Springtime in lockdown

One of the strange things about growing up in California is that seasons never seemed to be clearly defined in the traditional sense of having four distinct stages. Rather, there is the warm and dry part of the year, when the grass on the hills is a golden yellow, and the cooler wetter part of the year, when it's replaced by green. Except during severe droughts, when the green season remains partly golden yellow. I largely missed out on the colors of leaves changing in autumn - apart from very fond memories of classroom crafts and decorations, primarily in the run-up to Halloween and Thanksgiving. The experience of flowers blooming in springtime was also slightly lost on me - these things seemed to happen haphazardly, while some plants seemed to remain in bloom for most of the summer. On my first trip to the midwest in November, my first thought at seeing the barren trees as my plane made its final approach, was that there must have either been a severe drought or a wildfire. The effects of seasons on California oaks were never so severe; winter had always just seemed like an excuse for the sun to call it a day earlier.

In grad school, there was one tree that did seem to take notice of the changing seasons. The campus shuttle's route went right by it, standing in Revelle College at the south end of campus, in a lawn set apart from the eucalyptus trees. In spring and summer, the tree's rounded crown was a verdant green, and in autumn and winter, the leaves would turn a brilliant yellow before falling to the ground. This tree was a symbolic marker of my progression toward my degree, as a frequent lack of clear deliverables or milestones often made time appear to stand still.

I didn't fully appreciate springtime until I moved to London. The move brought about my first real winter experience: my office got dark before 3pm, I finally understood (and embraced) the concept of the gloaming, and I experienced SAD. Then, daffodils began to appear, and crocuses, and other flowers. It was an amazing experience - and something that gets repeated whenever we have a less-than-mild winter.

We're a bit beyond that stage now, but spring still brings some magic and a sensation of time's passage when everything else remains largely the same. Outside my balcony, there's a tree that has been a bit overwhelmed by wisteria. Right now, the leaves are mostly the tree's, while the wisteria has just started to bloom. I just missed getting good pictures of last year's bloom, but I should be around this time!

I took advantage of the warming weather and ordered some new bonsai (my Chinese elm succumbed to a combination of overly damp soil and lack of watering while I was in Japan). The most impressive, a buxus harlandii yamadori, is already looking at home. I've been adjusting a dwarf cherry to its container, working it slowly toward a better draining substrate. I also started a number of project bonsai. One is a little Japanese maple in a tiny container with mounded soil and moss over the root. It's happily putting out new leaves. I have a trio of Japanese maples in a larger container as a forest planting, and they too have begun to develop leaves. I also did a forest planting of tsuga, which were rootbound in their planters' pots, but largely seem to be adapting fine, and some miniature plums, in an early 20th-century carved figurative stone carving. These have all developed new growth since I arranged them a week ago. I've also added some air plants and have bamboo on the way!


You'll only receive email when Michael publishes a new post

More fromĀ Michael