Of cow slobber and dancing bees

by - 7:52 AM

Honey bee, almost too heavy for lift off!  © DFries

"The most curious fact of the Spiderwort plant is that the middle stamen will turn pink instead of its usual blue when in the presence of small amounts of radiation and maybe even radon."

I’d love to have a weed-free garden full of gorgeous blooming plants but I am not particularly good at planting in the right spots or envisioning the space with the right ones.  
I have been known to plant something in the wrong spot and then move it around the next season as if it were a sofa in the living room pushed to the other side of the room, however, the sofa always makes it, the plant doesn’t always survive the violation of being dug up or the insult of its eviction.

Nature foils me every time and New England’s short growing season throws me. Planting bulbs?  I can’t seem to get the cycle right.  Weeding?  This Sisyphean task breaks my spirit every year.   My grass is always a little too long even though I thought I mowed it just yesterday.  
I’ve switched it up and planted fruits and veggies but the critters ate all of the strawberries, planting sunflowers resulted in more critters eating the seeds the minute I went into the house. Covering the area with netting resulted in a mother bunny depositing her brood right in the middle of the it all.  I hadn’t noticed my mistake until the babies had grown right into it and my daughter noticed a squirming mass of something. When she stopped to see what it was, the result was me, squeamishly running to my doctor-neighbor and friend in alarm to come help me cut the netting gently from around their little necks and limbs.  I will never use that type of netting again.
I know, of course, that all of this is a product of not being able to really pay the garden the attention it needs with three kids, a traveling husband, a couple of jobs and as many pets but alas, my soul longs for the splendor of lush space.  
Finally, over the last couple of seasons I decided to stop investing in super expensive plants, I would stop trying to grow veggies and instead allow my space to go a little wild and see what fills in.  
Patiently, I have identified the wildflowers that have invaded my garden space along with the plants throughout the spring and summer to see what they are before weeding them out.  By doing this for the last couple of seasons I am starting to look at a fuller, more native looking garden.  I do admit I have some plants in there that may be considered weeds with names like Creeping Bellflower, Ditch Lily  and Spiderwort, also known by its other common name Cow Slobber. The nicknames of the latter are such that  its sap is reminiscent of a spiders web or of well… cow slobber!   I will vouch for the cow like slobber quality of its sap as I had the fun experience recently of visiting some baby cows that love to suck on your hands.  It’s pretty stringy and sappy!
Make the bees happy, let some Spiderwort grow on the edges
of your property if you don't want it in your garden, then don't forget
to go out and watch the show! © DFries
© DFries
© DFries
Initially, I ripped this prolific grower out where ever I found it growing, but upon learning about the plant I decided to let it stay.  Among its many attributes are that the spiderwort’s leaves and flowers can be eaten and have a flavor similar to asparagus.  Spiderwort is also a long lasting bloomer with a bloom a day but with many on deck once the first is spent, the blue of its flowers are so brilliant that they look like little blue or purple twinkling lights in your garden.  The most curious fact of this plant is its incredible sensitivity as an environmental indicator of pollution or radiation.  Interestingly the middle stamen will turn pink instead of its usual blue when in the presence of small amounts of radiation and even some reports of radon.  
The middle, hairy stamen of Spiderwort is incredibly sensitive
and will turn pink in color in the presence of pollution, radiation
and some have found the color change even around radon. © DFries
But, of all its qualities the most delightful is the show the bees put on during the peak blooming time between May and June.  They line up for these flowers and dance from one to the other, drunk with the flowers nectar and they become so loaded up with pollen that it looks as if they can barely fly.
Of course it has to be contained as it self seeds and can pretty much grow on the moon if it had to but it has earned its garden spot if only for the visitors it attracts.   

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  1. Gardens have a mind of their own I think. My wildflower garden has found its own way around my garden and I must say it is more beautiful than anything I could have designed. Nice post -- barbara