Strawflower Magic

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Today, frost came and killed off the annuals in my cutting garden once and for all. It was late this year, allowing me extra time to enjoy my cosmos, zinnias, calendula, nigella, and most of all, strawflowers. 

This is the first summer I’ve grown strawflowers and they’ve been such a delight. Always a familiar flower (I remember them from my parents’ garden), I learned so much about these flowers over the course of the summer; watching a plant emerge from seed and grow into its full glory has a special kind of magic. 

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Strawflowers were no exception as I watched their strappy leaves sprout and elongate; the first flower buds cluster at the tips of the plant. I cut and hung flowers to dry, thrilled by the way they hold their color and shape, sometimes opening slightly, sometimes flexing their petals back as they dry. (Or, are they really bracts? or sepals? Must look that up!)

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I saw that strawflowers close tight on cool, damp nights and open in the morning sun, a particularly endearing habit. It was already October by the time I had the idea to capture strawflowers opening with a time-lapse video. 

A couple of notes about this video. (1) The way the plants appear to shudder at the end is my fault – I could’t resist poking the flowers in between frames to see what would happen. (2) The flickering results from the camera settings – I forgot to turn the auto white balance off, so the camera changes sometimes between frames. No, that’s not natural light variation! What can I say? It was my first time-lapse, and I am learning by doing.

Its a testament to the magic of strawflowers opening that the the effect is still mesmerizing as they open in a series of rolling petals. (Or, bracts?) When I made this time-lapse, I felt like I’d really captured the secret life of a flower and I knew I had to try again. 

And I did try. There were plenty of failures. There were camera batteries that ran out, flowers that didn’t open,and others that opened hours later than I expected. But luckily with the mild weather, I had plenty of chances to keep trying. Finally, last weekend, I had another success and managed to fix a few of the problems in my first attempt. Just in time for the frost to come this week!

So now, I’ll be cleaning up my garden and dreaming of next summer’s flowers. I know I’ll be planting more strawflowers, but I also wonder what next summer’s discoveries will be? Someone recently suggested Cardinal vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and I am intrigued. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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July is the month for blueberries

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I haven’t been posting much about my garden this summer. In truth, its been a little disappointing. In June, rabbits chewed my zinnias down to twigs, munched my dahlias, and decapitated my yarrow. The spinach bolted before it had any leaves to harvest. I even managed to sow carrots over beets. I just didn’t have the heart to pull them out, so there they are, growing together.

And yet, I’m still making plans and planting. I’m still scheming and dreaming about what I’ll do next in my yard. Just this week, we’ve planted a blueberry patch with a few high bush and low bush blueberry plants, both native to New England.

When I worked as a biologist, I sometimes worked in a wetland* which was filled with blueberries during the month of July. On breaks, my co-workers and I would stand in our rubber boots, calf-deep in water and muck, and devour blueberries. We used to collect, bring home and freeze buckets of blueberries. We used to move noisily through the bog* lest we startle the black bear known to loiter and gobble blueberries by the pawful.

I’m not expecting any black bears to show up in my own little blueberry patch, but I am thrilled to be creating a naturalized thicket in my yard. I’m looking forward to puttering and tending these new shrubs. I hoping to enjoy some berries straight off the plant. That is, assuming the rabbits don’t get them first.

high bush blueberry
not quite ripe yet!

 

*technically it was a fen, a specific type of wetland, but I didn’t want to go all biology geek on you. Thats a side of me better left out of the blogosphere.