A burst of spring

By Molly Hitchings - April 13, 2006

Tulips brighten the day. Photo by Betsy Corsiglia

Donaroma's kicked off the season with Mexican flair on Sunday, transporting visitors to a lush tropical paradise in its Edgartown greenhouse.

Employees dressed in sombreros and jalapeno necklaces passed out daffodils. The Easter bunny wore a dashing black mustache and distributed Mexican jumping beans to young visitors.

Donaroma's isn't prone to understatement. Even in the dead of winter, its greenhouse off Upper Main Street is an escape into a jungle-fragrant dream. Sunday's extravaganza was almost hallucinatory, from the hydrangea wearing a sombrero to the nibbled carrots speared into floral arrangements.

Music by the Gypsy Kings animated the greenhouse. Employee Leslie Deal fielded questions from customers about the care of Easter lilies, but maracas were close at hand for celebrants whose interests were not wholly botanical. Featuring different cultures is an excuse to play the Macarena,

as well as to showcase specialty plants, like the orchid cactus or the bougainvillea.

Mariko Kawaguchi is an orchid specialist with long braids wrapped in ribbons. She laughingly dated her career at Donaroma's Nursery back to the time of Montezuma.

"For earlier generations, Palm Sunday was a huge deal," Mariko said. "You'd put the kids in the car and go to church, and then you'd tour greenhouses and get your free daffodil. Every nursery on the Island used to have something special happening on that day, but people are starting to forget the tradition."

Sweet-smelling and gleaming white, the Easter lily proclaims the season at Heather Gardens in West Tisbury. Photo by Brian Jolley

Mariko recalled a Palm Sunday many years ago, when owner Michael Donaroma sent his employees around the Island to tour spring celebrations at other nurseries. At Rod's Flower Shop in Vineyard Haven, staff donned saris and handed out flowers. Morrice the Florist, also in Vineyard Haven, set out special displays.

"It was never a competitive thing," Mariko said. "It was an island-wide celebration to start off spring. What Islanders really need this time of year is color - and a chance to party."

Up-Island at Vineyard Gardens in West Tisbury, visitors browsed the grounds and greenhouses, choosing spring flowers and warming up with coffee, cookies, and conversation in the main greenhouse where employee Danga Gabis chatted with guests.

Pansies were the big hit and despite the chilly day, customers were scooping them up to brighten their porches and gardens. Daffodils waved their yellow heads in the stiff breeze.

Some visitors came simply for the pleasure of seeing the new young plants, enjoying the breath of springtime air in the greenhouses and the promise of months of warm weather gardening to come. Others were on a mission, purchasing flowers for their planters, shrubs for their yards, and soil for their gardens.

Nearby at Heather Gardens, an array of pansies welcomed guests who headed to the greenhouse filled with lush houseplants and blooming spring flowers. Many explored the smaller greenhouses too, where herbs and annuals and perennials are growing with a healthy burst and will soon be ready for planting. Some bought plants, and explored the inventory of garden supplies. But here, as at all the nurseries, everyone was smiling, clearly delighted by this sure sign that winter is over, and spring has arrived.

Molly Hitchings is a freelance writer and tennis instructor.