“…the long dark nights of the evening star…”

A few mild days, when it seems that spring is almost in the air (we heard a bee yesterday on our walk at Francis Point, and the common mergansers were in their courting clothes, the females swimming in a line with an equal number of males following…). In the garden, I saw a few crocuses in bloom and a broad bean, fallen from its pod and forgotten on the surface of the soil, has sprouted, which makes me think I should plant the broad bean seeds I have in the porch. Tree frogs are loud in sunlight. The planets are busy in the night sky and the other night we saw Orion stretched over our house when we came home late from a poetry reading down the Coast.

But I’m thinking of almond blossom, the abundance of it last February in Portugal. I thought I’d never seen anything as beautiful — that is, until we passed grove after grove of lemon trees, the small suns brilliant on their branches. But almond blossom, as airy and lovely as spring dresses. I think almonds arrived in Portugal with the Moors, around the 8th century, but they are perfectly suited to the landscape of the Algarve, which is where we first saw them.

almond blossom in Farro


And the almond-tree, in exile, in the iron age!


This is the ancient southern earth whence the vases were baked, amphoras, craters, cantharus, oenochoe, and open-hearted cylix,
Bristling now with the iron of almond-trees


Iron, but unforgotten,
Iron, dawn-hearted,
Ever-beating dawn-heart, enveloped in iron against the exile, against the ages.


See it come forth in blossom
From the snow-remembering heart
In long-nighted January,
In the long dark nights of the evening star, and Sirius, and the Etna snow-wind through the long night.
                                 (from “Almond Blossom”, by D.H. Lawrence)
When we first moved here in 1982, I asked a local nursery owner if she’d order me some olive trees. I wanted to try them on the dry slope below the house. But she refused and said they wouldn’t survive north of San Francisco. Now people are growing them here on the Sunshine Coast, as well as the Gulf Islands, and they’re getting good crops. It might be worth trying a almond tree or two. In the meantime, we have orchids. Years ago someone gave me a cymbidium orchid and eventually that plant became six, though at present I just have two. (They make good gifts!) I don’t love house-plants, or at least I’m not willing to fuss with them. But these seem to thrive on neglect. I do divide and repot them every few years, making a potting mix with fir bark scrounged from the woodshed, and they go outside all summer. When I remember, I water them with orchid food. Right now there are five flowering stems on this plant and the flowers are opening one by one. They last a long time. So no almonds here to transport us to summery climates but there’s always orchids!
orchid in February

2 thoughts on ““…the long dark nights of the evening star…””

  1. T – You’e in a perfect zone to push the envelope on what can be planted. Makes me a teeny bit envious! Now that our main house has been sided, I have been dreaming about what I can plant against the south wall which has a stone foundation and a fabulous micro-climate. I’m thinking of trying a fig, which I can lay down and bury during the winter, and am contemplating some medicinals that are usually less conducive to our climate. I definitely welcome other suggestions. A.

    1. Our fig died back one year, maybe 20 years ago, during a cold winter. But it happily grew again from its rootstock. It’s a Brown Turkey and the figs aren’t particularly delicious, unless you wrap them with prosciutto and grill them, maybe with a bit of blue cheese tucked inside! Or poach them. When we were in Ottawa a few autumns ago, we walked in the Dominion Arboretum park area and I noticed wisteria on a pergola by one of the buildings. I don’t see it in gardens but have given M&F a root from our main vine, brought back from J’s grandmother’s garden in Suffolk many years ago (his mum used to tuck little bits and pieces in her suitcase!). Theirs died, but not during winter; it was while they were here, I think, and it dried out. But I bet it will come back from the root. And if you’d like a bit of it, just say. We’ll be there in May….

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