Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hunting for Violets

When I was 2 (my mom used to tell me), I announced that lavender was my favourite colour.
This was in the 60s, long before the pink-and-purple tidal wave of girly paraphernalia had swamped the shores of commercialism. In my violet-starved Southern California youth, there were very few lavender clothes to be had; even our garden sported only a small pop of purple here and there from a few Johnny-Jump-Ups (violas) planted by my rose-preferring mom. On our rare visits to Disneyland I would feast my eyes on the giant beds of bluey-lavendar ageratum, bordered with vivid yellow marigolds, that lay at the entrance of Torrowland. Lavendar and yellow remain a favourite colour combo to this day, thanks to those long-ago landscape designers of the Magic Kingdom.

Eventually I grew old enough to sew my own clothes, and could finally seek out the colour I loved. By then I loved all shades of purple, though lavender continued to hold center stage (even my wedding dress was trimmed with lavender ribbon, and I wore lavender shoes underneath). The purple-and-teal boom of the late 80s brought mixed feelings - it was delightful to have so many plummy-tinted things available, but a little frustrating that what had always been "my" colour had become so common. We humans are a discontented lot.

Now I'm old enough not to care about trends. I like what I like, and if other people happen to be liking it too, great. If not, no problem. It helps that I now live in Wisconsin, which turns all kinds of delightful shades of purple* every spring.

First to come are the violets. They show up just a few days after the dandelions appear (purple and yellow again!) to delight the heart of purple-lovers everywhere for a few precious weeks.

It's violet time right now, and last Sunday I went out on my bike to find some.

*For the purists out there: "violet" is a true colour with a place on the visible spectrum of light, while "purple" is a composite colour made by combining red and blue (thanks, Wikipedia). They are not identical, but they're close enough that many use the collective terms interchangeably, as do I.

~

It's a great day for a ride: sunny, mild, and as nearly windless as our part of Wisconsin can be. Today I am visiting my favourite wild-violet patches - the roadside spots where in past years they've bloomed most thickly. After months of grey-and-white winter, I'm ready for an orgy of purple.

So is Tallulah:


First unintentional bug photo of the year (bugs are always photo-bombing my wildflower photos):


The wild violets here come in all shades: medium to deep blue violet, rich reddish-purple, delicate lavender, bright white with streaks of violet at their hearts. I love them all.


It's a glorious day. The sun is warm on my back, and it feels great to be tooling around the countryside, stopping for photos whenever I like, peering into the marshes in search of watercress (no luck), and generally poking my nose into spring.

Birches shine white in the sun:


Wild honeysuckle is thinking about blossoming:


A field that has lain uncultivated for years has been unexpectedly plowed:


(What will be planted there? Enquiring minds want to know.)

Hardwood trees are shedding their blossom:


A favourite wild apple tree blushes, entertaining daring thoughts of an early bloom:


Another favourite tree, oak this time:


Iris gets parked against a handy gate...


...while prowl the verge snapping meadow anemone (A. canadensis), another of the earliest wildflowers.


What a treat to be out, both on bike and on foot, in the spring.

~

Four days later it snowed. The violets in the lawn shivered and hugged themselves, trying to stay warm while melting snowflakes clung to their curled-up petals. This too is spring in Wisconsin.


And the weather has stayed chilly and rainy ever since. This weekend I took only one short ride, to look for wild plum blossom. I think I'll save that for another post.

Are there violets blooming where you are?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~