Nature Blog Network

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Pull of the Pencil

It has been so long since I've blogged, I almost couldn't start up again. In the end, after a month of watching first and last blooms, after seeing the earth thirst for water in hundred degree heat, and then soggy from many days of 2-inch rainfalls, I finally sat down with my sketchbook and that brought me back. (And speaking of back, mine got sunburned, despite my religious daily application of sunscreen. I may have sweated it all off, as it topped 90 degrees today and we took a long bike ride before stopping to draw/read.)

Culver's root has been blooming for a while now, the delicate white flowers opening first at the bottom and progressing towards the sunshine, the sky, the tippy top of the plant. At this point, most of them are getting close, but the top of each stalk still has buds on it... but I chose to focus, instead, on the whorled leaves in this sketch. Five toothed leaves shoot out in irregular stars, getting smaller toward the top of the stem.

What else is noteworthy right now?
The prairies are jeweled with coneflowers, both yellow and purple, and with blazing star. Compass plant blooms everywhere but in my yard, oddly enough, where queen of the prairie is still holding on to its pink color. Ironweed blooms, some coreopsis still hold on.

In the wooded areas, it's not the most exciting time... sort of ironic, that the summer is really the prairie's season to shine, but all that shining... of the sun, that is... makes enjoying the prairie's colors difficult... BUT the Campanula's purple flowers are blooming and are quite a treat.

Hey, not to be totally random, but that reminds me of a little anecdote... my dad kept talking about the bluebells in England in the spring, and we had all these long conversations about the bluebells that carpeted the woods there and in my mind, there are Mertensia, but his bluebells are actually a Campanula (though not the americana that is blooming here), which I didn't figure out until eventually we saw some still blooming in Scotland. And which genus I generally call a bellflower. There's a lesson there about the danger of using common names... and yet I will persist in doing so, despite being plenty versed in the scientific names as to be able to use them.

And speaking of our trip to England and Scotland. I think that may have been one reason why I stopped writing. It was too much, too overwhelming. I have hundreds of pictures of plants. Almost a hundred just of heath orchids, which I found to be so beautiful and yet so... subtle, with their small size. I thought about writing an entry for each day, but honestly... that's not really the purview of this blog, it's not phenologically relevant and it STILL seemed overwhelming. But here are a few of my thoughts:

England is nice. That seems like a bland statement and also a silly, not-at-all-deep-thought statement, but that may actually go along with what I mean. It's so mild, with warm, pleasant summers and, though I have not been there in the winter, I believe those are also absent of the weather extremes that we experience here. (Although, global climate change may, um, change all that. Or submerge it. Whatever.) And while pleasant may not seem exciting, there is something alluring about pleasant. That religious persecution must have been really bad, only I wouldn't want to leave the English countryside to avoid it. (Please read as tongue-in-cheek!)

It's a personality match thing, I guess. As we hiked the Scottish highlands, Chris brought up Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir. Upon returning to his birthland in old age, after a lifetime of bagging peaks in the US West, he proclaimed Scotland to be inferior, and not just a little bit so. His must have been a personality that thrived on ruggedness and stark grandeur, as many are. And others of us want to be cradled in something... nice. Like an English garden.

Here's the thing. There is something deeply ingrained in us about the aesthetic of English gardens. Believe you me, I have tried to break myself of this. I plant native plants and I recognize that turf grass is ecologically horrible (at least here) and I really, really try not to see its appeal. Anyone who's been in my yard knows that straight lines and order are NOT how I roll. And yet. And yet... culturally, embedded almost as deeply as a biological truth are the ordered landscape of a lawn and an ornamental garden. The well-planned natural meadow that has been tamed for centuries in a way that things here just don't seem to be tamable. I don't know.

Although I will say, it was hard to get over the nativeness of some things that here are terribly invasive weeds. Funny, how things program themselves in my head to be desirable or not based not on pleasing looks (or lack thereof) but on what I know about them. Because some of them are quite lovely...

Well, that's enough for now. Perhaps tomorrow I will decide to draw some more...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We're Back

We're safely back from the UK with loads of pictures... so many that the task of choosing them and blogging them seems terribly daunting. I will get around to it soon, though!

Here, coreopsis and spiderwort are still blooming, and a few foxglove beardtongues, but the primroses seemed to have finished while we were gone. Bergamot is at "almost" and butterfly week and queen of the prairie are just about to get started, too... Puple coneflowers are also flowering.