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Start to a Cheerful Tuesday

Good morning, Weedpatch pals. Here’s a Japanese woodblock created in 1917 to cheer up your morning: gotta love Columbines!

Columbine-Japanese-print2-1-pdf

That same year (1917), a native Chicagoan, Neltje Blanchan, who wrote eleven books in her 52 years, said this about columbines in her book, Nature Wonders: Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. The book was published by the company her husband started: Doubleday.

“The Columbine never has the elfin charm in a conventional garden that it possesses wild in Nature’s. Dancing, in red and yellow petticoats, to the rhythm of the breeze along the ledge of overhanging rocks, it coquettes with some Punchinello as if daring him to reach her at his peril. Who is he? Let us sit a while on the rocky ledge and watch for her lovers…Presently a big bumblebee booms along. Owing to his great strength, an inverted, pendent blossom, from which he must cling upside down, has no more terrors for him than a trapeze for the trained acrobat. His long tongue–he is one of the largest of our sixty-two species of Bombus–can suck almost any flower…He is the truest benefactor of the European Columbine (A. vulgaris), whose spurs suggested the talons of an eagle (aquila) to imaginative Linnaeus when he gave this group of plants its generic name.

Fragile butterflies, absolutely dependent on nectar, hover near our showy wild Columbine with its five tempting horns of plenty, but sail away again, knowing as they do that their weak legs are not calculated to stand the strain of an inverted position from a pendent flower, nor are their tongues adapted to these slender tubes. The tongues of both butterflies and moths bend readily only when directed beneath their bodies. It will be noticed that our Columbine’s funnel-shaped tubes contract just below the point where nectar is secreted–doubtless to protect it from small bees. When we see the honey-bee or the little wild bees–Halictus chiefly–on the flower, we may know they get pollen only.

Finally a ruby-throated hummingbird whirs into sight. Poising before a Columbine, and moving around it to drain one spur after another until the five are emptied, he flashes like thought to another group of inverted red cornucopias, visits in turn every flower in the colony, then whirs away quite as suddenly as he came. Probably to him, and no longer to the outgrown bumblebee, has the flower adapted itself. The European species wears blue, the bee’s favorite color according to Sir John Lubbock; the nectar hidden in its spurs, which are shorter, stouter and curved, is accessible only to the largest bumblebees. There are no hummingbirds in Europe. Our native Columbine, on the contrary, has longer, contracted, straight, erect spurs, most easily drained by the ruby-throat which ever delights in any color at all so long as it’s red.”##

Hummingbird-and-columbineCourtesy of birdsandblooms.com

Why is Santana Playing in my Head?

Another great find in the 2014 plant catalogs! This time it’s DRUNKEN WOMAN FRIZZY HEADED LETTUCE, sold by Territorial Seed Company. Gotta have it… then this summa I’m gonna crank up some Santana, swing those (svelte) hips, and belt out a new tune in my garden: “…I got a frizzy heada lettuce, got a frizzy heada lettuce, got me so blind I can’t eat, it’s tryin to make a meat eater outa me…Got its spell on me baby…I need you so bad, drunken lettuce, I can’t leave you alone…”. And the catalog even adds, “It’s the last lettuce to bolt”. Well, of course she is! She might be drunk and frizzy headed, but she’ll never bolt from ya, baby.

And, no, I haven’t been to Colorado lately. BUT this reminds me that a fine and noble Weedpatch reader, Patti S, sent me a wonderful book: The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart, who also wrote, Wicked Plants:The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. My kind of author! Wonder what lettuce she’s planting in 2014?

Drunken-Botanist-Cover

Methinks I’ve been inside enduring grayness too long…Getting way too loopy. Think I’ll go have a drink. Or some lettuce.##