Learning From Nature's Calendar and the Funky Blossom
Notes From the Gardener
Having transplanted from a densely populated area on the Connecticut shoreline I observed a great number of differences when I settled here in rural Fort Ann. Among the most dramatic was the demeanor of the people.
Surprisingly, the one change of venue that most effected me was the wildflowers. Of course I grew up familiar with the "weeds" of vacant lots like chicory and mullein and the flowers of the fields like daisies and daylilies, but I was struck by the awesome array of bloom that was all about me when I settled here.
I was particularly taken by the woodland wildflowers, so I bought a book to begin identifying them. Not satisfied with that book I bought others until I found "Newcomb's Wildflower Guide" which I've used for 15 years now. I became an enthusiast. I tried Penny's patience when travel was constantly interrupted because I had to pull over and identify some unknown blossom.
Over the years I've become so familiar with the wildflowers that their blossoming marks a season and foretells other events of nature's cycle and vice versa. When I hear the first peepers of the spring I know that the hepatica has begun its bloom, and when I see those first chickweed blossoms in the garden beds the phoebes will be back any day. The blossoming of the wildflowers is nature's calendar. Come on along and watch spring unfold through the wildflowers.
Trailing arbutus and hepatica are the first signs of spring bloom here at the farm, but a walk to a swampy area nearby reveals the funky blossom of the skunk cabbage. A few days later coltsfoot, which is often mistaken for dandelion, will begin its bloom. Coltsfoot, like skunk cabbage, blooms first then the leaves come later. The ice will be going out now on the local ponds and the juncos will arrive.
Now the bloodroot begins its bloom. Such a lovely white flower gently protected from harm by that single wrap around leaf. Other flowers begin to bloom rapidly now. It seems that just about every day something new has happened. Monday - Dutchman's britches. Tuesday - trout lily. Wednesday - periwinkle. Thursday - ground ivy. Friday - dead nettle. Saturday - trillium. Sunday - violets and cowslip. All this quickening as April goes into May also means the emergence of those oh-so-loved woodland denizens.......black flies.
Now is the time that we suddenly notice that we can't see that ridge any more for the woods are a sea of green. So many shades of green.....a challenge for any artist. A walk to the woods edge reveals the first toothwort has blossomed. That tells me to go to the asparagus patch for the first spears will be appearing.
There's a small clump of miterwort just beginning its bloom. It's such a tiny white blossom which at close inspection reminds me of a snowflake. I always mistake it for foamflower which is more common around here and blooms just shortly afterwards. As a matter of fact, just over there is a patch of foamflower budding up but not quite ready to flower. When it does flower, right about the same time as gay wings and wild oats, it is time to expect those other tormentors, mosquitoes, to be out in force.
Soon the celandine with its golden juices and bright yellow flowers and deep green leaves will herald the arrival of the wood thrush whose flute like "poh-tee-weet" will serenade us for many evenings to come.
Then the mid may blossoms of winter cress that turn farm fields yellow and jack-in-the-pulpit that bring hikers to pause will lead us into June. Clintonia, tower mustard, dame's rocket, bedstraw, bluets, harebells, dogwood, and on and on to those flowers of summer.....the chicory and mullein.....the daisies and daylilies.
More than just something pretty to look at, they all represent a season. Nature's calendar.