Already peonies

The weather in New England has been crazy. Last week was beautiful, with a string of sunny days with temperatures in the 70s: perfect weather for walking, reading on the patio, and dining alfresco. Saturday was overcast and humid with afternoon thunderstorms, Sunday was warm and sunny, and Monday spiked into the upper 80s: suddenly summer. Yesterday started warm until temperatures dropped into the 60s–spring again–and today has been gray and drippy after overnight thunderstorms.

It’s hard to tell, in other words, if it’s spring or summer, so I’ve taken to calling this time of year spring-into-summer. It’s a transitional period marked by indecision and mood swings. May is clearly spring, and July will truly be summer, but early June can’t make up its mind. Some days are reminiscent of April showers, and others hearken ahead to summer sultriness.

This might explain why I’m always surprised when any of the neighbors’ peonies bloom. I associate peonies with summer, so I’m always surprised when they bloom out of the blue, before I’m ready. Peonies flower in their own good time, and I’m always out of step, muttering “Already?” under my breath.


Spring peony

I submitted the last of my Spring semester grades on Monday but have spent the rest of the week in various faculty meetings and workshops: a flurry of academic obligations before everyone’s thoughts turn to summer. Every year, I feel like spring secretly slips into summer while I have my nose buried in a pile of student papers: one minute, the trees are bare; the next, they’ve leafed into green.

Preening red-tailed hawk.

I think of peonies as summer flowers: the one in our backyard waits until June to bloom. But the peonies at Mount Auburn Cemetery are already blooming while the late-leafing oaks ease into green. For the past few weeks, our backyard trees have been alive with warbler songs, a morning medley that goes twitter, buzz, and sneeze. At Mount Auburn this afternoon, a half dozen tom turkeys puffed and strutted for a lone female, and a placid red-tailed hawk preened in a tree, politely ignoring the inquisitive human below.

Peony

Overnight, one backyard peony has burst into full flower, hurried by yesterday’s suddenly summery heat. The neighborhood mountain laurels are also blooming, which always strikes me as incongruous, as I invariably associate laurels with cool summer mountaintops, not simmering summer hothouses.

Mountain laurel

I said the exact same thing about sudden summers, peonies, and mountain laurels last year, with similar illustrations…except this year, both our backyard peonies and the neighborhood mountain laurels have bloomed more than a week ahead of schedule. Summer has arrived just as suddenly this year as it did last, but this year it has arrived suddenly, sooner.

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Peony bud, with raindrops

This morning, after several gray, cool, drizzly days, summer arrived suddenly, bursting overnight into full-blown bloom.

Peony

Mountain laurel

In true New England fashion, when summer arrives, it does so with a vengeance: as I write this on Saturday afternoon, it’s 91 degrees outside. How strange, then, to see mountain laurel–a plant I associate with cooler climes–blooming in a shady spot where I hurried Reggie out of the sun on this morning’s walk. Apparently mountain laurel doesn’t read sweltering weather forecasts?