Summer is one big distracting whirlwind of a party. Fall is when you attempt to clean up after the last guest leaves and before you fall asleep, but you’re still drunk on summer so who knows how far you’ll get. Winter is a long soggy snooze. But spring is when you wake up and clear everything away and really take a look at what you’ve got before you open the door for the next round of rioters.  Sometimes you find beautiful things, like an old table that’s been hiding under a tablecloth.

Or maybe that’s a much too elaborate and metaphorical way of saying I love early spring. This time of year I’m desperate for something beautiful and alive, and just when I need it, there are small but sure new starts and faded but somehow still graceful leftovers from last year.

Last year's vines with this year's buds, wrapped around the stair columns near the Lily Pool Terrace at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

A Prickly Pear withered and on its way out, but with a certain droopy appeal nonetheless.

Red Twig Dogwood shows off all winter, not just in the spring, but who's out to see it in subzero weather?

Crape Myrtle's bark takes center stage before its showy blooms emerge.


Spring color — what’s that? The easy answer is bright yellow forsythia or golden daffodils, pink cherry blossoms or red tulips. But in the days when all those blossoms are still tightly closed against the cold, there are other spring colors. Look close, and you can find them in plants whose new leaves unfold into the world not the sturdy greens they’ll later become, but in daring juvenile shades of red, pink, orange, or even purple. Here are just a few of my favorite young leaves from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Japanese Tree Peony's leaves emerge pink, but once they unfurl, they'll be as green as anything.

This Shrub Rose's first leaves of spring are tinged red, but not for long.

Not just pink, this climber leafs out in purple.

Crocuses on the rise! Front and Bridge Street, Dumbo

Not green yet, Front and Gold Street, Dumbo

Blooms to come, Hudson and Water Street, Vinegar Hill

Ice coat, on West 13th Street this morning

Frozen drip, same front garden