By Jane Kashlak
Cape May, NJ - There's nothing quite like a walk along the dune path at Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area when the beach plums are in bloom.
The sand dune trail is lined left and right with huge, bushy bowers of delicate white flowers, almost as though someone had decorated the trail for a wedding.
Beach plums don't have the formal air of early Magnolias or cherries. (although they're in the same family as cherries.)
They are wild shrubs that sprawl wherever they want. If you use them in a garden, be prepared to surrender a chunk of the garden to them. (I speak from experience.)
They are at their best at the top of a sand dune overlooking a bay. A very pretty sight indeed in the early days of May.
But get there soon. Those hardy flowers that can withstand sea winds don't last very long. They drop off almost overnight and the beach plums start to form.
In late summer, the fruit is carefully collected and cooked down to a thick consistency. Beach Plum Jelly is a seashore staple. You'll find it at farmers' markets in August and September.
The prospect of homemade jelly is reason enough, perhaps, to give over a part of your garden to these early blooming native shrubs.
But, for now, go take a walk at Higbee.