“I perhaps owe having becoming a painter to flowers.” –Claude Monet
Everywhere you look on the prairies and savannas in mid-May, there’s magic.
So many wild and wonderful wildflowers.
Let’s go for a hike and take a look.
The shooting star are scattered across the prairie, pretty in pink.
You might find a better way to spend an hour than to sit and watch the shooting star gently bowing in the breeze. Maybe.
Or maybe not. Even the leaves are worth a second look.
The wild hyacinth opens its blooms from the bottom up.
Its light scent is difficult to catch. Unless you get down on your knees and inhale.
Try it. You might want to stay there for a while, just enjoying the view.
For fragrance, consider the common valerian. Native Americans cooked the tap root as a vegetable, which supposedly has “a strong and remarkably peculiar taste and odor.”
I enjoy it for the bands of silver hairs that outline the leaves like a very sharp, white pencil.
Its neighbor on the prairie, wood betony, was once valued as a love charm. It spins its blooms across the prairie; a dizzy showstopper.
Wood betony’s newly emerged deep red and green leaves are almost as pretty as the flowers, and were eaten by certain Native American tribes. I love discovering wood betony paired with hoary puccoon.
Those bright citrus-y colors! Eye-popping.
In some years, when you’re lucky enough to see the small white lady’s slipper orchid…
… you are astonished. And then you ask yourself—How many other wildflower marvels are waiting to be discovered that we’ve missed? Often, right under our noses.
So many unusual prairie wildflowers. Even the smallest and least colorful are tiny packages of wonder.
They’ll be gone soon.
Why not go look now?
Experience the magic for yourself.
Claude Monet (1840-1926), whose quote begins this post, was a French painter and one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. He valued “impressions” of nature, and turned the art world upside down with his paintings incorporating loose brush strokes and a feeling of light. Check out his series of water lilies paintings here.
Join Cindy for a program or class online!
The Tallgrass Prairie: Illinois Original Garden Online: June 2, 7-8:30 p.m. Illinois’ nickname is “The Prairie State.” Listen to stories of the history of the tallgrass prairie and its amazing plants and creatures –-from blooms to butterflies to bison. Discover plants that work well in the home garden as you enjoy learning about Illinois’ “landscape of home.” Presented by Sag Moraine Native Plant Community. More information here.
Literary Gardens Online: June 8, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Join master gardener and natural history writer Cindy Crosby for a fun look at gardens in literature and poetry. From Agatha Christie’s mystery series, to Brother Cadfael’s medieval herb garden, to Michael Pollan’s garden in “Second Nature,” to the “secret garden” beloved of children’s literature, there are so many gardens that helped shape the books we love to read. Discover how gardens and garden imagery figure in the works of Mary Oliver, Henry Mitchell, Barbara Kingsolver, Lewis Carroll–and many more! See your garden with new eyes—and come away with a list of books you can’t wait to explore. Registration through the Downers Grove Public Library coming soon here.
Plant A Backyard Prairie: Online, Wednesday, June 9 and Friday, June 11, 11am-12:30pm CST –Bring the prairie to your doorstep! Turn a corner of your home landscape into a pocket-size prairie. If you think prairie plants are too wild for a home garden, think again! You can create a beautiful planted area that welcomes pollinators and wildlife without raising your neighbors’ eyebrows. In this online class, you will learn: how to select the right spot for your home prairie; which plants to select and their many benefits, for wildlife, and for you; creative ways to group plants for a pleasing look, and how to care for your prairie. Plus, you’ll get loads of inspiration from beautiful photos and stories that will bring your backyard prairie to life before you even put a single plant in the ground. Offered through The Morton Arboretum. Register here.