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Saugus gardens in the spring

HOME IS HERE An osprey couple has found the nesting platform along the bike trail in Saugus-2
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Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable

  Today is the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, which was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Denis Hayes, who was a first-year student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of government, dropped out of college to organize it as he teamed up with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. The first year it was observed only by the United States, but it has now grown to be observed by almost 200 countries around the world.

  There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day. Even our walks around town can be considered an appropriate activity. Some people may pick up roadside trash as a way of giving back today. Others may consider the interconnections in nature as they add to their gardens – perhaps making an extra effort to consider native plant species, or seeking out plants that attract pollinators and supply nectar or trying to increase the diversity of plant species in their neighborhood.

  Some evidence of recovery of endangered animal populations has certainly hit home this year. Saugus is seeing firsthand the increase in apex predators, such as the bald eagles so many have been delighted to observe in our neighborhoods this year. While the ospreys have been nesting here for quite a few seasons, they are another example of birds whose existence were threatened by pesticides a few decades ago. Nearly wiped out in the 1950’s, their numbers are noticeably increasing in New England. These are certainly encouraging signs of improvement since the warnings voiced in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” 60 years ago.

  This week feels like a cherry blossom festival as there are several kinds of cherry and plum trees in bloom in every neighborhood. The most stunning might be a pink weeping cherry (Prunus subhirtella pendula) on Hamilton Street: This beautiful blooming tree is much appreciated by the home’s residents, Joseph LeDonne and Caoimhghin P. O’Suilleabhain. This week it is covered with beautiful pale pink blossoms which dangle from every branch. Cliftondale Square and the Hamilton Street lawn of Town Hall also have beautiful cherries in bloom. These are Yoshino cherries (Prunus yedoensis). It is also a great week for saucer magnolias. The cherries, plums, and magnolias are especially showy because their flowers come out before the leaves, so they are not camouflaged by foliage. These species originated in Asia and Europe, although there are some close relatives that are North American natives.   Until fairly recently, most gardeners did not often appreciate our native species, not realizing that many species of wildlife depend on them and there are more complex issues to plant selection than meets the eye.

  White violets blooming in front of the post office (Viola macloskeyi) are one of many species of native violet that bloom in early spring. There are many violet species, both native and introduced, that may be found in our fields and gardens. Flowers are often shades of purple, giving rise to our word for the color “violet,” but white or yellow are also normal colors for some violet species, and pink is occasionally seen as well. Violets are often aided in distributing their seeds by ants, which are drawn to a starchy segment attached to the violet seeds and carry them back to their underground nests. The ants rarely consume the seed itself, and the violets then grow in a new location often some distance from the parent plant.

  While it may be mid-May before the leaves on trees and shrubs are big enough to be easily seen, new growth is evident on many species. There are too many kinds of flowers to count in bloom outside, and every walk will show some new blossoms to anyone who is observant. There have been some wild changes in the weather, from the tiny hail that fell Easter morning for a short time, bouncing off the pavement and making quite a clatter, to the rainbow that lit the sky Tuesday afternoon after bands of rain had been replaced by sun. April’s reputation is to tease us with temperature fluctuations – a warm afternoon being followed by a cold and windy day or two. A few hours’ drive away some towns were getting quite a bit of snow, so we should consider ourselves lucky.

Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

A NICE-LOOKING TREE This weeping cherry on Hamilton Street is among the most beautiful in Saugus-2
A NICE-LOOKING TREE: This weeping cherry on Hamilton Street is among the most beautiful in Saugus. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
A SCENIC SKY We were treated to a beautiful rainbow Tuesday evening after bands of rain alternated with sunshine-2
A SCENIC SKY: We were treated to a beautiful rainbow on Tuesday evening after bands of rain alternated with sunshine. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
AN IDEAL ABODE Osprey like the location near the river since fish make up a major part of their diet-2
AN IDEAL ABODE: Osprey like the location near the river since fish make up a major part of their diet. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Charles Zapolski)
WHITE VIOLETS BLOOM A pretty spring scene in the Post Office lawn in Cliftondale-2
WHITE VIOLETS BLOOM: A pretty spring scene in the Post Office lawn in Cliftondale. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)

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