For seven years I've been thinking about going to this annual event, but something always got in the way. One year we were heading over to Winfield to go to the Walnut River Valley Music Festival. Another year we were on a trip to England and Norway. Yet another year we were getting ready to leave for a trip to Germany. The year before last, I was getting ready to take an adopted dog down to our daughter in Florida.
"Where did you go last weekend? Why did it take you so long to make it?" you ask. "It sounds like you were doing LOTS of traveling already, so that can't have been the problem."
"To the Annual Wildflower Weekend of the Kansas Native Plant Society," I answer. The AWW, as many people seem to call it. As to why it took me so long to make it a priority to attend, I can't give you a rational answer. All I can say is that I'm glad I went this year.
This year Greg told me to go. I politely scuffled my feet a little, feeling quite guilty at leaving him home alone to take care of the homestead for 2 days while I went out to "play"...then I shoved the guilt down, made my reservations, and skedaddled.
I'm so glad I did. I had a great time and I had a chance to see some beautiful sights and sites. Most exciting of all, I reconnected with a couple friends from many years ago, had a chance to meet two friends I've previously known only through blogging, and became acquainted with several other folks who are new friends in the making. The most hopeful part is that all of us share a passion for plants and animals and wild spaces...and learning about the web of which they are all a part.
In the photo above, Theresa and Melanie (with Melanie's daughter Cami) are two friends I've met entirely through garden blogging. It was so much fun to share time with them in person while poking around and looking at plants. Cami seemed to have a great time exploring, too, and she and I explored our common interests in taking photos and looking at insects and rocks.
This year's AWW was based in Pratt, Kansas, home of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Not surprisingly, our first field trip was to the KDWP museum and to the pollinator garden right beside it, in the southeast corner of town. The Pratt Master Gardeners have done a superb job of putting together a beautiful and interesting pollinator and native wildflower display garden, complete with a gorgeous pool, for which they received a well deserved award from KNPS.
Whispered on the wind were comments about possible expansions of the native plant display gardens, as well. Wouldn't that be awesome?!
I have no idea what the official plant list (i.e. total species count) for the weekend was because I was doing some landscape gazing, some insect hunting, some photography teaching, and a lot of chatting...besides looking for flowers and grasses, of course.
This delicate white beauty is the flower of the Sand Lily (Mentzelia nuda) in the Red Hills of Kansas. Such a beautiful, soft looking flower on such a thorny, spiky plant!
A last extra punch for the weekend was getting to hear Iralee Barnard speak about grass identification (an area in which I am sadly lacking) and then being able to purchase her new book, Field Guide to the Common Grasses of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. It's a great help and, after reading it, I already feel more confident in my ability to tackle a few of the more obscure grasslike plants that I'm seeing around our prairie at home, Patchwork Prairie.
Will I return for another AWW? Absolutely! It was an AWWsome chance to become active in a human community of interesting and fun plant nerds! It was also an AWWsome chance to roam around and learn about plants in natural areas that are normally unavailable for "regular folks" to explore. What wasn't to like?!