Have you ever had the singular, unique and life-altering opportunity to touch lambs ear, a.k.a. Stachys byzantina? Or, rather, shall I say “pet” lambs ear? Because, just as no one can eat just one potato chip, no one can simply touch lambs ear once without getting sucked into a weird sensory zone of comfort and cute.
If you have never had this pleasure (I wish computer screens were 3-D and had a textural component, but go ahead, touch the screen anyway and imagine this): lambs ear is like the super-soft blanky you had as a toddler and secretly took with you to college. It’s like velvet dress you wore to a formal event sophomore year and kept finding yourself rubbing your own puff sleeve. It’s like…well, it’s like the ear of a little lamb. Not that I’ve ever petted one of these, but I trust that it feels exactly like Stachys byzantina. Awww:
I first discovered the lambs ear phenomenon while visiting my friend Sylvie here in Nyack a few years ago. Her backyard garden is a lush, verdant, and well-curated. Though there were many alluring botanicals in this magical space, I became utterly enchanted by her pot of lambs ear. I had never seen (or touched) such a soft and furry plant.
When Rob and I finally moved to Nyack years later, I threatened Sylvie that I might sneak into her backyard to visit/pet the lambs ear. (Is this getting creepy? Are you getting some kind of weird Lennie/Of Mice and Men vibe? I am.) But the crazy thing is that unbeknownst to us (we bought our house in the winter), our front garden had a whole crop of it, come spring. So I can do all the petting I want in the privacy of my very own front yard!
It’s kind of like ground cover that lines our front bushes. But it turns out lambs ear grows pretty tall and sprouts these scraggly and not-so-attractive purple-grey flowers.
So we’ve learned to trim them before they become unsightly. This year, I decided to put the dividend in a vase and see how long they’d live.
Not only are they still thriving (a week later), but they have perked up! Look at the difference after one day in the vase – it’s like they’re at attention:
Call me paranoid, but I swear, THEY ARE LISTENING. It’s an odd sensation: we have taken to whispering around here.
Me, cupping my hand around Rob’s ear: “Can you pass the salt?”
Rob, cupping his hand around my ear: “Sure.”
Then we look at each other with meaning, flicking our eyeballs in the direction of the lambs ear. With our eyes we say: “Do you think they heard?”
So, the lambs ear looks great on our dining room table but it’s kind of strange around here right now. I’ll just say this: if you need to discuss any top secret information with international implications with me, let’s meet up in town – I think we’ll probably have more privacy there. Then again, if you want some quality time with the softest plant you’ll ever touch, come on over. We’re all ears!