The power of a San Juan spring

Wild-currant blossoms welcome visitors to the Nuthatch.

MY WILD CURRANT is madly blooming this spring. It’s a good tiding.

From the time Nuthatch cabin became ours in 2003, one thing I loved was the red-flowering wild-currant shrub that grew out of the rocky face just below our front deck. Its many clusters of dainty, trumpet-shaped blooms bobbed enchantingly above the deck rail and added a welcome early-spring splash of color to our view of woods and water.

Hummingbirds loved the flowers, and I mounted a bird feeder on the rail there so eager nuthatches, finches, juncos and towhees could use the currant’s branches as a perch while waiting their turn for a sunflower seed. It was akin to the queuing area at airport security. Always busy. And when fruit emerged later in the season, something of an avian snack bar.

I liked the wild currant so much that I planted another inside a deer fence next to the cabin’s front steps about 10 years ago. I gave the new planting plenty of water to get through dry summers. It grew large, with many branches and attractive foliage. But it didn’t flower much. Maybe just one little cluster of blooms each spring.

Meanwhile, after many seasons of enjoying the cliff-dwelling currant’s spring color, watering it in summer, seeing it get big and eventually rigging a supporting sling so it wouldn’t pull out of the rock, I waited in vain for new buds to emerge one February a few years ago. Barbara and I kept watching and hoping for a revival that sadly never came.

Its cliff-hanging location was a blessing and, probably, a curse. That hungry deer couldn’t reach it was likely the only reason it survived as long as it did. Yet the challenge of drilling roots into rock and finding necessary water probably doomed it.

Narcissus flowers add to the spring color outside the cabin.

Its gnarled old branches cobbled with lichen and bearded with moss, the dead shrub almost fell to my axe. But I stopped before the first swing. Why take it down? The birds continued to use it as a staging platform. It still served a purpose, and even without flowers or foliage it was pleasing to the eye.

Inside that deer fence, I planted another red currant next to the first. Tiny by comparison, it nonetheless produced a modest display of flowers the past two springs. Perhaps it finally shamed its big brother, which this spring has produced a robust display.

The new plants’ blossoms are more pink than red, whereas the cliff dweller wowed the eye with blooms of deep red to magenta. But this year’s dozens of flowering clusters have renewed my faith in the power of springtime in the San Juans.

To all my Northern Hemisphere friends, savor this season of renewal, whatever touches your heart.

NEW: This post available in audio. Listen to my Cantwell’s Reef podcast.

3 thoughts on “The power of a San Juan spring

  1. Its the first grilling of the season, with friend over for dinner tonight; although, I wish you on the guest list too.
    How I do love reading your blog! Even if I don’t manage to fire off a comment, you are frequently on our minds, and we miss you.
    Lets (nut)hatch a plan for this delightful season , allowing for your fabulous AK adventure, of course.
    Much love to you dear friend. We look forward to communing in person with you asap.

    Like

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