Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

There is a secret world coming to life in my back yard, goldfinches, dandelions, chickadees, red maple, cardinals, crows, robins, roses, insects, earthworms, that unidentified bush the bees love, and yesterday, the first butterfly.

At once common and precious, my spring smells of freshly-turned soil and violets.

Violets get their scent from ionone. It’s an extremely sweet scent that many people describe as also being dry. “Powdery” is the word that’s usually used. Another word is “ethereal,” or “ephemeral.” After stimulating scent receptors, ionone binds to them and temporarily shuts them off completely. This substance cannot be smelled for more than a few moments at a time. After that, people go anosmic to it. Then, after a few breaths, the scent pops up again. 

— How Violets Steal Your Sense of Smell

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violets in grass
Photo by Darius Cotoi on Unsplash

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I usually try to stay fairly upbeat here but today I’m sad. 

The neighbors out back are taking down two big magnolia trees. Those trees always had the first flowers of Spring and I was looking forward to their pink and white petals. 

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

Nope. Instead, we’ll have a lovely view of the water tower a few blocks away.

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Now, I know that sometimes you just have to take down a tree. We had to do it ourselves, when the Emerald Ash Borer came through. These trees didn’t look sick, but you never know.


My parents raised us on The Lorax, and childhood books stick with you. It’s hard to see big trees come down. 

I’d hoped the new cardinal families that moved in over the winter would set up house and stay. They still might, but it feels less likely today. And then there are the tree-dependent squirrels. 

Right now I’m looking out at the back yard and it no longer feels quite as cozy, quite as welcoming as it did. We still have our trees and some at the near neighbors, but stretching away to the south the sky opens up and what I see now is suburbia, in all its generic glory.


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All that said, it will be fine. I’ll indulge in a bit of virtual “hanami,” or “flower watching,” as cherry blossoms announce the first signs of Spring. I’ll think about ways to use the yard as a place for everything from trees to flowers to birds to squirrels to insects.

Himeji Castle is even more beautiful than when Mr. Man and I visited. 

And I think it’s time to pick up another bird feeder.

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Finally! On Easter the last of our snow melted. We have flowers for the first time since winter arrived. This post is for my mother, who picked violets for her mother, once upon a time.

Happy Spring!


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photo by Chris Willis

photo by Chris Willis

It’s Tulip Festival time here in Ottawa, and despite the unseasonably cold weather we’re having right now the flowers are beautiful. They also got me asking questions about the Festival specifically and about tulips in general. (If you are Canadian and a gardener feel free to stop here, you probably already know what I’m about to say. I’m neither and was happy to learn something new.)

Why tulips? Sure, the Festival is designed to promote trade and tourism, but there’s a nice story behind its origin. The tulips were “given as a gift in perpetuity to the Canadian people for having provided safe harbour to the Dutch Royal Family during the German occupation of the Netherlands”* during World War Two.

Princess Juliana was about to give birth in Ottawa but being born in another country would have affected the child’s succession status. Fair enough, but it’s not like the Princess could go home. So, in typically awesome Canadian style, when Princess Margriet was born in 1943 the Dutch flag was flown from the Peace Tower. Succession issue solved. How neighborly is that?

Wait, you may ask, isn’t this the same flower whose bulbs were once worth more than their weight in gold (and, not incidentally, also sparked the “Tulip Mania” market crash in the 17th century)? How do I get more of them? You may already know this but I didn’t, at least not in detail.

How do tulips propagate? As in, I’ve got this shallot-like bulb I picked up at the store and the package swears that if I put it in the ground I’ll get a tulip next Spring. Great. But what if I didn’t have this little net bag from the supermarket? If the Apocalypse comes tomorrow tulips are on their own. What then?

It turns out that tulips are well positioned to survive a catastrophic event because they are designed to propagate in not one but two ways. If you want to make more tulips, come Autumn you can either dig up the bulb or collect the seeds. The original bulb will have grown a number of little satellites, or offsets. The largest of the bulbs will flower the next year but the smaller ones will need extra growing time. Bulbs are exact genetic replicas of the original, while seeds will give you a hybrid plant with more genetic diversity, and the potential for new colors and characteristics.

This could be critical if the Apocalypse does come and you need new, pretty ways to match your landscaping with brimstone or mask the odor of zombie. Just saying.

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