Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Soapwort's Sweet Fragrance and Stately Beauty

The downward spiral has begun. Well, it began back in June, on the first day of summer. Now, the sun sets a wee bit sooner and rises just a touch later. And one of my favorite wild plants, soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, comes into bloom at this specific sun time.

It took me years to get this lovely flower established at my place. Seeds failed and transplants died. But eventually, I managed to coax two or three plants into existence. And from them, this European biennial took hold and now, it enlarges its territory each year.

Soapwort, so-called on account of its ability to produce soapsuds when placed in a vessel with water and vigorously shaken, has considerable value as an emergency form of soap. It has a gentle effect, like that commercial product that proclaims that babies won’t shed tears if they get it in their eyes.

But I rarely use soapwort as soap. The double flowers, white-and-pink, have a delicious, I’d say Heavenly aroma. Besides that, I just like to look at them. They are wicked pretty.

Soapwort, like most of our other favorite wild plants, has a brief window where it sets flowers, the flowers get pollinated by visiting insects and then produces seeds. The flowering cycle doesn’t last more than two weeks, but during that time the soapwort in front of my house gives me two weeks of sweet fragrance and old-fashioned, stately beauty.

Could anyone ask more of any wild plant?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the downward spiral has indeed begun. Some evenings find fewer doors open and some windows lowered just a but to lessen the suddenly chill air. I head out to my deck, coffee and book in hand, a little later these mornings as the sun hasn't quite made it over the stately pine that graces the edge of the lawn that gives me the feeling of seclusion. When I do go out, the often chill morning finds me moving from sunny spot to sunny spot until the deck is finally awash in warm sunshine. It is then that I head for the umbrella, book and coffee not quite done. But one quiet morning a day or two ago was started with that subtle twisting, cracking sound that always preceeds the unmistakable WHUMP of a large tree hitting the ground! I checked the clock and it was still on so I knew the power line hadn't been hit. I KNEW what tree had fallen! I'd been watching the remnants of a once proud birch, rotten at the base and peppered with woodpecker holes. I worried about it's trajectory when it finally fell: would it hit the deck; hit the birdbath and woodshed or take out the power line? Fortunately it missed the powerline be about a foot or less. Now as I chase the sun across the deck in the early morning I puzzle over how to remove the wreckage. I guess it must wait for the next visit from a son living away. Until then, it will become part of the landscape and I'll probably miss it when it's gone.
    Tom, thank you for such a quietly beautiful blog. I felt inspired. Hope you don't mind.