Guest edited by Tami Ramsay.
It’s Spring, well, technically. Marked by the Vernal Equinox on 20 March 2013, relative equal days and nights are upon those of us in the Northern hemisphere, whether your sidewalks are still covered in snow or your native azaleas are in full bloom. Invariably though, I liken Spring to a slow boil, the kind that takes forever when you are pot watching, and only bubbles when you finally walk away to visit the loo. Spring is a bit of a flirt too, teasing you with enough warm and sunny days to ensnare your loyalty, but then like a classic photo bomb, ruins a good thing of tank tops and flip flops with a cold snap that makes you regret that recent seasonal overhaul of your closet.
Alas, though, I am a willing mistress to Spring and hang on to all that it promises, even when I come up jilted and cold. Some of the first early Spring bloomers in my region, known as Zone VIII, are the tulip magnolia, the loropetalum chinense, and the common flowering dogwood. Each of these beauties appeals to me for different reasons but when combined and artfully arranged together, I am overwhelmed by their modern and graphic effect. Pair that with sun streaming through the window, casting its golden glow on buds in bloom, and it’s got to be Spring o’clock somewhere.
The tulip magnolia, also known as the Japanese magnolia, is actually a deciduous shrub, but presents rather as a small to mid-sized tree, that kicks off early Spring with a profusion of large pink to purple provocative flowers, all before shedding them and assuming its role as a common, less than showy and leafy specimen. But when that bloom erupts on that woody stem, its like Heaven and Hades meet, with a splash of love and heat.
Although the white variety of loropetalum has its place in the garden, the pink flowering variety featured above, often referred to as a Chinese fringe flower, is my favorite. When this deciduous shrub is left unattended, sans pruning to a tight hedge, a subsequent leggy-ness prevails which leaves the branches swaying at the mercy of the wind’s movement, and encourages the long eyelash-like petals to flit and float this way and that. The combination of those hot pink strappy petals, along with their lilt and lightness, totally slays me, every time.
Relatively synonymous with Spring and the Southern landscape is any variety of Cornus florida, or the flowering dogwood, and its characteristic petal bearing flowers--a total showstopper in all its glory. Nothing screams new beginnings and beckons warm days more than the budding of millions of tight little fists of dogwood flowers, just trembling with anticipation of busting out of their nubby incubators; but, it is folly to be fooled completely by these blooms. Commonly referred to in the Farmer's Almanac as a Dogwood Winter, a colloquial term used in the American Southeast, farmers knew it wasn’t safe to plant their crops without fear of frost until after these blooms had come and gone. Even still, those tightly packed pink and green tinged flowers make for a very textural and graphic accompaniment to the tulip magnolia and loropetalum below, nestled in a silver compote and finished with black shredded pine mulch.
Whether you are sipping hot cocoa by the fire or drinking ice cold sweet tea in the garden, Spring has sprung. Let the show begin!
IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay