Those handsome small trees now blooming with what look like dogwood flowers are Asian dogwoods, Cornus kousa and C. k. chinensis.
The leaves look like ordinary wild dogwoods of our countryside, except a bit smaller and narrower, and the blooms are a bit more star-shaped than our native tree. As they age, they often turn a rather deep pink color, and in the fall the leaves color about as well as the American kind.
In June and July another group of Asian trees, the deciduous magnolias that bloom in March and April here, commonly throw a few new flowers. For some reason this either alarms gardeners or makes them think Heaven has bestowed some special favor, but it is usual with all these fine trees, especially the purple-red lily-flowered magnolia.
It is also common for all the wisterias to bloom a bit during the summer, most notably the Chinese lavender kind, but also the Japanese both lavender and white, and the wild American kinds as well. Our American wisterias are almost never seen in gardens, because they are not as showy as the oriental kinds, but they are beautiful in a quiet way.
When I was a boy we had an American wisteria of World War I planting, that grew up some Tuscan columns on a pergola, and it was nice because it bloomed after the others. Besides, though this cannot be counted on generally, there was an ancient den of five-lined skinks that lived at the base of the great climber. They were splendid to see in warm weather as they sunned themselves on pavements, their metallic blue tails glistening.
Once in Philadelphia I saw a magnificent white variant of our native wisteria trained to a gigantic smooth boulder. It must have been a lot of continuing work, but when it bloomed the effect was of a dense bower of white against the gray stone.
I do not know any source for that plant.
Now that warm weather has more or less arrived -- there can be chilly days in June, whether anybody remembers that fact or not -- all tender plants can be got out of the house. This goes for even quite tender things like fancy-leaved caladiums. Usually I haul out the agaves, fiddle-leaf figs and other tropical debris (with which the house is cluttered all winter) about May 12, but certainly it is safe now.
And it is not too late to plant moonflower and morning glory and datura seeds outdoors where they are to flower. They grow so quickly now -- so do zinnias -- that I am not sure it is an advantage to plant them any earlier.
I have some nasturtiums up, odd kinds from a different species than regular nasturtiums. As I have little space, I like to try a few different annuals instead of growing the same ones every year. But of course nothing is prettier than regular nasturtiums. Every year I intend to plant some outdoors on the full moon of February, and every year when that date comes I think it absurd.
But I knew a woman who every year used to bring me a great bunch of nasturtiums in early May, and she said the secret was planting in February (before freezes were over) but only at the full moon. Well, nasturtium seeds don't cost much, and if they all rotted in the cold ground no terrible loss would be felt. Even so, courage fails me when the time comes, and I wish some adventurous gardener would try it and see if flowers come in early May.
But that woman (now with God) had particular ways and her nasturtium culture may not have been as simple as she indicated. She had better boysenberries than anybody else, and also had the most beautiful deep pink crinum I ever saw. Once, driving by her house, I was surprised to see a huge old silk umbrella propped up to shade the opening crinum flowers from the sun. She was noted (by children) for her feat of making a caramel candy in 60 seconds, which I saw her do -- it involved getting the pan red hot and I think made some smoke, but kids went ape. I am almost sure if I did any of the things she did in the garden they wouldn't work for me.
The 17-year periodical cicadas are still flying about and singing lustily in their few brief weeks of life above ground. They lay their eggs on twigs and the tiny larvae then fall and burrow into the ground, to develop there for the next 17 years. I am almost certain we have many fewer this year than we did in 1970.
The average gardener could well spend a few minutes a day looking for cicadas having trouble turning over and righting them. The easiest and quickest way is to extend a finger, which they grasp with their six little legs while lying on their back. You transport them to a tree trunk or phone pole and they start crawling right up. I think they are pretty safe once they reach the canopy. Some people have been known to spray them with poisons, as I suppose some people spray butterflies, but people of reasonable ordinary good sense either leave them strictly alone or else spend a few minutes a day helping them get to a tree trunk.
Over the decades I have seen as many cicadas as most people have, and I certainly worry about plants as much as anybody. The notion that the garden needs protection from cicadas is baloney, and reflects not a real hazard but a stupid mind and a bad heart. Redemption is possible, I think, if such a gardener changes his ways immediately and does a little remedial community work saving cicadas. One good project is to check the tires of the car before driving off, and resettling any cicadas that may be resting on them. Too busy? The hell you are.