Like nearly everywhere else this spring, southern California has had weather that can only be described as odd, to say the least. Weeks at much colder temps than we’re used to, deluges of rain, massive amounts of snow in some areas, and then, when the sun finally came back, no real warm-up. Very, very strange.
(Sidebar: As a former New Yorker, I never knew how much I craved sun 24/7 until I moved to LA – which makes it the perfect place for me.)
Unsurprisingly, it seems that the timing of spring blooms here has been kind of mixed up as well. The public garden we visit nearly every weekend offered its bouquets on a later-than-usual schedule – masses of tulips with many still unopened; near-peak cherry blossoms and calla lilies; a budding lilac grove. And while we usually see lots of flowers and flowering trees on our neighborhood walks in mid- to late March, those home gardens seemed a bit forlorn and without much in the way of color well into April.
One nearby city street ordinarily provides an extraordinary show of floral fabulousness by early April. Amid all the stores and pavement, offices and pavement, schools and restaurants and pavement, there are tons of sidewalk trees, normally crowned in pink. But they, too, seemed to miss the “flower now!” memo – they started out twiggy, then turned green and twiggy, then went mostly green. While I love spring green as much as the next girl, I missed the blossoms. And, given that it was a bit later in the season than usual, I just assumed the blooms were not going to show up this year. Poof.
The first sign that I might be wrong was while on our road trip up to the Bay Area for a few days last week. Mile upon mile upon mile of mountainsides and grassy areas bordering the freeways were absolutely carpeted with orange and yellow poppies, so many that it looked like a giant hand had splashed paint over everything. Then, the beach town up north that we have visited nearly every year for more than 20 years – sometimes more than once a year – was filled with purples and pinks, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. These were enough, I told myself. So what if spring didn’t deliver on its promise back home? Mother Nature seems to be working overtime up here.
But that’s where I had misjudged. It wasn’t that spring wasn’t coming to where we live; it just was taking its time before delivering its remarkable showcase of beauty. In the three days we were gone, the paintbrushes came out, and all of a sudden our neighborhood’s yards went from mostly green to an abundance of color that would make any gardener green with envy.
Richly fragrant roses as big as fists in luscious shades of deep red, pink, yellow, and orange; geraniums popping in brilliant vermilion and magenta; bougainvillea bursting in bright purple and pink with azaleas alongside; bunches of elegant, periwinkle-shaded irises and sweet-scented magnolias; and all manner of snowy white blossoms showering petals over lawns. A spectacle well worth the wait. And, just as the rainbow of blossoms came out, so did the warmth of the sun.
Maybe it’s just me, but I truly believe that each place has its own kind of signature sunlight – the clear, colorful beams in San Francisco; the watercolor, lit-from-within wash of radiance in Santa Fe; the crisp, cool clarity of autumn light in New York; the windswept, lakeside luster that polishes Chicago; the candy-bright blaze of Miami; the dazzling blue-white of a wintry late afternoon in New England. And LA? LA’s is a gentle, lemon-yellow light, reflecting the golden glow of this place bordered by beaches and mountains and (on clear days) soft blue skies. Perfect lighting for this late-but-perfect display.
So with spring firmly in place (in my mind and in our neighborhood), I set out yesterday for my round of errands, sure that those pavement-planted sidewalk trees, usually so full of pink blossoms, were well past that stage and that I had missed it while away. Imagine my surprise when I made a right turn and – wait for it – there, brilliant against that soft blue sky, was tree after tree topped in rosy blooms. An entire palette of pinks graced the branches in an absolutely stunning exhibit of petal passion. I hadn’t missed the flowering after all – it was waiting for me. I drove the entire length of the street with an enormous, silly smile on my face. Absolute, unexpected joy.
When I came to the end, I had to take one more look to be sure I hadn’t imagined the entire sight. But no, there they were – thousands of blossoms in my rear-view mirror. I guess that spring was closer than it had appeared.
©2023 Claudia Grossman
Your descriptions are as vibrant as the trees and blossoms. Loved it.