Nature’s First Green

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In the Seventh Grade, we were made to memorize a poem in our English class taught by Tom Horton.

We could pick one of three works by Robert Frost. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “The Road Not Taken”, or “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Most chose “Nothing Gold Can Stay” due to its brevity blithely ignorant of its themes of mortality and the early twentieth century update of that ancient of admonitions

Carpe diem

All thirty of us in Mr. Horton’s class stood in front of our classmates and recited from memory over the course of two days

I actually chose “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as its meter and rhyme were the easiest to commit to memory

Having heard it so many times over two classes, though, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” remains with me some thirty five years later.

It has really remained with me these last two months of quarantine and Rona, bad news on all fronts

From March through May, my beloved Lowcountry has flowered in profusion due to a surfeit of rain followed by weeks of sun

The last of the pink perfection camellias were insanely gorgeous

True perfection

Mathematical in form

 

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Our only native hydrangea, the oak leaf, has blossomed like never before

It has grown tall enough to reach our kitchen windows

It has gone from early green buds to white flowers which will then go pink which will eventually fade to brown during the summer heat

 

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We have been blessed with the most abundant Confederate jasmine blooms in recent memory

It’s my favorite scent of all time

Ever

Of

All

Time

#iykyk as the kids say these days

 

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The wisteria’s mild clean odor wafts through the woodlands and through thickets and borders near our house

We had one growing up in Beaufort

One of my great grandmothers was a serious gardener

She spotted the wisteria in our yard, looked at my father, and remarked, “George, you have a wisteria…mmmm…that’s a mistake”

I never thought it was

That smell reminds me of playing in our yard

Proust had his madeleines

I have my wisteria and Confederate jasmine

From all that woozy goodness, the magnolias have opened to amazing early blooms perfuming all the air around them while continuing to be the messiest trees God ever created

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The antiseptic astringency of the ligustrum mixes in nicely

The sultry intoxication of gardenias, named for a South Carolinian, layer on top of all of that

It’s too much sitting outside or walking around Charleston or strolling through Hampton Park where all of these scents mingle

Our foxgloves bloomed early

In our hot summers, they count as early spring annuals as they literally melt in the hot suns of June, July, and August

Sometimes they are biennials if they get a little shade

Mine generally melt

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The one hundred White Christmas caladium bulbs I planted are busting through the soil

The Kentucky Colonel mint and chocolate mint are spreading

In spite of all the gloom and bad news, we have never had a more glorious spring

Never

The hydrangeas are budding in profusion, too

The aluminum sulfate that I spread a couple weeks ago is working its acidifying magic on the blooms creating deep blues and purples

The Southern shield ferns have never been bigger unfurling their fiddle heads to fronds all from volunteer spores spread by the wind

 

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The annual pentas  in pinks, whites, lavenders fill beds and pots with Persian shield and gomphrena along with the purple fuzzy Wandering Jew rooted from my in-laws

As I stand in our garden watering, I am overwhelmed by it all

It’s too much

I know it cannot remain

It is destined to succumb eventually

Nothing gold can stay

And, so I give you Mr. Frost’s ode to spring, youth, beauty, Original Sin, death, and life, which I memorized some thirty five years ago and recite to myself every spring with all credit given to that flinty New England sage

 

 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost

 

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

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