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South Mountain


The Jewel of Springtime...

By Mariko Kawaguchi

I am writing today in a flurry of snowflakes and gusty wind on a brisk spring day in April on the Vineyard. Winter is clearly making a final stand, as the afternoon alternates between menacing grey skies and sudden bursts of radiant sunshine, often interrupted by quick moving snow showers and unrelenting wind.

At home my mini-daffodils, and apricot colored narcissus Salome are in bloom already, quietly defying the snow flakes and freezing rain attempting to defeat their call to spring.

Islanders always look for the familiar signs of a Vineyard spring: snow drops on Old County Road, crocus peeking out from gone by years of random planting, fragrant hyacinths standing at attention outside historic homes, or the melodic pinkletinks harmonizing around the wetlands all over the Island.

The color palette this time of year is very different from the other seasons. The colors are more muted, like a watercolor of subtle hues that create softer tones to contrast what we usually witness in nature, in pursuit of more vivid colors. The pre emergence of budding leaves reveal diffused shades of pastel, copper, muted coral, lavender and indigo.

In autumn, we have the benefit of having an extended summer, with more time to garden and enjoy the warm fall weather. The payback for this is having a delayed spring, with mainland plants budding up well before the Vineyard. Even within the island micro climates plants grow with noticeable differences between the towns: Vineyard Haven is always warmer than up Island and in full bloom before the rest of the towns.

One of my favorite jaunts is along North Road to experience the bending branches of delicate flowering shadblow trees, that create gothic arches over the road, the pavement acting like an aisle in a place of worship. Big clumps of daffodils line the horizontal landscape in grand sweeps of yellow, orange, cream, and tan. They can also be spotted along periodic stone walls, in the parameters of fields or as the opening act of a perennial garden. We are color starved devotees, faithfully making the annual pilgrimage in search of vivid trumpet daffodils, heralding spring and celebrating the renewal of life.

About half way between West Tisbury and Menemsha on North Road, a huge spray of daffodils line the road, encompassing a house, a large piece of land and a vintage gas tank that looks like something right out of 1950’s Americana. Here is the home of Joanie & Pat Jenkinson, who have tended and expanded the daffodils for many years. “My husband’s grandmother, Fanny Jenkinson, started the daffodils here about a hundred years ago, and we have kept up that spring time tradition, adding more bulbs every year and relocating a few from time to time. It’s just such a cheerful sight coming up the road, it makes everyone so happy when they drive by”, says Ms. Jenkinson.

Across from the Chilmark fire station, where Menemsha Cross Road intersects with Middle Road and South Road, is the home of Marie and Dan Larsen. Tucked away in the back of their yard sits a daffodil garden that has been in the family for decades. “Dan’s mother gave his father a bunch of bulbs to plant one day, many years back, but instead he put them in the back of his trunk, and dumped them all in one fell swoop into the yard. And they have been there ever since. It’s really a beautiful sight in spring.” Like the Jenkinsons, Dan & Marie continue to expand the garden, and maintain the bulbs and plants on a regular basis.

This jewel of springtime the daffodil is also known as Jonquil, Narcissus, Paperwhite and the Daffodils are always one of the first plants to bloom in spring, and throughout history they have always been associated with good omens.