Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Harvests of Jewels, Pockets of Treasure

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Harvests of Jewels, Pockets of Treasure

Article excerpt

For several growing seasons, the multihued photographs of fields filled with wildflowers drew my gaze when I thumbed through seed catalogs. Rolling meadows dotted with daisies, sprinkled with scarlet poppies, and crowned with golden coreopsis radiated from those catalogs. I was determined to establish such a sight and pestered my husband, John, until one spring he disked up an eighth of an acre for me.

Back and forth I trudged, leveling the ground with a rake and tossing wildflower seeds. A phoebe called from the nearby copse as it watched me. Off to the west, gray clouds hung low over Lake Michigan and I quickened my step. A spring shower would be the perfect blessing to help the seeds swell and germinate.

Despite my efforts, only a few larkspurs towered pink and blue above the quack grass. Mice, voles, and starlings probably ate a portion of the seeds, but grass choked most of the baby plants. My husband informed me that I should have cover-cropped the soil first in order to conquer the quack grass. I tucked my dream field into a corner of my mind and hoped to try again some other time.

When my son's honeybee business expanded to 60 hives, many of our dinner discussions focused on the problem of "nectar valleys," those times in the growing season when bees have trouble finding an adequate source of nectar. Spring flowers and blooming orchards allow the bees to fill their supers swiftly in May, but come late June and early July, the nectar supply drops.

"We need more flowers," my husband said, a rare statement from a man who teases me about encircling my vegetable garden with old roses.

"How many flowers?" I asked, envisioning a trip to our friends' perennial farm.

"Acres and acres of flowers," John answered.

My vision of wildflower fields danced to the front of my mind.

While John disked, cover-cropped, and prepared the fields, I searched the seed catalogs for plants best suited for our climate and soil. Scientist that he is, John called the companies and requested information on which of those seeds were similar in size to clover seed. He chatted with the experts and explained that he wanted to plant a bed of clover beneath the flowers, so all the seeds must roll through his seed drill. …

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