Monday, May 14, 2012

Tapping my my foot, waiting for the roses

A rare mountain beauty, the Pink Lady Slipper.
In the 1849 book A Tale of Manchester Life, author Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell observed that a watched pot never boils.

Apparently the same theory holds true for plants we yearn to see flower: A watched rose never blooms.

My roses have been teasing me for the past two weeks, displaying a bit more color every day. But thanks to an unexpected cold snap, the buds have now decided to stay tight indefinitely.

So I turned my attention to the woods.

Since this is our first spring in the mountains, I wondered if there might be an interesting wildflower or two lurking just beyond the garden path.  And the answer was Yeah buddy!

Orchids in the wild

Spotting one Pink Lady’s Slipper on the property was a treat, but I actually discovered four! 

Like some other members of the orchid family, these Lady Slippers (also known as Moccasin flowers) will only grow when certain fungi are present in the roots. Obviously whatever it is, we have the right stuff.

Sadly wildflower experts report these exquisite plants are becoming more rare each year. Despite warnings, people continue to pick the flowers or dig up the plants, in which case the orchid is almost certainly doomed. I will be watching my quartet very closely.

Doesn’t pass the sniff test
Look, but don't take a whiff.

Trilliums are members of the Lily family and are among the showiest of springtime wildflowers. The local natives sport three distinctive leaves and when they bloom, the flowers have three petals.

American Indians used the plant as an eye medication and women boiled the roots to make a love potion. Mountain folk say if you pick a trillium you will bring on a rainstorm.

Although I’ve seen a number of white and pink trilliums growing nearby, my favorite is the burgundy Wake Robin. Apparently that is the “nice” name because it’s also known as Stinking Benjamin or Stinking Willie because of the putrid smelling flower. Early herbalists used it to treat gangrene.

 I’ll take an expert’s word for the aroma and just admire it from afar.

The bee’s knees
Blue-eyed grass is actually an iris.
 Entomologists studying bees have learned they can see four colors – yellow, blue, bluish green and violet. (If I ever meet an entomologist I’ll be sure to ask how they accomplished this feat.)

Sporting flowers of both blue and yellow, Blue-eyed Grass is not only a bee magnet, but a favorite of wild pigs.

This charming little plant isn’t a grass at all but the smallest member of the Iris family. And even though the flowers last only a day, established clumps put out blooms for several weeks.

Back to the roses.

As if trilliums, Lady Slippers and blue–eyed beauties weren’t enough, I’ve spied three native Flame Azaleas on my one-acre patch. The neon orange flowers can stop traffic.

But I digress. The subject was roses, was it not?

And impatience.

However now with all these regal jewels at my feet, waiting for the Queen of Flowers is no longer a hand-wringing, drawn-out ordeal.

It's an adventure.


Unknown said...

Four pink Lady's Slippers? Flame azaleas? Trillium galore? Girl, you scored mightily with your forested acre! I am having woodland envy. (We have the woods, but not the beauties you've found!)

Looking forward to meeting you in Asheville!

Ann said...

I just I love your writing,  Lynne. You have such a gift. En route to London you transported me from traffic jams and dull weather to that lovely acre of forest in NC. Magical. I love that quote about watching over the simmering pot, so true. Keep 'em coming!

tina said...

Ah yes the roses are wonderful but those wildflowers rock! I remember seeing quite a few pink lady slippers growing up in Maine. I've never seen them in the wild in Tennessee and I'm sad. Glad to here they are doing well in North Carolina!

Unknown said...

You have some gorgeous flowers there right at your doorstep (so to speak). I would pick the pink lady slippers anytime over the roses, very original. The roses are probably jealous which is why they are taking their time :)

sandy said...

I love this chatty news. Can i tell you a story about lady slippers? When I was in elementary school - WAY back- we had a woods near our back yard. My mother loved flowers and we would always walk with her in the woods. One year we spotted some lady slippers and, not know they were endangered, picked some for me to take to my teacher at school! She promptly got a call from the principal who told her of her error and returned the flowers. She was so embarrassed!! I couldn't have cared less at the time.

Lynn Hunt said...

Gra, what a great thought that the roses are jealous of natural beauty and are sulking as a result. Thanks so much!

Lynn Hunt said...

Oh Sandy, your Mom must've wanted to crawl into the hole with those Lady Slippers! Thanks for sharing the story. I need to brush up myself on what we can pick or not pick here in the mountains. Rules vary from state to state but I know enough to stay away from the wild orchids.

DJ, Meander Mountain said...

Hi Lynn. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed our visits in Asheville and hope we'll have another chance to talk gardening, blogging, or whatever comes to mind! I was sorry to hear about your friend. I know he meant a lot to you and your family. P.S. My mom has pink lady's-slippers in her woods. They are one of the most beautiful flowers in existence, in my opinion.

Lynn Hunt said...

DJ, it was such a treat to meet you and chat about this and that (and gardening!) Thank you for your kind thoughts -- I'll look forward to many more conversations with you, my friend.

nancy said...

I like Hybride teas. They are the new antiques roses!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Hi Nancy, I like hybrid teas as well. Double Delight, Pristine and Veteran's Honor are three of my favorites. Before making a purchase though, I'd check the rose rating with the ARS to make sure you aren't buying an inferior bush. As I said in an earlier posting, lots of hybrid teas flooded the market in past decades and some simply aren't good roses!

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