Jerry Nelson: Take a second to stop and thank the flowers

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Image of the author.

Let us pause for a moment and give thanks and praise for flowers.

Those who live near me — our farm lies at 44 degrees north latitude, which means we can have as many as 44 weeks of winter — may recall that a few short months ago we would have given a major body part just to see green grass. This caused many of us to develop a troubling addiction to the Golf Channel.

But nowadays, a casual glance out the window reveals glorious green to the far horizon. Depending on your point of view, you may think, “Wow, that lawn looks great!” or “Wow, it looks like I need to mow again!”

Next to many houses are flowerbeds. Who doesn’t like flowers? Even the manliest man will have to admit that few things are prettier than an armful of roses, especially if you didn’t have to pick the roses yourself and avoided getting an armful of punctures.

The first flower encounter I recall took place when I was a little kid. I was sitting on the lawn near our farmhouse when a dandelion caught my eye. Its blossom was as yellow as freshly churned butter, but what really interested me was the bee that had alighted on the flower.

I thought it would be cool to have a pet bee, so I decided to catch it. I succeeded on my very first try.

The bee repaid my kindness by stabbing her stinger into my thumb. Mom, who was weeding a nearby flowerbed, heard my howls and rushed to my aid. Thinking quickly, she mixed a small amount of dirt with water and applied a mudpack to my injury.

It must have worked because I’m here to tell the tale. Mom said later that a slice of raw onion would have worked better, but that she was afraid that I would have eaten the medicine — I have a deep fondness for onions.

The easiest flowers to grow are perennials, mainly because they don’t need much attention. The peonies next to our house are bushy enough to hide a Shetland pony and produce bushels of Technicolor flowers. Those plants were originally planted by my grandparents and have bloomed each spring without fail for more than six decades. I do nothing for the peonies, and they reward my neglect with a bounty of blossoms.

People have asked me the secret to growing such a profusion of peonies. Just leave them alone, I guess.

My favorite flowers are lilacs. Their blossoms are tiny, but their scent is heavenly. Sadly, lilac blossoms last for only a few days before they fade. They are an allegory for life: something that’s brief and incredibly sweet and needs to be savored every possible moment. Grace begets gratitude.

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly sips nectar from a lilac tree.

I was toking lilac perfume this spring when I caught sight of an incredibly gorgeous butterfly that was sipping nectar, so I snapped an Instagrammable photo. This insect encounter was much more pleasant than my run-in with the bee.

Tiger lilies are another hardy perennial. Mom planted a few tiger lilies on the north side of her house many years ago. Their tubers have since multiplied and crept ever outward from the house, as if it’s their mission to take over the entire planet.

I have spaded up a few tiger lily roots and transplanted them to some undisclosed locations in our road ditch. The lilies have survived and may soon start blooming. I like the idea of surprise flowers suddenly appearing.

My wife’s former job consisted of doing data entry in a windowless cubical. I couldn’t imagine a worse punishment than spending hours and hours beneath the glare of florescent lights and not being able to see outside.

Because I felt so badly for my wife, I would randomly surprise her by sending flowers to her at work. The floral arrangements never failed to attract the attention of and comments from my wife’s female coworkers. I was told that the flowers generated no small amount of envy.

It’s entirely possible that a few husbands were later given the cold shoulder due to their perceived lack of romance and sensitivity — a situation that could only be rectified via a surprise floral arrangement delivered to the workplace.

To my fellow husbands: sorry about that, guys! On the other hand, maybe you should think about showing your significant other some consideration by making sure that she receives fresh flowers every so often.

Which reminds me: it’s time for me to go out by our house and cut some peonies and irises and arrange them in a vase before my wife returns from her shopping expedition.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.