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Travel: New England Traditions

Travel: New England Traditions
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by in Mar 2011

From swan boats in Boston to sugaring in Vermont, generations of New Englanders know these traditions mark the change of season. (Photo Credit: Carl Tremblay)

A Taste of the Growing Year
Flower shows give us our first blast of bloom.

For New England gardeners, flower shows are our sneak previews. We flock to the interiors of convention centers, warehouses, basketball arenas. Outside, the weather’s usually bad; indeed, we prefer it that way. We’ll wade through deep snow if necessary, our tickets already in hand, eager to get inside, ahead of the crowd.

A few feet past the entrance, though, we stop, stunned by a blast of bloom, overwhelmed by this tsunami of green. Add the burble of falling water, the cooing of doves, the scents of lemon blossoms and eucalyptus, rose geranium and damp ground, and we forget that the floor is concrete, the sky a maze of ductwork and spotlights. This is our first taste of the growing year, and it nearly chokes us.

What to look at first? Some turn left, others right; children disappear, to be found only later, happily watching butterflies or koi or Lady Amherst pheasants. There are scores of gardens, and every one, large or small, woodland or patio, vegetable patch or parterre, is perfect. Every leaf is in place; spires of delphinium and foxglove reach for the sky; streams cascade over rocks and magically return to their starting points.

We see it and we want it–that’s the exhibitors’ art. And the vendors’, too. When we’ve examined every rose-covered pergola, each flowering tree, the water lilies and the bonsai, when we’re sure there’s nothing we haven’t seen, or bent to smell, we wander off down the aisles of offerings. We stop and admire a greenhouse the way someone might a luxury sedan at an auto show, but, being New Englanders, we settle for buying a single gardenia blossom the way our fathers always did.

Finally, when our feet tire, we head back toward the door. Pulling on our coats, we step into the slush and drizzle. Some of us have bunches of pussywillows, an orchid, another dahlia. These aren’t souvenirs of the show–they’re our tickets to spring, the one we know now is just around the corner.
–Roger B. Swain

The Delicious Time
Maple weekends offer a taste of the sweet life.

Sugaring season is fleeting, and sugarmakers, those who rush to the woods to collect sap, know this. When leaf buds sprout, the sap gets bitter. And that’s it. But, for the rest of us, this year’s celebration of liquid gold has just begun. When the sap starts flowing, sugarhouses across New England open their doors to the public, sharing the tradition with young and old alike.

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