Thursday, May 25, 2017

Alien Smells

In almost every instance, we go with what we think is right.  Native plants hold a special stature for us in part because they have always been here where we call home.  All plants are native someplace on this earth and it is easy to see how early colonists would have wanted to bring something from their former home with them when they first came here.  Dame's Rocket would have been an easy plant to pack.  A few tiny seeds hidden away would have been certain to grow in the new world.  It is a survivor and now is commonly seen in flower in roadside ditches.  We have intentionally introduced it into our gardens in several locations.

This plant has much to recommend it as a garden subject.  Its colors range from purple to white with an occasional pink flowered plant.  Each evening a pleasant scent fills the air close by this plant.  Its leaves are a little coarse but that only points to the plant's strength.  If the seeds are allowed to mature, new plants will be numerous.  Seedlings are easily removed if caught early and a few can be left in a chosen spot.  We prefer to see this plant as a colonial garden treasure rather than a common ditch weed.

Autumn Olive is an invader from Asia.  It has been here since 1830.   Our single specimen is about eight feet tall and has suffered numerous vicious pruning attacks as is grows into the lane right of way.  Late frost frequently takes the flower buds but when the shrub flowers it is spectacular.  Its scent heavily fills the air and is carried on the breeze for a considerable distance.  One only has to approach the plant to enjoy the sweet smell.  Horror stories abound about the invasive nature of this plant but we have only found one plant on our land.  A smaller younger plant grows just across the lane but we have found no others.  We will leave well enough alone.  No attempts will be made to kill this plant and no effort will be expended trying to get new plants either from seed or cuttings.  We will look forward to another year free of late harsh frost so that we can once again enjoy its wild sweet scent.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Native Sweetness

If there is a more brazenly beautiful native flower, I have yet to see it.  Thrusting their sexual parts far from the flower is relatively common to entice pollination but the addition of color and fragrance makes this presentation unique.  The single pollen receptor extends beyond five pollen producers and is tipped with white attracting liquid.  We have yet to see a pollinator in action on these flowers but each year some seed pods are produced.  Our first Pinxter from seed has yet to appear but we remain hopeful.

Placing these plants near a field stone wall was no accident.  We find that the soil at the base of a stone wall remains moist even when rainfall is scant.  In the wild, we find these plants growing above but close by wet ground.  The contrast of the dull solid stone and the vibrant pink of the flowers is spectacular.

Last winter presented many difficult situations but non hit us harder than a deer feeding on this treasured plant.  Pinxter growth is unusual in that all of the action happens at the tips of the branches.  Bare branches are crowned with flowers and leaves while most of the branch remains void of growth.  We expected that the deer damage might severely impact the plant.  As it turns out the pruned tips are causing new growth to appear lower on the stems.  This new growth might have  been suitable material for heel cuttings intending to grow new plants.  Now it appears doubtful that I have what it takes to put blade to branch in search of new plants.  It is most likely that this plant will be allowed to repair itself unmolested.

Our other Pinxter went unnoticed by the marauding deer.  Wire cages were scattered about in front of this bush and that may have kept the deer at bay.  This fall we will intentionally surround these plants with wire protection.  For now we have the promise of an  abundance of sweet flowers in the coming days.  This will give us many chances to try and identify and describe the components of this perfume.  In contrast to the visual boldness of these flowers, their scent remains subtle.  It carries on the breeze close by the plant but defies description.  Some have reported that the scent of these flowers brings to mind the comfort smell of baking bread.  That it does but there is also an understated presence of some spice.  We must walk near to these flowers every time that we move from the garden to the house.  It goes without saying that nearly every such trip includes a pleasant pause to take in more of this exotic scent.