Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Musings from the Hill

June 6, 2012

Drought resistant, brightly blooming prairie wildflowers decorate the back roads of Kansas. Too numerous to individually mention, they bloom untended in a glorious array of color, unmindful of their contribution to the beauty of Kansas prairie.

Day lilies, often called ditch lilies in brilliant orange, red, yellow or combinations there of, gaily dance and nod their heads as we pass by. Soon to be joined by smaller multi-flowered sunflowers, brown-eyed susans, many varieties of asters , love-me, love-me-not white daisies, wild geraniums, white, yellow and large, sweet-smelling pink clover, fireweed, single petaled wild roses — the list is endless. Trumpet vines, well-loved by hummingbirds, grow everywhere, even on gravel surfaces. Not to forget early bloomers; a profusion of blue, purple, yellow and white violets. Early pioneers from the east were astounded by this abundance of wild flowers.

Almost indestructible, Kansas wildflowers doggedly persist in neglected places. In seldom-mowed graveyards, they lighten up a heavy heart. One may find a rare specimen beside forgotten gravestones and along railroad tracks. If they tempt you, do not dig them up. Visit later and collect a few seeds.

Mullein, with its long stalk of inconspicuous yellow flowers, stands tall and proud. It is now used as an accent in many formal gardens. Indians called it big smoke and it was sometimes used as an inhalant to help cure bad coughs. One placed a towel over the head and breathed an infusion of leaves steeped in a bowl of steaming water. In a pinch, its thick, woolly leaves were used to line moccasins.

A favorite of mine is Queen Anne’s lace; beautiful when mixed with purple coneflowers. I threw seeds around my yard and was deluged with white, lacy blossoms. One year, the sturdy purple coneflowers and wild day lilies were no match for the Queen.

Amidst old graves or by vacant cellar walls, one may find a spread of old-fashioned iris, daffodils, peonies or lilac bushes planted many years ago and still bravely blooming. The luckiest find of all would be an old, sweet-smelling rose. Never dig up an old rose bush. Today, a new way to propagate roses and obtain a true clone is to simply take a cutting and root it.

I did this when I was a child. Faithfully I tended the rose cuttings I planted. I never heard of root growth hormones, etc. The following year, I often obtained a true clone. Today, many of my rose cuttings are surviving and blooming. I protect them in winter with leaf mulch in an east-facing, fairly wind-shielded by shrubs location. I make sure they do not dry out.

Enjoy our beautiful Kansas roadsides lined with tough wildflowers, survivors of wind and drought. As did pioneers of old, they persevere and seem to overcome all odds.

“Like pioneers of long ago, surviving constant winds that blow. Sturdy and steadfast still they stand, survivors in this prairie land.”


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