Tuesday, September 21, 2010


My neighbours of ten years moved out today. They and their possessions drive past our house in a convoy and I stand on the step and wave and try not to mind.

Distraction needed . . . so I crawl along the pavement, peering into flowers. I'm trying to spot the moment when a seed is formed. It's a bit like trying to determine when water boils or turns to ice - except worse. At least with water one can see something of the process. With boiling it's perfectly practical to stand there and watch - and guess! It may be hard to identify the moment of transformation but at least the before and after are clear to the eye.

I once watched a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis. It took several hours and looked painful but, beyond that, I have no idea what was happening. The nearest I could say was that it seemed to be turning itself inside out but I assume that isn't what was happening. Such a miracle would be a famous fact. It's odd watching something that doesn't make sense.

I haven't the patience to stand in the garden and watch and wait while flowers produce their seeds. I have to turn away sometimes and stages get missed. (Flowers get picked and it rains and . . . I like to go to bed sometimes and . . . !) So this is an incomplete post. I'm pleased to say though that even if I haven't caught everything, I've learnt a lot by trying.

Here are some missed-stage results.

Maybe, next year, I'll come back to fill in the gaps!

First up. Hollyhock.

Here is a flower.

Here is what happens next.

I hit on this project a bit late and, by then, this was the only flower left. When I went back - it had gone (plucked off by a passing child, I suspect)  . . . so the tantalising stage - how on earth this yellow froth changes to a circle of large seeds - is missing.

None the less, we have a photo of the final result and a seven-spotted ladybird walking around on it too! There were lots of seven-spotted ladybirds on hollyhocks as they died so when I cut the plants down (had to, they were leaning all over the place) I stacked them at the back of the bed where they look dreadful but I know who's sleeping inside and I feel smug with the secret.

There is one plant left standing and still it's dropping its seeds.

When they are gone - the head is left empty, like this.

Next - Busy Lizzies.

Bizzie Lizzies are not my favourite flowers. Some are better than others but the one I have had in my garden all summer is eye-hurtingly garish. It has been bright red non-stop and has provided the nearest I've managed to a flower-to-seed documentation.

The little brown spike off-centre will turn into the seed.

In this picture, the seed has grown and is really clear to see.

Finally, the petals (which have been un-nervingly perfect until now) fall away and the seed is left, polished and exposed on the end of a stick which probably has a botanical name but I don't know what it is! (Again!)

Although I'm trying to be objective, I'm having to steel my nerve. Looking at plants in this way feels un-seemly; over-intimate. When I looked into the delicate flowers of Lemon Balm, I felt uncomfortable. It was as if I was looking up the skirts of flowers. (These are the flowers at the top of this post.) Hence the title.

I never managed to see what the balm did next. I chopped the tops off by mistake. And I never looked at the Cowslip flowers much either before they produced their seeds - I had the idea too late. But the seeds arrived, of course they did, whether I noticed them coming or not.


These are much less embarrassing plants to peer into than some of the others.

Close up and magnified, the seeds look like little lumps of sugar in a bowl.

Finally, the outer layers shrivel and go brown and I come along and shake out the ripe seeds around the garden. This is very noble of me because I like Cowslips only marginally better than Busy Lizzies. (I like weeds the most in my garden but I have to grow  'proper' flowers for other people and, when I planted the Cowslip, I thought it was endangered. I was doing 'my bit'. I'm no longer certain Cowslips are at risk at all but . . )

One thing which startles me, in all this watching, is how many ways there are to form seed. Here is another.


This is what the Lupins looked like in June. (I could show a close-up but one's eyes can go squiffy unless allowed to free-range from time to time. Clicking will take you closer.)

If you did click . . . you will have seen how bean-like the individual flowers are; a legume. And here are the pods after they've begun to dry out.

Dry and dryer . . . until the pods split open and the rows of pea-like seeds drop to the ground.

So, that is why I was crawling along the pavement when my new neighbours arrived - only this time I was looking into the faces of California Poppies.

California Poppies are bold. They don't hide their reproduction under their skirts they . . . well, I suppose they do it on their noses.

Most people understand why one might admire a pretty flower but not everyone understands why peering at them this closely is so absorbing. Bees know though. This morning, my friends were bees. Lots of them.

So there will be lots of seeds to show!

(I hope!)

(P.S. My new neighbours seem very nice and fairly-well un-bothered by my habit of crawling-along-the-pavement-by-the-flowers.)


HappyMouffetard said...

Wonderful phrase, wonderful idea and wonderful photos.

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Happy Mouffetard.


Barbee' said...

Esther, you are amazing. You amaze me. I never know what to expect. This post is delightful!

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Barbee.

It's so nice to be able to wander off in different directions.


easygardener said...

There is such a variety of size and shape with seeds. Equally fascinating is why some flowers produce two or three and others hundreds.

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Easygardener.

You are right!


James said...

What a wonderful garden. It's been a long time since I really looked at what goes on amoungst the flowers.

Elephant's Eye said...

I never did think about a caterpillar, painfully turning into a chrysalis. Or how a flower, step by tiny step, makes seeds. An award winning Estherism! ;>)

Dawn/LittleGreenFingers said...

You do realise you're only a small step away from Dudley Moore and his telescope in '10', don't you?

Bet your neighbours put net curtains up within the week...

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Wow, that is one interesting, unique,non-boring, fascinating post! Also great shots to go with it. I loved looking up flowers skirts, I may have to try in in my own yard...:),

Love your background.

Ewa said...

what a wonderful garden and photos!

Bernard said...

This post takes me back to my school days and the Biology lessons. Loved it. :)
It is a strange coincidence, that only last week I watched a video from BFI Film Archives (1930). It was 'time-lapse' photography about seed production in Sweet Peas.

"This classic film from the long-running 'Secrets of Nature' series shows the birth, life and reproduction of sweet peas - as shown via an enthralling combination of close-up and time-lapse photography, occasionally interspersed with stop-motion animation, narrated by a somewhat florid commentary that has dated rather more noticeably than the still-astonishing images."

I'm sure it is much more rewarding to do things yourself, but if you were interested, you can watch it here:-

Olive Cooper said...

Hi Esther, your flowers are stunning. I also crawl around and take photos and am convinced my neighbors think me odd. They have no idea what a blog is! Thanks for visiting me. ♥olive

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

What an excellent post, Esther. I'm totally fascinated by the time and dedication you've taken and the way you put things into new perspectives with your photography. The best post I've read this week, I think.

Barbara said...

After looking at your "boring" blog and finding it anything but, I've enjoyed this post just as much. Great writing and photography.

joey said...

A wonderful post, Esther! Great photos, informative, and great read. Thank you.

Linda said...

You're right, these shots are surprisingly intimate. There are worse ways to crawl along the pavement.

JANE E KIRN said...

I adore the progression of flowers to seeds too. Seeds and weeds are attractive to my eyes. Found your blog yesterday and will be visiting often.

Elephant's Eye said...

Our Esther, will be linking back to you from my Dombeya's skirts ;>)

colleen said...

So glad I popped in for this lovely tour (de force).

catmint said...

great post, I'm also fascinated by how and when seeds form, but so far lack the patience to wait for the change. But I also do like to get down to their level (lucky the new neighbours are not bothered by your crawling habit!)

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Excellent post Esther! Although the notion of maintaining two blogs simultaneously seems exhausting! Glad I'm not the only one with dirty knees shoving my camera lens into bee-laden flowers :P

Jan (Thanks For Today) said...

Hi Esther, it is fun to look inside the flowers during their various stages of bloom and disintegration. I don't feel embarrassed at all - I'm assuming you were just kidding;-)
My problem is that I don't have the patience to stand their waiting for all the stages, either. I can't imagine standing and waiting for a crysalis to turn into a butterfly! You definitely have patience if you were able to manage that! I've had several pupa's around the yard this year, and when I have checked on them, they've been empty. I have wished many times that I could have watched the miraculous emergence...but it never happened. I hope you have photos when you saw the changes and the butterfly emerging!!

Jan (Thanks For Today) said...

I just re-read your post and realized you watched the caterpillar turn into a pupa. Well, I think that takes the same (enormous) amount of time, and patience!

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks James.

It's not a big garden - but in even a small space there's a lot to see.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Diana at Elephant's Eye.

Thanks for the link - and for the fave on Blotanical too!

There are so many small dramas going on in the world around us - painful and otherwise. Nature isn't kind!


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Iowa Gardening Woman.

If you do a post on Looking Up the Skirts of Flowers - do let me know so I'm sure not to miss it. It will be interesting to compare notes!


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Dawn - nearly all my neighbours have net curtains already!


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Ewa.

Glad you liked the 'Skirts' post.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Bernard.

You are right - even though films and books and lessons can be interesting and enlightening, observing on one's own behalf is wonderful.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Olive.

When people find me crawling around in the street, looking at plants, I tell them about the plants but not about the blog! (Perhaps I'm frightened of what they would say here!)


Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Jodi.

Your approval means a lot.


Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Barbara.

I'm glad you came to visit and that you liked the blogs. Both are up and running, sometimes one, sometimes the other, depending on the nature of the post. Hope you will come again!


Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Joey!


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Linda.

I've never had to try the other way of crawling along the pavement. (Thank goodness!)


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Jane.

Your own photos are wonderful - flowers and other things too. I'd recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Here's the link.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Colleen.

I enjoy your pun!

Everyone else - here's another interesting blogger.

Colleen's blog is Rus in Urbis . . . in London as if in the country . . . sort of - but not exactly (!) - take a look if you don't already know her blog.


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Catmint.

Watching seeds form is easy once one thinks of it. Flowers stay put so you don't have to seek them out - and you don't have to hover . . . just take a look every few days.

I'm hooked!


Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Curbstone Valley.

Two blogs isn't any harder work than one as long as you don't set yourself to post on both on the same day!

This one is very different from the other - which doesn't have photos and isn't all gardening.

I find it easier to keep them separate rather than muddle the styles. (Whether my readers find it easier may be another matter!)


Esther Montgomery said...

Hell Jan.

I spent no longer watching the caterpillar change into a chrysalis than I would going to town to see a film - except to see this transformation may turn out to be a once in a lifetime experience whereas a film . . .

It was before I had a camera so no, there are no photos. And it wasn't hard or boring because this was in my kitchen. We had two chrysalises that year. Both hatched butterflies. We didn't see them emerge. Each time we came in to find them fluttering around the room.

There are none this year - maybe because I've given up on brassicas!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...