Where blooms first blush
Hartford to Nantucket, acres of urgent flowers declare spring is here
Fall foliage gets all the attention here in New England, but we confess that some of our most memorable drives have been in the spring bloom season: apple blossom petals blowing across the highway in Bolton like a blizzard, dense yellow lines of daffodils along the country roads of Falmouth, the overwhelming aroma of grape Kool-Aid from hillsides of dazzling mountain laurel in the southern Berkshires.
Spring and early summer blooms are a great restorative after a grinding winter, and enjoying them doesn't have to be left to chance. There are mass plantings all over the region where one flower or another shows off its bloom power to the max.
The mass spectacle of daffodils begins in southern New England where little Nantucket must claim more daffodils per square inch than any community. Between early April and mid-May, more than 3 million daffodils bloom in Nantucket village and all along Milestone Road to Siasconset. During the 35th Nantucket Daffodil Festival on the last weekend of April, islanders pull out all the stops, decorating antique cars with blossoms, and holding the annual daffodil hat pageant. The "gray lady in the sea" glows glorious yellow. www.nantucketchamber.org. April 24-26. Free.
That same weekend, Meriden, Conn., celebrates its 31st annual Daffodil Festival at 1,800-acre Hubbard Park. The spectacle of an estimated 600,000 daffodils is impressive, to say the least, and every year the city plants more bulbs. The festival includes craft and food booths, amusement rides, live entertainment, and even a fireworks display. "Either you love it or you get out of town," says Jane Earnest, secretary of the volunteer committee that organizes the festival. Hubbard Park. www.daffodilfest.com. April 25-26. Free.
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum stretches its celebration of the early bloom with Daffodil Days from yesterday through May 3. The 1908 mansion in Bristol, R.I., overlooks 33 acres of gardens and sweeping fields that lead down to Narragansett Bay. 101 Ferry Road, 401-253-2707, www.blithewold.org. Through May 3. Adults $10, seniors and students $8, under age 17 $2.
A special celebration just wouldn't be fitting at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco, Maine, a much more contemplative place. Incorporated in 1844, Laurel Hill, like Mount Auburn in Cambridge and Forest Hills in Boston, is a pioneer of the garden cemetery movement.