“Secrets are generally terrible. Beauty is not hidden, only ugliness and deformity.”L.M. Montgomery
As I hiked this past Sunday, I was looking very closely at a wall of rocks. I have hiked here before and was on the hunt for spring wildflowers. I remember this wall as one of the first places I have seen Heuchera americana (Coral Bells) growing in the wild.
I do that. I remember the wild places I first saw plants I know well from nurseries and garden centers and gardens. I remember the Pine Barren creek where I first saw Itea virginica (Sweetspire) and the Pine Barrens lake where I saw Sarracenia purpurea (Pitcher Plants) and Drosera sp. (Sundews) growing wild. My first wild PawPaw (Asimina triloba) patch along the Potomac River. I remember my first wild Gentiana andrewsii (Bottle Gentian) viewed from the cockpit of my whitewater boat and my sister’s patience as I delighted in seeing a wild Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) for the first time in a Mississippi forest. The pine needle strewn forest floor in New England where I saw my first Lady Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule). The place where I first witnessed the majesty of a Sequoia sempervirens (Coast Redwood) is indelibly etched in my mind.
On occasion I get back to these places and revisit those plants. And on this hike I was on the search for my rock-face-hanging Coral Bells. While searching, three types of ferns I saw clinging to this wall, Early Saxifrage ( in bloom, and Columbine leaves with tight buds just above the moss hinting of the red and yellow spectacle to come all came into view. I did find Coral Bells too.
On this day I also noticed some one had tucked little non-natural treasures into the tapestry of moss, roots and leaves. I found a tiny duck, a little bunny, a unicorn and a turquoise snake.
So here I was, nose inches from the wall, investigating these tiny treasures when I hear a woman with a dog behind me. “Excuse me,” she says, “I am nosy. What are you looking at?”
“Plants,” I tell her, “I am a horticulturist.”
“Oh” she says. She goes on to tell me how she grew up in the area and nearly 70 years ago she remembers seeing Jack-in-the-Pulpits (she describes them and asks me if that’s the correct name and I tell her yes) and how she fell in love with them. She was amazed by them and remembers seeing them everywhere, but as she got older, she didn’t see them as much and then they disappeared. Almost 70 years later, she told me, she was hiking back in this same spot and there was a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. She said she was so excited. It brought back so many happy memories of her childhood and she was surprised. It looked like the only one around.
“So I dug it up and took it home.” she shares with me, in a hushed tone that speaks to understanding this was wrong.Continue reading