Planning for Wildflowers

Yes, I took a little hiatus the last week as I was traveling for vacation. One of my stops was a three-day visit to Glacier National Park in Montana. It was an extraordinary adventure of hiking, exploring, and oohing and aahing. As my husband and I left the park by train, we sat and discussed some of our respective highlights.

For me, this was easy. From the moment I first set foot off the train and looked across to the Glacier Park Lodge, I was wowed by the flora.

My first view in reverse; you can see the Glacier Park Lodge’s beautiful pathway of local flowers leading straight to the train station.

This early glimpse was enough to fall in love, but my amazement continued to grow. I  think the profusion of vivid color was partly so incredible for me because the snow we played with during our hikes seemed to say “nothing growing here.”

The snow throughout Glacier National Park seemed to decry the idea that there would be so much wild summer color.

Hardly the case. As you might guess, on every hike we saw wildflowers taking over the well-marked paths and growing out of the rock itself.

On every Glacier Park hike, I saw wildflowers taking over the well-marked paths and growing out of the rock itself.

And in many cases, perhaps because  of that short growing season, the flowers wildly grew taller than the hikers … or the bears …

The tall wildflowers evidently are a quick snack for bears, as the markings along this trail would reveal. Number one rule of hiking in Glacier National Park: make noise to warn the bears they’re not alone!

Beargrass’ white blooms top stalks as high as 4.5 feet.

Speaking of bears (and I’m happy to say I did see one and from within the very safe confines of a park shuttle), one of my favorite flowers covering the mountains this time of year is bear grass. Blueplanetbiomes.org notes that this member of the lily family flowers every five to seven years, and is found in open meadows and forests throughout the western United States. More interestingly, the sites states: “Bear grass is a fire-resistant species that is the first plant to grow after a fire. Beargrass, and many other native plants, need periodic burns to produce strong, new growth. After a fire, beargrass sprouts from its rhizomes which lie just under the surface. Light fires of short duration are best. Intense fires which linger in the same place for a long time will kill the rhizomes under the ground, and prevent the beargrass from growing back.” There was additional evidence of past fires throughout the park, but it never ceases to amaze me how cleverly nature works things out. “More light? Yay – more pretty flowers to fill in until the trees grow back!”

Beargrass is one of the first plants to grow after a forest fire in the western U.S., although it blooms only every five to seven years.

The trails were also crisscrossed with delicate streams that gave life to darkly green ferns and other rich greenery. I’m really coming to appreciate the beauty of monochromatic texture and hope to use leaves more in future arrangements.

Ferns sheltered streams created by snow runoff throughout the park.

After all those Westerns I’ve read, I finally know now that Indian paintbrush deserves its name!

The best souvenir of the trip, then, came when my husband spotted the bag of wildflower seeds for sale in the hotel gift shop. He grabbed a pack of 12 (and the separate pack of huckleberry seeds clutched tightly in my hands) and had the total rung up before you could say “Indian paintbrush!” Even knowing I will have to remember to water my seedlings in the spring, and the chance of seeing huckleberries blooming here in Virginia is next to nil, I’m so excited to try my hand at growing my own little Montana garden … although I can’t help but giggle at the idea of working so hard at something Mother Nature manages to create on her own just fine!

Glacier Park Lodge made me feel quite at home by rolling out the red (and blue, yellow and pink) carpet.

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3 responses to “Planning for Wildflowers

  1. Pingback: Elm Nightmare on My Street | Blooming Oasis

  2. Pingback: Flowers for Fun | Blooming Oasis

  3. Pingback: Sowing Wild Flowers | Blooming Oasis

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