It seems that we have had our one day of spring, and now it is summer. At least I have been working in the garden a bit, and it has been really warm. Fortunately, I didn’t trust the weather, so I didn’t put out the bedding plants I had purchased.
Instead, I have been carrying them in and out every day so they haven’t gotten too pale and leggy or frozen, so I think tomorrow will be the day when they actually go into the garden.
I have, however, uncovered the perennial beds and discovered the flax plants are already well grown. Our native flax, Linum perenne, makes a graceful, dainty garden plant that oddly enough, is a hardy perennial. It has exceedingly fine wiry stems that are a foot to two-and-a-half feet high, topped with cymb of clear sky-blue flowers. They are the bright blue of a Colorado sky about one-inch across.
However, they display this brilliant color for the early riser only. By late morning the flower is spent, its color faded and its petals begin to fall. The dropping buds twist upward into an upright position over night and another bloom opens the next morning. Thus, the plant brings its touch of bright blue to your garden for some time. Due to its thin wiry stems, the plants swing and sway in the slightest breeze, dancing with the wind.
There were a few plants in our yard when we came here 45 years ago, but I have not been able to increase their numbers by much even though I have scattered seed most every year.
Our native flax has pistils of two different lengths, which is supposedly a method of preventing self-pollination. They are fertilized by honey bees and therefore may be one of the plants that is suffering from the decline in honey bees. At any rate, as much as I would like more flax plants in my yard, I have not been successful at getting more to grow.
Flax has been a cultivated crop since the earliest days of history. It is recorded in the Bible by the mention of fine linen and was used in much of the world for this fabric. Today, it is still grown for this fiber and also for the flax seed and flax oil, which is added to many food products because of their high nutritional qualities.
Flax is grown locally in large fields near Boulder and other valleys at the edge of the foothills. It is the Eurasian species of flax that is grown for that purpose. It is an annual and is known as Linum usitatissimum, while our native perennial flax is now known as Adenolinum perenne in newer publications.
The original generic name of Linum came from the Greek linon, the classical name for flax or linen. Perenne simply designates that our native species is a perennial whereas the Eurasian species is an annual.
Unfortunately, these two plants have hybridized in areas where they both grow, and it seems to be causing a decline in our native plants. It would be a shame to lose our native plant through hybridization for it is one of our most lovely June wildflowers. I hope it will always be a vivid part of the June landscape in our natural world.
I had a phone call on May 20 from Carma Johnson, who lives in the Soda Creek area. She had a Lewis woodpecker visiting her feeder for several days last week. Her husband photographed the bird and it most certainly is a Lewis woodpecker.
Lewis woodpeckers were named to honor Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition since he was the first person to collect a specimen of this bird and ship it back East to be described and named by the scientists of the day. They are beautiful birds with a watermelon pink belly and red face. They are quite gorgeous in their breeding plumage.
They are birds of the stream valleys in the interior Rocky Mountain West. They are not birds of the deep thick forests but are at home in the more open stream valleys where they find deciduous trees, especially large, old cottonwoods.
I have never seen a Lewis woodpecker in Evergreen, but I have seen one in Red Rocks park, and they are reported fairly regularly from the Parker-Castle Rock area. Look for them anywhere that you find large cottonwoods.