Flowers, Weeds, Butterflies, and Bees
In my yard at home, this is the year of wild flowers! I’ve planted coneflower, lavender, liatris, Denver daisy, bee balm, yarrow, milkweed, veronica–those often scrappy looking flowers that many consider to be weeds. Ever since reports have emerged about the loss of our pollinators, including bees and the iconic monarch butterfly, I realize these “weeds” serve a purpose. I’m trying to fill my yard with wild flowers that make the butterflies and bees happy! That’s not the only reason though. After working at Fantasy Floral, I find myself loving all flowers, especially wild flowers.
According to National Geographic, “The eastern population of monarchs has declined over 80 percent, and the western population is nearly extinct, with just 3 percent of its population remaining.” There are a lot of contributing factors, but the biggest and most immediate cause is the loss of milkweed.
“Milkweed, often considered a nuisance by farmers and residents, is the lifeblood of the monarch butterfly, which uses the plant for food and breeding. But herbicides and development have wiped out milkweed across the Midwest, compromising one of the monarch’s most critical habitats,” explains an Indianapolis Star article. The article does goes on to highlight farmers who are swapping out their cash crops for milkweed. Good news!
I was on the phone yesterday with a woman who was placing an order for flowers to celebrate the birth of a baby boy. She wanted to focus on blue and yellow and white, but she was very specific about which flowers she wanted to include in the arrangement. I mentioned salidago, also known as goldenrod. It’s a beautiful, tall, filler flower that adds gorgeous yellow color and texture to arrangements. “No salidago please. It always reminds me of a weed.” This is a common sentiment.
As I little girl, I didn’t know the difference between flowers and weeds. I remember walking to elementary school at the end of summer. I loved milkweed! It went from tall flowers that were almost eye level, to hard pods, to this wonderful angel hair filling the pods. I loved cracking open the pods and watching the silk waft away on the breeze. Now I realize I was helping mother nature sow next year’s milkweed seeds. As sometimes happens, the adult in me did not appreciate milkweed as much as the child in me did, until now. Like so many others, I considered it a weed. This week, I planted three milkweed plants in my yard and hope to plant more. I haven’t seen a monarch butterfly since my boys were little. I hope that changes soon!
We’re always taking pictures of our arrangements at the flower shop. Once I started looking at an arrangement through the lens of a camera, I started to notice the exquisite beauty of each individual flower. This actually prompted me to start taking videos of some arrangements so I could highlight each flower. Every bride loves peonies and ranunculus. Orchids and calla lilies lend elegance and a touch of the exotic. Hydrangeas add a soft summery feeling. But it’s the wild flowers that add texture and uniqueness to an arrangement. They make arrangements fun and help to highlight the showier flowers. Yes, arrangements can be fun!
I think a lot as I drive to and from work. The other morning I was pondering what to write for the next blog post–something about flowers, of course! I was sitting at a traffic light and looked absently out the passenger window. On the side of the road was a stretch of the most beautiful wild flowers. I turned down a side street and parked to get photos. There were a lot of bees and butterflies enjoying the flowers so I had to step carefully. All of the photos above are the wild flowers I saw from my car.
As I was planting my own wild flowers last weekend, I was smiling at the full circle I had come from the little girl who loved milkweed, to the adult that thought it was just a weed, to a more understanding adult that not only loved the flower but appreciated its important place in our little world. A delicate white butterfly hovered around me the whole time I was planting–never more than 8 inches off the ground or more than a few feet from me. I like to think it was thanking me for understanding and appreciating.
“One man’s weed is another man’s flower,” ~Gloria Naylor