Thursday, August 13, 2009

August doldrums

Gentiana paradoxa x septemfida

Gentiana paradoxa

I fiercely resented August as a child: after the vast ocean of June and the endless undulations of July, August stretched out with depressing interminability: my best friends, you see, were off to the beach or visiting grandparents, and I was stuck in Boulder--which back in the fifties was a sleepy little town with few students in the summer and no hippies, yuppies or tourists to throng our real downtown. Which was not a mall.

I would go fishing with my dad: always fun (although if my mom knew what he did with me she would ring his neck and never let me accompany him again). He was old school, which meant kids were tolerated but not necessarily cosseted. Fishing trips were his fun time and I was frankly a bit of baggage ("so you want to go fishing again? take the kid this time") and once we parked the jeep at whatever trailhead, he would park me by a stream or reservoir and tell me to stay put and spend the rest of the day on his own in the high country.

I shall never forget those magical days (although I hated being left alone at first): that's what inspired me to start walking out in the woods and spend time admiring the Lady's tresses (which I knew was an orchid at least) with her wonderfully blossoms twisting around her body, often growing near the piercing blue of gentians. They were fringed gentians up there (Gentianopsis thermalis) which I have managed from time to time to grow in my garden at home or work. It acts like an annual.

Now that I am older and wiser, I yearn for August to stretch on forever, and as for June and July, they shoot by like bullets. The gentians loom much larger in my life: I grow dozens of species and seek them out wherever I travel. I even grow Lady's Tresses--the Eastern form (Spiranthes cernua 'Chadd's Ford') although they do not bloom for me until October at the earliest. I have gentians blooming then, so my August idyll of the mountains is delayed...

Right now, the summer gentians (G. septemfida and G. paradoxa and their hybrids) are at their peak: come by and check them out!

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