Wildflower Wednesday: Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

Common Name: Cardinal Flower

Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis

Habitat & Range: wet, shady streams and wetlands

Bloom Time: summer and fall

About: Not too many wildflowers in Michigan are this striking red. Not easy to grow in a garden (unless you have a pretty good pond on your property) the Cardinal Flower needs wet roots and a bit of sunlight. You can find it at a really well-stocked nursery or a native plant sale (this is another I tried unsuccessfully in my garden) but NEVER dig from the wild. Cardinal Flowers can only be pollinated by hummingbirds and thus don’t reproduce well. If you already have them established, lucky you! Otherwise, just take some nice pictures. Mine are from the shores of Thumb Lake at Camp Lake Louise. Like the bird, the plant gets its common name from the robes worn by Catholic cardinals.

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Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

A Short Hiatus as We Tend to Other Matters

Besides my regularly scheduled Wildflower Wednesday blog post, I may be conspicuously absent from the blog this week. Over the weekend our church lost three lovely older ladies to death after a very short time for all of them in hospice. In case you had never gathered from previous posts, my husband is a pastor, and so our household will be very busy ministering to grieving family and friends (and grieving ourselves) in addition to all the rest that our busy lives entail.

I hope if you are a person of faith that you will say a prayer for us, especially my husband, Zachary. The longer we serve at our church the more closely we know those whom we lose to the grave and the more deeply we feel the void they leave behind in our church and in our hearts. Our one comfort is that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our own so that not only will we live with Him but we will be able to see, embrace, and love all of those believers who have gone on before us. And so we do not grieve as those who have no hope, but as those who are secure in the Savior’s hands.

I’ll see you next week.

F. Scott Fitzgerald on Originality and Style

Fitzgerald“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wildflower Wednesday: Butterfly Weed

butterflyweed1

Common Name: Butterfly Weed

Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa

Habitat & Range: dry soil, full sun, prairies and meadows

Bloom Time: summer

About: How about some more flowers that will attract butterflies and other pollinators? Butterfly Weed is a compact, lower growing perennial wildflower that can be purchased at a good nursery or easily seeded. It is better for attracting butterflies to smaller yards than big, sprawling plants like Milkweed or Joe-pye Weed (though it is a milkweed and thus still host to Monarchs and also to Gray Hairstreaks). And it’s orange, not all that common in wildflowers, which tend toward begin white, yellow, or purplish.

I have a specimen in my garden (originally purchased at, you guessed it, a native plant sale) that has been slowly growing in circumference for years. And I occasionally find volunteers pop up in other parts of the garden, which can easily be pulled or replanted elsewhere (if you catch them early; the long taproot this plant develops makes transplanting difficult once a plant is established). It is great in full sun and dry soil, so you can position in some of the most harsh spots in your garden, along with your Sedum and other tough plants. It can be found growing wild throughout the Lower Peninsula.

Here’s some on Mackinac Island:

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Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000

On Garrulous Chipmunks, Belligerent Yellow Jackets, and Other Glories of Fall

japmaple02Somehow, it is October. This has really taken me by surprise. Most years, in September, I start getting out to the nature center or on the River Trail to take photos of the early hints of fall color. I get out in my yard and start trimming back spent perennials and vegetable plants. I pull out my warm clothes and closed-toe shoes.

But this September, one of the nicest I can remember weather-wise, was so very, very busy. I don’t quite know why. Perhaps it has to do with our big schedule changes at home with our son in school every day, karate and church stuff three nights a week, Sunday school preparation on Saturdays, research into my next book most nights…the list just seems to go on. Whatever the reason, I didn’t “feel” September this year. I missed it, somehow.

And so it’s October. The chipmunks are constantly chirping, for what reason I cannot tell. We’ve started a quarterly relationship with Terminix to rid our home of the yellow jackets we thought we could trust (who then perniciously invaded the sunroom) and ants and other such things. The bergamont and peonies are coming down with a serious case of powdery mildew. And any remaining tomatoes out there have been thoroughly taste-tested by squirrels, raccoons, and tiny black worms. The honeymoon’s officially over with this year’s garden and it’s time to do some pretty ruthless chopping and bagging.

Our attention is lifted from ground level as we start to notice the trees flirting with colors that have always been there beneath the chlorophyllic green. We buy the first jugs of apple cider. We start contemplating a nice color drive Up North. We remember to bring our camera with us everywhere just in case the mist and the sun should kiss in the morning over drifts of red sumac leaves. (Yes, some of us still use an actual camera rather than a phone.)

And we hope that we won’t miss October. Because this, the most beautiful of months, only comes once a year.