Earth Day: Five flowers I love and why

Roman Chamomile
Not the bastardized version that every cosmetic company now synthesizes and manufactures into dish soaps and shampoos, but the real, beautiful, soothing, medicinal thing. (And not German or Wild Chamomile, either – Roman!) The name means “ground apple” because of its sweet, fruity scent, and it had been used medicinally for everything from childbirth to malaria. The true essential oil costs an arm and a leg, but a dropper’s worth can be put into a few ounces of a cheaper base oil like sweet almond or jojoba and after a week or two, the whole bottle will have the scent. I like to grow the plant in the summertime, somewhere near a doorway, and brush my hands over it as I come and go.

If your child has the “evil eye,” and is constantly invading the thoughts of others with his or her mind, lavender can clear that affliction right up! (So say the mythology books.) Another herb that I like to grow in high traffic areas so I can touch it regularly, and to which no fabric softener version can compare, the calming properties of lavender aren’t a myth in my book. It’s also the first flower I remember, growing along the side of my childhood house.

Hyacinth was a young man beloved by the Greek god Apollo, who inadvertently killed him with a poorly thrown discus. I love the flower because it grows from a bulb, and, save some the challenge of keeping critters from digging them up for lunch, bulbs are the easiest things in the world to plant. They are also among the few bulb-grown flowers that are truly fragrant. Declan and I planted about a dozen bulbs last fall, and we’ve been enjoying their scent in the kitchen this week. (I cut them and bring them in when they get tall enough to start bending over.)

In the garden I always think I want, I’m surrounded by blue flowers – a bit of sky on earth, or water on land. There are creeping vines of morning glory, blankets of phlox, lean irises and tall sprays of delphinium, which can have several shades of blue on a single stem. Each petal looks like a mini-horizon. The name derives from the Greek word for dolphin, because of the diving shape of the blossoms.

I never had much use for these beyond the fun of blowing the fluffy ones apart when I was a kid. But these days, my son likes to pick flowers for me. Because we try to be good citizens who don’t pillage the gardens of city parks or our neighbors, Dan steers him toward dandelions and other little weeds. They usually come to me in little bouquets, tied with a stem and accompanied by kisses.

But the blooms wither quickly, which upsets Declan, because he wants his gifts to last. So we’ve taken to putting them in water.

Happy Earth (“Earf“) Day.

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