Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Botanist I'm Not

Sunrise often brings evidence of things gone by or things which the eye has missed. Developing an eye for detail is something which has always intrigued me and I have been fortunate to be able to spot things which others have missed. My daughter Amy used to say that I turned this into micromanagement which she detests. My son Adam, clearly different than Amy or me, pays compliment to our abilities. Alex is the youngest and at almost 14, he thrives on detail with a photographic memory which puts each of us to shame.

Sitting here this morning I can see that the screen on the office window needs some attention if I intend to see the floral beauty in the field below. Gardeners have great intentions but little time in the summer. Gail and I are no different than the rest of you. Three years ago we planted the bank in front of a new addition to our home. I went to Cobble Creek Nursery down towards Hinesburg-Monkton and bought a great selection of 35 spireas in different flower and leaf colors. Gail interplanted them with some daylilies and rudbeckias and we underplanted with three bushels of daffodils.

In the time that has passed, weeds have grown in abundance and looking out the window is like looking at Kate Carter's Wildflowers of Vermont. The problem with the window screen is that it has served as a collection agency for pollens and leaf petals, insects and insect parts. My desk lamp at night lures all kinds of flying things to the screen, peppering the window with various residue. Although the window is dirty, it's still fun to figure out what it has trapped. Leftovers. Details.

Last night as I returned from a walk out back, I spotted an interesting flower. I had seen it before and remembered asking a botanist friend for the name. He replied "pipsissewa something-or-other, I think" and I left it at that. I took some pictures and returned home. This morning I tried to work through the "something-or-other" part of the identification but it's difficult for me, as a botanist I am not.

One book led to another and I ended up with a book Gail gave me for Christmas in 1981. It is Summer & Fall Wildflowers of New England by Marilyn J. Dwelley. It was printed by Down East Enterprises, an arm of my favorite Down East, The Magazine of Maine. The plant I was looking at was one of the Pyrolas from the wintergeen family. The pipsissewas belong too so my friend was correct and my memory wasn't as bad as I first thought. These were all about 8 inches tall and each waxy looking flower has a long pistil which curves noticeably outward. It was that detail that caught my eye. The plant is said to like acid soil and there is no other here at Vermont Flower Farm.

Field and woodland tours this time of year can locate botanical treasures. An eye for detail helps. There are many wonderful flowers to see and various resources to help sort out the names. An eye for detail isn't needed to remind me that work beckons.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the morning sun is turning last nights dew to steam that is rising couriously across my dirty window screen.

Gardening wishes,

George Africa
Daylily Days start this Saturday. Come early!

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