Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bright Parrots at Dinner

Friends arrive for dinner and brought frozen yogurt and sorbet AND a gorgeous bunch of Tulip Bright Parrot. This bouquet captures for me the essence of one of the many joys of life - sharing a meal with friends and loved ones. With the advent of spring, and tulip bulbs in the ground not quite budding yet, Bright Parrot promises so much.

This particular meal consisted of a chicken dish I had adapted from a Mark Bittman New York Times recipe for duck breast, in turn adapted from a traditional Italian stuffed pork dish, Porchetta. The stuffing contained of a mixture of Parmesan cheese, garlic, fennel seeds, fresh rosemary in an olive oil binder. My own trick was to wrap the chicken breast with prosciutto. Sides were mushroom risotto and a fresh fennel and carrot relish. A strawberry chocolate clafouti served with vanilla ice cream topped all this off. And, naturally, coffee and tea.

I considered that winter was being seen off with an appropriately weighty hurrah - to the eye, to the palate, and yes, to the gut.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This is Not Forsythia

I plant witch hazel because I love its delicate fragrance and because it blooms in the winter. Bright sunny yellow threads radiate from dark red calyces, clinging to frozen bare branches, or intermingling with snow laden ones.

In my garden here grow the Chinese witch hazel Hamamelis mollis and the hybrid H. x intermedia 'Primavera.' A third was to have been H. 'Jelena' - the rusty red flowering variety - but instead grew up to be H. 'Pallida' with pale lemon flowers, when it was discovered the year after planting that the nursery had sent the wrong variety.

But no matter.

Red or yellow, some years the witch hazel may start blooming as early as Christmas time. This year it was late January before the thin yellowish streamers began to slowly unfurl, like miniature hatchlings, from cobby ochre buds nestled against the bare branches.

The cold keeps them going. They love it. But it is on warmer days that one truly gets whiffs of the powdery fragrance that brings back the flickery sensations of toddler days apres le bain.

Witch hazel is what keeps me reconciled to chilly March - even cold April days. And then there is the unmistakable addendum of sculpturally ridged leaves which turn gold, orange and red in autumn.

And so, with apologies to forsythia lovers, I will say "there is no comparison."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Promise of Blue

Iris reticulata, that squat little beauty, pokes itself through the blanket of March snow, having shown up as one of the earliest harbinger of spring, a couple of weeks now. After the rains, more of them show up to stay.

And lo, just a day or so ago, the patch of giant crocuses burst into blue flames.

Meanwhile, throughout this time, the blue jay has been showing up as a noisy undertone to the premise that BLUE heralds spring as much as GREEN.