Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Weeks of Heaven

When seen any time after June 21, the vernacular name of Beauty Bush for the shrub Kolkwitzia amabilis seems more than a bit of a misnomer. The beauty bush is uncommonly common when not in flower. It is a tall, rangy tangle of twiggy stems and dull leaves; nothing graceful or engaging about it. The dried up remains of the blooms do not fall off cleanly yet add nothing to visage of the shrub. Many an old bush becomes a huge, ungainly beast, fully capable of engulfing the unwary lawn mower and the occasional household pet.

If one were to only see it the rest of the year, one would wonder why the gardener bothered.
But then there are those 3 to 4 weeks in late May and early June when the entire shrub lights up with pale pink flowers and the wild, fresh scent beguiles the nose and the gardener has no choice but to suffer the rest of the year in yearning for those few weeks.

The rough, ungainly limbs are suddenly festooned with delicate pink flowers, showing a subtle weeping structure unseen when out of bloom. Looking closely, the fragile-looking bells have a tracery of yellow lines on the white inside and soft little filaments, reminiscent of penstemons, which are also called bearded tongues. Looking very closely at the flower clusters, one sees the pedicels, those tiny little stems connecting each flower to the branch, are completely covered with a heavy fleece of white hairs. Darker pink shades the outside of the trumpets and the unopened buds giving the whole plant a multihued appearance.

And the scent . . . the scent. There are no words to describe the wild freshness, touched with only a hint of the sweetness found in flowers of a lesser aroma. Intoxicating barely begins to touch on it, while exhilarating goes too far. Invigorating may be exactly correct. One can hardly bear to stand and inhale such a scent and not climb a mountain at once. Truly, those few weeks are a preview of the perfume of paradise.

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