Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Orchids Are Coming!

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

I had a revelation the other day about just how great my husband is. When we first decided to build our house, we came out one afternoon to walk the property and daydream. You know how that is. Our heads brimming with hope, we star-gazed a bit at the ideas circulating in our thoughts. This was when I first noticed these strange tiny flower stalks shooting up from between the blades of grass.

The ordinary observer might not have noticed them at all, but my husband and I are not ordinary observers. Our idea of a great nature walk involves identifying as much flora and fauna we can. We are forever telling each other of some bird sighting, some rare plant we passed, something that is finally in bloom.

So here were these unusual flowers, their slender, green stalks circumnavigated by seemingly negligible white blossoms. That is, they were negligible until I looked closer and realized that each flower held the perfect shape and form of an orchid.

Ladies' Tresses Orchid
Ladies' Tresses Orchids, Spiranthes vernalis

Imagine that! These tiny insignificant flowers buried in the surrounding overgrown grass were orchids!

It's amazing to me how many beautiful things people walk by every day, blind. Aren't most wildflowers just weeds? I already shared with you the saga of the toadflax, which bloomed and faded just weeks ago. Those are very common wildflowers here and people mow them over all the time, yet for me they were beautiful.

Toadflax
Toad Flax

For most of the year these orchids are invisible. In fact, they are also called "Leafless Orchids". Buried in the grass, you can search and search and never locate one. This is where we have a problem. Because we never know where they will pop up from or how many will blossom, mowing in the spring is out of the question. You cannot possibly mow orchids!

Last year it worked out great. The orchids bloomed for a few days and then faded back into the soil before the grass began its summer growth. But things this year from the very start have been different. When my husband decided to mow the toadflax, his thoughts went immedately to protecting the orchid buds. You see, we had spotted a few already. Setting his blades high, he commenced to the task thinking the buds were not yet tall enough to be damaged.

The good news is it worked! The orchids were coming!

But as time went by we were hit with another problem. The warm temperatures had the grass, and thereby the weeds, really growing. Now what do we do? This is where I say my husband is a great man. He refused to mow the orchids. For two or three days he crisscrossed the field marking every flower stalk with a small wooden stake. He trimmed around the base of each one by hand, to avoid any possible damage, and then spent extra time carefully navigating all those poles.

I have told him time and time again how appreciative I am. What other people might have overlooked, are valuable to me, and to him. And in the coming weeks when the flowers finally open for their brief span of life, he and I together will be the ones who reap the reward of such amazing diminutive beauty.

I am grateful for that, and I can't wait.

Ladies' Tresses Orchid

*These photos were taken last year.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


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