For years after I moved from Vermont to California I didn’t feel like I deserved springtime. In the northeast, springtime is the reward for having survived yet another cold, icy winter. Months of difficult driving, canceled events and compulsory boots, mittens, scarves and hats are like an annual purgatory, unless you are the kind of person who loves winter sports. Late spring snowstorms can delay springtime even into the month of May. Once the last of the snow has melted and the warm sun coaxes the woodland flowers up through the blankets of dead leaves, the miracle of Vermont springtime unfolds just as it has for generations.
One of the prettiest spring flowers in the northeast is Adder’s Tongue. My grandmother taught me that Adder means snake…and sure enough, the leaves can look like the back of a garter snake…and the flower is a pretty yellow lily. After they have bloomed in the woods, it’s time to begin to look for Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
You have to know exactly where to search for the elusive Jack-In-The-Pulpit , a rare flower in Vermont…so rare that picking them is illegal. They grow in areas where there are hard woods….like maple trees… and they don’t come up until May. First the leaves appear, and then the flowers unfold. It’s hard to actually see them until your eye becomes accustomed to seeing their unique camouflage in the changing carpet of the woods.
I am always surprised to see the perfect stripes on the plant. Such a funny design for a flower…another indication that our creator sure must have a sense of humor.
Lifting the monk’s hood of this unique lily, one can find the preacher “Jack” underneath. These flowers can be tiny or quite large …they are always a delightful surprise. If you find one, there are probably more nearby.
Blue Forget-Me-Nots were my father’s favorite flower…at least, that’s what he once told me. They can be found near streams and brooks. They make pretty little nosegays, and there are usually so many that it’s fine to pick them.
Violets begin to bloom in the middle of the springtime. Yellow violets are at the edge of meadows, in ditches next to dirt roads. Tiny light blue violets grow in the grassy meadows. The dark purple violets are under evergreens and under shrubs. These may not be hard and fast rules, but they are the ones I followed to find sweet violets every spring.
When the flowering fruit trees begin to bloom, it’s almost time for spring to move into summer.
During the month of May the dandelions turn the green pastures to solid yellow.
As children, we loved to pick bouquets of dandelions, not minding that the milky juice from the stems would stain our hands. In fact, there was once sunny day when he gave each of us a large paper grocery bag and instructed us to fill them with blossoms. I was 5 or 6 years old, so my 3 siblings had to be younger. Daddy told us he would be making “soup”… his word for the crock full of fruits and sugars, fermenting into dandelion wine!
In another 10 days, those same bright yellow pastures will be white after all the dandelions that have gone to seed, and the fuzzy seeds will be floating in the wind.
The next big milestone in Vermont is Memorial Day. This is the time for planting gardens…the frost has probably passed by now. (I say “probably” because nothing in Vermont is for certain!) The lilacs are blooming for Memorial Day or shortly thereafter in central Vermont. Our family usually took bouquets of lilacs to the cemetary to decorate the headstones of our grandparents. When our father died several years ago, it was comforting that his time came just a week before Memorial Day.
We can’t forget the precious and fragrant Lily of the Valley that blooms during this time of spring!
The summer months bring a whole new parade of flowers in the fields. There won’t be as many flowers in the woods…not like the spectacular performance of springtime.
By the first of June, the trees have filled out and the songbirds have returned to the northeast. The miracle has happened once again as it has every year for eons, and yet next year, after the long months of winter, springtime will be just as amazing as ever. Vermonters never take springtime for granted.