Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Williamsburg Green: Spring Is Coming, Really

Wednesday, March 3, 2010




































Susan reports:

While much of the U.S. is still burdened and buried by winter, spring does seem a long way off. But it's easy to forget that for people of the past, this truly was the most difficult time of the year. All the food that had been stored away in the fall was mostly gone by now, and the few lone onions and moldy turnips remaining in the cellar must have looked unappetizing indeed.

In many parts of Europe and North America, the earliest new plants to sprout in the spring were stinging nettles, right. The young, tender leaves were carefully gathered and boiled to neutralize their sting, then relished as a "fresh" vegetable, the first on the table in many months. It's a healthy vegetable, too, full of protein and iron, with the taste of spinach. Still, when our modern groceries can offer us strawberries all year round, I doubt anyone today joyfully greets the first stinging nettles as a true harbinger of spring.

I took the pictures, above, of the formal, 18th c. style English gardens in Colonial Williamsburg very early one morning last April, 2009. The leaves were new and feathery in the trees and the grass had that first sharp green of the season. Proof that, even after this particularly nasty winter, spring WILL come!

20 comments:

Lady Burgley said...

Absolutely lovely photos. Thank you!

Katy Cooper said...

Those are gorgeous pictures, further whetting my appetite to go...but I thought it was that green down there. (I'm not a complete geographic idiot; hope just outran sense...)

Monica Burns said...

I think Wmsburg is at its most beautiful in the spring, that very first week when the leaves have just unfurled and the grass is at that most lush of greens. And in the morning there's that light misty fog that the Sun sweeps away gently to reveal the wealth of beauty that abounds in the historic district.

Thanks for sharing the pics. Reminds me that the leaves will start to bud in a few weeks.

nightsmusic said...

I've heard that before about the stinging nettles though I've never been brave enough to consider trying to eat them...

Lovely pictures though. I am SO looking forward to spring! These pictures only made it harder to wait.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Monica, don't you live in VA? Is it green down there yet? I'm thinking that the daffodils and other bulbs may be up by now in CW, but I'm not sure.

Theo, I've watched the stinging nettles prepared and cooked much like any other pot-greens, but like you, I didn't try them. :)

Rowenna said...

Gorgeous pics--so pretty! There's a lovely 1790 plantation house in Kentucky that we visit every spring--I relish their lilac hedges and avenues of blooming dogwood!

Ugh, stinging nettles. I've never eaten them, but I've experienced their bite. Not pleasant!

Monica Burns said...

Yes, I'm about 45min from Wmsburg. Last night there was a light dusting of snow, now rain. But the green hasn't shown up yet here, and I've got a green thumb so no flowers in my yard to gauge springs arrival yet.

Carrie C said...

By having such constant (lovely) comfort, we do give up some sharp joys, don't we? (Like stinging nettles - thank you for explaining those!) But I think on the whole, I'd rather remind myself of how lucky we are and learn to find joy than to suffer through a winter with moldy turnips. :)

Karen said...

April is beautiful in Williamsburg. But in order to get there, you have to make it through March, the Month of Mud. (I went to school at W&M, and I remember Williamsburg weather all too well!)

Michelle Moran said...

Great photos! I will never look at nettles the same again...

Vanessa Kelly said...

What lovely photos! I love the green, but also the order and neatness of those beautiful gardens. Very pleasing to the eye.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

I just spoke to my gardening specialist in Williamsburg (aka my mother) who reports that things there are just as Monica says -- the snow's gone, but things remain very grey. The daffodils are still only about 4" above the ground, with no visible flowers yet.

Carrie C., yes, I'd MUCH rather read about the past and visit it vicariously than have lived through those moldy turnips. When we get a blizzard now, I'm perfectly happy to have fear that the internet will go out be my worst concern.

Rowenna, the thought of two-hundred-old lilacs sounds absolutely magnificent. The scent must be amazing.

Karen, yes, you are very right about the mud! Between the mud and the crushed clam shells, all those charmingly unpaved paths get pretty mucky.

MsHellion said...

GORGEOUS. I remember walking around those places...so looking at those pictures almost feels as good as coming home. Just gorgeous

Lauren Lee said...

Beautiful! How did you manage to take these without any tourists in them? Were you able to get permission to be in the gardens before they opened to the public?

News From the Holmestead said...

These beautiful photos make me hanker for spring in a big way. I am soooo done with winter!

Stinging nettles: I found that you can touch the tops of the leaves, but it's the fuzzy hairs on the bottom of the leaf that cause the sting. I kept a small patch in the pasture for the butterflies, but gave up after it began to spread like wildfire.

Here in the Pacific NW my flowering quince has tight buds of pink flowers, and the lilacs are unfurling their leaves, so spring can't be far off. My forsythia is a riot of yellow. Thank God for these early harbingers of spring to gladden a winter-weary heart!

Jane O said...

Well, the snowdrops are blooming, and enough snow has melted so they are visible. Hope is busy springing eternal...

After all, it could be worse. I had an English professor (from England) who once said you couldn't really appreciate a spring song if you hadn't lived without central heating. ;-)

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Lauren, I didn't have any special permissions to take the pictures. I just made sure to be at the Governor's Palace as soon as they opened, and went directly to the gardens. I've found that being the early bird in CW definitely has its advantages -- everyone/thing is fresh for the day, and the majority of tourists are still on their way, or just getting started in the pancake houses. Later on in the day, it's a different story, and almost impossible to get pictures without modern folk in the background.

Sherrie, you have forsythia already? Ours isn't even in bud yet!

News From the Holmestead said...

Yes, Susan, the forsythia is in full bloom. We've had several weeks of unseasonably warm weather and sunny days, and everything is exploding into violent green growth and colorful blooms. I'm praying we don't get a cold snap.

Linda Banche said...

Oh, so that's what that plant is! I've seen it around here, but didn't know what it was. There were a lot of things people ate out of desperation that we pull up as weeds now.

Leah Marie Brown said...

What lovely photos. They make me want to grab a book and a blanket and spread out on that green grass. Happy Spring!

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