Entertaining Them

trout lily

A couple of years ago a dear friend gave me this vintage flower guide book, for wild flowers east of the Rockies. It sat on a shelf until last week, when I finally decided that instead of responding “Um, I don’t know, should we google it?” every time our daughter asks me the name of a flower she picks, that I’d actually find out. So the flower she picked, a Dog-Tooth Violet, turns out, became the beginning of an exploration. We learned its other names—Yellow Adder’s Tongue, Trout Lily, Fawn Lily—and enough about it to feel like we’d made a connection to it, and that we would remember it going forward. When we picked a trillium and identified it, we also learned that the scent is one of “putrid meat”, which was completely accurate, once we stuck our noses in it. One thing to note, as I was telling the trillium story to my friend and colleague, Stephen Orr, who is the garden editor at Martha Stewart Living (where Pilar and I both work), he mentioned that it is probably better to not pick wild flowers unless there are a ton of them in one area. Apparently leaving them ensures that they will propagate for the next year. So, I guess it’s best to take a picture and then i.d. from that. Or take one and press it, and don’t tell your wise gardener friends you did.

You can get this exact book used for around $5, and if you are west of the Rockies, you should look for the Western Flower Guide, a vintage book by Charles Francis Saunders.


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