Photos and text by Dee Schaefer, Becketwood Member
Hemmed in by formal, clipped boxwood, you spring anemones
toss your white faces and yellow hearts into the wind.
Quietly swaying, you move above jagged, dark-green foliage.
Ungovernable, undisciplined, and playful, you brush the stiff border.
Blue False Indigo
Birds, butterflies, and gardeners fall in love with you
in early summer.
You tantalize with your tall, gray-green foliage and purple-blue
Only rabbits and drought find your shrubbery resistant.
As a North American native plant, you drifted into the lives
of indigenous peoples and early settlers.
They found you useful for fabric dye and medicinal purposes.
Your dry pods are celebrated for their kidney-shaped seeds
which rattle inside their large bi-valved housing.
Some even call you rattle weed or rattle bush.
Once planted, you refuse to be moved.
Your taproot settles deeply into the earth.
You have only one flaw: you are poisonous.
Although integrated into American gardens,
you are an outsider imported from central and eastern Europe.
There is something seductive about you.
In the spring, you stand tall in grassy clumps with elegant clusters
of deep purple blooms at your summits.
Your larger trio of petals, etched discreetly
with fine lime green and gold designs, evokes
delicate Art Deco jewels.
Your velvety texture invites caressing.
Above your lower petal trio jut six spear-shaped petals
grouped three by three.
Your symmetry embodies order. Your rich color
embodies wealth. Your sword-like petals embody power.
No wonder the medieval kings of France chose you
in stylized form for their signet rings.
What would it be like to slip on your gray-green cloak
made of velvety pleated leaves with scalloped edges?
What would it be like to adorn one’s garment
with your delicate, yellow-green sprays of flowers?
What would it be like to capture your droplets of dew
like crystal jewels on one’s mantle?
According to a medieval legend, the Virgin Mary wrapped herself
in your exotic foliage from Turkey and the Carpathian Mountains,
perhaps unaware of its medicinal power.
What would it be like to share Mary’s choice?
Are you at home in a formal garden?
You have fled from North American grass prairies
with a reputation for drought tolerance.
Although your cousins are daisies, you display defiant
cone-shaped heads prickly to the touch.
Your rough leaves discourage picking.
Yet butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to your
purple, pink, white, and red blossoms.
Around your gold cones float neat rows of petals
like tiered skirts of ballerinas.
Ensuring your survival, your tiny seeds swirl
in the autumn wind.
Your controversial immune-boosting effects
and soothing qualities for sunburn are legendary.
All winter long, your sturdy silhouettes remind
passersby of your qualities. You are tough.