I love spring, although it tends to be frustratingly short, especially in the world of cultivated flowers. Not this year, though. The lion that comes in with the first of March is just now morphing into the lamb. Consequently, the spring floral season has been a lot longer than usual and a real treat.
In addition to the color, it’s the explosion of fragrance that’s so appealing. From late-blooming tea olive to a variety of citrus, pittosporum and wisteria to name a few. And don’t forget the flowers with more subtle fragrance, such as dogwood, Lady Banksias, innumerable spring annuals and even azaleas. You have to put your face in the midst of a clutch to appreciate any type of fragrance, but it’s there. All told, the admixture of different fragrances perfuming the air around Charleston in the springtime is intoxicating
The azaleas are best-known for their color, which typically lasts for a week or two and is gone. And that’s the frustrating part, because the rest of the year they are rather ordinary-looking shrubs — even scraggly, unless pruned up a bit. The voluminous profusion of spring color makes the wait worthwhile, though. Or at least it does for most people. My grandfather used to talk about not liking them. They’re bold enough to gush all over the place with a big howdy do, he’d say, but then turn right around and end the conversation.
This year seemed different, and the azaleas actually stayed around and chatted for a while. That was a welcome change, but I think a bigger concern with azaleas is the slight mistiming of their annual floral show.
I realize that there are different varieties that bloom at different times, but most seem to bloom early in the season, right in the midst of all the pollen and the shedding of the oak trees that make a mess of things. If I had any influence over Mother Nature, I’d try to get her to delay the azaleas for a month or so — until right about now.
Climate-wise, I’d say May is right up there with October as the most satisfying, healthful and beautiful time of the year. Things are all nice and tidied up, the weather’s clear and balmy, not too humid (yet), beautiful hues of green have now readorned the hardwoods. It’s just about perfect, except that many of the flowers have already peaked, especially the azaleas. Think how nice it would be if they were just now getting started.
Oh, well. I guess we’ll just have to make do with magnolia, Parkinsonia, Confederate jasmine and, later, gardenias. ... What torture!
‘Water and oil’
The mail still is trickling about Dr. Ben Carson. Walter Duane is concerned that the doctor would be ill-prepared and completely out of sorts if he were to start mixing it up with politics. Mr. Duane, a frequent contributor to this humble space, speaks with the wisdom of a man who has earned it honestly enough — through experience and longevity! (And it doesn’t hurt that he’s smart and insightful.) So listen up.
“Your articles on Dr. Carson brought back many memories of such stories that started off as one thing and then became another and sometimes diametrically opposed to the intention of the originator.
“In the 1930s there were many preachers and spokesmen for various causes. Usually they started out with good intentions and a case could be made for some of their positions.
“But there is an old expression going back to the 4th century B.C. (and attributed to the Greek painter Apelles); namely: ‘Let the cobbler stick to his last ... and not render judgment.’ (Do not advise someone in matters outside your area of expertise.)
“Many causes were headed by various leaders; viz:
“Huey Long (every man a king).
“Father Charles Coughlin the ‘Radio Priest’ (and his contemporary version of running the money changers out of the temple).
“They and others developed movements that turned into a sort of crusades — with good intentions — but soon attracted camp followers, hangers on and in some cases bomb throwers.
“I go to four different doctors but do not know their religion or politics, nor have they asked me mine. One can be a good doctor and be a liberal, moderate or conservative. Water and oil do not mix, nor do religion and politics, nor medicine and politics.
“It is well to be aware of the ramifications that can come from someone who is proficient in one field but an amateur in another.
“In the words of Alexander Pope, ‘Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor the last to lay the old aside.’ ”
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.