We spent yesterday exploring the backroads and lakes of western Wisconsin. It was a beautiful summer’s day and the countryside was verdantly green due to recent rains. As we were traveling down a county road I saw a large field of yellow. As I ventured out in the waist-tall grasses and flowers I realized the field was filled with wildflowers. These prairie coneflowers were high above the others, and they swayed in the wind. Scattered around them were ox-eye flowers and bee balm. I was in the middle of a sea of color and beauty. The bees were busy moving amongst the blossoms and the wind rustled the flowers enough to make they appear to be dancing across the field. It was a true representation of summer in all her glory.
While in the Kansas City area last weekend, I marveled in a summer sunset over a field of wildflowers. I stole away from the busy activities of a picnic and walked across the acreage that my parents had purchased years ago for the family’s enjoyment. This evening I wanted to drink in the peace and beauty of the hayfield that hadn’t been cleared yet and the plethora of wildflowers that were blooming. The rains and lack of heat had allowed the flowers to bloom in profusion. The rudbeckia covered the hillside and seemed to glow in the golden light of the sunset. As I sat beside the pond at the close of day I was filled with a sense of gratitude for the beauty before me, my parents, my family, and for this lovely bit of property.
Snow last Thursday, followed by 65 degrees and sunshine — it all provided moisture and then warmth for the early blooming wildflowers in Minnesota. Amidst a gravel prairie about 50 miles from the Twin Cities is a place where pasque flowers are abundant. And if your timing is good, the entire prairie is filled with these small diminutive flowers. Only two to five inches tall, they are hard to notice from a distance, but it becomes quite magical when you see an entire hillside covered by these flowers. With the warmth of the spring sun, and the golden colors of the late evening, we spent a wonderful few hours amongst the pasque flowers.
As winter lets go of its grip, pasque flowers are one of the first wildflowers to bloom. They’re diminutive and small, perhaps only 5 inches tall, and they generally thrive in gravel prairie areas. In Minnesota these prairie areas are not common, however there is a glacial outwash area near the Cannon River south of the Twin Cities that has the perfect conditions for these harbingers of spring. I ventured down last week at late afternoon and was thrilled to find them in peak bloom. Their delicacy was made more evident by the backlighting that occurred as the sun was starting to set in the west. Their brilliance is my cue that winter will not last forever, and the flowers that grace our area, even for a very short period of time, are worth celebrating and appreciating.
There is a revival of interest in native plantings here in Minnesota; people are choosing to replace annuals in their gardens with plants that are native to the area, thereby requiring less maintenance. About eight years ago I was in a prairie area in northeastern Oregon and was mesmerized by an unusual plant. I remember photographing the long feathery plumes that seemed to blow in the breeze. Now I find that Prairie smoke is a native wildflower to Minnesota. It is actually in the rose family, blooming in mid to late spring, and is found in the dry, gravelly prairies. I noticed this plant at a sale of native landscaping plants here in the Twin Cities. With a bit of backlighting, the plumes took on a beautiful glow, accenting their delicateness and their “smokey” appearance.