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Posts Tagged ‘wild flowers’

Mayflowers c. 1840 by Maria Morris Miller

April showers bring mayflowers.  Sometimes in May… sometimes in April.

It’s raining today which is good news for all things green and growing.  Mayflowers  (aka trailing arbutus ~ Epigaea repens) are among the earliest native blooms to appear in Nova Scotia.  Half-hidden on the edge of the woods, their leathery leaves may look ragged and browned in spots, but the flowers are nonetheless fresh and pristine.  Their petals fade from light pink to white as spring progresses.

Mayflowers enjoy the moist, acidic environments that are typically found near bogs.   They are also shy plants, with a preference for shade. 

Over a century ago mayflowers were designated the floral emblem of Nova Scotia.  Found throughout most of eastern North America, this native evergreen plant is now considered an endangered species in Florida and vulnerable in New York. 

Unbeknownst to many gardeners who unsuccessfully try to transplant them, the roots of mayflowers have a secret relationship with fungus.  In this mutually beneficial liaison (also known as a mycorrhizal association), fungi gain direct access to carbohydrates through the roots of the mayflower.  At the same time, the fungus  makes the mayflower more resistant to disease and drought. 

In the language of flowers, mayflowers mean welcome.  Welcome to Nova Scotia.  Welcome to spring.

The image of mayflowers at top left was scanned from a postcard I purchased at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History over two decades ago.  I photographed the mayflowers just a short walk from the bottom of Flandrum Hill Road last week.

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The wayside in June is full of unexpected colors. You may walk or drive past something beautiful for several days before the sun sits upon it in a manner that catches your attention.  The bright pink chives, shown above, stand out in the sunshine as they grow in the grey gravel.  How they managed to thrive on the side of a busy road is a mystery.


Lupins are not an uncommon sight along the roadsides in Nova Scotia.  Yet every June, they bring delight to drivers and walkers alike.  Whether they’re growing on the side of a ditch or next to a trail, their pink and purple hues are a welcome sight.

One doesn’t usually expect to see roses growing in eel grass along a rocky shore.  Like life, beauty manages to find a way.

Hidden in the shade, a profusion of wild violets bloom with abandon near a forest trail.  To see so many in one spot is a wonder.

The delicate lady slippers one finds while out romping in the woods don’t bring half the joy of the single one found growing unexpectedly next to a path in one’s own yard.  Lady slippers don’t take well to being transplanted, and so will only grow where they want to grow.

In the early morning light, burgundy colored brush appears to be ablaze against the cool June greens of the marsh grass.   

Often it’s the meals that we don’t cook that give us the greatest pleasure.  Similarly, it’s the plants that we don’t grow ourselves but suddenly appear on the landscape, without any expectation on our part, that bring us the greatest delight.  In both instances, the element of surprise seems to be a key ingredient to finding enjoyment in the everyday.

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.
~ Samuel Johnson

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forgetmenotsBoth the sight and scent of flowers delight.  They’re often present at life’s important occasions:  weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries.  They help cheer people up when they’re sick or sad and help us make celebrations more special.  They also trigger memories, and so, are often dried or pressed between leaves of a book for safe keeping.  Most perfumes are made from concentrated floral scents.  The slightest whiff of a familiar perfume can awaken a sleeping mountain of memories.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

~ William Shakespeare

Floral names for women have always been popular, among them:  Rosa, Daisy, Iris, Violet, Lily, Myrtle, Margarite and Jasmine.  Although most people love trees, they certainly don’t name their daughters Spruce or Maple.  Why do flowers have this special place in our lives? 

Could it be because the olfactory nerve that plays such an important role in our sense of smell is located right next to the part of our brain where memory is stored?  Or is there some more mysterious reason?  After all, shape and color define flowers as much as scent.

lilliesMy dad’s favorite flower was lily of the valley, which happens to be in bloom now in my flower beds. It’s almost impossible for me to look at these delicate white flowers without thinking of him.  These are also my friend Rose’s favorite flowers, so they also trigger thoughts of her too.  Oddly enough, I don’t think of Rose when I look at roses. 

Forget-me-nots are also in bloom.  They remind me of my grandparents who had the words ‘forget-me-not’ engraved in my grandmother’s wedding ring.  The flowers and phrase are now on their shared grave marker.  Queen Anne’s lace, sunflowers, daisies, carnations and gardenias all bring to mind a different person whom I know prefers that one flower over all others, yet  I’ve never thought of asking them why they’ve selected that particular one as their favorite.

wildvioletWith such a variety of blooms to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one.  Though the scent of lilacs is wonderfully intoxicating, I think I’m pretty settled on wild violets.  I love their purplish blue color and the way they grow unobstrusively in the woods in spring time.   

Do you have a preference or know what your beloved’s favorites are?  

This post was inspired by Gerry’s recent floral posts at Torch Lake Views.

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violets2

May is the month when wild violets grow in the woods in Nova Scotia.  Delicate and fragile, they grow so close to the ground that they are easy to miss.  Yet, such down-to-earth flowers are worth a closer look.

Not many plants can reproduce without any assistance whatsoever from insects, the wind or other plants of the same species.  Violets are among the few that can self-pollinate without ever opening their petals.  This means that they can keep reproducing, even if very few of them are present in an area. 

It’s no surprise then that the number of wild violets in my yard has been steadily increasing since I first transplanted a clump from the woods years ago.  Yesterday I picked several blooms for drying purposes.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve had any violet tea and I thought I would try to make some myself. 

In the past, I’ve also candied violets with friends.  Despite the presence of black flies and mosquitos, we set out into the woods together and gathered as many violets as we could find during a sunny morning’s walk.  We spread the violets on a wax paper sheet, brushed them with whipped egg white, drizzled them with fine sugar and then let them dry under a watchful eye at the lowest heat in the oven for a few minutes.  They were so lovely and special.

wild violets

Violet Teas in springtime were a popular activity among close friends during Edwardian times.  Despite all our recent gains in positioning, it seems we women have lost some of our finer manners and gentler practices along the way.   We’ve compromised by drinking coffee and tea out of paper cups with plastic lids on a daily basis, often while juggling a cell phone from behind a wheel.  Something’s amiss.   

In the language of flowers, violets are symbols of modesty, humility and faithfulness.   These are certainly qualities worth emulating, especially in the 21st century.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.
— Mark Twain

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