Saturday, June 24, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Lupines

A few years ago, our Maine innkeeper persuaded us to try a visit in June in addition to our usual trips in August and October. "You HAVE to see the lupines!" he said. We didn't even know what they were. He also told us that the island was much quieter in June than in the high season and that settled it. He's a born salesman — he sold cars and was a haberdasher back in Australia, and he has an antique shop now, where the even the most unlikely items (a lefthanded cross-bow, anyone?) routinely fly out the door. I only wish he'd decide to sell us on visiting in May, July, and September, too.

Anyway, lupines.

We begin to see big patches of them growing wild along the Maine roadways just north of Portland. I know they grow further south, but we don't see them. (And I recently found some in at least two gardens here, on Commonwealth Avenue, but it's not the same effect.)

There's a field of them not far from the inn:

Most lupines are deep purply-blue, but there are pink and white ones, too. I bought the innkeeper a packet of seed that promised some red and yellow ones. We'll see if he's successful.

Apparently lupines aren't fussy, although they prefer cool, wet climates and well-drained soil, even if it's sandy and poor. That explains their profusion along highways, I suppose.

There were some growing wild by the harbor parking lot, so I helped myself to a few for our room. The best way to pick them, if you don't have pruners, is to twist the stem with two hands until you sever it. The flowers have a strong, sweet scent, and it's good idea to change their water often. I changed it twice a day since I had a small vase. In a few days, the dozens of little flowers on each stalk will start dropping and making a mess.

Outside, as the flowers fade and drop, the displays become less vivid day by day. By early July, all the color is gone and you'd never know there'd been a purple spectacle amid all the greenery.

So, in June, it makes sense to celebrate them.

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