Fleurs de June


  • Impossibly well-endowed rhododendrons, carpets of showy roses, brief delicate appearances by irises and orchids such as ladies slipper _ June arrives with a flourish.  Depending on temperature, some will last a few days or a week, others extend the entire month.   In a few weeks, as solstice arrives, almost all annual blooms will reach peak.  Some will continue all summer, others will quickly be pollinated and work on the important target of producing fruit. 
  • A few people claim this is absolute perfection, and believe a continuous floral world would be heavenly.  Such exists in tropical zones.  But I truly enjoy the wild madness of seasons, when solar energy must be seized as conditions are right, and every day is preparation for another cycle of dormancy.  Maybe I am just a masochist, but that aspect of nature presents a continuous morality play and entertainment unmatched by the stifling dripping sameness of an equatorial jungle. 


Stein sighs a rose is just a rose
Exactly true, yet also wrong
Several billion years of death,
And birth, and glorious strife
Enclose each rose
As they do you,

As they do me, who is just me.


  • Swordlike leaves, sultry voluptuous flower, an iris resembles something out of medieval mythology.  Adding to the mystery is the impossibility of telling exactly which plants will bloom, if ever.  When display does appear, it almost instantly vanishes, broken by wind or rain or some internal process of shyness.  Like a unicorn, the more it is pampered, the less it thrives, dying of attention.  An impossibly perverse plant, but gorgeous.
  • Ours came with the house, originally started by Joan’s mother, under whose care they thrived.  We have had no such luck, but we keep nursing them along, and hoping, and are occasionally rewarded.  This specimen, in particular, lasted exactly three magical days, racing into high heat, destroyed by heavy downpour.  I could force a lesson into that, but for once I will rest content at simply having enjoyed its moment.


“Your patio is amazing,” remarked Jean as the four of us settled into our chairs.  “How did you get it all so early?”
“Joan does all the work,” I said, “she’s been shopping for weeks.  We had some of the stuff in the garage for a while when the weather was so bad.”
“And then I have to plant it all,” noted Joan proudly.  “Lots of work.”
“Not as much work as the shopping,” I reply.  “She needs everything just exactly the right color.”
“They usually don’t have just what I want.  I need to keep going back and grab the right plants when they come in.”
“So all of this is new every year?” asked Richard, amazed.
“No, there’re a few annuals,” Joan pointed a few out almost defensively.
“I was reading about making a really natural garden in one of my magazines.”  Jean likes to have a point of view.
I laughed.  “If we let this become natural it would look like any vacant lot in town.  Does anyway, if we don’t keep up with the weeds.”
“But I read it’s not as good for bees and birds and butterflies if you just put in common stuff from the store.”
“Well, I like what I like.  I know how I want it to look.”  Joan is, in gardening, a true artist.
“We get lots of birds in any case,” I added, trying to find a middle ground.

Fortunately, at that point the conversation swerved into families, and we could relax for a while to enjoy our drinks in peace.


  • Roses star in Huntington’s June.  Not only are many insanely beautiful, but the wide varieties include native or naturalized species that thrive like weeds (which is, remember, the classic definition of a weed _ a rose in a cornfield.)  Some fill the air with perfume, some climb thickly as if by design on old buildings and walls, some stun with intricate internal folds and patterns.  For the next few weeks
    , they are ubiquitous.  After that, they become less clamorous, although there always seem to be a few blooms somewhere until frost.
  • Years ago, my own statements would have sent me racing to reference materials.  “How widespread are roses?”  “What does the species include?”  “Which were originally found on Long Island?”  Now I rarely bother.  That may be a failure, or sheer laziness, but I prefer to think of it as a deepening wisdom.  It is well to know the accepted details of many things which can expand my worldview, but enchantment does not really require massive common knowledge.  Enchantment with life is what I now seek.


  • Now almost a century on, back in my mother’s day, there were small crystal globes filled with liquid in which was preserved a flower _ typically a rose or orchid.   Often it held memory of some special moment _ a dance, a wedding.  Like a soothsayer’s apparatus, this small keepsake would hold place of honor on a shelf, mantle, or table.  We would examine it closely once in a while, the curved glass acting as a magnifying lens, a strange curiosity.
  • I sometimes think of my life that way, as a bloom to be preserved in the equivalent of one of those spheres.  I am not of the generation that thinks in terms of being embedded in a matrix, nor of the persuasion that my disembodied spirit will somehow flit free of worldly ties and do something else.  I like my fleshy envelope, and would be quite unhappy and quickly bored without it.  But, like most humans, I find it is a little frightening to consider that all ends, and the universe continues on as if I had never been.
  • Ah, but preserved as some rare bloom _ I like that.  Some creature out of time free to examine my prides and faults, to admire or point out blemishes.  I imagine a kind of envy such as I sometimes have reading a particularly good biography.  Time, of course is the last frontier, and we are so entangled with it that I doubt we shall ever comprehend how life and the arrow of entropy really intertwine with the cosmic surge of leptons and branes.
  • Am I a weed or lovely hothouse production?  Does it matter?  All such judgments are in the eye of the beholder, and as far as I know I remain the sole beholder.  Misty fantasies for a rainy, meditative afternoon.


  • Assorted festivals and fairs, like this art show in Hecksher Park, are part of the human efflorescence of the month.  Weddings, of course, are the other tradition.  People and their crafts of amazing inventiveness bloom as much as any flower.  Passersby are merely amazed at what they can see, touch and purchase.  This day was perfect, but rain washed out the next.
  • From conversations, most of the artisans here are dilettantes, in the sense that all their income is not dependent on what they make and sell.  Quality is as high or higher than that of professionals.  I understand that those who live and breathe and sell and perfect art are wonderfully able to craft things nobody else can.  But in the American market, at least, those who seek to earn a living from their efforts find they must devote huge amounts of time to sales,  and warp their skills to continually provide artifacts which require more novelty than vision and technique.