My neglected backyard is blanketed in blue right now. Despite all the drifts of native Solomon’s seal and woodland phlox and sweet violets, hundreds of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) have survived and thrive beneath a handful of mature bur oaks and a proud white pine. The landscape seems carpeted with these sweet spring ephemerals that Thomas Jefferson called “blue funnel flowers.” These native perennials, in the words of my friend Marty Ross, bear “tightly bunched packages of purple buds tucked among extraordinarily soft, pale green leaves as broad as paddles. The buds soften to pink on lengthening stems and open to a silvery sky blue, dangling and dancing as though they could really ring.” I love to gather them by the fistful and fill old pickle jars with the pretty blue blossoms. With a stiff drink of water they actually seem to raise up their trumpet blossoms for closer inspection.