Restaurant "burgerMe" at Manly Beach near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
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When the lilacs begin to bloom in my San Francisco garden, their fragrance and deep purple color take me back to fond memories of my Pennsylvania grandmother and the lilacs in her garden in the 1960s and 1970s. Although lilacs came to the United States with European settlers, the lilac bush is quintessentially American. Many of the early Americans who ventured West planted lilacs and those bushes today mark the location of long gone homesteads. On a short vacation in Northwestern Michigan a few years ago, I remember walking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (part of the National Park Service) near ruins of homesteads flanked by prolific lilacs. Apparently this holds true with respect to Canadian westward expansion.
Unfortunately, the mild winters and foggy summers of San Francisco present less than ideal growing conditions for lilacs. Undeterred, I planted a cutting from my parents' lilacs in Virginia (which in turn were grown from cuttings from my grandmother's lilacs in Pennsylvania) in my garden. While the cutting is now a very small 10-year-old bush, it has never yielded any flowers. Because an indelible genetic line connects this small specimen to my grandmother's lilacs, it is out of the question to remove it from the garden. So, it lives on in a quiet spot near the garden's other heirloom lilacs which, by comparison, are giants with the largest of three bushes towering about 25 feet. Their height and their large gnarled trunks suggest that they are some variety of the common lilac or syringa vulgaris planted by former residents 40 or 50 years ago (perhaps even longer as the house was built in 1905). They are leggy and straining towards patches of sun in an otherwise shady garden caused by a large Italian stone pine (pinus pinea) and a looming apartment building next door that likely came into existence well after the lilacs' arrival. While the experts recommend pruning leggy lilacs by one-third (both for aesthetic and non-aesthetic reasons), I have not done so out of fear that the bushes would never recover. In addition, I am loathe to destroy the bush's trunks and branches that have taken on an almost sculptural quality which is quite beautiful.
When the lilacs start blooming right by the deck and their lovely fragrance wafts through the air, it heralds the advent of spring after a rainy (and occasionally dreary) winter and reminds me of wonderful childhood spring and summer visits with my grandmother.
A flower or a butterfly?
A turned-around palm tree?