Aunt, Ant, Bee

We are less than two weeks away from the Summer Solstice, but it is sure starting to feel and look summery!

This morning, I glanced outside and audibly gasped. The first perennial poppy had opened!!! Not only the first on the plant, but ‘my’ first. I have admired poppies for a long, long time. I have attempted to grow a poppy each year here. First year? Too wet. Moved it during year two which stunted it. Years 3 and 4? Rabbits trimmed the shoots early in the season. Last year, I moved it to a new spot protected behind an inverted tomato tower wrapped in chicken wire. And today? Gasp-worthy gorgeousness. I edited the photo a bit to make the color more true to real-life and less brash from phone-camera hyper-saturated vermillion. 


A few weeks ago, I inherited five boxes of dahlia tubers from my grand aunt. I wish I knew how many years she has cultivated them. Many, many years, at least. I was honored to be trusted to continue the tradition. 

I put the tubers in fresh boxes as visible in the photo. After two hours of separating the tubers, removing any shriveled parts, tossing just a couple moldy knobs, and checking for a viable eye on each, I had 74. If only I had the space to grow them all! Alas, I depended on friends and neighbors and friends of neighbors to adopt some. I now have 20 sprouting here. They are just an inch or two tall. Part of the fun will be to see what color and shape the blooms are on each. Did you know dahlias have 8 sets of chromosomes?! No wonder people geek-out breeding them. There are over 20,000 named varieties of dahlias, and breeders keep conjuring new ones every year. 


There are lots of ants where we live. Neighbors who have been around since the area was filled with houses in the 1980s tell me it’s always been this way. Before that, legend says a tobacco farm used this land. I may never know the specific history of ants in the ecology here, but they are very much an active part of it. 

They are moving chickweed seeds, violet seeds, and lots of wood sorrel seeds. Sidewalk cracks frequently have green shoots pushing up and ants active nearby. Why is this? Ants collect small seeds to feed the nutritious seed caps to baby ants. That yummy coating is called an elaiosome. Notice the beginning of the word is kind of like “oily” because it is made of fats and proteins. The actual seed is then tossed out of the ant hill. Many of them germinate, and lots of folks like to call the resulting sprouts “weeds” 😉

This beautiful dandelion might have an ant in its origin story.

The other evening, I noticed an ant in the garden working hard to move a dandelion seed. I recorded this ecology-in-action to share with you. Personally, I find it inspiring. I can watch Olympians and think, “That feat is amazing!”. But there’s something about a bitty ant carrying a heavy, awkward thing over lumps and divots that is actually relatable. Kinda like when we tried to get a large couch out the front door last summer. (And that took four of us.)


I believe happiness is moments, not a constant state of being. And some of those moments for me are seeing bees in full beeness. Whether they are resting – like the ones on my new blog page – or slurping nectar like those below, there is just something happy-inducing when witnessing bee and flower supporting each other. Can you relate?

And a bee with its tongue out? That’s pretty darn cute whether you are doing official biological observation or just hanging out on the patio with a cocktail. 

Happy weekend, everyone! See you here Monday… with a bun.

Keep growing!