Many people prefer autumn to spring.  It’s true.  This always comes as a surprise to me though because of how wonderful Spring really is.  Like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, I am always on the look out, not for the longest day of the year, but for the day in early February when the light begins to change.   At some juncture when the light has been Winter light for a long time, with something gray in its overtones, there comes a point of inflection, and then the color has yellow in it, sublimated yellow, suppressed yellow,  yellow like so much stifled laughter, but yellow just the same, dissolved in the light itself. When you see that light, like watery sun in suspension, then you know, Spring is imminent.

This year I decided on an experiment that I had meant to carry out a year or so earlier, namely, the carrying over of the heliotrope plant (heliotropium arborescens, if you want to be proper). Last year the cat ate the heliotrope. I can’t really blame her.  It does smell very much like almond pastry and who wouldn’t want to eat that? 

But she regretted it I’m sure, because it gave her gas and she mewed miserably, and was exiled from the Hub’s lap. “Good God, what has that cat been eating?”

The cat and I both knew, of course, but we weren’t talking.

This time I was savvier and kept the heliotrope sequestered in our bedroom on a high table. Kitty still evinced an interest, and had to be removed a time or two, but the heliotrope is still alive as you can see, and even still in bloom.

The only difference between Winter heliotrope and Summer heliotrope seems to be color and strength of scent.  The Summer blooms were deep purple, and had a strong pervasive, almond/vanilla/fruity smell.  These Winter flowers are pale pale lavender and have a slight smell of powdered almonds.  It is the most feminine scent you can imagine, and a good corollary to Apres L’Ondee, although, speaking for myself alone, I prefer the heliotrope these days.

My plan is to take lots of cuttings and get them all going so that in stead of one large heliotrope I have several small ones going at the same time. There is also the matter of heliotrope color.  There is a white variety of heliotrope. Lovely, no? I figure that if I plant that with the jasmines, I will have an explosion of scent all at once.

White heliotrope is rather different from purple.  Strictly speaking, I prefer the purple variety, but the white does have a very heavy white flower scent sort of the same idea as the purple but more, everything amplified.  It probably would go well with jasmine, and maybe a white rose or two.

But this little experiment of mine has proven one thing to me, that sometimes the pallid version of something has almost as much charm as the hi-definition, fully made up one.  Sometimes pale is the way to go.

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8 thoughts on “Pallor

  1. I didn’t think to dig up my heliotrope and bring it in for overwintering – this past summer was the first time I’d ever grown it, and I admit that I was disappointed that I had to bend right over, butt in the air right in front of the house! to smell it, rather than its wafting up as I’d expected. But then, I’ve never yet managed to overwinter geraniums properly. (It might be our water. Our well water is extremely hard, as you might expect in such a karstic area, so it’s either chock-full of lime or salty from the water softener, even when I filter it.)

    I adore both autumn and spring, though autumn I might like a bit better because it seems so hopeful to me. Starting school in the fall seems to have marked my feelings for it. And spring is often difficult for me, probably because most of the heartbreaking disappointments of my life have come in the spring, contrasting the budding life outside with my misery. It is still very very beautiful, but sometimes all that beauty just slices me open. What *I* hate is summer.

    1. This was all inspired by my envy of my sister in law who lived in Atlanta, and looked upon heliotropes as perennials. Here, you may preserve your garden from deer, but frost gets the rest. So operation heliotrope was initiated. Don’t know if heliotropes like or dislike lime soils, it’s a good question.
      I noticed the insufficient scent problem you mention, which is why I want to take cuttings and have a phalanx of the little guys, and maybe put the white heliotrope in a hanging basket with some jasmine by the front door. Hey, I’ll have the smelliest doorstep in town.

      I hear you on the subject of seasonal associations. Only in my experience, it’s flipped. Autumn has been when there have been the most deaths in my family, and the greatest number of disasters, large and small. So I tiptoe across Autumns gingerly, with my fingers crossed.

  2. Oh, so lovely. I remember coming across heliotrope’s by-name “cherry-pie” in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, where (if memory serves) it’s used to decorate the Starkadder farmhouse on the day of Elfine’s summer wedding. 🙂

    1. And “when the sukebine is in bud” Spring is on the way. Or something of that sort. Mind you, haven’t ever seen anything nasty in our woodshed!

  3. Very lovely, Blacknall – both your descriptions of seeing the sign of imminent Spring in the day light of Winter, and of your heliotrope beauties. I do know exactly what you mean about seeing a change in the light that indicates Spring. Although I’m not a fan of that season, as it is often cloudy, muddy, and rainy for much of it in my area of Pennsylvania, where the ridges form a basin that seems to catch clouds within it and keep them there. I love summer and autumn best.

    Happy heliotrope-growing to you!

    1. Hello Suzanne, nice of you to drop in!

      As a matter of fact, I know the kind of countryside you are describing because I spent my early childhood in western Maryland where all Falls were misty and all Springs were saturated. Here, we merely get the wet Springs. A flooded basement is Nature’s way of telling us that we have to get the A/C serviced.
      As to heliotropes, I hope more people will want to bring them back, they are such docile easy to grow flowers, and their smell is heavenly!

  4. Yes! The light going from grayish to yellow. I’ve noticed and the feeling of a breeze on the morning air. I wait for the time when I feel the undertone shift from brisk to a slight warmth. I know spring is on the way. I’m not certain about the fall people. Maybe because up in the Pacific Northwest it doesn’t seem we often have a fall. Sometimes we don’t have a summer. Spring we have. Or at least the garden tells me.

    My garden is a mess and requires some serious work. Have had a knee problem and had not been able to get out and root around. That’s been dealt with and I have been looking through catalogs for ideas. Still my daffodils and iris are starting to come up. First week of February.

    1. I hope your garden thrives this season! It is very frustrating not to be able to get to the garden chores if you are in any way under the weather. I have had this experience, but think of all the wonderful things you can grow where you are: giant delphiniums, a case in point, and another, primroses. I’ll just bet you can grow any type of primrose ever bred. Here in Jersey? Please! As for catalogs, they provide a way to dream in anticipation of Spring

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