The Music of Flowers

Carol A. Hand

When I first moved here almost four years ago, it was October. The leaves had fallen, old branches were piled to the top of the four-foot fences, and the yard was filled with an odd assortment of metal poles and lawn ornaments. Of course, they were all set in concrete and it was difficult to tell if there were any plants other than raspberry bushes and unhealthy baby trees all along the fence line.

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Photo: Front Yard – Real Estate Photo – 2011 (the windmill and metal tree are gone now)

In the spring, there were a few surprises – an assortment of the most invasive ground covers one can encounter – lilies of the valley, snow on the mountain, yellow woods violets, creeping bellflowers, and or course the ubiquitous creeping charlie. There are a number of other plants with similar characteristics that I have yet to identify. They all have dense, deep root structures that form an impermeable cover over the clay soil that lets little water through. The removal process means jumping up and down on a steel-bladed shovel to clear at least the first foot of soil. Of course, every seed that has been waiting to germinate now competes to totally fill any open space. Viola tri-color flowers and forget-me-nots are lovely. I suspect that they were favorites of the previous owner who planted them anew each year because of all of the plastic plant tabs I find in the soil (along with nails, glass, shingle shreds, and other sundry garbage). The little seeds have been patiently biding their chance to grow – and grow they have – choking whatever else I try to plant.

There have been other discoveries as well – cow parsnips and buckthorn trees. Both are beautiful, but the sap of cow parsnips can cause serious blisters on skin when exposed to sunlight, and buckthorn tress spread rapidly and are threatening the health of Minnesota forests.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the challenge of trying to breathe new life into earth that has been neglected for so long. It’s a matter of having patience to try to reestablish some kind of balance. I’m inspired by the miracle of witnessing the astounding variety of life that emerges from tiny seeds. Who could guess?

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Photo: Gardens have replaced the windmill and metal tree – August 30, 2015

As I contemplated the plants that need to be harvested next – carrots and beets – I heard a song on the classical radio station that my parakeets listen to during the day. I discovered that flowers have inspired some of the most beautiful compositions. Today, I decided to share two of them: The Flower Duet  (from the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes) and Waltz of the Flowers (from the Nutcracker ballet by Piotr Ilich Tchaikivsky). I know I do have a somewhat unpredictable eccentric taste in music – but can’t you hear the flowers sing and see them dance when no one is looking?

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Photo: Zinnia from my Granddaughter’s Garden – August 30, 2015

The Flower Duet – Sung by Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca  (Lyrics with English translation here)

Waltz of the Flowers (from the Nutcracker ballet by Piotr Ilich Tchaikivsky)

 

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53 thoughts on “The Music of Flowers”

  1. I’m not often into solo soprano’s (or duets) in classical music, but this is one of those exceptions. It’s beautiful. The Tchaikovsky is pretty good to.
    We’re just coming into spring so looking forward to all the new growth.

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    1. I’m so glad you liked the flower duet, Graeme. I find it to be hauntingly beautiful. It was more challenging to find a decent video of Tchaikovsky’s piece – some were rather humorous…

      It’s fascinating to realize that half of the earth will be experiencing spring as our leaves begin to fall.

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      1. Fantasia has a lot to answer for! But it did make a whole lot of music known more broadly. I remember seeing it over 40 years ago and remember them well still. I actually tried to see which animation they used for the Waltz of the Flowers but they don’t seem to be on YouTube anymore. I think it was with fairies but I’m not sure.

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        1. Yes, Disney did popularize classical music. I remember the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. (You might want to check out Vimeo. There were more choices for videos there but I wasn’t sure what the limitations for sharing were. I remember seeing Fantasia listed.)

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        1. It has been interesting to see what comes up each year. Some of the gardens are transplants, others are seed mixtures I’ve scattered, and still others just appear. I can never predict what will survive the ever-changing weather and animal visitors …

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        2. I have two neighbors in the elders’ apartment building across the street who teach me the proper Latin names for my plants. Both grew up on farms and have so much to teach about gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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        3. They are both delightful and often stop by on the nice days when I’m working outside. They asked for my permission to sit on the bench in my yard and look at the gardens. Who could refuse such a request?

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  2. How beautiful your garden is now! It sets an example of what hard work, persistence, and love can do to make a difference in the world. 🙂 I can’t listen to the videos just now, but I know and love both those pieces, and especially Anna Netrebko’s singing, so thanks for posting; I’m looking forward to listening later. I definitely believe beautiful music, gardens and flowers go together naturally! 🙂

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    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, JoAnn. I wish I had time to sit on my deck. This week and last, I’ve been working on cleaning gutters and scraping paint with my grandson’s help. This morning, I was up on a ladder caulking cracks in the siding before the sun was too bright and the yellow jackets arrived. Hopefully, I’ll be able to paint early tomorrow morning, and then, I have carrots and beets to harvest and preserve. And the list of inside and outside repairs is never ending in an old fixer-upper house. But it’s home and I’m grateful for the shelter and the beauty the surrounds me. I truly wish everyone had at least these privileges.

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      1. Sounds like you’re getting a lot of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise! If you’re preserving beets, I wish I had some of their left-over tops – love the greens sauteed with garlic and a splash of wine vinegar.

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  3. Your house and its environs, adorned by the painstakingly created garden is looking beautiful, carol, blending perfectly with singing of Anna Netrebko and Tchaikovsky’s waltz of flowers. With the way you are sweating over it, your garden promises more such waltzes…best wishes.. Raj.

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    1. Such lovely comments, lozzafun. Thank you. Yes, it is a lot of work but worth it on so many levels. My grandchildren get to learn a lot about plants, gardening, and problem-solving when helping and neighbors stop by to share their knowledge and let me know how important it is for them to see gardens. I even have fresh or preserved vegetables grown without chemicals 🙂

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    1. Chi miigwetch, Peter. It is a lot of work, and in the heat we have this week, it feels futile at some moments. Yet even today, in the high 80s, I had the luxury of sitting inside washing carrots for hours. With hours more to go, I’m still grateful for the peace and the chance to do something that will remind me of summer sunshine in the dark, cold winter. And I’m grateful for kind friends like you who remind me that there are good people in the world who care about all life.

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  4. Wonderful as usual, you have a gift for communicating things with both words and images that I secretly envy (in a good way).
    As a permaculturist/horticulturist by love (not trade) what you wrote attracted my attention: “They all have dense, deep root structures that form an impermeable cover over the clay soil that lets little water through.”…it is now starting to be well known that what we call ‘invasives” and “weeds” are actually colonizers and healer plants: notice that because the soil is more clay than anything, plants that grow there have deep and long roots: their mission/function in nature is to heal and slowly transform that soil. We humans tend to be pushy and want all for now and even yesterday, so we don’t have the patience or the wisdom to wait, worse when we learn that that healing transformative process may take longer than our lives can afford…if you see where dandelions and plantain grow, you’ll notice is also usually depleted and “bad” soil and sometimes nothing we can barely call ‘soil” yet…they have a deeply important mission…allow them to do that in at least a small piece of your garden. Weeds are telling you something about the health of your soil and are actually trying to help, because they know much more than we do…:)

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    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Sylvia. As often happens, your comments were thought-provoking and made me think about the permaculture movement from a different perspective. Although I agree with the general principles, there are aspects that remind me of the need to think critically about how to operationalize them in my own ways. Most of the plants I listed as weeds are considered as desirable ground cover by some – but they come from other continents and have no natural controls here. Without proper care, they choke out indigenous life. I can’t escape the symbolism that holds for me as I try to reintroduce native plants or grow food.

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      1. I had the same (but opposite) feeling when I first attended a talk about native and “invasive” plants…as an immigrant and refugee, I feel I have no roots and sometimes I’m not welcomed anywhere, not even my own land…then I asked the question to the speaker: how many centuries or decades a plant has to be living here in order to be considered “native”? Tomatoes are not native in Italy (they are from the Americas, same as potatoes, corn and so many other “staples”…but you wouldn’t imagine Italy without tomato sauce…the world doesn’t really belong to any group or specie, and when species move and adapt quickly, we may have to “observe and interact” as Permaculture teaches us, to see “why” that happens: is not exactly the same with humans when they invade, oppress and abuse ancient cultures…the topic is even hotter now with all the refugees (“migrants”) looking for a new home in Europe…most Europeans coming to this continent were poor and were looking for land, resources and a new life as Europe was already too small for them. We are all victims, we are all refugees…why are certain plants moving north and displacing others? Nothing is static, all moves. Sometimes because it has no other option, like refugees…

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        1. Such a fascinating perspective, Sylvia. Your initial comment made me realize that I needed to describe more of the context for the work I’ve done with my yard and gardens which I did do in my most recent post. I’d love to hear your thoughts because I think this is a very important dialogue about very different vantage points – native (oppressed) roots and newer (oppressed) arrivals…

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  5. OH my-what a beautiful home you have made:-) Wow! I am struggling with balance in my garden. I decided the other day– as I put a handful of common goldenrod in a vase. I will grow what appeals to me + gives me joy. I know when I leave this place the land will change. Another will breath their soul into the land….but I am sure some of me will remain:-)

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