Thursday, July 27, 2017

In Search Of Wintergreen


Our source of arbutus plants sent word to us today announcing the blooming of her wintergreen.  Despite the recurring showers, we set off to the back woods to check on the status of our plants.  We found new plant growth proudly displaying its smaller reddish leaves but no flowers.  Where the mature leaves depart from the stem, red areas can easily be seen.  The tiny white bump there may be the start of the flowering stem.  We will watch to see if flowers soon appear there.  This is an incredibly busy time of year in the garden and we have frequently failed to take the time to look for wintergreen flowers.


This piece of wintergreen was an unexpected gift to us when we were uprooting arbutus.  Its need for acidic soil matches arbutus so we planted the wintergreen near out transplanted arbutus.  When moved each leaf junction consisted of just three leaves.  As our gaze moves along the stem from right to left, new growth is seen.  We expected nothing from the transplant since our past efforts always ended in failure.  This time the new growth looks promising.  This plant will get a wire cage to protect it from foragers as winter approaches.  We have seen arbutus and wintergreen growing side by side in the wild and would be thrilled if that can happen here.


The Canada mayflower has, as its name suggests, already flowered.  This native must be classed as invasive here.  Where these woods drop downhill to meet the road, Canada mayflower has nearly totally displaced all other native plants.  We have watched as it closed in on our rather sizable wintergreen plants but could do nothing to halt its advance.  For now both plants grow under the black birch trees but the wintergreen will soon be only a memory.  The photo shows that many of the seed bearing berries have already been eaten possibly by turkeys and grouse.  Those seeds have been scattered and more new mayflower plants will grow.

Wintergreen has long been a part of my life.  As a child those dark chocolate covered pink colored wintergreen cream patties were a favorite after school treat.  I remember reading of early pioneer women breaking out the wintergreen wine at a quilting bee.  Imagine the size of a wintergreen patch that would have been needed to gather enough leaves to make wine.  Try to imagine the taste of wintergreen wine.  I eat the berries while walking about during mild winter spells and that always makes me wonder about the wine.


These Indian pipes were an unexpected sight today.  They grow just across the lane just uphill from the wintergreen and Canada mayflower.  The purity of the color suggests that these are newly emerged.  They were an unexpected gift on this day with no wintergreen flowers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Promise Kept


Some of our plants are here for only a short period of time.  Many of the missing are gone as a result of their inability to deal with the harshness of  our natural conditions.  Late hard frosts create huge problems for many plants.  Our deep gravely soil and frequent lack of rainfall takes those that cannot handle periods of little moisture.  Other plants persist here no matter what.

Cardinal flower has been with us for ages because we fuss over it. This is a plant that grew on this continent before the arrival of the European explorers.  Since it is a native plant, we feel obligated to not only keep it alive but try to place it so that natural growth will insure its survival.  So far we have only managed to keep it alive in the garden and that fact is a puzzle.

This plant naturally occurs near water. Most sources tell us it will grow in a garden placement but will not reproduce from seed in a rather dry location.  We have placed it near our pond but the grasses that grow there simply overpowered it.  Last fall seed was sprinkled liberally around our strongest spring run but no Cardinal flower plants have appeared there yet.  We still hold hope for those seeds since sometimes with native perennials  a number of winters are necessary for seeds to germinate.

For the moment we are thrilled just to see the intense red coloration that even the buds display.  Soon the flowers will open and hummingbirds will be drawn by the color to feed there.  We see this as the best red to appear in our gardens.  Its presence does signal the slow roll of the seasons away from summer but these flowers will remain in bloom for several weeks.  Many great days of life in the garden are ahead of us.  The appearance of these flowers signal us not to waste a single day.