Trees in Spring

apple tree

Synchronistically, Arbor Day arrived yesterday and I experienced a moment of glee when I learned, as I have been going about town for the last few weeks, at various times of the day, combing neighborhoods, to capture images of the beauty of trees in spring which are such a blessing. Today I’m unveiling some of my recent discoveries. Most bear flowers, as that was my intention, but ultimately I included a couple not in that category, but that captured my heart and imagination. The one of the apple tree above grows in my back garden, among other fruit trees, including a fig, a plum and a walnut tree, for which I am all most grateful.

“Invest in trees.” ~Kathryn Hall, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden

Another on this property is a small hawthorne, which bears scant white blossoms, though dear. Here’s a bough, showing the leaves…


When the few blossoms began to emerge I brought one in to enjoy.

white blossom of the hawthorne

There are several trees I photographed I’m not familiar with. Whoever ID’s the ones I myself don’t know will be sent a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! Here is one such tree.The delicate pink and white flowers are spread along hanging or weeping branches.

These much loved redbuds have been gracing our town for a few weeks.


Another–a closer view. This one was full of bumblebees who seemed, not alarmed, but protective of their find. I didn’t feel threatened but they were aggressive about letting me know it was their redbud tree! Haha.


I am told, and I tend to believe, that this is the only tree of its kind in this town. Many folks have taken note of its whereabouts and look forward to seeing it each spring. I only know its name, paulownia, because I included it on a post years ago, which led to a proper ID.


“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ~ Chinese Proverb

This is one of the flowerless trees that I really love. It’s called curly willow or corkscrew willow. I prefer the former, don’t you?

curly willow

Concurrent with the abundance of redbuds are the dogwoods. I’m including three in this post.

white dogwood

Here’s the pink, with which you might be more familiar.

pink dogwood

And, lastly, I include Pacific dogwood. There is a story in this neighborhood that the man who used to own the house down the street, where this tree resides, had purchased a few acres “for firewood” up north of here. And apparently on that property was this Pacific dogwood. He dug it up and placed it in his garden in town. But no one knew its name. It was simply called “a wild dogwood”. (As fate would have it) horticulturist Roger Raiche happened to post a picture of a branch of this tree he located in Sonoma County, properly labeled as Pacific dogwood, so I sent him the pic below and he responded that he’d never seen one with so many flowers, and he suspected this one thrived because it had no competition to expand. As a lover, student and author of gardening metaphors, you can imagine I loved hearing this from him. Note that Pacific dogwood flowers have five petals, not four, and they emerge rather green and turn white within weeks.

Pacific dogwood

Now. Mystery trees still needing IDing are:

And this one.

Whoever can ID the three I’ve left unnamed wins a copy of my book! Just leave a comment below.

I know East Coasters especially are still awaiting the glories of spring. I do hope you are finding the annual joy of watching our gardens come into promising bud, and emerging with their full beauty. Those of us who honor this tradition and practice are so so lucky! What is your favorite thing you look forward to each spring in your garden?

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Footnote: Here’s a pic of a shad bush in flower, which Alice mentions on comments below. She’s in New York state.

UPDATE! The many subscribers to this blog contact me not only through the comments section below, but also via FB and email. So what readers missed was the vast amount of information sent to me by Julie Rice in Ohio, all in the attempt to help ID the trees posted above, which she ultimately did! A copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy goes out to her today! Congratulations, Julie! XOXO

Book Notes: Reminder that Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden makes a lovely gift for the loved Mothers in your life. Thank you for ordering a copy on Amazon, or Kobo or Barnes and Noble!

When Spring Comes Early…


As I tune in to gardening bloggers’ reports of their garden activities and local weather around the country there is a common thread–most of us are getting an early version of spring, followed by a colder, wetter winter pattern. So January and February sported some unusually warmer temps now followed by some pretty colder nights and days! Ah, but those warm days were appreciated in all honesty, and for a few weeks the garden flourished, and some hardy souls still prevail!

Blossoms in the plum tree were more abundant than I ever recall before, backed by the bluest sky to grace this valley in a long long time.

plum tree

Consistent with the generous bounty the daffodils made a splendid showing!


Not to be outdone, the rosemary sported the most blue blossoms since being planted a decade ago!


Responding to the unusual warmth and gentle rains, the camellias began their annual parade. I never tire of their beauty, as one might imagine.

pink camellias

red camellias

These large white with pink camellias are a double joy as they smell like gardenias!

white and pink camellias

Inspired, I pulled out winter pots, cleaned them up and began filling them with flowers I know could withstand any turn in the weather. I learned when I lived in Asheville through two cold winters that I could rely on pansies and violas. Good to know!


And primroses will also do well in the changing of the seasons, particularly if left in pots on tables protected by an umbrella or overhang or perhaps a shrub overhead.



Yesterday I saw the my first butterfly of the season and this afternoon I spied two bumblebees in the blue blossoms of the rosemary. If indeed there are more cold nights spring has taken a firm hold in Northern California and I celebrate and embrace its beauty with love and great joy.

What is blossoming early in your garden?

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: This month I was blessed with this beautiful review of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy written by Diana Wentworth, co-author of two Chicken Soup for the Soul Titles. “I love depth and wisdom of this beautiful book. It brings back the joy and discovery of A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that I read in my twenties. My own cherished copy is dog-eared, marked with stars and hearts, and resides on my ‘Favorites Bookshelf.'”

Basic Mac ‘n Cheese

Scrumptious mac ‘n cheese

Recently I made some classic mac ‘n cheese and posted a pic on Facebook. A discussion ensued that included a dear friend in the UK who apparently was not a fan. What? “You’d love mine!” I assured her. This led to various comments and my ultimately, as I am wont to do, googling mac ‘n cheese, where I discovered it’s regarded as having come from England! Well, this piqued further interest. Like, why the Southern roots in America? Enter Thomas Jefferson!

Having recently read The Hemingses of Monticello, I had learned, among many other fascinating things, that Jefferson was a foodie. When Congress sent Jefferson to Paris in 1784, he took one of his trusted servants and arranged for him to be tutored by a well known and respected chef to ensure he would have French cuisine back in Monticello. Jefferson at some point discovered macaroni and arranged to have a “macaroni machine” shipped to Monticello and later served macaroni to his guests, thus popularizing it in the South. There even survives a recipe for macaroni in Jefferson’s own hand! (Note he referred to all pasta as “maccaroni”.)

Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for macaroni
6 eggs. yolks & whites.
2 wine glasses of milk
2 lb of flour
a little salt
work them together without water, and very well.
roll it then with a roller to a paper thickness
cut it into small peices [sic] which roll again with the hand into long slips, & then cut them to a proper length.
put them into warm water a quarter of an hour.
drain them.
dress them as maccaroni [sic]
but if they are intended for soups they are to be put in the soup & not into warm water

Having learned this story I was inspired to post my recipe for mac ‘n cheese, partially hoping my friend in England, who is a whiz in the kitchen, will give it a try. 😉

This recipe evolved out of a recipe in The Joy of Cooking, which was fine as a starting point, but I found cumbersomely written, as well as not fully in keeping with my own preferences, so it’s tweaked from both those perspectives. I took lots of pictures in case you learn visually as I do.

Basic Mac ‘n Cheese

1. Make 1 1/2 C. bread crumbs.

2. Toss the bread crumbs in butter goodness.

3. Sauté 1/2 large onion, almost to the point of carmelization.

4. Throw the onion into your Cuisinart briefly.

5. Grate a block of sharp cheddar cheese.

6. Prepare 2 C. macaroni. I rarely use actual traditional macaroni. I prefer penne rigate or, even better, torchiette. Add the pasta to boiling water, which has been lightly salted. Do not add oil to the water. Cook al dente. Drain.

7. Simultaneously, melt 3 T. butter in a good sized saucepan, preferably stainless steel. Add 3 T. unbleached white flour. Stir to near browning. Add 2 C. whole milk, a bay leaf and a bit of paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat until it thickens. WATCH this carefully. You do not want this to stick to the bottom! Stir in the onion. Remove from heat.

8. Add 2/3 of the grated cheese to this mixture. Season to taste.

9. Add the pasta to this mixture.

10. Pour one half of the pasta/cheese/sauce mixture into a buttered casserole dish.

11. Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining grated cheese over this.

12. Add the remaining pasta to the casserole dish.

13. Top with the remaining cheese and then top with the bread crumbs.

14. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving so it keeps it’s form.

And that’s how I do it! I know this dish has reached gourmet status in some realms. Please do share what your variations are. I’d love to know what your favorite tricks are! Meanwhile, you have the basics on classic comfort food with a very rich history! Enjoy!

Love and kitchen blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Watch for Annie Haven’s book giveaway mid-March, where you can enter to win a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. You can find her on Facebook at Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew page on Facebook! Thanks, Annie! 🙂
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