The Pink Bluebell – A Garden Fable

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Fancy noticed them whispering, and tried to ignore it.  Still, she couldn’t help but overhear some of the comments.

“It just scorches me how she’s bringing down our property values,” said the bluebell behind the windmill.

“She’s the wrong color to be living here.  She must know she doesn’t belong,” said a gangly bluebell by the fence.

Fancy tried to make herself seem as inconspicuous as possible, bending her pastel pink head to one side to reduce her size.

“Stop slouching,” admonished Petal, her best friend who grew right beside her.

“Easy for you to say,” replied Fancy.

Petal sighed a flutter in the breeze, but didn’t answer.  She was tall and strong and had the sweetest scent in town, a fact which made her the envy of all who knew her.

Fancy, on the other leaf, didn’t have much scent.  This wasn’t unusual for her kind, she knew many bluebells whose scent was as weak as hers, but it didn’t help to have too many weaknesses when you were already different, such as she was.

The main problem Fancy had was the color of her head.  No other bluebells in DJ town were pink.  They were various shades of blue.  Most were a dark, royal blue.  Some were a brilliant azure.  There were even a few baby blues – lucky them – baby blues were the most coveted of all.

But only Fancy was pink.  It was bad to be pink.

She bent her stem forward and nodded toward the ground, still trying to find a way to disappear.

Petal fluttered another sigh before speaking.  She was one of the lucky baby blues and Fancy knew that her friendship with Petal was the only thing keeping the others from crowding her out.  Everyone loved Petal.

“It’s not personal,” said Petal.  “It’s not really you they don’t like.  It’s just your color.  They’re afraid of it.”

“But my color is part of who I am,” cried Fancy.  “I can’t change that.”  She was so upset that she squeezed tight one of her little blossoms, until it detached and floated down to the dark, moist earth beneath her.

“Oh Fancy!  I wish you wouldn’t cry.”  Petal draped one long strap-shaped leaf around her, trying to comfort her friend.

Fancy shuddered but made no attempt to dislodge Petal’s leaf.  All around her she listened to the other bluebells complaining, unable to distract herself from their negativity.  She understood what Petal was saying.  They were afraid of her pink.  What if her kind spread?  What if their offspring grew pink?  The town mayor preferred blue.  What if they or their children were thrown out of the precinct?

The weeds were snickering at her plight, and the daylilies were outright laughing.  Fancy could ignore the weeds… they were the local gang problem and were always up to no good.  A byproduct of the general downtrend in the whole community.

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She put the daylilies out of her mind too.  The way they had spread and snapped up the dirt cheap real estate made them unpopular with everyone these days.  But she couldn’t ignore the way the clematis was egging on its bluebell neighbors.  Why were they always so aggressive?  Or the way the bluebells living down the path were frowning at her, along with the heuchera and geraniums.  What did she ever do to them?

Even the bluebells that lived on the outskirts next to the impressive, giant Hosta cottages, were whispering and pointing their petioles her way.

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Fancy squeezed loose another blossom.  Maybe if she cried enough and lost all her pink, the other bluebells would accept her.

Down the pathway a low, round, spiky head bent forward and addressed her.  “Stop feelin’ sorry fer yourself,” Stinky said.  “I’m the only ornamental onion here and do you see me cryin’?”

Fancy was about to retort that Stinky wasn’t a threat to their offspring, but just then she felt a change in the air current and the ground began to shudder.  Around the weigela bush came the town mayor, DJ herself!  Behind her were four other humans, who stood momentarily surveying the town before leaving again.  When they came back, they had shovels and pruning shears.  One of the humans even had a rototiller.

Oh no!  Developers!

The residents of DJ town cried pleas of mercy but the humans paid them no heed.  This is how it was with humans.  Whether they couldn’t hear or chose to ignore, Fancy wasn’t sure, but every resident tried to communicate with them anyway.

The mayor stood and directed while the workers began digging.  They were moving a group of residents to another block.  At least they were kind enough not to out and out evict residents from the town, except for a few old timers who already had an inkling they were soon moving on to the promised compost-land.

After the workers had relocated the residents, one of them brought out the rototiller and fired it up with a deafening burst of wind and sound.

“They’re clearing the land!” cried Petal.  “Watch out!”  A dozen or so bluebells were in the front line of battle and squealed in fright as the rototiller came dangerously close, but none were as close to the blades as Fancy was.

When the roaring stopped, Fancy and the other bluebells still stood.  There was a great clearing in front of them, Fancy being the closest to the edge.

One of the humans leaned over Fancy.  He was holding a pair of pruners and motioned to the mayor.

“DJ,” he called.  “Come look at this. Why is this one bluebell pink?”

All eyes were on Fancy.

“That’s it!  You’re done for now, you freak!” screamed the weeds.

“So long loser!” hollered the daylilies.

“Save yourself Petal!  Move away from her!”  yelled the other bluebells.

But Petal just folded herself as close to Fancy as she could get.  “Hide under my leaves,” she whispered.  It was too late.  The humans had seen Fancy and were pushing Petal out of the way to get to her.

Fancy closed her blossoms, not wanting to see the inevitable when it happened.  She extended her roots as far and fast as she could and twisted them to hold on tight.

“What a sweet little plant,” said a kind voice.

“It doesn’t fit with the rest,” said another.  Then added, with a hint of humor… “It’s a bit of a rebel, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” answered the kind voice.  “But it adds a special spot of beauty to the whole.”

Fancy risked a peek and opened one blossom.  The kind voice was coming from DJ, the mayor of their fine town.

“Look at how the pink accents the other bluebells.  What a pretty color combination.  If it spreads, won’t the blend be beautiful?”

The other humans agreed, all looking at Fancy and smiling.

“I’ll come out tomorrow and put down grass seed,” said the mayor.  “A green lawn, lined with bluebells, daylilies, and clematis will look lovely here.”  Then two of the workers set an ornate garden bench in a bare spot in front of the pathway, and they all gathered up their tools and left.

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“A green lake,” breathed Petal.  “They’re putting one of the green lakes here.  Right beside us.”  She spread wide her stems and grinned tip to tip.

Fancy grinned right back.  Everyone was murmuring.  First relief, and then joy.  They all loved the green lakes and rivers in their town.  It meant a big jump in property values.

“Thanks for sticking up for me Petal.”  Fancy touched one leaf tip to her friends pretty blue flowers.  “That was a brave thing to do.”

The sun was high in the sky now, and bees were buzzing about the town.  The bluebells were once again staring at Fancy, but they appeared to have a different attitude this time.  She didn’t hear them complaining.  Instead, they were contemplative and quiet.

Petal leaned over and affectionately brushed her baby blue head against Fancy’s pink.  She gestured to the other bluebells but addressed Fancy.  “Know what they’re thinking?”

“What?”

“Their wondering if maybe they shouldn’t try and be your friend too.  Instead of shutting you out.”

“I don’t get it,” replied Fancy.  “Why should they change their minds now?”

“Well, for one, the mayor fancies you,” said Petal.  “They don’t have to worry anymore about losing blue.  They can blend without retribution.”

“So?” said Fancy.  She still couldn’t wrap her stems around the whole, complex problem.

“I told you.  It was never you they didn’t like.  It was their fear of being found pink.”

When Fancy didn’t answer right away Petal nudged her and gently said, “It’s a start, Fancy.  We all have to start somewhere.”

Fancy thought about this.  She wasn’t sure she could forget their ill treatment quite so readily.  But maybe Petal was right.  It was a start.

She swayed in the bright afternoon light, enjoying the bees in her blossoms and the warmth of the soil between her roots.  “Know what, Petal?”

“Hmmm?”  Petal was caught up in the sensation of pollination herself.

“We’re living on lake front property now.”

Petal glanced at her and laughed.  “You got that right!  And guess who owns the prime location?”

Fancy looked around and realized it was her that was closest to the new shoreline.  She laughed back at Petal, straightened to her full height, opened wide every blossom and stretched her anthers.

She tilted her pastel head to gather as much light as she could, and she shined her color for the whole town to see.

Yes, she thought.  Things were definitely looking up.  It  was good to be pink.

The Renegade Bluebell

 

 

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Great Balls Of…. Green?

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Marimo balls are the “pocket pets” of the plant world.

Also known as Moss Balls or Lake Balls, these cute, fuzzy little green balls could fall in the category of novelty plants.

They are perfect for low-light rooms, an office desktop, or for decorating a table.  Plus, they are great attention getters from co-workers, friends, and guests.

I saw pictures of them while cruising eBay one day, and did a little research.  The more I read about them, the more fascinated I became.  (Yeah, I ended up buying them on eBay.)

As with any plant, they have their aficionados and collectors.  Certainly I could be one, if I let myself get carried away with them.

They are actually a species of algae, but don’t let that turn you off.  They look like velvet, and feel like velvet too.  They’re pretty darn cool!

Whenever I have guests, I fish one of my Marimo’s out of their jar and drop them into my visitors hand.

That visitor is always impressed.  They love the feel and they can’t believe the balls are real, live, photosynthesizing plants.

Some websites will try to tell you that algae is not a plant…  sorry guys, but Marimo’s are scientifically classed as belonging to the Plantae kingdom (Taxonomy discussions on algae become mostly semantics anyway).

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One of the coolest things about Marimo’s are the ways you can stage them.  As you can tell from the photo’s, I just keep mine in a plain, glass cookie jar… nothing fancy… but Marimo’s can be dressed up much the same as the ever popular lucky bamboo pots, with colorful glass beads, ribbons, and beautiful vases.

In addition, given a little extra room, Marimo’s have a habit of sinking and rising to the water surface, much like the wax inside a Lava Lamp does.  Take a beautiful glass container, put some glass beads in the bottom, add tap water and the Marimo’s, and you have a real conversation starter.

Marimo balls are popular additions to aquariums as well, but if you’re interested in using them in that fashion it would be a good idea to do a little research and look up how other aquarium owners use them.

As far as caring for them in a vase goes, plain tap water works just fine, with a little care:

Every 7 to 10 days take your Marimo’s out of the vase and rinse them off in clean tap water, squeezing them just a tiny bit to remove any impurities.  Wash out the vase and fill it with new tap water (room temp), then put the Marimo’s back in.  That’s it!

If you want to start new Marimo’s you can tease a little bit off one of the balls and put that in the vase alongside the others.  The little ball will eventually grow into a big ball.

Marimo’s grow somewhat slowly.  I have read websites where it says it takes 7 years for a ball to grow to the size of my palm, but my experience has been that my Marimo’s grow much faster than that.  Still, they are not like my potted plants, they do increase gradually, not with leaps and bounds.

Also, if you find they are losing their nice spherical shape, it means that not all sides of your Marimo are getting enough light to photosynthesize, and is thus growing more on one side than another.  The solution is simple, just twist the vase around occasionally so the balls tumble around and are exposed to the light much more evenly.

If you see little bubbles surrounding your moss balls, this is a good thing.  It’s called pearling, and is a sign that the plants are photosynthesizing well.  It’s quite lovely to see – makes the water look like champagne.