We Must Be Mad With Joy

 “People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ~Iris Murdoch, Irish author

Garden after rain

Garden after rain

The thunderstorms passed by quickly, leaving a few large drops of rain in their wake and some empty threats of weather violence.  We have fared far better than our neighbors in the American West, those unfortunate victims of extreme tornados who still struggle to recover their lives. Even as I grieve for them, I celebrate my own small corner of land in the foothills of western Pennsylvania.

Tonight, the garden in twilight is luxuriating in its richness of leaf and flower and I cannot end my stroll. It is bewitching. Leaves of every shape and form spring out and blend – all of the plants in my garden touch and jostle each other – no Puritan “touch me not” unplanted spaces here! Oh, this is an excess of green and growing that sings a great chorus in the dusk of a warm early summer day.  Yes, many plants bloom in May – the insignia of iris, the globes of allium, the stars of clematis, the blooms of columbine, lilac and others.  But May is feckless in its headlong plunge into green growth from the carpet beneath one’s feet to the canopy among the trees. May is fragrant and headstrong, the vibrant green path leading and spilling us into June.

Lamb's ear rising up to bloom

Lamb’s ear rising up to bloom

The silver lamb’s ear have risen to a foot high impossibility in the past few days, ready to bloom and nourish the bees –their bright foliage outlines the beds in the garden. The swords of daylily leaves create circular swirls of green blades, predicting their July bloom – a  promise of color and form to come. Beauty bush and lilac burst with thousands of tiny flowers, mounds of color and scent that greet the morning and bless the warmth of the evening, alive with the buzzing of bees seeking nectar. And so it goes. May is so full of voluptuous beauty and scented flowers that it sends the senses reeling with the experience of it, making us mad with joy.

Wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)

The surrounding woods are filled with the blooms of native black cherry, dangling white racemes that scent the air with their sweetness. Every day, a dozen new flowers awake and open and bring a new shape and scent to the bounty of the garden. I can hardly keep up; I mulch and trim and plant seedlings but it is as if I were on the end of the “crack the whip” game – I can only hold on tight and try my best to serve the beauty of the garden as I am flung and swung through its spurt of green growth and scented flowering. Here are a few images captured that may share some small part of this beauty; click on the first image to open the gallery. (All photographs ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse)

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

To see more photos and read more about the fragrant wild black cherry that is native to the eastern US, see Bernadette’s post Wild Black Cherry.

50 thoughts on “We Must Be Mad With Joy

  1. This member of the rose family has many names: Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Wild Cherry, Wild Black Cherry, American Wild Cherry, etc. A rose by any other name? The Latin name, Prunus serotina, ensures proper identity and good communication among gardeners. Fortunately, the tree’s distinctive appearance makes field identification less problematic. Picture a tall tree covered with long white racemes of fragrant flowers in the spring. The shiny green leaves turn brilliant yellow and rose in the fall. Identification is confirmed by the unusual bark. The NABA website describes the bark of a mature tree as looking like “thick, burnt potato chips”. In contrast, young trees have smooth gray bark while saplings and small branches have smooth, shiny reddish bark with horizontal raised lines, the lenticels.

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Merrill; I love learning more about the native trees in my area! We know it here both by the Latin name and as Wild Black Cherry – it grows all throughout our woodlands and parks, usually on the edges where it can get some sun.

  2. Pingback: Prunus serotina | Find Me A Cure

  3. Pingback: Berries in the Green | Today

  4. What an incredibly beautiful post! I love that quote by Iris Murdoch, and I, too, have been visiting the garden daily, shocked at what it can accomplish in practically no time at all. We humans should be so diligent in our daily life, sprouting new leaves and roots and flowering when conditions are best. And thank you for adding my wild black cherry!

  5. Love the quote about being mad with joy from having flowers in our midst. I feel that way every morning when I sit with my coffee in the midst of my tropical flowers. Was excited to see you had Lantanas–especially the multi-color ones. I’m surprised they can be planted so early in PA. We usually don’t get them in the garden center until it is super hot–mid-June or so.

    You did an outstanding job this year, as always. Everything is so lovely. Enjoy!

    • Thank you, Eleanor. Yes, I can imagine you sitting among your flowers in the morning; must be especially relaxing now that you are retired! Love lantanas – great colors and they do handle the summer heat with aplomb.

  6. A great, great quote from iris Murdoch – I remember enjoying reading her in High School, or maybe a bit later. As for the flowers themselves…we must all bow deeply to them. May’s “headlong plunge into green growth” – and “I can only hold on tight and try my best to serve the beauty of the garden as I am flung and swung through its spurt” – that’s as good as Iris! A lovely tour…Beverly Sills, Immortality, the woodland with its hostas, the purple clematis…delicious. Thank you.

      • I love it, too. It shows! I’m glad you can balance work & the garden well enough to share with us. Having a hard time myself with the balance these days, but some times are like that and I know it will get better.

  7. Life in the hood, well your hood. If only this would take over the earth. If only more would pick up a spade to plant then to burry. Am a dreamer.

    • Thanks, Frank. Yes, the clematis are just getting underway here with a few early ones starting to bloom. The rest are poised to open en masse – I like the image of “a blanket of blooms.”

  8. Gorgeous pictures! I love the combination of ‘mad’ and ‘joy’ from the quote – that’s how I feel most of the time 🙂

  9. Goodness, only 6 AM and I’m drunk on your words and images…wonderfully so. Thank you for the glorious beginning to my day…which will be spent in the garden. 🙂 Blessings on your week’s end, Lynn!

  10. I, too, was deeply moved by your walk in the garden. Your words say much more than meets the eye in images. Thank you for sharing this lovely time, and say hello to the clematis for me, as I miss them so. Darylann

    • Darylann, thank you for your comment. Oddly enough, one of my goals this year is to find a way to match my images from the camera to the images in my head – not an easy task. And I will say hello to the clematis for you; several more are about to burst open this weekend.

      • For me, the written word should carry the most weight, as it has here, and quite eloquently. The images should support but not be equal to the precious written word, in which we, as reader, are so wrapped. Our imaginations, tickled again, through your very lovely images.
        I suppose I’m saying that what I feel about your experience, can’t be expressed in a photograph. I am not demeaning the images, they are quite lovely.
        Carry on! 😀

      • How gracious you are. It is just that I am trying to shift from “illustrative” images to more “poetic”or interpretive images; realizing that distinction still eludes me so your comments were actually helpful 🙂

  11. Wonderful vitural-sensual experience . I love the photo of the whole garden from the “tower window” perspective – Rapunzel letting down her ivy twining hair…

  12. You have the most beautiful way with words, images, and your garden. I always find my senses heightened by a visit to your blog and your garden. 🙂

    • Robin, what a lovely thing to say! I was deeply moved by my evening in the garden and rushed into the house to try and record my thoughts, so it tumbled onto the paper in 15 minutes. Just one of those lucky moments. It took a lot longer to prep the photos 🙂

  13. A lovely riot of colours, indeed. I shuddered at the Lantana camara, though. It is a banned and invasive species here, and I have to wage war on it as with Mirabilis jalapa. Such a pity, because both are so prolific and pretty.

    • Thank you , Colonialist. What a shame about the lantana; it is an annual for us and much too tender to be a problem but we have our share of invasive plants here as well. As the seasons continue to warm, plants that were never a problem here are starting to sow about and become a nuisance. The gardener’s dilemma is always to make hard decisions between temporary beauty and the preservation of the local environment. So complicated.

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