Winter Blooms

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

February 15, 2019

February—a meager month for Minnesota native wildflower seekers. Even skunk cabbage is still buried in snow, waiting out the subzero temperatures.

So we go looking for flowers in indoor places, beginning with the relocated Bell Museum. The incredible dioramas from the old Bell museum whose backdrops were painted by Francis Lee Jaques have been reconstructed in the new building on Larpenteur, and we wander from display to display, exclaiming over the wildflowers “blooming” in the woods and wetlands and prairies, as excited as though we were outside and seeing them for the first time.

Look, Virginia bluebells! Dwarf trout lily! Bluebead lily! Calypso! Bunchberry! And…wait, wait, we know this one, um…uvularia…bellwort! Our identification skills may have grown a little rusty, but a field trip or two once spring arrives will remedy that.

The dioramas also display birds and fish and mammals, but we are focused on the flowers. Where else can we escape phenology and see so many different flowers from different habitats and different seasons, all blooming at the same time?

Our second stop is the Como Conservatory, which we love to visit every February. The flowers here aren’t Minnesota natives, but stepping inside the tropical exhibit is like wrapping up in a blanket of warmth and humidity and birdsong. Lucky sloth, who hangs in a tree all day, soaking in all this sensory delight.

In the fern room we can feel our desiccated selves drinking in the moisture and greenery. The sunken garden explodes with scent and color—azaleas, cyclamen, pansies, lilies, amaryllis all in vivid purples and reds and fuchsias and pinks. And a wander through the rest of the conservatory takes us past so many orchids we stop trying to count.

On a cold February day, we are drenched in spring for a few hours, enough to last us through the rest of the icy days until skunk cabbage melts the snow away and snow trilliums bloom among snowflakes and another native wildflower season unfolds.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

January in Minnesota

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

January in Minnesota and not a flower in sight.  So Kelly flew five hours south to Costa Rica in search of sun, sea, and color. Although January is the early part of the dry season in Costa Rica, there were plenty of flowers and green to counteract the Minnesota white she left behind.  And she learned that, later in the year, 1300 different kinds of orchids will bloom in Costa Rica.  (Minnesota, by comparison, has 49 orchids.) Just as Minnesota’s state flower is an orchid, Costa Rica’s national flower is also an orchid.

In Minnesota coffee beans keep us warm and awake.  In Costa Rica in January Kelly saw the delicate blossoms that will become our precious beans, along with hibiscus, bird of paradise, red ginger, and so many more colorful flowers we have yet to identify.

Flowers are not the only beautiful things to see in Costa Rica.  You could easily mistake a colorful toucan for an elegant flower, and hummingbirds, like flying flowers, are everywhere—50 of the 338 known species of hummingbirds can be found in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica in January is balm for the Minnesota soul.  We are already scheming to take a trip to Costa Rica when we can go together and the orchids will be in bloom.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

Winter Wishes

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

I keep wanting to write a book called Next Year’s Garden because every garden I plant makes me think, “Next year I’ll do it this way.”  Just as every year offers new opportunities to plant other flowers and vegetables or to try different varieties, so each year of wildflower searching offers new opportunities to see both old favorites and also flowers we haven’t yet encountered.

We know we’ll begin the year in late March or early April with skunk cabbage making its own heat, with snow trilliums blooming through a snowfall, with pasque flowers opening on a high hillside.  We hope to see favorite woodland flowers, prairie flowers, bog flowers.  But we’re eager, too, to see flowers and plants we haven’t seen before.  So here is our wish list for 2019 of flowers so far unseen or as yet unphotographed:

Ball cactus blooming
Brittle cactus blooming
Squirrel corn
Autumn coral root
Striped coral root
Tubercled rein orchid
Glade mallow
Hill’s thistle

Places we want to visit:
Rustic roads in Wisconsin
Clinton Falls Trout Lily Scientific and Natural Area
Ladies Tresses Swamp Scientific and Natural Area
Lawrence Creek Scientific and Natural Area
Iron Springs Scientific and Natural Area
Black Lake Bog Scientific and Natural  Area

No matter how eager we are to start looking, it’s clearly winter outside, and winter has its own beauty, which we’ll enjoy while we wait for the earliest bloomers to show up.

Here’s to a bountiful year of native flowers for us all.

 


Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo