Late spring is bringing gorgeous weather here in the northeast. The sky is periwinkle blue. The young maples along our hill are rustling. The local blue jays are calling. I’m enjoying it all from my screened porch, a perfect spot for warm-weather blogging.
Now that June has arrived, squeezing in time outside is a priority—even on busy weeknights, we take short strolls to see whose azaleas are blooming. Friday night the family packed up a picnic dinner—casual fare of hamburgers wrapped in foil, fruit salad, wine for the grown-ups, and birch beer for the kids. We had an urgent need to visit the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens while they were still at their peak.
These gardens in Montclair, NJ are remarkable. The word iris comes from the Greek goddess of the rainbow, and irises have the widest range of colors of any flower. Hundreds of varieties are represented here, and the colors are spectacular: deepest purple, pale white with yellow beards, orange, ruby red, soft blues. Some have lovely color combinations. Petals may be pale orange at the outer edges and their color gradually deepens to a rich garnet closer to the flower’s core. For 80 years this garden has been a tourist destination as well as a harbinger of summer.
Our picnic was set above the gardens under a sassafras tree. We spread our blanket and ate our modest dinner while viewing the colorful gardens spread out below us. My husband and I enjoyed more of the 1998 Ferrari Carano Chardonnay. Its flavor showed even more complex fruit flavors that night—citrus notes, a little bitter orange peel, mixed with tart apple. It glowed golden in our wine glasses (no plastic cups for us). I thought of the famous painting by Manet, Dejeuner Sur L’Herb. The pleasures represented in the painting and in our evening are timeless: nature at its peak, good food, good wine, and gathering with friends.