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Summer is over, and the garden which has cheered us all season looks depressingly bedraggled. Whether it’s the vegetable patch or the flower bed, it’s mostly gone. It’s weedy, overgrown, messy and, furthermore, someone is going to have to cut it back, pull out the withered vines, clean it up. But there are still morning glories. In the low morning sunlight they look like scraps torn from the sky. Others can rave about their hardy mums – you can have them by the bushel at the supermarket – but the morning glory can’t be sold or bought or cut or carried away. Its glorious shades of blue are evanescent and the flower itself is gone before the day is done.
If you keep looking for solace as summer ends (as we do), now’s the time to be grateful for nasturtiums. These are the most rewarding flowers. They seed easily, require no fertilizer, and given sun and water they’ll blossom through late summer and into chilly fall in dazzling bursts of color. In addition to presenting a brilliant appearance, nasturtiums are edible, both flowers and leaves, having a fine peppery taste taken whole or chopped in salads, soups, and butters. And if you work indoors at, say, writing grumpy political articles or reviews of overlooked movies, a small bunch of these blossoms will light up your desk or widow sill.
Almost everybody knows what the American robin looks like. Robins are as familiar as pigeons and far more colorful. People who don’t give a damn about birds can spot a robin in the city park or the suburban front lawn. Robins also have a nice burbling and trilling song, though a lot of people who recognize the bird wouldn’t be able to identify the song. Western robins are pale and drab compared to the richly colored Eastern robins and, in general, robins can be found, sometimes sparingly, throughout the United States all year round.
Children, some children, still listen to the story of how the robin got its red breast. Actually, there are a couple of stories about that. One story says that a robin, seeing Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns, tried to pull the the thorns away and accidently pierced its own breast; hence the blood red breast. The more familiar story is that the robin, seeing two near-frozen wanderers who slept by a flickering fire, fanned the flames to keep the fire alive and thereby saved their lives — and the robin has had a fire-red breast ever since. OK, the robin’s breast is more orange than red, but these are stories with a nice moral at the end.
Robins aren’t sophisticated about real estate when it comes to building nests. They can build well, but they have no sense of location, location, location. They’ll build a nest just about anywhere, even five feet off the ground in a back yard patrolled by a cat. Or in the crotch of a branch that swings in a breeze and tosses wildly in a gusty rainstorm. Robin’s eggs are a beautiful shade of blue and, in fact, the color is known as robin’s-egg-blue. The photo above shows a clutch of robin’s eggs in a nest built between three outdoor lamps projecting over a backyard patio. As we said, robins are not sophisticated about location.
We’re putting these flowers here just because we need a break from this all this heavy thinking. Besides, we like the way they look. The flower is called called foxglove and it belongs to a larger family called digitalis. You may have heard of digitalis as a medication for certain heart problems, specifically atrial fibrillation, a rapid and irregular heartbeat. An extract from the foxglove plant was used as a remedy that disorder as far back as the late 18th century. The name digitalis is appropriate, for the elongated bell shaped flower do fit neatly, glove like, over your finger tips — over your digits. Get it? As for the name foxglove; well, there are lots of theories about that name but no one theory is agreed upon. And, anyway, we said we were posting this photo to escape heavy thinking.