While writing my wildflower blogs, I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) and his journal entries about Walden Pond. In Thoreau’s words, I, too, “wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” By seeking the wildflowers in my backyard and by identifying them, I was learning to live more consciously, if not deliberately.
Sweet Violet, Painting by L. A. Simonsen, in Wild Flowers
Adapted by Asa Don Dickinson from Nature’s Garden
By Neltje Blanchan (Doubleday, 1917, 1926)
Beneath a walnut tree near my raspberry vines, a Golden Ragwort opened its yellow petals. It was May, and the natural environment around my home was full of life. After the doldrums of winter, everything seemed eager to participate in the activity of spring. The ragwort appeared to be rushing into bloom.
I found that Yellow Wood Sorrel was practically ubiquitous. With leaves almost like those of clover, the sorrel would be my constant companion, continuing to bloom well into the late summer.
Beneath various trees were the vines of the wild strawberry, probably the Barren Strawberry, although I cannot be sure. I am certainly not a botanist, and exact identification of plants often proves elusive for me.
Spectacular beyond my poor ability to describe were the vast patches of Common Blue Violet decorating my six acres. On tender stems were blossoms of such blueness that my hills were largely blue. A kind of inversion occurred with the sky at my feet.
Almost as ubiquitous as the wild strawberry was Daisy Fleabane. The small white flowers were so numerous as to sparkle when breezes danced in the shade of my walnut trees.
Here and there in the lawn, White Clover began to bloom. Like the Yellow Wood Sorrel, its blooming would persist throughout the summer. I wish I could say that I fully appreciate White Clover, but I fear I am unable to do so; it quickly thrusts new blossoms above my freshly mowed grass and makes my lawn seem weedy. Even so, I do not spray it; rather, I leave it alone to flourish in broad zones within my otherwise grassy lawn.
When I look back on spring, I think mostly about the Red Deadnettle. In my area, the blooming upright stems have a pink tone that verges toward purple when viewed from a distance. Entire fields along the country roads wear such Easter colors until they are planted with corn or soybeans.
Perhaps I do share Thoreau’s capacity to deliberate after all.