Saturday, April 17, 2010

RINGING IN SPRING!

Spring! Spring!
The bluebells ring,
In joyous royal hues.
Along streamside glades,
Their bright parade,
Proclaims the vernal news!
I've never encountered a swath of bluebells I didn't adore. In fact, I'm almost incapable of passing even a single plant without taking a moment to pause and admire the exquisite combination of blue and pink that blend so perfectly into the quintessential announcement of spring's arrival.
There's a little creek not far from here, a pastoral tributary of the stream which flows past my snug stone cottage, which my late friend Frank and I used to regularly wade to fish for smallmouth bass. One stretch in particular, where the footing was tricky but the fish large and plentiful, we called Bluebell Run. Practically the entire north bank along this deep, rocky portion of stream—a low, rich-soiled glade shaded by ancient sycamores—was carpeted in bluebells every April. As often as not, before fishing the water, my old pal and I both got out of the stream to spend time among the bluebells, oohing and aahing, taking photos…for Frank was as much a pushover for beauty as he was for bass.
Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, were named by Carolus Linnaeus for the German botanist Franz Mertens. They are a tall plant, as spring's wildflowers go, often growing more than two feet high. They like rich, loamy, damp soils, and so I most often find them along streamside floodplains and upland woods—places where there's a good mix of cool shade and fertile earth.
It's easy to see where bluebells get their name, since the clusters of flowers, each bloom an inch or two long, look remarkably like little bells. Blossoms begin as pink buds that turn sky blue as they bloom and mature. Sometimes, though rarely, the blooms remain pink, or come out as white; and the blues can be anything from a pale wash to a deep purple. Bluebells are true spring ephemerals—coming and going during the first week's of the new season.
Some sources cite butterflies as the flowers chief pollinators. Others say bumblebees—though the butterfly contingent claims bumblebees are rarely successful because they're forced to hover to get the job done. Earlier this week, when I walked through the acres of bluebells located in a woods just up the road from here, I don't recall a single butterfly among the thousands upon thousands of blooms…but I did see lots of big, dark bumblebees, and they didn't seem to be having any trouble sticking half their bodies into the hanging blue flowers.
Bluebells say it all! Their quiet beauty is somehow louder than a shout. And whenever I hear them pealing their vernal news, I stop to listen…because the I love the visual sound of a brand new spring.
———————

18 comments:

Gail said...

Hi Grizz

Your excitement about nature is so inspiring. Your words and beautiful pictures capture the essence and innocence and natural spirit of all the seasons. Even though we have never really met I feel as if you are someone that is "One with nature" and it is so lovely to share in this. Thanks Grizz

Love Gail
peace.....

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Exquisite in every way. There is just something extraordinary for me about any blue flower. Thanks for sharing these.

Lorac said...

They are very beautiful and you got some great shots of them. Nice work!

Tramp said...

"the visual sound of a brand new spring", I enjoy your writing's enthusiasm as well as its informative content...Tramp

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

That last photo is my favorite, the clusters of blue, the soft fresh green...it would make a lovely tablecloth or summer frock.

Bernie said...

Oh my gosh, these bluebells are absolutely beautiful and I think you are so blessed to have such a place to visit each Spring just to enjoy their beauty. Love this post Grizz, thank you.......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Hey, I am excited by nature—which is why I write the way I do. I want readers to at least know what I'm seeing and feeling about something…and of course, hope they feel the same.

Even though we have "met," we really have, because I'm not much different than my blog persona; what you see/read is pretty much me.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

I'd never thought about it quite that way…but you may be right re. blue flowers. I'd have to think about it a bit more, but for sure most of my favorite flowers are blue. Wonder why?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lorac…

They are indeed beautiful—so beautiful that no matter how many photos I have, I still some in from a day amongst the bluebells with another hundred shots to stick in a file.

I think of the ones I ran with this post, the first shot is my favorite—just because it's so, uh, "bluebellish."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

Can't you just hear these miniature bells ringing? I can—every time I look at 'em.

I'm glad you enjoy the writing…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Teri…

Yes, I like that shot, too. In fact, I liked all the pix in this post with the exception of the bumblebee one—which I'd like to have a "do-over" on.

But then, it's hard the take a bad bluebell photo.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

No mountains, no big body of water, no real wilderness—but otherwise, there is an amazing selection of places and natural sights within minutes of here. Way more than most folks would expect (many of my neighbors included) for Ohio.

Glad you liked this post.

Kay said...

The bluebells are lovely--and your photos capture them so well I feel as if I'm seeing them "live." I am at my daughter's for a few days in the area of Texas known for its wildflowers and especially "bluebonnets" which I always thought were the same as bluebells, which of course they are not as I can see from your pictures. Blue is not too common a color for wildflowers--or for birds--which makes bluebonnets, bluebells, bluebirds, indigo buntings all the more special. Thanks for your blog. I enjoy the walk along your river.

Jenn Jilks said...

Beautiful post. My Muskoka flowers are not yet out !

The Weaver of Grass said...

How interesting Jim - bluebells are just as exciting here in the UK - they really signify Spring is here. But when I scrolled down to your photographs they are not the same plant at all!
Ours are coming into bud in the copse and when they are out I shall post a photograph. What I can't post is the wonderful smell.
Yours are so pretty. The shape of the flower reminds me of the comfrey flower but that is called
symphytum, so they are obviously not the same.
Yesterday we had our first two swallows - very exciting as they begin to build in the barn.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kay…

Also chicory (blue sailors), cornflowers, blue herons, kingfishers, tall bellflowers, bluejays, and one of my favorite blues of all…fringed gentian.

Still, your Texas bluebells are wonderful, too. And no, not the same flower. But don't you have some hummingbirds down your way with a lot of blue?

I'm glad you like exploring "my" riverbank, though…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

Hey, your spring and its wildflowers is on the way—I'm sure of it. Then you can post your for all of us to see and enjoy.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

No real scent to these bluebells—at least not that I can tell. And they aren't the same flower, just similarly named. I look forward to the photos.

I've been seeing swallows here, too—both tree swallows and bank swallows. Haven't yet manage an acceptable photo, but they're working the pool near the cottage and the hilltop meadow up road near to where I found the bluebells.