Search This Blog

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Spring Blues...

It is a blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

                          "A Blue-Butterfly Day" 
                          Robert Frost                                                    

Spring came to the garden last weekend. Or perhaps I should call its appearance symbolic, a harbinger, if you will, of the loosening of winter's grip, its dreary hold on our emotional well-being. It alighted on a blooming weed and opened its wings to the sun under a spring sky as azure, as iridescent as its wings: a small blue butterfly commonly known, and aptly so, as the "spring azure." Frost's spring butterfly was most certainly an azure as these little shards of blue herald spring from coast to coast across the northern states.

Blues belong to the family Polyommatinae as in "poly"for "many." Washington State is home to approximately sixteen different species of blues. On a late spring day in some locales in Eastern Washington as many as five different species can be seen flying together.To my knowledge
this little vernal messenger is the only blue butterfly that flies in our Valley.

This year's sighting was early (third week in March). Celastrina argiolus (the scientific moniker for the azure, a big name for such a small bug) usually flies here in May. I've seen them on warm afternoons drifting along our arborvitae hedge like windswept scraps of blue tissue paper. By June their cycle is usually finished, but during last year's uncharacteristically hot, dry summer, I observed an azure in late August, albeit a bit tattered and frayed, lazing about the rows in the vegetable garden.

Fluttering in on blue wings, spring--or at least the insinuation of it-- has come to the last.

(Note on photo: a pair of azures, male above; female below

Monday, March 21, 2016

Flower Filching in the Valley

Between showers this morning Gladys and I decided to ride the Loop. Besides, what are a few raindrops anyway? Just water, aren't they? We had turned the corner onto the upper Loop road to begin the return leg when a box truck heading down Valley slowed as it passed. The driver waved and I saw Va's familiar face.

Va is the Valley's Eliza Doolittle, Tualco's flower girl. Hers is the flower patch closest to the Riley Slough bridge. Last spring I stopped and chatted flowers with her. Our conversation led Va to ask if I grew calla lilies. I told her, yes, I did. She wondered if I had extras to share. It just so happened we had a clump of lilies that needed dividing as they were encroaching on other plantings in the flower garden. I told her next spring I'd divide the patch and set aside a nice shovelful of roots for her.

Since then I have passed Va a few times but could never seem to catch her at work in the field. My frantic waving as she went by caught her attention. The box truck slowed at the Loop intersection, turned around and rolled to a stop next to me. I reminded Va about the callas, wondered if she still wanted some, told her I needed to divide the clump before the stalks began to sprout. Yes, she would like the callas, she told me. I gave her my address and phone number, and she promised to stop by for them soon.

Va went on to tell me she's recently been a victim of theft: flower thieves. Her sister who farms a plot on the south end of the flower fields told Va she saw a small car approach Va's rows of tulips and daffodils, slow, and stop. Someone jumped out of the vehicle and proceeded to pull clumps of budding bulbs from the end of the rows and make off with them. Apparently the thieves were interested in the bulbs only; in the case of the daffodils, they left behind flower stalks.

Va climbed down from the truck and pointed out the disturbed soil where the bulbs were yanked from the ends of the rows.The brash thieves struck in broad daylight, too.

If you have purchased flower bulbs, you know how expensive they are. Va told me her six rows of tulips and daffodils cost her $4,500 this season. She sells the blossoming stalks in bunches at local flower stands and works hard for the income her plot provides. And now some petty thief has cut into her profits. But aside from that, I'm sure she now feels her property and efforts are at risk. Sure, Va lost only a few flower bulbs from the end of three or four rows. But she's also lost her peace of mind: I know a theft of any kind leaves the victim feeling so violated.

I told Va she needed to mount a surveillance camera on the power pole across from her field. She laughed and shook her head. If you're out and about in the Valley, be on the lookout for flower poachers. Seems to me if they'll stoop to stealing flower bulbs, those thieves are apt to steal anything,