Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cobble Hill flowers

Tonight we did it again: stopped on the bluestone sidewalk of Amity Street near Clinton, and sniffed. There it was. We had walked right into that cloud of scent. This time we knew what it was.

I've always read that witch hazels are scented, but until now had never experienced their perfume. I had left a note in the vestibule of the house to which the scent belonged, and had waited. While I waited I passed the garden one day on the way to run some errands, and saw the gates open, revealing not the garden I had imagined, but a gravel car park. And beyond the cars a haze of yellow witch hazel.

A few days later I received a polite email inviting me to come and see it, and I did just that. It was a very kind gesture, allowing a stranger to see and take pictures of the tree that had made her happy one late February evening in the cold. The scent was not there that day, but if I pushed my nose right against the flowers it was discernible. Cold days make the scent go away, said the owner. It was a beautiful, spreading tree, 25 years old.

But I wonder if it might not be night-scented. Does anyone know? Today was mild. We even saw people sitting outside at Prime Meats on Court Street, bundled up in coats, but visibly happy to be eating dinner al fresco. So temperature may play a part. It's just that the times I have scented the invisible flowers, have been in the dark, where the invisible presence of perfume stopped me.

As I sit here, the sliding door is open to the Brooklyn night, the sirens,  the swish of traffic. The pots stand poised on the terrace, waiting, showing nothing. The earth has moved in the little container where the Seneca sunflowers were planted, and  I think something is happening there.

On Pacific Street the camellia is in bloom, and so far only one branch has been broken off by a passerby. All the buds hang, waiting, but three flowers have opened. That reminds me to check on the pink Viburnum farreri on Baltic Street. Ah, just checked on the blog - late March.

And who grows the lemon tree in the sunny bay window, looking like an old shop front, on Court Street? It has both fruit and flowers at the moment, and in the other bay window is a strelitzia from South Africa. Tonight the blinds were drawn, and I could see the citrus tree silhouetted palely against the white paper. Maybe I should push more notes under more doors.

Tomorrow we visit our friends Dan and Nancy, whose garden space has expanded and needs ideas, and we will see if it is too early for some buds on their Daphne.

What is flowering in your hood?


  1. Oh, Marie, we are still under so much snow here in SW CT. Patches of grass peek out, but we are hoping today's rains will help. We spent time yesterday shoveling bits of the huge piles left by the snowplow out onto the drive, where we hope it will melt faster.

    Our windowsills are filled with hyacinths, daffodils and paper whites that Batman potted up in the fall. The scent is wonderful. Also a tray of primroses and a few African violets. The Christmas cactus blooms are giving their last hurrah. And we have pea shoots growing in the kitchen, waiting to be snipped for salads. The Meyer lemon is blooming, and has its first two (green) lemons looking full of promise.

  2. I am fighting a moral battle with the viola in my window boxes, which stayed in full flush all winter. The spring-blooming bulbs are all several inches tall, and I have started to think about the summer season plantings. Must I be a pansy murderer?

    I inherited my grandmother’s clothing and jewelry, including her Chanel suits which, unfortunately, will never fit me. But the camellia pins that adorned some of them are a staple of my wardrobe, and much loved. Someday I’d like to have a plant.

    So sorry about spamming you with my excessive links regarding the Prospect Park litter. Clearly I get a little excited about social activism…

  3. I have one crocus. Buds greening on the (to be) flowering quince. a pansy which somehow survived in a container under all the snow. And a fig tree in the laundry room, with bulbs now a foot high. Can't remember what they are. Tried to move one yesterday and just ended up snapping off greens, so in the fig they stay. Wait. This sounds like maybe I should update my own blog ...

  4. It's a temperature thing not a night time thing. Even though the witch hazel flowers are open, if the air is too cold (and I don't know what the deciding line is) you won't get the scent. But if you snip a branch and bring it inside, into the warmth, ah then...

  5. Thankyou, Ellen, you got in first with the witch hazel note.
    And, yes, please drop more polite notes,Marie.
    What's blooming in my 'hood? Xanthostemon-masses of it. Will take the camera out when the rain abates.

  6. Crocus, and me.

    Keep pushin notes under doors.

  7. How delightful! I fell across the doorstep of your blog, and know some of your landmarks, because my sister lives in Cobble Hill. I know that lemon tree!!! I live three thousand miles away, and am the happy owner of a tiny garden with a sweet old lemon of my own, but I smile when I think of those Brooklyn lemons!


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