Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Color Collaborative: March: Bud

When I give people directions to our house, I do not tell them to look for the rusty, yellow-painted fire hydrant in front of our property, or the peach stucco fortress-like structure, inlaid with indigo-colored ceramic tiles, which houses our mailbox. No, I tell them to look for the three plum trees all in a row, planted in the xeriscaped strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. You can't miss our trees, whether you're approaching from east or west. If you've passed the three plum trees, you've passed right by our house. You will have to throw your car into reverse, or possibly backtrack on foot, but you'll never forget which house is ours.

We didn't know anything about plum trees when we bought our house. The realtor's listing had included, as features of the property, the terms "mature garden fruit trees" and "spring flowering trees." This was intriguing, and promising, verbiage. We were motivated by the idea of fruit and flowers. We watched videos about tree maintenance and consulted our expensive, locally-published desert gardening guides. We moved into the house in mid-July, after the trees had flowered. They were just starting to produce fruit then. They made tiny, mouth-twistingly sour plums, dark red in color, mostly pit with very little fruit. We picked them hopefully, filling a small plastic container with hard, jewel-like fruits. We nibbled them tentatively and spat them out on the sidewalk.

We watched our plum trees that first year. In fall, the leaves did not change color (much, anyway; they went from burgundy to a muddier reddish-brown). In early winter, as would be the norm every year thereafter, a strong windstorm stripped all the leaves in the space of one night. Most blew away, never to be seen again, but some gathered in the stones under the trees, others inside the planters at the base of the mailbox fortress. Then the trees stood bare for three months. All the while, we wondered what our trees would be like in spring.


Then the moment arrived: in early March, the tips of every branch suddenly became rounded and red. The tree was budding! The tree would flower. If there are buds, there will certainly be flowers. Well, usually. We've had late frosts and you know what that means. But it usually works just fine, the way nature intended: the tree buds, the tree flowers, the flowers are pollinated, fruits form. It's a simple rule and a reliable one. The plum blossoms start as tiny, hard red nubs, tightly closed and betraying little sign of the splendor within. They do not yet have a scent, and they will make your fingers red if you crush one between them.


You watch those little buds every day, getting bigger and starting to split, revealing pale pink insides. One morning, you go outside and some of those buds are open. The flowers are delicate, five-petaled like rounded stars, candy-pink with orange anthers. Even this early, when there are just a few flowers in scattered clumps - mostly on the eastern sides of the trees in our case because it's the side sheltered from the wind - there is a faint, sweet fragrance. At this stage, you have to be right under the trees to notice it but it's there, fragile and clean.


Soon, the trees fill up with flowers. That tree on the right is the westernmost tree and it takes the longest to bloom. Its buds wait patiently for warmer nights and calmer breezes before they open and the whole tree explodes with pink. Then all three are in bloom; for about three weeks, our home is heralded by clouds of pink blossom, the trees visible from both ends of the street.




On clear days, the pale pink blossoms are in vivid contrast to the sky. The sun shines through the petals and they seem to glow. The flowers also stand in contrast to the developing leaves of the plum tree, darkening red as they mature. Days like this are made for sitting at the top of the front yard, which slopes gently to the street, gazing contentedly at those lovely trees. Days like this bring the neighborhood walkers by, people who slow down a little when they get to the stretch where our trees are planted; you can see them inhaling and looking up through the branches briefly as they pass, pink petals falling around them. "Nice trees," say a few. "Thanks, I really love them," I'll reply.




On rare cloudy days, they look even more delicate somehow, as if they're worn down from the effort of performing so hard under the sun, from dazzling passersby and homeowners alike. Without back-lighting from the sun, both flowers and leaves seem darker. The clouds provide less contrast; the pink doesn't shine the way it does against cerulean skies. But the combination of pink and gray is beautiful too, reminding me of a Japanese kimono - pearl-gray silk emblazoned with fine sprays of rosy fruit-blossom.


A plum tree's glorious mantle belies its humble beginnings. The hard, red nubs it sends forth in early spring hold a magical secret - one I wait impatiently for every year, especially that first one when plum-tree ownership was still a mystery. I know the trees well now, but plum-blossom time has not lost its charm. I still feel a thrill when I notice those first buds at the tail-end of winter. I still check the tree daily - sometimes several times a day - waiting for those buds to finally spring forth into frothy pink blossom. I still stand under the trees, my family watching me with raised eyebrows, staring up into their branches, allowing myself to be enveloped by the scent and the color and the insistent buzzing of thirsty bees. I take photo after photo, hundreds of photos every March, documenting the transformation of these trees.

Oh, and those plums? I've gotten braver in recent years. I even tried making a plum crisp with them two years ago. It was disappointing. It needed more sugar - exponentially more than I used - but as a true romantic where all things homey are concerned, I was proud to say I'd cooked with my very own plums, which were grown on my very own locally-famous plum trees. And it all started with those tiny red buds.

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 Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, including one from March's guest blogger, Sarah at Mitenska. Just click on the links below:

     Annie at Knitsofacto         
 Sandra at Cherry Heart    
Gillian at Tales from a Happy House 
CJ at Above the River
Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

51 comments:

  1. What a lovely post Jennifer. I am right there with you, standing under those beautiful trees, marvelling at the blossom against the sky. I know what you mean about the Japanese feel, your plums put me in mind of Japanese paintings. Our neighbour had a flowering cherry which was just as exquisite, and I used to look up every time I walked underneath. Unfortunately it's been chopped down now, but I have a tiny cherry of my own in my front garden now. Hopefully one day people will stop and enjoy the blossom on that.

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  2. A beautiful post Jennifer. Both words and pictures truly show us the beauty of these blossoming plum trees. How happy they must make you each year; I know I'd love to have them outside my house too! I have always loved the peach, plum or cherry trees in bloom - gorgeous.

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  3. Those tree are gorgeous! And what a wonderful sign of Spring. I really enjoyed what you wrote today too.

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  4. Absolutely beautiful blossoms Jennifer, thank you for sharing your wonderful pics with us once again! I would stand under them and take in their gentle aroma too - no reason not to! Joy x

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  5. So very pretty I can see why you love them.

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  6. What a gorgeous post...literally! Those trees are gorgeous. It is a shame about the actual plums. Maybe this year with a little more sugar? The colours are absolutely beautiful and your photos capture the blossom fantastically :)

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  7. OH wow. Those blossom are AMAZING! Breathtaking!

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  8. Such a beautifully written post Jennifer. I was entranced all the way through, it felt like a beautiful sonata soothing my soul. Thank you! I love plum trees too and I especially love plum crumble, chutney, jam, you name it I love everything and anything plum. You really are so blessed to have three such beautiful gifts from mother nature bring love into your home and life every year xoxo

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  9. Nature has a lovely way with rhythm and you have captured it beautifully. Thank you. Cx

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  10. I enjoy your posts so much! I love your descriptive writing, I feel like I could be there, standing under those trees with you! Guess what I want in my garden now? The plum trees, buds and blossoms are absolutely lovely and if I ever happen to pass down your street (highly unlikely but you never know!) I shall certainly not forget what to look out for :)

    S x

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  11. Beautiful photos of your plum trees. I love the close ups against the blue sky.

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  12. I can understand why your plum trees are locally famous! I did wander in one of your previous posts whether the gorgeous blossom pictures were from your trees and now I know!! Lovely to see the bud - flower photos and such a wonderful post. Thank you! J9 x

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  13. Hello Jennifer
    What a wonderful post, and such a lovely thing to write about. Nature just has such an amazing way of putting on the best display doesn't she ?
    And for all that glorious blossom to be followed by delicious plums is just the icing on the cake !
    Kate x

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  14. Your trees are beautiful. Can you imagine how many flowers each tree produces, isn't nature amazing?

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  15. They are gorgeous Jennifer!!!! My goodness... They took my breath away! I can only imagine what they look like in person! And set against that sky just makes for a painting!! Happy day to you!! Nicole xo

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  16. The plum blossoms are gorgeous! The fruit the produce might not be the tastiest, but at least you get fruit. I planted a plum tree the first year we lived in Kamloops, and for the seven years we lived there after that it never produced a single plum, nor did it produce a single blossom.

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  17. The plum trees are gorgeous! They look a lot like the Japanese Cherry tree we had at our last house. So pretty in the spring when all bloomed out. My very favorite jelly is wild plum jelly. Have you ever tried using them for that? You might consider it. I've always used wild plums that grow on vines in Oklahoma, but I'm sure any kind would work. Nothing but plums, sugar, and pectin. Enjoy those blooms while they last!

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  18. Jennifer your trees are gorgeous. They remind me of the Cherry blossoms we saw in Japan. People there take vacation time in the spring to visit the areas wih the most cherry trees. They have a gepreat appreciation for he beauty of the flowers. You sound like you have the same appreciation for your trees. And rightly so. Thank you for sharing with us.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  19. Your trees are so beautiful, I can understand why you loved them so much when you bought the house and why you still do, they make a beautiful feature to look out on. What a delight! I hope that one day perhaps you will get some useable plums from them! xx

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  20. A beautiful post, Jennifer, evocative and inspiring! We are all there with you, breathing in deeply the scent of those pretty blossoms. Perhaps plum wine? There must be something you can make with the fruit! Chrissie x

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  21. Wow! Just wow! You cannot know how much I would love even one plum tree out front byt we live in a conservation area in a small UK village and there are considerable restrictions on what we can and can't do out there. So I have just lived vicariously and stood beneath the plum trees with you and breathed in their scent.

    Gorgeous post Jennifer!

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  22. Wonderful, wonderful blossom. My neighbours have a cherry tree, it's right at the bottom of our garden (I pretend it's mine) and I love it when it blossoms, then for a day or two it looks like it's snowed as the blossom falls! :) x

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  23. Beautiful! This is why I love Spring. It's all just so lovely. Great post Jennifer.

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  24. Your words are as lovely as your pictures, Jennifer. There's something timeless about pink blossoms against a blue sky but your description of them on an overcast day sounds quite wonderful too.
    I would dearly love some fruit trees, as much for their blossom as anything else.
    We went to a spring wedding once, at a little country church. It was a bright and breezy day and the pink and white apple and cherry trees were in full flower. Needless to say there was no need for confetti as the petals were whirling down and the effect was beautiful.
    I'm glad you love your trees so much; I would too!
    Sarah x

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  25. Nice post, what a beautiful photos!

    Lluisa x

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  26. Such a great story! You are right to be proud of those trees, they are just stunning. Beautiful photos too - I actually prefer the blossom against the grey sky - it has a moodier, more romantic look somehow. x

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  27. It is a great story ~ and the plumb trees are awesome !

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  28. oh my gosh those trees are absolutely beautiful and the flowers are so pretty. i love the colors. it must be wonderful to have those trees fronting your property. i would not forget your home if i saw them! i'm reminded of the designs on origami paper.

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  29. We used to have a nice ornamental plum like yours - but it finally bit the dust. I hope yours last way longer than ours! Love the photos.. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  30. Gorgeous pictures of your pretty plum trees and their perfect, pastel flowers! It was interesting to read about your relationship with them and your passion for their progress! Thanks for sharing these stunning images, Jennifer!

    Poppy

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  31. Such beautiful trees, no wonder you love them. A really beautifully written post too which I really enjoyed reading, thank you.
    Marianne x

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  32. Jennifer,
    These are beautiful, what an inspiration to have these grace the front of your home and inspire your life.
    Have a sweet weekend!
    Jemma

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  33. You have such a way with words. Very descriptive! Your photos are wonderful too.

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  34. Irresistibly amazing photos Jennifer! How lucky you are to have such a view in front of your house!These blossoms must make your day!
    Happy week end!
    Olympia

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  35. I love them too .My goodness as I cant tell you too often you take the most amazing photos. I feel as though I standing right there next to you .what a wonderful piece of writing

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  36. What a wonderful post! We are fortunate to have many of these trees lining the streets where I live, and they always blow me away with their beautiful flowers!

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  37. such a gorgeous tree & beautiful photos.
    the colours are stunning.
    have a wonderful weekend Jennifer ♥

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  38. Your plum trees are absolutely gorgeous!

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  39. Such a beautiful post, Jennifer! I loved seeing these gorgeous pictures of your beautiful plum trees and reading about them too....I can see how wonderful it must be to watch them bud and bloom.
    Helen xox

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  40. The most beautiful blossom I've seen - thank you for such a lovely post x

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  41. What pretty trees! Baking with plums requires a lot of sugar. They can be a little tart otherwise. I bet your tart was still yummy though, you can always add a little bit of raw sugar on top to make it sweeter :) Great tree photos!

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  42. Beautiful writing! The trees are gorgeous. It is so interesting how fruit trees bud and flower before they actually have leaves. The process is amazing! No doubt they do draw lots of attention as they are so very beautiful. Have a fabulous weekend. Tammy

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  43. Trees are wonderful things and trees that produce fruit even better x

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  44. Great pics and beautiful colour! Hugs :-)

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  45. Your blossoms are the stuff that springtime dreams and art alike are made. Goodness gracious, are they stunning and so very, cheerfully lovely to look at (especially since we're still slogging through the tail end of winter here).

    Have a marvelous last weekend of March, dear Jennifer!
    ♥ Jessica

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  46. they are so very beautiful Jennifer, the pink blossom and the red leaves, wow. I have a plum tree, the little buds are just lovely right now. They are white though, so I'm wondering, as I don't much about fruit trees really, that there must be some different kinds of blossom for plums? really so beautiful though, it's like your own Japan right outside your house! someone chose well. Heather x

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  47. Now those are gorgeous trees! I just loved seeing all the photos. And your way with words...wow. You should submit this piece (story AND photos) to a magazine. Seriously.

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  48. Just saying hello. I came by way of the color collaborative at Tales From a Happy House. I grew up in Albuquerque. My relatives settled there many years ago when it was all just dirt roads. It is always deeply stirring to me to see pictures from that part of the country. Thanks for sharing your blog.

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  49. Beautiful blossom! Thanks for sharimg the beauty.

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  50. Gosh, your plum blossom is glorious, Jennifer! I love all fruit blossom and over here we're waiting for the it to appear this month and next. I’m so glad spring has arrived for you with such beauty.

    I've really enjoyed reading all the posts you've made during my recent blogging break and know you’ll forgive me for not commenting on them individually – just this once. :-)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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