Cooling Off: a Look Back at Spring Purpleness

The overnight low was in the 70s, and it was over 80°F before 10 a.m. this morning. You would need a soup spoon to get through the ozone-fortified, humid atmosphere outside. What a great time to sit under a ceiling fan and revisit the cooler days of May—and purpleness—but non-iris purpleness.

The Alpine columbines do much better in this yard than the native ones do. They seed in, but are very easy to manage. Young plants pull up easily, and are fortunately different enough that it would be hard to pull the natives by mistake. The seedpods are grouped on just a few stalks per plant, and are obvious enough that it is possible to get them all out before they split open. On the other hand, the pods can be put in a paper sack until they spill seeds that can be tossed on a likely spot for future columbines. They look great massed.

They face down until they are pollinated, then turn face up.

Alpine columbines, ranging from not-yet-open buds to a pollinated flower ready to drop its petals. Photographed on May 17, 2024.

The meadow rue also bloomed. The leaves look very similar to columbine leaves, but flowers are quite different.

Meadow rue lives and blooms happily in the shade of the silver maple. Photographed on May 17, 2024.

A few days later, the first of the Memorial Day-to-Independence Day sparklers open: Allium cristophii, pale lavender puffs that gets midday sun between tree canopies. They will also seed in if left to their own devices.

Allium cristophii almost glitters in the sun. Photographed on May 20, 2024.

Baptisia pops out of the ground at the end of April and blooms within just two or three weeks. They start out resembling asparagus, and end of looking like a robust legume. Bumblebees adore them.

Baptisia in full bloom. Photographed on May 22, 2024.

The geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ closes out the month with a native bee I have not seen before, a small, black bee, perhaps a carpenter bee?

Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ with a small, black bee visiting. Photographed on May 31, 2024.

Revisiting these flowers through my photographs I noticed neither honey bees nor bumblebees. That made that little black bee all the more important.

I feel a little unsettled about the missing bees, but I do feel a little cooler. May’s temperatures were not bad even when it got hot—there was a four-day stretch of upper 80s—because it cooled off at night!