything in particular – they just smell like Spring.

Viburnum.  That astonishing scent that one can never directly access, viburnum packs such a powerful punch….but it can only be enjoyed on the breeze.  Stick your nose directly in a Miss Kim?  Nothing.  At least for me.  And Miss Kim will further punish you by short-circuiting your scent receptors so you can’t smell anything else.

Dirt.  Spring.  Right there.  My Mother’s Day present to me was a day spent hoeing up 500+ morning glory seedlings, then getting the beds ready for the tomatoes and veg.  The first veg garden is adjacent to the coop and during the Winter I had nowhere to throw their detritus except over the fence into the corner of that walled garden.  Hey!  Don’t judge.  Waist-high snow  on top of more snow…with -40F temps?  ….anyway…there was a LOT of chicken poop in that corner.  Talks with other gardeners confirmed what I was fearing – that much nitrogen would mean a 20′ tomato plant – and no fruit!  So I thought…’hey!  what about something you WANT a lot of leaves from?’  so I planted an experimental patch of collards.  Won’t it be fun if they grow to 6′ tall!  And that poop has cured enough that it doesn’t smell chicken-y anymore.

Planting peppers.  I overwintered some jalapenos, which bore some great fruit.  I harvested them, cut the plants back and am now putting them in the ground.       Whew!    The juicy, thick root system is full of the pickley-prickley smell of dirt infused with pimiento.  The roots smell similar to the teeny little blossoms , right as the fruit is starting to emerge.  Those little fruits are HOT!

The wind.  The rain.  The rainy wind.  The ozone that presages a storm. Repotting herbs on the breezy front porch.  Hummingbirds, returning to the traplines (okay – they don’t smell…but …they are Spring!

What’s smelling Spring! in your corner of the world (unless you’re upside down from us, in which case it’s Winter)?  And wth is up with Solange Knowles?  I don’t know anything about these folks but….wow!  That was some ca-RAAAZAY!

  • Hi Musette & Bruno!
    Spring is more or less over here. 🙂 It’s early summer now. I was busy with picking some St. John’s worts to make infused oil for cuts and burns. Peaches in the orchards are nearly ready to pick and apples are getting fatter on the trees.
    Broom shrubs are in full bloom and smells absolutely GORGEOUS!! Love to pack the smell and send it to you! 🙂

  • Liz K says:

    Our spring is almost over here. We are having one last cool spell but have had the A/C blasting for a month already and will be back to hot this weekend. The mountain laurels have long stopped blooming as have the iris and chinaberry trees. The only thing blooming right now is the star jasmine which is just about through but has been glorious in the hot muggy evenings and a couple of roses that are prolific bloomers and didn’t completely loose their buds in the heat last week. Looks like my hoyas will be starting their summer bloom season soon but many have very little sillage.
    I really wish I lived somewhere with a real spring but that would mean having a real winter too…

    PS. Smooches to Bruno!

  • malsnano86 says:

    We’ve been having Real Spring in the mountains of VA this year – apple blossoms are fleeting but beautiful and so tender. Black locust blooming now, and I ADORE that smell… lilacs not out yet, but the wisteria is, and I can remember years in the past when we got the lilacs first. We’ve been getting lovely wafts of cut grass already, and The CEO’s cousin has already spread manure on his fields so of course I’ve had the window open and said to myself, “Oh, where’s that jasmine coming from? Nebbermind, Dale just fertilized…” Redbuds and dogwoods have come and gone, although those are only gorgeous for the eyes because the flowers don’t have a smell. They are superlatively gorgeous against the soft green of new leaves, though; that’s one of my favorite color combinations, that soft green and white and an orchidy purple-pink.

    Scritch Bruno’s ears for me, too, and tell him Hayley sends greetings. (Hayley could use a little well-wishing herself – she’s been going on 6 mile runs on gravel with Gaze, and it’s given her a lump on her doggy elbow. She’s on pain meds and a short-term steroid until she stops limping, poor baby.)

  • rosarita says:

    Ms A, you described the exquisite Midwest spring beautifully! We’re in the midst of a monsoon as you know, but everything is so lush and green and welcome, the sodden lilacs and geranium leaves smelling especially nice, that I’m fine with the puddles. Driving out in the country, entranced by lambs, colts and calves, even the manure smells good. Next to October, May is the prettiest month of the year.

    • Musette says:

      Those few 80+ days were a lovely taste of Summer-to-Come…but I’m delighted with this extended Spring. xoxoxoxoA

  • Laurels says:

    What odonata9 said, basically–spring was an eyeblink, the irises came and went, the citrus trees are nearly done blooming, and the scent of jasmine is blowing through the screen door like it’s July. (I hope you’re well away from the fires, o9. This is the first time in a while I don’t have any family members to worry about down there, as Coronado doesn’t have much brush.)

    In defense of Solange, I don’t think my sister has ever dated a guy I didn’t want to smack in the mouth. Not drinking is helpful in controlling those impulses, though.

    • Musette says:

      dang! on your Spring. We have that all too often, which is why this prolonged Spring is so delightful (even though it’s freakin’ COLD).

      Re Solange………I dunno…..but I’m in total agreement about Not Drinking, especially if you are inclined to violence. I loves me some violence – but this just seemed Crazy!


  • odonata9 says:

    Spring is a little different here in San Diego – especially since we are having a crazy Santa Ana right now with 90-100 degree temps, wind and wildfires popping up everywhere. But the biggest thing smell-wise right now is the star jasmine blooming. There are several office buildings around my office that use it as a groundcover/evergreen since it does have nice shiny green leaves. So there are these huge blankets of it all around – some almost 1/2 a block. I can smell it from my car as I drive by. Heavenly. The jacarandas started about a month ago and are still going – love those purple blooms.

  • Teri says:

    Not much to ‘smell’ in Denver yet. We had a snowstorm Sunday into Monday and are just now seeing temps rise out of the 40s and the snow beginning to melt. Yuck.

    However, I did have a delightful ‘sight’ of spring this morning. The building where I work has a stream running next to it and a pair of Canadian geese have been nesting there, occasionally chasing a car into the parking garage in defense of their nest. This morning, mom and pop goose were parading their youngsters through the parking lot. I could see them walking all in a line with pop goose out front and mom goose in the back hustling the golden-downed babies along in front of her. They were absolutely charming.

    • Musette says:

      A week ago I was walking along the Fox River in Batavia and had to stop several times for goose families. Adorable…and somewhat dangerous, with the Parents Goose giving me the sideye, ready to PECK THE LEGS! xoxoxoA

  • dinazad says:

    First comes March, or sometimes late February, smelling of rotting leaves, wet earth and ….something…. growth, I think. Green things to come. But when spring is here, it smells of garlic. The woods around the town I live in are chockfull of wild garlic – almost the first green of the season, and everybody goes wild about it. Restaurants cook everything with wild garlic and garlic haters grumble in the background. When I get off the train coming from the office, I’m greeted by that unmistakable whiff…. Lily of the valley comes almost at the same time, but it hasn’t got a chance until the garlic has bloomed (lovely flowers!) and gone to seed, when lilac and early roses take over.
    In the city, it’s garlic (one seed of the stuff is enough to populate every lawn and park within a few seasons) and wisteria. Only now is lilac coming into its own (time to go find that sample of En Passant. Or Angelique sous la pluie, since it’s raining again. And cold).

    • Musette says:

      here it’s called ‘ramp’ and I LOVES it! I just made a ramp pesto and the whole house – nay, the whole town! – smelled of ramps!!!

      I haven’t worn Angelique in yonks! It’s rainy and cold here, too. Maybe I’ll wear it today! xoxoxoA

  • einsof says:

    i’ve been spending my days, of late, standing over a lilac bush impatient for those black dots to grow and blossom into fragrant purple. i’ve been keeping my head to the ground, ready to scramble to the earth floor to imbibe the bellyflower. i’ve been watching the geese and ducks do their best esther williams. there’s a bottle of rose absolute i have been keeping my hands off- keeping it just out of reach… much like spring.

  • Katherine says:

    Solange may need some Yoga. I feel like were heading from winter to Summer. I had zero chance to use any spring perfumes because it is either 85 or 35 degrees (it may be due to hot flashes also). I am getting some use out of Kate Walsh boyfriend and DSH vanille botanique. They’ve been in heavy rotation, but I really need a jasmine perfume.

    • Musette says:

      I wonder if she’s just a Crazy Drunk? Or a Mean Drunk? Or a Mean, Crazy Drunk? I can’t imagine anything that would warrant that type of behavior (unless she caught him doing something truly heinous, in which case the police should’ve been there, stat!).

      Weird doin’s…LOL! on the hot flashes. I got lucky – only had that a couple of times – but wow! it was intense!


      • Katherine says:

        I think he probably did something crazy to bring out her crazy. Family feud!!

  • Spiker says:

    I believe I’m getting the same spring over here in northern Indiana that you are, I just wish I was as tuned in to all the lovely smells. I’ll have to make sure to take time to stop and smell the lilacs, viburnum, and other lovelies. Thank you for such an evocative post and give Bruno s scritch behind the ears for me. He’s a good boy! Yes he is!

    • Musette says:

      ha! Normally I can’t smell 90% of what’s out there but somehow I can always smell Spring! Bruno sends you a smooch!


  • Ann says:

    Woo-hoo — a real spring for you! Hooray! It’s about time, I’d say, especially for you snow-battered folks in the Midwest and far North. Spring has pretty much come and gone in my neck of the woods and now it’s high 80s, a bit muggy and we have had to turn on the A/C. I used to be able to wait until the first day of June, but not lately. Anyway, it beats snow and ice and gridlocked highways, right?

    • Musette says:

      LOL! Ann, it would have to be 110F for me to turn on the AC. I HATES it! Of course, when I walk into a nicely AC’d place on a hot summer’s day….well, okay…;-)

      And I ALWAYS prefer extreme heat to extreme Winter!


  • poodle says:

    I’m seeing green! After months of white the sight of anything growing, even the weeds, is a welcome sight. Things are starting to bloom although they are late this year. Last night felt like a fall evening but as I was sitting out by the fire pit burning a branch that fell off one of my weak trees last week a hummingbird buzzed my head to say hello. So it must really be happening because the hummingbirds are back! (Made some nectar last night. Feeder will be hung this morning.)

    • Musette says:

      Hey, babydoll! How’s the little poo-dell? I put my feeder up a week ago and within 45 minutes they were ON it! I worked like a fiend to get on their traplines – the past 3 years have been pretty good!
      It’s funny to watch the first wave – they’re so skittish! By late June they’re all ‘oh, it’s just her’ and they’ll come right up in my face!


  • Portia says:

    I figging love you.
    Portia xx

  • Nemo says:

    I love the viburnum and lilacs! They have sneakily started blooming in NY as well, and the crabapple trees smell like spring (I was trying to figure out what exactly they smell like, but they don’t smell like anything else except very fleetingly). I just wish the dogwood trees weren’t so smelly!

    • Musette says:

      Crabapple trees have an elusive, faint beauty, don’t they! I love catching a whiff…but that’s all I am ever able to catch, alas..


  • eldarwen22 says:

    Here in Cleveland, the daffodils have mostly finished, pansies are really starting to go hog wild and the hyacinths are having a really good show. That’s all that I’m smelling is hyacinth and maybe a primrose here and there. Lilacs won’t bloom until maybe June if I am lucky. But right now, I have fallen in love with L’Heure de Nuit.

    • Musette says:

      I have that one on my desk right this very morning! I am going to try it again, since you fell in love. I tried it ‘on the fly’ and was unmoved. But that ‘on the fly’ thing often later results in being hoist upon my own petard.


  • Diana says:

    Maybe it’s just that my nose isn’t all that sensitive, but my feeling is that spring in the midwest (Vernon Hills, IL, to be specific) is quite watered down compared to the spring in NC. Moved to IL from NC in 2013 and still recall the lush, fragrant, early spring in NC. IL just can’t hold a candle to it, but if that’s all we get, guess we have to appreciate it. Still, I miss the scent of the Persian Silk trees bursting with pink cotton candy blooms of heavenly lusciousness. Oh well. Gotta follow the mullah (jobs), right?

    • Musette says:

      Each region has its delights, I think. The Midwest’s are subtler than a lot of other parts of the country, I agree. The South is just ridiculous in its bounty. And don’t get me started on the Central Coast of CA!


      • Diana says:

        CA Central coast is in the top 3 of where I want to go after my 3 yr stint in Il is done in Feb 2016!