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Story Time y'all...

I think we writers are a most supportive group. Big time fans of one another's work!

David Reed is a guy whose writing is beyond wonderful. And at this time of spring blossoms, I received the magnificent piece below. As I told him, my landscape design writing buddy, I could absolutely smell the fragrances wafting off the page!

And it touched me so that he mentioned my writing about the beloved Valencia orange blossoms of Pauma Valley in my first book - The Orangewoods - Seasons in the Country Artfully Lived.

It went like this:

"The honeyed scent of orange blossoms signaled springtime. We stood on the threshold of retirement from our radio careers, about to embark on a new life together as farmers.

         At the first intoxicating whiff of the sensuous fragrance, we had hurried outside to revel in yet another springtime blast of the divine magic of citrus. We had read that the Valencia, first named Excelsior, was the world’s most important orange[1] [MW2] .

         The fact we’d learned from our research that delighted us most was that both the snowy white bloom of next season’s harvest and the richly colored fruit of the current harvest coexisted for a brief time on the tree. The long season required to produce the sweet, juicy fruit meant that by the next spring, we would still have ripe oranges on the tree at the same time new flowers were blooming."

David wrote a book - a fabulous book titled Uphill and Into the Wind. It's a 1970s Bike and Hike Odyssey from the Garden State to the Golden Gate. Actually, David and I wrote our books in tandem with our Read and Critique Group spearheaded by Judy Reeves. (Her new book, When Your Heart Says Go, was also written in our time together and is available for your reading pleasure!). For six years, David met weekly as the only guy in the group with eight women!

But that's not all he's up to - his Substack newsletter is great. Sorry the beautiful photos (oh yeah, he's a photographer too) didn't reproduce below.

Do yourself a favor and sign up now! You won't be sorry.

Here's the latest issue with info and at the bottom is info on how to subscribe:

Our garden has been a wellspring of fragrance for more than four months now. It began early with the winter jasmine vines which climb on the fence, over the shrubs and into my neighbor’s trees. A true jasmine, Jasminum polyanthem, its perfume is one of legends and literature, delicate, breathtaking, even sensual, and worthy of those expensive vials sold at Dolce&Gabbana in Milan. We cut them to bring fragrance into the kitchen, freshen the powder room and give flower clusters to visiting guests. Even today, there are still a few panicles of them hanging from the fence.

The Victorian box followed soon after. Commonly known as mock orange, we have several volunteer shrubs that yearn to become trees. Clusters of small, cream-colored flowers appeared at the ends of the wavy-leafed branches almost overnight. They number in the thousands, their scent palpable in surrounding yards. A winter bloomer in San Diego, they smell almost like orange blossoms, though in deference to my dear friend, Marilyn of The Orange Woods, perhaps not quite as intoxicating.

I’ve been watching from the window of my upstairs study as our Chinaberry tree started blooming two weeks ago. The other night, Carolyn’s cousin came to our door and asked,

“What’s that wonderful smell?”

“Probably the sage,” I replied.

“NO,” she insisted, “it’s a sweet smell.”

I inhaled. “Ah yes, it’s the Chinaberry.”

The tree is in the back yard, but its delicate lilac scent is pervasive, especially in the evening, and seems to pool around our front door. Its tender but exhilarating perfume fills my senses every day now and transports me to another place and time. The aromatic magic floats into our house when the doors are open.

The bloom period for the Chinaberry is short compared with the jasmine and mock orange, just a few weeks, appropriately in keeping with the quickening of the warm season here in our Mediterranean climate. Even now it has begun to drop its many small five-petaled flowers to the ground, littering the patio and furniture. As if to make a point, just this moment, a flower fell on my keyboard.

Still there are many thousands on the tree. The scent seems to be stronger when the air is warm, and maybe before the season is over, we’ll have a few balmy evenings where we can sit on the patio and be serenaded by the aroma of the Chinaberry.

How can such a small flower exude so powerful a fragrance, you might ask? I believe it’s not the size, but the sheer number of flowers. One year, through first counting and then extrapolation, I estimated half a million of them.

In our front garden, which has been a flowering showcase all its own since early March, another species of mock orange greets visitors with its bouquet. Pittosporum tobirabegan as a seedling volunteer when I built my little Zen runnel a quarter century ago and thrives on its own today. It still has a few rich creamy yellow flower clusters left.

Another scent in our front garden, palpable to passers-by though clearly not floral, is the Winifred Gilman sage. When I replaced our lawn there, I created a curving, crushed granite path, and we planted sage on either side. It grows so well, our pant legs get covered with its oils as we walk through, and we carry the sage scent into the house. It will burst into bloom within a month.

I gaze around the rear garden and admire the rich color we’ve planted; pink and scarlet begonias and royal purple foxgloves in the shade, red and purple Pelargoniums, African daisies, and the tiny Santa Barbara daisies Carolyn made a floral crown from for our granddaughter last weekend. There is one perennial which I anticipate most, and it is growing fast these days, showing flower buds, ripe for bloom.

It is the red valerian, Centranthus ruber.

Its flowers are not a true red, but a deep rose pink, rising in profusion on rich verdant stems to a meter and more. It is almost a weed, as many plants in our garden are, like the tiny scarlet pimpernel of literary fame. The red valerian blooms even more if you cut it, making it ideal for bouquets.

Some years when I sit in my favorite chair on the patio, I take a photo of the valerian, backlit by the late afternoon sun, peeking out from the base of the Chinaberry trunk.

I can’t keep up with the flowers and eventually they go to seed, spreading to the four winds as little floating parasols, much like dandelion seeds. They come up the following year in the most surprising places, a joint in the pavement, in other plant pots, in the space between the roots of our mulberry tree, and now in my neighbor’s garden. I’m glad she likes them too.

The winter rains have been good to our garden again this year, spread out enough they prolonged the bloom season, and fragrance. Every morning I gaze out our panoramic windows to admire happy plants.

Though we’ve had garden perfume for these four months, spring is about to leave. The hillsides are showing the telltale signs of the quickening, the winter bird visitors have mostly left, and except for early mornings of low clouds that burn off by ten a.m. we will soon have our summer. San Diego is blessed with over 265 days of sunshine a year, and while it’s getting hotter every year (yes, climate change IS real), the shade from our trees makes the garden a wonderful respite from the madness of the world. The trees create cooling breezes and sometimes, in the long summer evenings, we’ll need a sweater or a wrap when sitting there.

Perhaps I should plant a night blooming jessamine and some heliotrope, to sweeten our summer season.


And while I'm at it, just received my copy of:

My Texas Tech roommate, Donna Ingham, and I got together recently to talk books in Dallas. She's an amazing storyteller, Texas to the core, and extremely witty and entertaining with her tall tales. Her work is featured in this new book, Forty Years of Texas Storytelling. Gotta' love Texas y'all!

Lastly, my very exclusive two-person book club just started this one named on of the top ten books of 2023:

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How I have loved both your books & both your blogs & newsletters or whatever we want to call these missives that keep us connected...this time by our olfactory sense as you describe in words the fragrance of orange blossoms and David gives us his garden in a dozen different scents. What a gift--our noses, our words, our connections.

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