It was a quiet pastoral scene that turned into a pre-Easter parade. Two large crows announced the arrival of 17 turkeys, three of them Toms strutting around with fully fanned tails. The soil lay bare after the grass had been harvested late autumn. Turkeys scratch with authority and power, like feathered velociraptors from Jurassic Park looking for ground prey. Every so often a turkey would cut lose with a rapid gobble, gobble, gobble. Two deer watched from the distance. Sand, Mexican and American plums were blooming around the staging area.

It was a quiet pastoral scene that turned into a pre-Easter parade. Two large crows announced the arrival of 17 turkeys, three of them Toms strutting around with fully fanned tails. The soil lay bare after the grass had been harvested late autumn. Turkeys scratch with authority and power, like feathered velociraptors from Jurassic Park looking for ground prey. Every so often a turkey would cut lose with a rapid gobble, gobble, gobble. Two deer watched from the distance. Sand, Mexican and American plums were blooming around the staging area.

The easiest to distinguish were sand plums in thickets. Our area is the tail end of American plum occupation which follows a broad swathe around the Mississippi up to North Dakota. However, we are in the center of the Mexican plum region concentrated in the south-central US extending only to Missouri. Both species can interbreed and often it is difficult to tell them apart, so I suggest we call them Amerzican plums. Kind of goes with Mairzy dotes and dozy dotes and little lambzy divey. You know this tune: mares eat oats and does (female deer) eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. It made #1 on the March 1944 pop chart. Mairzy Dotes was one of my mother’s favorites in her spring repertoire of silly songs.

Spring is here announcing the pussy willows full of fuzzy flower clusters, fields of cheerful daffodils, forsythia bushes loaded with yellow blooms, redbuds sending shots of purple and red through the woods while the plums work with white, hyacinths pushing up heavily scented floral spikes, and crocuses (small members of the Iris family) popping up in yellow, purple or white.

First, I have a problem with crocuses. They grow naturally in a band from Europe east to China. True enough, the stigmas (pollen producing tubes) of the autumn blooming Crocus sativus are dried and ground into saffron, a spice that permanently stains everything yellow. The birds have discovered yellow and white crocus flowers taste delightful. I never see these colors despite the fact several bulbs were planted. My crocus crop is always purple. This year there were no crocuses because the thick mulch layer used to thwart excavation by the opossum or armadillo so discouraged the poor little crocuses they did not surface.

The ubiquitous flowering quince. Do you know this by its old name of Japonica, the term my mother used? Yes, this too is an early spring bloomer with a history. In 1784 it was classified as a Japanese pear. The Chinese Japonica in England was crossed with the true Japanese flowering quince, eventually resulting in 150 cultivars now known to exist. No one is exactly sure why Japonica took off like a wildfire across many rural areas in the US. The flowering season lasts less than 2 weeks, but flowering quince does produce fruit. Quince apples make delicious liquors and preserves (the fruit is high in pectin). Flowering quince forms a thick spiny

shrub proudly displaying its rose family heritage. As horticulturalist Gerald Klingaman said “if you have a sunny spot and want a plant that will outlive you, plant a flowering quince!” Growing by the west door is a quince, Japonica, whatever, at least 25 years old. It came from my mother’s plant, now long gone.

Tulips are the poster flower for springtime. I have none, but for two years deep blue tulips, part of the royal blue bulb collection, did survive in my garden. During the time my family lived in England we visited Keukenhof Gardens outside Amsterdam. The blocks of color were so vivid and row upon row of different types of tulips stretched as far as the eye could see. So too the tourist buses. Every year 7 million bulbs are planted. From March to May the rainbows of color entertain countless gardeners and flower lovers. Some spend the entire day at the “world’s largest flower gardens”, others may take two hours, but most will pause to have a hot drink and snack before continuing their field experience. Bulbs can be purchased, but are sent in the autumn.

Spalding, England was the English tulip capital. Located in the flat marshlands called the fens, it had close connections with the Netherlands. Canals and waterways drain the area perfect for bulb cultivation. It was not far from where we lived. As we approached Springfields Festival Gardens, dozens of colorful tulip fields greeted us. We arrived in time to see the tulip parade and floats decorated with tulip petals. The parade had been held every first Saturday of May since 1959.

Twenty-five years later we decided to once again see the Spalding tulip fields. Although we left England many years before, we stayed in touch. Following a Walker’s Crisp Lorrie (potato chip semi) at a slow pace, the truck turned and we continued on the A17 to Spalding. Passed by one daffodil field. Where were the tulip fields? We found Springfields Festival Gardens. More accurately, Springfields Outlet Shopping and Festival Gardens. The tulip fields are now car parks, an open mall full of discount stores and 14 different small theme gardens: Display Fountains, Formal gardens, Woodlands, Wetlands, the Senses garden, the Sun Dial garden and Lifetime ahead gardens which show effects of climate change. Posted was a sign stating global warming is climatically moving gardens 36 feet south each day. The plant display was designed to tolerate waterlogged winters and summer droughts. Cheerful thoughts.

What caught my eye was the Japanese Garden. It was named Momotaro, the Peach Seed Boy. The story goes: a couple could have no children. A peach came down the river. When sliced, out of the pit fell a gem. The gem moved, changed form and turned into a boy. As Momo grew into a handsome young man, he and friends fought mischievous beings called Oni. The Oni retreated. “Their world since then and from this day on lives in peace with birds in song.” Every stone, gravel ripple and plant has been precisely positioned. Symbols, metaphors and illusions are the frameworks of this garden. The Buddhist temples have rock arrangements to represent revered mountains and gravel for water and the ocean, as does our Zen garden in the Shawnee Japanese Peace Garden.

BUT, what happened to the tulips? Last tulip grower went out of business years ago. The parade ended in 2013, but there continues to be a tulip festival with tulips imported from Holland. This year’s Tulipfest is May 4-6. Just not the same.

Tulsa Botanic BLOOMS! One of the largest spring displays now going on in Oklahoma is at the Tulsa Botanic Garden. Over 100,000 bulbs have been planted—60,000 tulip bulbs in 80+ varieties and the rest in hyacinth, daffodil, muscari (grape hyacinth), crocuses and Fritillaria bulbs. They’re all here for you to see, smell and enjoy.

On Monday morning, unroll the toilet paper a few sheets, draw a spider using a black sharpie or ink pen, reroll the toilet paper. Wait for the scream.

April Fools!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.