Charleston's broad residential avenues are lined with lovely homes surrounded by dazzling displays of flowering trees and shrubs, not to mention the tulips, irises and wisterias thrown in for good measure.
There are pretty towns everywhere, and Southeast Missouri has its fair share. But I don't think you're going to find anywhere that's prettier than Charleston when it's dogwood and azalea time.
Go see for yourself.
Speaking of spring beauty: This has been a good year for flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs. And the redbud trees have been particularly spectacular. My wife and I made our annual redbud tour of Trail of Tears State Park last Saturday, and it was quite a show.
Perhaps the only thing that outshone the pink blossoms was the smile on the face of a young man making his way to the observation deck overlooking the Mississippi River. He had spent his day participating in Special Olympics track and field events at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
It was hard to tell whose smiles were broader -- the young man's, his parents' or ours -- as he came down the ramp with his medals proudly hanging from their bright ribbons around his neck.
Who knew pink and gold looked so good together?
My wife and I also took a drive this week to see the sky-blue sweet William blossoms along the county roads.
We don't have to have a reason for our meanderings, but it somehow seems more official when it's a daffodil drive or sweet William wandering or redbud rendezvous, not to mention our dogwood dalliances.
I grew up with an abundance of dogwoods in the Ozarks over yonder. My wife, from the west-central part of Missouri, grew up too far north for wild dogwoods, although there were some handsome domesticated specimens in yards around town.
It was always fun, when we lived in dogwood-forsaken areas of northern Missouri and Kansas, to drive back to Southeast Missouri at this time of the year and look for the first dogwood as we traveled south.
The farthest north I've ever seen a wild dogwood was in the bluffs along the Missouri River where I-70 crosses between Boonville and Columbia. Maybe you've spotted them even farther north. If so, let me know.
Speaking of where things grow -- and don't: Nearly every fencerow along the highways and byways of northern Missouri features wiry bittersweet vines. But it's hard to find the brilliant red-orange berries in the fall around here.
A couple of years ago our older son found a nursery with bittersweet vines and sent us some. The vines are growing, but we haven't had any berries yet.
My wife's younger brother -- who lives near her hometown -- has, for years, gathered bittersweet every fall and mailed it to us. Bittersweet was their mother's favorite color.
Isn't it funny how things so much a part of us can become so scarce?
R. Joe Sullivan is the Editorial Page Editor at the Southeast Missourian. You can contact him at