Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

It’s that time of year when summer’s flower gardens are coming into beautiful, full bloom, carefully tended by their proud owners.

I love flowers, but am, unfortunately, not much of a flower gardener myself. My proudest flowering plants this year are in the patch of bee balm located at the front of our little wash house. The bee balm’s deep burgundy blooms stand high atop stems that are nearly as tall as I am. In fact, they almost totally obscure the windows of the wash house, creating an exterior curtain. I really can’t take much credit for these pretty perennials — about all I’ve done is try to keep an invasion of mulberry sprouts from overtaking the bee balm.

Beyond the bee balm, I have several other perennials that bloom at different times during the summer. The tulips, hyacinths and daffodils of spring are long gone. I already enjoyed the pretty pink peonies that bloomed around the perimeter of our yard back in late May. Right now, I like the bright-yellow evening primroses at the end of the lane, where they show off along with my other, smaller stand of bee balm. I also have some pretty purple perennials that were gifted to me by a friend who had too many of them in her yard; unfortunately, I can’t recall what variety they are.

My Gramma Bowman was an excellent flower gardener. She had pansies and Johnny Jump Ups and gladioli, as well as snapdragons and geraniums. Her rhododendrons were massive and she took such good care of her beautiful rose bushes. Nowadays, the only time I see many of those flowers is at the Lebanon Area Fair, where everyone displays the best cut flowers from their home gardens.

There is another place, however, where I see a colorful variety of flowers. It’s along the roadside — and I’m not talking about a roadside stand. I think we take for granted the flowers that grow wild beside country roadways and perhaps turn up our noses at the ones considered to be weeds. But just because they’re weeds, doesn’t mean they’re not attractive to behold.

During late June, I saw the vivid orange of tiger lilies blooming along numerous byways. I also have a nice contingent of these long-stemmed beauties growing around our farm. They started out in front of a stone retaining wall, where they’ve been blooming since before I was born. I like them so much that I transplanted some of them to the ends of our corn barn, in front of the old chicken house, and along the stone wall in front of our barnyard. My recollection is that there are so many of these flowers along public roads because they were once used by the state highway department as ground cover for hillsides, so it’s likely they don’t really qualify as weeds.

In my recent travels, I’ve also been seeing other pretty posies blossoming. I have a warm spot in my heart for flowers that are blue or purple in hue, so I love to see the bright little blooms of cornflowers poking their heads out by the roadside. This weed is so pretty, it even has the color “cornflower blue” named after it.

Another weed I find particularly attractive is Queen Anne’s lace, also known as wild carrot. It has such delicate leaves and its flower heads made up of a cluster of little white blossoms surely merit their lacy name. When I was a little girl, I’d pick them to make a bouquet for my mother, but like many weed flowers, they wilted quickly even when they were put directly into water.

Daisies and black-eyed Susans should soon be appearing along the edges of country thoroughfares, lending their smiling faces to the scenery. They’re sure signs that summer is in full swing, as they add to the roadside flower show.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.