Thursday, April 14, 2011

Notre montagnard

In our Piedmont, the redbud is out. This 'just happened' - as it always does - it's not a gradual process. One day we'll be motoring along our roadways, and the woods will be a blur of gray and taupe and black branches, interspersed with evergreen. On the next, a sudden spray of pale magenta will be loomed into the tweed, and haberdashers everywhere will gasp. On coming to Virginia from bolder climes, this is the most sublime diffusion one can see; it's why it's idle to make a photograph. It sets a vapourcolour, steeped in breathy hues of tea and cardamom, a mid-Atlantic subtling of Jaipur.

The redbud is sometimes privately planted for effect, but this is a hapless displacement, and worse. It has come to be known as a precursor of ostensibly greater éclat. But because of the redbud, to me, its luscious sibling has never meant what it does to garden critics - a euphoric proof of postcard Spring. To me, the dogwood looks as if it had it easy, and didn't have to study Latin to leap right into a Romance language. But no wonder, it's the pride of our resorts: its blooming lasts a few days longer, and is opulent in its massing. And for all its commotion, the dogwood has its derivative charm.

Enter the garrulous dogwood, and there you have it: a hitch-hiker on the overture of the redbud, but not one you'd leave by the side of the road. Possibly, if the dogwood were the first to emerge, we'd never see the redbud, so much more intense and dense is its blossom. Not that there had ever been anything recessive or tentative in the earlier bloom, it had no standard before it to succeed, no mentor to exhibit a principle; and it had to do this alone, without the stimulus of rivalry, before its scale was set. A second blossom knows what he can finesse, owns an easy mark, and counts upon the first to frame his fame. The redbud is his hero.

It is his shield, his shelter as he blooms and his vanguard as he strides. It is his ever-precious entrée to the gaze, the sweet-swept stage of his enhancement. Even then, the redbud shocks as much with its departure, as with any evanescence of its spray. Every Spring, the dogwood sees only the lesser half of this. 

Georg Friderich Händel
Ode for St Cecilia's Day
  From harmony ..
James Gilchrist, tenor
Robert King
The King's Consort
Hyperion, 2004©


  1. Hello:
    The blossoming of spring never fails to amaze and delight with its sheer exuberance after the barren days of winter.

    The redbud, and here we assume the Cercis, is lovely, not only in spring but also in its autumnal colour. In general we find the dogwood, Cornus, less appealing. But then we think of, for example, Cornus kousa chinensis, and our hearts miss a beat.

  2. Here, Fall is the conventional "riot," and the redbud is indistinctly part of that unless, as I say, expressly planted for effect. Spring is not that way here, it has primogeniture, a cadence as I try to suggest.

  3. a excellent neck

    must be one of my next PotD :-)