Thursday, May 28, 2015

Goldfinch Growing Up

Goldfinch Growing Up

The male American Goldfinch is a brilliant bird. His bright yellow feathers attract the attention not only of the female goldfinch but of anyone nearby. It’s hard to ignore, or take for granted, the almost neon quality of him on the feeder. He is regal.

He doesn’t start out that way, though. The baby bird is scrawny and demanding. As he grows, the young bird starts to fill out his feathers but they are splotchy and not very attractive, yellow mixed with gray in an exuberant disarray. There is nothing graceful about him, which is endearing in its own way.

It reminds me of a boy’s growing years. He starts out as a cute but demanding baby and slowly grows into his teen years when his voice breaks in mid-word, his face starts to get stubble, and he outgrows the sleeves of his shirt and the legs of his pants almost on a daily basis. Eventually, the boy finds his balance and the awkwardness slips away. He, like the goldfinch, shines in his youthful maturity.

It seems that nature mirrors itself, whatever the species. Regardless of the outside, the inside of us all develops in our own particular ways and that gets reflected externally. I find the young goldfinch on my feeder exciting, knowing that it will soon become something stunning – even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Click on photo for a larger view.
So much to know about American Goldfinches:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Seeds Are Everywhere!

Seeds are Everywhere!

Have you noticed? Seeds are everywhere! Maple trees are sending their seeds spinning around the neighborhood. They whirl through the air at the slightest breeze and land on everything. The yellow dandelion flowers have changed into fairy seeds, catching the slightest movement of wind or breath to send them into new growing places. Pollen coats cars and houses, lawns, patio and deck furniture and people, if we can judge by the sneezes caused by allergic reactions to the powdery stuff. Leave a flowerpot filled with plain dirt outside and soon something will be growing there. Spring is a time for regeneration.

While we may have made a gazillion wishes blowing on dandelion seeds as kids (and kids still do) we adults seem to have lost our fondness for the plant. It does have a way of taking over a lawn. It is resilient to the point of defiance. Yet the dandelion has been a valued herb over the centuries. Almost every part of it has some health benefit. And while most of us are trying to rid our lawns of them, dandelion seeds are being sold with a host of other, more respected herbs.

So maybe we can give the dandelion a break and remember it has a beneficial purpose even if we choose not to cultivate it on our lawns. And perhaps once in a while forget that we are grown up, lift the stem gently from the ground, take a breath and blow out a wish!

What to value about dandelions and what to be careful of health wise:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lily Of the Valley Pushing the Boundaries

Lily Of the Valley Pushing the Boundaries

Years ago I replanted about a dozen Lily of the Valley plants that were growing too near our air conditioning unit to our backyard to fill in a space in the shade. They accepted their new surroundings and grew. Each year there were a few more, thick green leaves with a delicate spray of white flowers that would come up in the Spring. Last year they had spread to the point of perhaps being too many so we put an edging around the outer plants and hoped that would contain them.

By this time, anyone with knowledge of this plant knows what I am about to say. They were not contained. In fact, they ignored the edging and now are heading for the main part of the yard. We noticed a similar thing happening at another house. The plants were growing beyond the wooden edging and were even starting to come up in a crack in the sidewalk.

It’s hard to believe that such a delicate plant is so vigorous. But maybe that’s why it is so loved. It graces gentle things like weddings and religious services. It is seen as the flower of fairies in folklore. It’s included in many birthday bouquets.

And yet, it can be a problem, outgrowing its designated place in the garden. I guess everything is on a continuum, the positive and negative blending into each other so that it is all part of the whole. All of nature, us included, has aspects that are pleasing to some, not so much to others. And that can change as customs and generations shift in their likes and dislikes. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the Lily of the Valley to be out there in the world but I think it’s time to insist on some boundaries. 

An affectionate look at cultivating Lily of the Valley:

Various meanings inspired by Lily of the Valley: