My West Virginia Weeds

May 1st

Blue Phlox (divaricata)
Wild Phlox Divaricata

After a harsh winter with nights still dropping to freezing, the days are at last warm enough for my panty-waist self to start wandering the property again.  While all around me I hear weedwackers and mowers going, I delight in Eden.  The vibrant life supplied by God with no work on my part. The plants my neighbors remove.  I took a riotous bouquet of fall blooms to church once only to hear a friend sniff, “Weeds!”

“Do you know people actually buy the seeds for these and deliberately plant them?” I asked.  “I don’t know why,” she said.  “They come up all over the place.”

I expect that’s true. I expect people who buy the seed to plant them live someplace these flowers aren’t suited for and take tons of weeding, watering and protecting to get them to produce.  If it doesn’t take work, it isn’t valued.

After we’d been here just two years another neighbor said, “When Bob lived there he kept those hillsides cut down slick as a whistle.”

“Well that won’t be happening while we’re here, ” I replied. “I love those berry bushes and elderberry trees.  Not to mention the nut trees.  And the wildflowers are definitely staying.”

Some of these flowers are difficult to grow in a cultivated spot.  For example the orange butterfly weed –  a type of milkweed necessary for our disappearing monarchs.  And mowed down all around the state.  Except for my little plots and, fortunately for the the butterflies, the thousands of acres left to explode gloriously with life on it’s own.  Nature doesn’t need us. Unless it needs us to stop destroying it.

But I understand my neighbors.  So many places sit empty these days as children left for better jobs and never came back.  You know someone lives there when it’s mowed down “slick as a whistle” and the American monoculture reigns. I appreciate that.  I just don’t want it.

I defend my plots of pasture filled with bright orange milkweed refusing to let the fields be mowed until they’ve gone to seed because I love the butterflies. And they love the orange butterfly bush. Here’s how much they love it.  You can walk right up to a plant covered with butterflies and they won’t even budge.  It’s catnip for butterflies.  I say if they want milkweed, milkweed they shall have.

Do you think rather than God kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden they just weed wacked the place down? Bam!  Take that you blackberries.  Off you go elderberries and wild hazel nut. Say goodbye edible wild violets. I have at last caved to Parker’s need for control and allowed some weed wacking which Parker extends every year so only a few of my wild plots remain.  Oh I miss them.  At least he hasn’t tried to eradicate the wild violets from our tiny front yard.

Ah, the wild violets. They start the rainbow colors of the seasons. It’s the purple and rich golden yellow time of year.  Eventually the deep purples and orange yellow calm down to soft lavender blues and pastel yellows as the whites appear, often with yellow centers.   The purple and yellow flowers chime in by going to white seed.  The pastels are followed by summer’s bright reds and oranges and then back again we go through blues and pinks ending in autumn with the same deep purples and golden yellows that announced spring.

Amazing how God has arranged this parade of colors to delight and remind us of the passing of time.  Except of course most people aren’t even aware of it, having replaced the natural cycle with cultivated plants of every hue at any time.  Want a totally blue garden all year?  Here you go.   Want an orange daisy? Coming right up.

But I with my protected wild flower plots am very aware of that time passing.  What?  The reds are here already?  Is summer really half over?

But that’s a ways away.  Now here is the Wild Blue Phlox as the colors fade from rich purples to soft lavenders. Their scent rivals that of lilacs.  I love these  delicious blossoms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  The blooms last for days in a vase, filling the air in my office with spring.

Growing in the rich soil of open woodland, these are not edible.  To humans.  But then we aren’t the only beings on the earth are we?

PS If you know what the white flower is, let me know please.  I’ve found it once in my books but now I can’t.

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