As E.E. Cummings wrote in “Sweet Spring”…
Sweet spring is your
Time is my time is our
Time for springtime is lovetime
And Viva sweet love
Spring is about love, and hope, and joy, and anticipation, and celebration, and abundance, and colour and beautiful scents. There is an awakening in the soil and the plants that heralds new life, and how clever they are to all know their time.
For me, the first scents of the season are the Jasmines that flower. There is the light and pretty common chinese jasmine (Jasminum Polyanthum), the evergreen and glossy climbing star jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides), and the shrubby coffee jasmine (Murraya Exotica), that can all find a place outside a window, outside your front door, climbing up your walls.
It is a time to enjoy the lime leaves of citrus, and the abundant orange and yellow fruit. The first fresh leaves on grapevines, the overnight leafing of large oak and stinkwood trees, the glorious show of aloes as you head to the lowveld, the ericas and protea on the mountains in the Cape. Add to this the fragrance of freesias, hyacinths, narcissi and all the joyous spring bulbs and the effect is mesmerising.
South Africa has some of the prettiest natural bulbs which show off all their glory in spring, such as tritonias, ixias, freesias – yes, they are indigenous – sparaxis, chasmanthe, babianas and watsonias. Plant them in drifts under spring flowering trees such as the cape chestnut (Calodendrum Capense), Bolusanthus Speciosus (Tree Wisteria), or the common wild pear (Dombeya Rotundifolia) for maximum effect.
The great gardener, poet and author Russell Page wrote, “… The most striking and satisfying visual pleasure comes from the repetition or the massing of one single element.”
The joys of spring have been celebrated through the ages, by the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, who understood the wonders of the seasons and produced his beautiful Four Seasons Violin Concerto between 1716 and 1717. George Harrison of The Beatles wrote, “Here comes the Sun” one beautiful spring day in Eric Clapton’s garden. And for something different, listen to the album “Gardening” by the Japanese-born Finnish composer Jukio Kallio.
Vincent van Gogh painted his breathtaking series of Blossom paintings which can be viewed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and Claude Monet never tired of painting scenes of his abundant garden at Giverny in France. He is quoted as saying, “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
After the barrenness of winter and the bleakness of a world pandemic, spring heralds a rebirth and can be celebrated in all areas of South Africa, from the azaleas and camellias and cherry blossom in Magoebaskloof, to the daisies in Darling, fynbos and protea in the Western and Eastern Cape, and the most famous of all – the wildflowers of Namaqualand. Hugo Naude painted “Namaqualand Daisies” during the 1930s and nothing has changed since then. Drive through the mountain passes and fields of Namaqualand in August and September, and experience what Angifi Dladla beautifully illustrates in his 2010 poem, “Springtime on the Road to Nabeep”.
of the sun opening, without breaking,
the colours of Namaqualand.
The whole land suddenly exploded
into a magical panorama of purple,
yellow, orange, white, violet, blue.
Rocks and thatched roofs afar dazzled
with life. I suspect even the heads
and chins of herbalists and farmers
were part of the festival of flowers
The transformation from arid semi-desert to a breathtaking burst of colours and flowers showcases 3,500 species of flowers, 1,000 of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Their faces follow the sun as the day progresses.
So hold onto your hats, venture outdoors, and sing out loud (with Jimmy Cliff)… “It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.”’ DM/ML