Thursday, April 1, 2010

Flowers everywhere

Every morning Joe and I get off the bus on the south side of Speedway and walk north through the underpass that links the University of Arizona arts complex to the McClelland Building that houses the business department (our offices are in buildings nearby and far less grand), and for the last two weeks, when we come out of the underpass, we’re hit with a rush of intoxicating fragrance from the blooming acacia trees that makes me forget, at least for a moment, that I’m on my way to a long day of work—mostly rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but work nonetheless.  The high winds of the last couple of days have shorn the acacias of many of their blossoms, but this picture shows how they can touch even the plainest, most functional building (in this case a parking garage) with a loveliness made even more precious because it is ephemeral.

     Part of the east wall of that same garage is blanketed in yellow and white Tombstone roses, known outside Arizona as the Lady Banks rose.  They’re tough and hardy as well as lush and gorgeous, thriving in our heat and, unlike so many other plants that grow in the desert, devoid of thorns.  I haven’t planted any in our yard because I haven’t decided on the right spot yet, but I will.  Maybe not this year, though.  It’s getting late to plant roses.
     Some of you may remember the song from the ‘60s that contained the lines “Flowers in her hair / Flowers everywhere / I love the flower girl . . . “  Well, it’s like that in Tucson now.  The sour orange trees, common landscape plants here, are so heavy with blossoms you could almost get drunk on the fragrance, and total strangers stop to marvel together at the pure sensual pleasure of the experience. No, we don't actually call it that (at least not when we're speaking to strangers). It's usually something more like "Aren't the blossoms beautiful?" or "Doesn't that smell amazing?" But the effect on us is much more visceral and intense than such mundane language can express. 
     On our patio at home, the Meyer lemon I bought two years ago, that had one blossom when I bought it and produced none at all last year, is so loaded with buds and blooms I think I may have to prop up the branches.  It’s in a half wine barrel right by the kitchen door, and a rose geranium stands on the other side of that door, so there’s always something sweet-smelling as we go in or out.
     This year I got totally carried away planting nasturtiums.  We have the long vining type on a trellis at the back of one of the vegetable beds, several plants that have gotten much bigger than the package promised in one of the herb beds, pushing up against the chamomile at one end and the pineapple sage at the other, and a big round cluster of several plants of the Cherry Belle variety in the red quadrant of the Medicine Wheel garden.  When Deirdre and the boys were down during spring break, she and I taste-tested them (I love their peppery taste in salads, to look at and to eat) with the boys.  Isaiah, who’s going on eleven, is becoming a more adventurous eater and liked them, while Eli, who’s five, made a face and spit his out.

I remember seeing, in a magazine, chopped nasturtium petals in egg salad, very pretty and, I imagine, very tasty.  Think I’ll give that a try this weekend.

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