Sunday, April 15, 2018
It was warm yesterday and not raining at the moment so Ed and I decided to walk down to the road to put the the outgoing mail in the box and raise the flag. I tend to walk down the right side of the driveway since anyone coming up is usually in the middle or to their right. I noticed this weird oval of black stuff wondering what it was but kept on walking. The driveway is more than 0.3 of a mile all downhill to the road. The last part is fairly steep. After a brief garden inspection we headed to the house. Needless to say we were moving a lot slower on the way back up the hill. It is ever so much cooler to say "Oh wow look at this blob of black stuff! What the heck is it?" than is is to say " Hey Wild Bill wait for me, I'm out of breath!" Besides I was curious! It was a lucky thing I had the camera in my coat pocket. We had never seen a formation like this one and we have been walking up and down this driveway for nearly 25 years.
A closer look revealed that the moving tiny black specks were springtails. We have often seen them on the snow in footprints or a low spot. These little bugs literally have a spring like appendage that allows them to jump, but gives them no control over their direction. It is easier to see them on the leaves but you can also see them on the sticks and the stones. When you consider the uncountable number of springtails visible in this photo, click on the image, imagine how many there are in the big oval spot.
When I made the trip back down to the mailbox in the afternoon, things had dried off because the sun was shining and the tiny black creatures were gone. One has to wonder just where they all went. At this time of year we frequently see birds apparently feeding on the stone surface of the driveway. It now seems that springtails may be on the menu here.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
It is no secret that March weather has been brutal in the Southern Tier of New York State this year. On the last day of February, the garden ground had softened to the point where weeds could be pulled. Then four Arctic blasts took control. We were spared deep snow but bitter cold was commonplace. The damage to Cardinal Flower plants here is widespread. The remains of ten plants grown from seed can be seen here. These evergreen plants were placed near the driveway close to the road. Plowed and blown snow kept these treasures covered. When the snow finally melted bitter cold returned. Most of these plants look almost totally dead. Green leaves can still be seen on the cluster of three in the lower right corner. Six weeks of possible freezing nights remain. These plants will be left as they now are so that we can determine if they are truly dead if left alone.
Location is everything and we have been looking for plants that are still mostly alive and placing them in pots. These sixty plants can be quickly carried into the nearby basement. Some of these plants have been promised to others in our attempt to find locations where this native plant might survive. The remainder will replant our gardens with ten scheduled to replace the plants shown in the first photo. We have additional plants still showing life in the garden. They will be covered in place when bitter cold threatens. Others that appear likely totally dead will be watched to see if it is actually over for them.
This tiny plant shows the extensive root mass of these young plants. Several grow in close proximity to each other and their roots intertwine forming a complex shallow mat. Pulling the plants apart requires delicate force to wiggle them free. Then they are planted above a cone shaped mound of soil to separate the roots and get them heading mostly down. If prying fingers are kept away from the plant's crown, a living single plant usually is the result. We generally plant them out after mid May if severe cold is not in the weather pattern.
As stated, many of the clusters of plants chosen for transplants suffered frost damage to part of the group. We need to understand the unprotected plants chances for survival. To the naked eye this plants looks quite dead. The camera reveals that new life may be starting just above the plant's crown. This plant lost its place in the trays but it will be cared for in the same manner as the others. We would like to know if its recovery is possible. Why Cardinal Flower is very rare in the wild in this general area is becoming better understood by us. Constant cold seems to leave the plants alive while warm spells followed by bitter cold usually results in death. We will encourage those who accept our gift of transplants to apply our methods for saving plants for the garden each year. The return of these plants in the wild here remains at best a long shot.