Joan Geyer's Story Behind the Art

 
Lyre-leafed sage
Salvia lyrata
 
Salvia lyrata, commonly known as lyre-leafed sage, has been part of my life ever since I moved to central Georgia twenty years ago. This rolling upland region had been heavily wooded before developers came, built roads, and divided the land into parcels. I claimed one for my own, a beautiful acre of dogwoods, redbuds, towering pines and hardwoods. This was my forest primeval.
  
A creek flows through a low, sunny place near the road. When I first came, this area was overgrown with waist-high weeds and saplings, making it impassable. And so, during that initial spring and summer, one might have found me down by the creek with a pruner and a  battery- powered saw. One day I discovered a small patch of lavender flowers clustered atop tall stems, almost hidden among the weeds. When the time came to do the mowing,  I took care to protect these plants after pulling up the weeds around them. What species were these spikes of  lovely  flowers with their hairy stems and oddly-shaped bright green leaves? I didn’t know very much about wildflowers except for the more common species. A field guide was a must!                
 
Within two to three years my hard work was rewarded with a beautiful blooming field of Salvia lyrata, which continue to give pleasure to passersby each spring. I still mow this field next to the creek, starting in summer after the lavender flowers have faded and the rust-colored calyxes have spread their seeds. The larger basal leaves, six to seven inches long, and the tall square stems will get cut back. The rosettes of smaller dark green and purple leaves will remain through a summer of mowing and on to the next spring. These plants create the perfect
groundcover.
 
The Salvia lyrata in my garden never form groundcovers. The plants always grow singly, whether in bare spots or in patches of blue-eyed grass and wild ageratum. As summer wears on, their leaf colors intensify. Bright green leaves tinged with purple become a deeper purple with dark green centers. A leaf might turn magenta or orange, especially when stressed.                                                              
A few of the rosettes will disappear entirely and return the following spring.
 
All of the wildflowers which grow on my land have started out as “volunteers”, some species   becoming prolific. Sadly, several plants don’t reproduce at all, including a Catesby’s  trillium and a striped gentian; both have been growing here for a long time. I always protect these plants with a bit of wire fencing. Over the past twenty years I’ve found more than seventy-five species of native flowering plants, (herbaceous and woody), growing on my tiny acre. Some species stay for several years and then disappear. Others never leave and just keep multiplying. Once in a while a newcomer will show up. (I’m always on the lookout for unfamiliar leaves!)
  
Documenting, portraying, and protecting just a few of our precious native species has been my mission and my passion. Most of my neighbors have lawns that stretch to the boundaries of their properties. I have woods and ravines and wildflowers.
                                           
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  • (C) Joan Lavigueur Geyer