Floraison in mid-November

Floraison is a word I found in Vita Sackville-West’s garden writing (though I’m afraid I can’t remember which of the four volumes of collected columns I read last winter it was in); she used it to mean the things in flower at a given time.

Mid-November in Canada: not a time one associates with burgeoning growth and beautiful flowers.  But there are a few, this year, which has had a fairly mild fall, so far as Environment Canada and my comparison with last year tells me.  My sense of seasonality was, I fear, ‘set’ in northern Saskatchewan at some point between the ages of eight and eleven, when we moved from the High Arctic and to Edmonton respectively.  This means that I am perennially surprised by the lateness of winter’s arrival and the earliness (though never early enough) of spring down in the south.*

The floraison of Halifax this middle week of November, 2011: Of the perennials, the fall chrysanthemums (which bloom in accordance with day length rather than temperature, so sometimes get destroyed by the cold before they come to full blossom) are still going strong, though they’re a bit battered from the rain storm last week.  Down the street some rudbeckia, planted this year, are finishing up; there are the tail end of the half-wild asters, and a few spiraea are blooming at the end of this season’s growth.  And, of course, a number of the weeds — Campanula rapunculoides, some hawkbit, a few stray bits and bobs I can’t name — have thrown up the odd flower.  Some of the non-rapacious campanula are re-blooming, and there are a few of the short-lived violas and pansies still cheerfu.

Most of the tender annuals, in the ground and in planters, have been killed by earlier frosts, but I have some biden in a pot and there are geraniums, more pansies, a few impatiens in sheltered locations, that sort of thing, still out.  I saw some spring-seeded sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) blooming in an alley, looking as delicate and pretty as its English and Latin names.

But the crown jewel this week was the saffron crocus I saw in someone’s front yard.  Lavender flowers and that incredible yellow-orange-red of the stamens.  In my One Day House I shall have saffron for its autumn beauty and, of course, for its edibility.  Its botanical name is Crocus sativus, which means ‘tasty crocus’.  This is the first time I’ve actually seen it in bloom, but those stamens — the bit one uses as a spice — are unmistakable.

And then Friday was the first snow.


*Apart from a stint in Papua New Guinea when I was an infant, the furthest south I have ever lived is Toronto.  I was going to say that I spent five weeks living in an apartment in Florence, and that was further south, but then I checked and Toronto (43° 39′ N) is actually farther south than Florence (43° 46′ N).  Go figure.


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