Beyond Yellow

A yearling White Tail walks through our dominate yellow prairie.

A yearling White Tail walks through our dominate yellow prairie.

With a nice little breeze tickling our prairie the other evening, I smothered myself in DEET and took my camera into the our fledgling wild and native grasses and forbs. Once inside the grassy “jungle” a realization hit rather quickly (besides the mosquitoes that were seemingly unimpressed by the supposed deterrent): We are immersed in a sea of yellow! Yellow Cone Flowers. Yellow Wild Sunflowers. yellow this and yellow that. Every direction, all 360 degrees of them, are beaming with yellow.

Browsing through my recent archives of images from our eight acres of prairie starting from about a month ago, yellow has been a dominate theme. Not just with the flowers, either, for Rebecca’s garden was flush with yellow warblers for awhile and the gold finches, which are really more yellow than gold, are constant visitors to the feeders and tree branches around our solarium. Out in the prairie, almost every blooming forb to date is some form of yellow. Impressively, the yellow comes at you from all angles, shapes, sizes and hue. Corporate Kodak would be impressed!

Yellow, yellow .. everywhere is yellow!

Yellow, yellow .. everywhere is yellow!

As much as yellow is welcomed, we are quite pleased when we see a few native Purple Prairie Clover heads sticking up here and there, which have added some charm and variety. We are in desperate search for other differing colors. Rebecca found a couple of lavenderlish Bee Balms blooming, and in a corner by her garden, her Cardinal Plant is showing off some vividly red blossoms. Otherwise, it’s all yellow … with the exception of the green, warm season native prairie grasses.

The following morning Rebecca suggested we go on yet another hike through the prairie. We make a trek almost daily. This time it was upstairs first for a long sleeved white tee-shirt and long pants … anything to keep the mosquitoes at bay. With the sordid heat and a naked sun pounding down on us, we were fortunate that the pesky pests were snuggled in tightly to the bases of the plants. We started at the garden and made a big wide looping circle around the house and grove before coming back in through the road ditch to the driveway. In that “awkward” portion of the grove we also checked on three of our elm tree plantings and found they are doing quite well. I’ve not looked them since many of the bushes and trees in that area, including two other elms, were destroyed by a skunk or coon digging in after the smelly fish-based fertilizer we used. The animal was quite efficient in digging out and laying the bare root plantings at the edges of the holes as it went clear to the base in search of a dead fish.

Side Oat Grama is emerging, and is seen here with a couple of Native Purple Clover.

Side Oat Grama is emerging, and is seen here with a couple of Native Purple Clover.

If given a report card on our tree and shrub plantings we would come out looking quite well. Besides those few we lost to the smelly fertilizer, our only other losses included the four grape vines and one of the plum trees in the orchard. All to standing water after the days upon days of rain. All the other trees and shrubs seem to be doing well thanks to those same rains where we had better drainage. Rebecca’s garden and the other shrubs and trees we planted last year are doing well … with exception of the one apple tree in the yard that our resident white-tailed buck debarked scratching velvet from his stately rack last fall.

Then there is our prairie, all eight acres of it, all awash in bright yellows amidst the stark greens of the native prairie grasses. My goal on our walk on this morning was simple: to find anything out there to photograph beyond yellow.

We were very hopeful of finding more that the two or three Bee Balm plants, and yes, we found many clumps of the Purple Prairie Clover and a few of the white variety. Both were far from being considered dominant.

Some of the earlier forbs have begun to wither and head into dormancy as new successions come forth in this constant march of summer. Since this is our first real summer when the prairie looks like, well, a prairie, it will mature and change with time and climate conditions. Although we have been  dropping new sneaked wild forb seeds here and there, and even wedging in a few of our favorite forbs such as the Cardinal Plant and a flat of Prairie Smoke, we may be a year or two away from seeing any results.

Almost coral-like, this purplish plant going into dormancy stood out simply because of the color.

Almost coral-like, this purplish plant going into dormancy stood out simply because of the color.

Years ago our dear friend and prairie maven, Kylene Olson, executive director of the Chippewa River Watershed Project, told me to never assume that a prairie will look the same two years in a row. With that in mind, perhaps we should simply enjoy our bright sea of prairie yellows without complaint, for rarely is a color so warming to the soul. How can one maintain even a hint of madness with such gay day brighteners all around?

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

One thought on “Beyond Yellow

  1. A.MA.ZING!! as usual!! i so appreciate your photography and the writing that accompanies it 🙂 thanks, john!!!

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