2014 was a particularly tenacious winter, not unlike this one. We moved down here from Philadelphia on April 21, slipping from the clingy grasp of the season’s chill. By the time we unloaded our belongings in our new city, temperatures were already in the 90s, and stayed that way.
So that year, I formed my initial impression that New Orleans has no spring, which made me deeply unhappy. In 2015 and 2016, I spent much of the time back and forth between central PA and here, so spring was also elusive. But last year for the first time, I started to pay more attention. Actually, I’m pretty sure we were returning from the in-laws in Texas after Christmas when I found myself wondering as I scanned along the side of Route 10, “Are new leaves starting to show on the trees?” And also, I realized I was raking leaves in February.
This led me to learn more about the southern live oak. Not a true evergreen, I discovered. This tree holds onto its green leaves until the new ones push them out in the spring in sort of a reverse fall. Or at least, as close to fall as you’re going to get down here where most of the leaves, if they do fall in the actual season of fall, seem to do it with no noticeable fanfare whatsoever.
So this year, I have felt a quiet joy to watch the new leaves emerge, over quite a lengthy period of time. The color is fresh and glorious, hopeful in a tender way that belies the toughness it will take to get through the unrelenting heat of the unending summer that stretches before us.
I also tried a little garden experiment with a blender. I hate to throw anything away that I could recycle, so I wondered if I could create a mini-mulching situation. I do compost food waste and grass clippings, but these oak leaves are really tough. I noticed that as they fell from my neighbor’s tree, they were congregating of their own accord around the bases of my greens, maybe setting up a decent natural barrier that kept moisture in the ground? I dunno. Grinding the leaves up with the blender is time-consuming and loud, and then the pieces don’t stay in place very well when the wind kicks up. More research needed.
New Orleanians don’t seem to count spring as a season. I think most folks overlap Lent with Crawfish Season, and then headlong into Festival Season, which indeed begins this weekend with French Quarter Fest (my favorite so far because it’s free, and the least likely to be insanely hot). If the live oaks are any indication, I think we’re almost done.