Friday's Weekend Column
Stopping To Smell The Flowers
by James Glaser
When you live in the woods it doesn't take long to get deep in the woods. That is walking back off the road a ways, where you only see the forest. Nothing man made back there, no path, but in a while you start picking out animal trails.
I walked out there today to get a look at what plants were starting to bloom now. If you don't make a few trips during the summer, you will miss many flowers, some that are only in flower for a few days.
Maybe because it has been such a dry May, the Wild Columbine are in flower, but it always seemed to me that they were out later. I saw lots of Wild Strawberries with their little five petal, white flowers. The fruit will be on at the end of June. A wild Strawberry is tiny compared to those you buy in the store, but they taste so much better and once you start eating them, you find yourself searching the woods looking for more. They are only about three inches tall, so you are all bent over looking.
I did see lots of Wild Raspberries, they are easy to spot, but only a few had formed blossoms. I started raising tame ones last year and should get a good amount this season. The wild ones are so much better, but again smaller than those planted in the garden. In a good patch I can pick about two quarts in an hour and more if I could stop eating them.
Right now it is easy to spot Wild Sarsaparilla. This grows right in my yard and I saw lots of it back in the woods. The story goes like this. Someone made a drink out of the root of this plant and tried to market it to the loggers, back near the turn of the century, (1900) they didn't like it at all. A year later it was reintroduced as Root Beer and was a hit.
I had my eye out for Ladyslippers, pink or yellow and found none. When I was kid we always called it a Moccasin Flower. After I got back to the house, I drove down the road to where I know there are some and sure enough they were just starting to bloom. Prettiest flower in the North Woods.
There are lots of flowers that are out and I have no Idea of what they are called. I brought one into Charmaine that was only three inches tall, had two dark green leaves and a delicate white bunch of tiny flowers. That was the whole plant.
I am sure that there are lots of flowers that I have missed over the years and it is kind of fun to spot new ones. The fact that we have had so little rain means that even back in the woods the bugs are not bad.
You know as I walk around back there I can take a little section about the size of one of our flower gardens and there might be twenty to fifty different plants in it. Big ones and little, flowers and woody plants, shrubs and maybe a tree. The placement of each of these plants is just perfect and everything looks just right. Nature does a lot better job that we do on garden design.
Back in the yard it is bloom time for the Lilies of the Valley. These little plants have a stem with about nine or ten little white bells on them that have a real delicate fragrance that is nothing like the perfume of the same name. We have a patch of these with maybe two thousand plants near the edge of our property. A few years ago my daughter Whitney transplanted twenty one of them under our window, in the shade, on the north side of the house. Now there has to be well over five hundred of them, they are spilling out on the yard and crowding out the Hostas we planted there.
Right now as I sit and type this there is just a breath of air blowing the smell of those flowers into the house and with that many bunched together the fragrance fills the whole room.
BACK to the Essays.