The Wildflower Field

IMG_3956Our house came with a field of wildflowers. There were mostly daisies that first summer. Then fewer daisies the next. It took me a few years to realize that you need to reseed every five years or so, especially after golden rod insinuates itself into the mix — like a stealth army — and soon has literally rooted out everything else. Then it’s time to mow, kill the old turf, plow under the field, and replant with new seeds.

I use a mix of annuals and perennials, so the first summer of freshly seeded wildflowers tends to be a bright splash of cosmos, poppies, corn flowers, and snap dragons. The perennials usually start to take hold the second year, but the wonderful thing about a wildflower field is that — well — it’s wild. IMG_2459You never really know from year to year what you’re going to get.  This year my field is predominately white (Queen Anne’s lace, daisies) and yellow (gloriosa daisies, black-eyed Susans, and a stunning rudbeckia variety which I think I’ve identified as “Becky Cinnamon”). Butterflies and bees are busy all day visiting the flowers. At night, fire flies drift dutifully overhead, switching their miniature search lights on and off, on and off.

by Stanley Plumly
Some—the ones with fish names—grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.
And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.
It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,
day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase–
or maybe Solomon’s seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs
or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,
toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have “the look of flowers that are looked at,”
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,
flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,
even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.
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11 Responses to The Wildflower Field

  1. So enjoyed this, being a lover of flowers, maybe especially wildflowers. Have so many favorite flowers….cosmos, daisies, black eyed susans, dahlias and on and on.
    I live in a city apartment with 2 cats. (small city.) We do have a big tree out front where the birds alight and give the cats a lot of interest! Also, have tiger lilies in bloom out front now. The Penobscot River (leading into the ocean) is not far so do get a lot of gulls and others flying over. Some wonderful bald eagles are nesting alongside the river.

    Love your vase of flowers, in the blue and white . I pick wildflowers alongside the road to enjoy at home since I do not have the ability to have a garden. I also have a number of those blue and white vases, my favorite. My cats eat my plants , so am limited there too. Put them up high and out of reach.

    I have no idea what you are referring to with “website” in the sign in part.

    • Liza says:

      Thanks, Cheryl. Do you like orchids? It’s the one house plant, I’m told, that cats don’t eat. I think they’re lovely and somehow zen-like — and last for months at a time!

  2. Leslie Gold says:

    I was just thinking this morning that I hadn’t seen a post from you in a while…and then this gift turns up in my emails! Thank you, thank you for the beauty. My heart is full of smiles and laughter.
    Wishing you both a sweet and healthy Summer.

  3. Bill Loeb says:

    Sure looks GREAT to me every time I traverse my driveway !! Thanks.

  4. What a great looking field, Liza – your process is so interesting, also that you mix both annuals and perennials.

  5. annette shear says:

    a lovely summer read, as usual! thank you.
    today’s NY Times Metropolitan Section has a nice little article in a column called NYC Nature (on pg 4) – all about Chicory – which I never knew that was the name of that lovely wildflower.
    While pulling weeds in Central Park recently, I found a tiny little orchid-looking flower and brought it home but by the time I got to 60th & Park, it had gone limp!
    moral of the story, I guess: leave some things where they are!

    • Liza says:

      I always enjoy reading that N.Y.C. Nature column. Thanks for pointing this one out, as I think I’ve been misidentifying Chicory as cornflower. I like your story and its moral — and thank you for pulling out the weeds in Central Park!

  6. Kirsten Schoenberger says:

    Your post made me smile and smile. I LOVE wild flowers. They look so happy.

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