The first wild rose (Rosa blanda) of early summer.
It is the season of light in the North. Earth bows its northern pole to the sun extending daylight to almost sixteen hours — eight more since winter solstice last December. Spring flowers are finished blooming, trees are fully covered in lush green leaves, and swelling buds on many perennials will open soon. Fireflies glow in the night. During the day, delicate lacewings, damselflies and dragonflies patrol the garden for pests. I spotted my first monarch of the season a couple of weeks ago when it visited our milkweed patch, which is almost ready to bloom.
Solstice was mild and clear with a high of 76℉. I enjoyed the company of good friends for lunch at an outdoor restaurant. Later, I sat in our garden to soak up the late-afternoon sun’s warmth, to listen to the robins sing and to toast the long summer ahead.
A monarch (Danaus plexippus) seeks nectar among the buds of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
Lacewings (Chrysoperla carnea) eat aphids, mites and other garden pests.
An eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis) catches late-evening sun in the garden.
A bumble bee nectars in a wild geranium blossom (Geranium maculatum).
Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa) belong to the evening primrose family.
‘Husker red’ beard tongue (Penstemon digitalis) has maroon stems and leaves.
Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ begins to open.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a favorite of bumble bees.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) buds will soon open to provide nectar to monarchs and many other insects.
In my mind’s eye, I see a cobalt blue glass vase holding three white peonies. It sits on a white linen runner that contrasts with the dark wood of an old mahogany table. The heavy scent of peonies fills the small dining room that is illuminated by a south-facing picture window. A few black ants crawl in and out of the many-layered petals, though we tried to shake them off outside.
Mom’s simple bouquet’s were perfect. Whether peonies, or other flowers, she fashioned a simple, understated arrangement of whatever bloomed in our back yard. I wish that I had photos of them, but only the memories remain — and they are mine alone. Mom does not remember much of the past because she has dementia. So, I tell her about the white peony bushes that grew at just the right height for me to breathe in their heavy perfume and stroke their silky petals. I speak of warm afternoons when I was very young and how we lingered in our garden to watch bees in the flowering almond, and looked to see if new seedlings had popped through the soil. I speak of the giant basswood tree that shaded the back yard and scented the evening air. Most importantly, I tell Mom how much I loved being with her in the garden.
This week, the first peony opened in my own back yard — white blooms first, then royal red and finally pink. I still touch their soft petals and smell their perfume. I remember with joy the days when I taught my own young son about nature, and I think of Mom with gratitude for all that she has given to me.