Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fragrance and Mirth

Time spent in the garden today makes one feel wealthy beyond measure.  Sweet fragrance from multiple sources makes late May days here special.  Dame's rocket, Hesperis matronalis, is a common weed,  an escape  from colonial gardens.  Arctic hardiness makes it a survivor.  I allow it to grow in the garden because of its sweet scent.  Morning finds it nearly scentless but by afternoon the air is filled with sweetness.

Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is a common weed tree here.  Natural rot resistance makes it an excellent choice for fence posts.  Twisting grain and thorns limit commercial value but its flowers are a treasure.  Locust is frost sensitive.  It is one of the last trees to leaf out and a late frost decimates the buds.  Flowers one year in five are all one can hope for.  This year we are three weeks past our last frost so locust flowers cover the trees.  Their scent floats on the breeze filling the garden.

A Rugosa rose carries a massive load of familiar scent.  We need to become better stewards of this plant. It marches on despite our neglect.  Perhaps next year will find it growing in the garden rather than in a stone path.

Lemon lily, L.lilioasphodelus,  has a long history of cultivation. Color alone would make it an excellent garden subject. Its fragrance is sweet beyond description. We find the plant hardy but not the flower buds. Most years we lose the buds to frost but this year the lemon lily is putting on quite a show.  These sweet smelling days in the garden are treasured by us.  We can easily put aside the lengthy list of things needing planting and beds needing weeded to  find a moment to enjoy the scents surrounding us.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Unknown Bush

Yesterday while mowing in the back near the wilderness garden, I was suddenly enveloped by a breeze driven cloud of sweet pleasant scent.  Following the scent led me to this shrub alongside the lane.  The source of the scent had been found.  In the decade and one half that we have owned this land, this shrub has kept its delightful fragrance a secret from us.  This is a busy time of year for us so perhaps we just missed the sweet blossoms.  Our last frost this year was May 10th and that is uncommon here.  Later frosts may have damaged flower buds making past blooms uncommon.  We are pleased to have just discovered this sweet smelling bush.

A search of our books has failed to identify this shrub.  Our fields are filling with a type of Japanese honeysuckle shrub that is likely an escape from past nursery trade.  The mystery shrub shares some similarities with the honeysuckles but it also displays differences.  Deep tubular heavily scented flowers are  an obvious difference.  Why knowing the name of a plant increases the pleasure derived from it is a bit of a mystery.  It should be enough just to stand near these sweet flowers but we would like to identify this plant by name.  Can anyone help?

You Don't See a Wildflower this Small Everyday

We have been watching carefully and finally the Twinflower, Linnaea borealis, has opened.  The wildflower guide says these flowers are 1/2 inch. My flowers come up a little short on that, but maybe the flower and stem would measure an inch tall. The creeping stems are evergreen and hug the ground tightly. The plant is in the honeysuckle family. If these tiny flowers have a fragrance, I can't get close enough to notice it, and no way would I ever pick one. If these were not planted in the shade garden and raised up off the ground I could never have managed a photo.

I really wanted to capture the inside of the flower and to do that I had to touch it. Only the worms and ants are low enough to get this view. Many people would think these too small to bother with, but I see them as little twin jewels. The fact that they were a present from Amy enhances their value even more!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garden Close-Ups , Photos by Amy

Up Close this newly opened tree peony flower is a real stunner. The small bush has just one flower, but it's huge. This picture was taken on Saturday.

By Sunday the huge flower was fully opened showing its yellow center. This is a flower that can be seen from a distance.

Yellow Hawkweed may be a weed to some , but it's favorite wildflower for Amy. Although the flowers were wide open during the day today, by sunset they were closed up tight for the night.

Finally this summer we spotted flowers on the Twin flower plant. It's no small accomplishment. You can see how small the flower bud is  compared to the size of a dime. Unfortunately this flower has lost it's twin. Amy observed ants in the area and wondered if they were responsible for the missing twin.

This close-up picture reveals that these small red and black ants were after an earthworm . Perhaps they are innocent in the disappearance of the tiny flower.

Amy's close-up picture of a petunia shows off it's extraordinary markings. I have to tell you the fragrance of this flower is just as intriguing.

Now begins the time when the number of beautiful flowers and interesting things to photograph in the garden is endless. Endless too  is the list of things to be done. It was a beautiful day. Ed spent the entire day outside.We do what we can.  Tomorrow it all begins again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arbutus Move Plus One

Last week we made public our willingness to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and transplant arbutus, Epigea repens.  Our timing appears to have been perfect.  Daily rain has kept the moved plants moist.  Now is the time that arbutus puts out new growth.  The two pale green leaves at each end of the plant were not present last week.  It certainly looks like these plants intend to adjust to their new home.

The mysterious soil microbe that must be present if arbutus is to survive is reported to grow on or with white pine roots.  Not every arbutus patch that we have seen grows in proximity to white pines but all are intermingled with moss.  We placed our transplants in contact with white pine roots and they brought along their own moss.  If these plants survive we will have no way of knowing what served as the source of the needed microbe.  It could be white pine roots or it could be moss.  Time will tell if the move was successful but for now we are encouraged.

This long picture shows the entire patch.  Last week's post included a similar image.  Purple violets are missing from the new picture but the two light green arbutus leaves were not in the old image.  Present but not visible are numerous brown fuzzy new arbutus leaves.  Each separate plant displays this new growth.  Yes we are excited.

In approximately two weeks we plan to return to the source of these transplants and take new growth cuttings.  We will try and do this right and see if we can start new plants.  We will also look for seeds. More reading needs to be done so that we can recognize ripe seeds.

New Arrivals for the Shade Garden

New arrivals to be planted in the shade garden require careful weeding be done before they can be planted. Already established plants need to maintain their space. Some of the shade plants are there all summer, but some spring ephemerals like Dutchman's breeches disappear.

Ordinary weeds plus pink poppies, catnip, jewel weed , chickweed, wild lettuce, sunflowers and even an Egyptian onion needed to be removed . Sometimes I wonder where they all come from, but I know seeds are in the soil , arrive on the wind and are dropped by birds, one way or the other.

Three wintergreens and a golden seal have been placed in their new home behind the twin flower. Native plants can compete well in their natural environment, but given the interesting mix of weeds we have some help is definitely required. We hope they will love their new home!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Drive Thru Meadow

Ed and I spent the morning in the garden. He planted the rest of the potatoes. We both pulled lots of weeds and we even got a few plants planted. After lunch Ed went back to the task of getting caught up on his mowing. He makes these nice paths to make walking easier. It's nice to walk and explore the meadow without wading through the tall grass and without having to worry about stepping in holes or ugh!!! ticks. I found one of those little buggers on me just yesterday. This afternoon I grabbed the camera and took a ride up to the high meadow on the garden tractor.

Ed had told me that the barberry bush was worth the trip. It was! This bush is huge and it was covered with blossoms on every arching branch.

I just love the way the blossoms hang underneath the branches. The flowers have a pleasant but subtle scent.
The entire bush was buzzing with activity. I managed to get a shot of this interesting, but unknown, insect. This picture also shows you an example of the thorns that protect this bush.

I drove around the perimeter of Amy's meadow. When I got to the stand of Norway spruce, I had to take this picture of a pink pine cone. It was too neat to pass up.

These weird looking things are new cones on the larch tree .What fascinating texture and color for what will turn out to be an ordinary looking brown pine cones.

These pretty pink flowers are on a bush type of Japanese honeysuckle. This plant is pretty, and the birds love the berries, but it is horribly invasive here.

Most of these plants have white flowers. They are a nemesis of Ed's and he digs them out every chance he gets. They will never be welcome here, but today they were pretty.

I really enjoyed my ride. Later this afternoon the rains came again, but this time too late to spoil the kiddies' fun!.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Potato Planting Progress

With a second consecutive dry day, the ground was finally workable. Ed weeded the bed where the potatoes were to be planted. He pulled up a lot of poppies and potted up some of my favorite sunflowers to plant somewhere else in the garden. After about three weeks of sitting in subdued light in trays in the living room, the potatoes have sprouted nicely. This Purple Viking looks perfect for planting. Its multicolored eyes are as attractive as flowers.

Purple Viking, Colorado Rose and Atlantic potatoes were planted in 24 holes. Hands and a kneeling pad are the most commonly used gardening tools here.

Next the holes are half filled with dirt. The extra dirt is piled in the center of the bed. It is insurance so that the newly emerged potato leaves can be covered quickly in case of a late frost. If no frost comes the dirt will be used to hill up the potatoes as they grow. A mixture of molasses and water will be applied to help prevent scab.

A second bed of potatoes will be planted tomorrow if today's afternoon rain left the ground workable. Our crop rotation has peas planted where last year's potatoes grew. Once again there are potatoes growing in with the peas. Some how we always miss some potatoes. Ed tried intentionally planting potatoes last fall. As he was harvesting, six potatoes were planted. To date there is no sign of these test subjects. Why all of the deliberately fall planted potatoes failed while several missed ones grow nicely remains a mystery.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beauty in the Garden

With all the rain the iris are looking great. This Orris root iris was a present from Jane. The roots are dried and ground to make a fixative for potpourri, but not by me. I like the flowers too much.

The sweet cicely, Myrrhis odorata is beginning to bloom. I have already harvested some leaves to mix with fruit, reducing the need for sugar , but it's the green seeds that I watch for so that I can chop them into fruit salad. The have a delightful licorice flavor that adds a special sweetness. I've tried freezing them for later use , but like so many things they are best fresh.

The first two beautiful blue flax flowers on my Linium perenne are a welcome sight. I can't say enough about this plant. These lovely blue flowers will last one day, but tomorrow and tomorrow... new flowers will appear. The delicate foliage makes for a graceful plant that is gorgeous for a very long time.

Last year Ed transplanted a wild columbine from the woods to the shade garden. This plant is usually delicate with one or two flower stems. Ed's super soil obviously had a big impact on this plant. It's putting on quite a display. It must be happy there.

We were delighted to see a red-bellied woodpecker in the garden this morning. From what we could tell it was a female. The black and white speckled feathers on her back were magnificent. Sorry I couldn't get a picture.

Both Ed and I did some morning weeding. We made some good progress, but as soon as things dried off, Ed tackled the meadow grass with his mower. It's very long and will have to be raked. Thank goodness Ed likes to do it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May Flowers Between Showers

The white shooting stars, have incredibly short stems. Perhaps the are waiting for the sun to grow taller.

The pink shooting stars seem to be loving the rain.

My 'Jack Frost' Brunnera has beautiful little blue flowers, and such lovely leaves

Ed got a perfect shot of this bleeding heart. The weeds have not been pulled, but at least they are out of focus.

Between the attractive leaves and the lacy flowers this 'Sugar and Spice' Tiarella is a delight.

The Kathy Purdy's Narcissus are fragrant and attractive. Again the weeds are out of focus.

There are years when we think we have the upper hand in the garden. Things get planted on time. Weeds get pulled . For the most part the garden bends to our wishes. This is not one of those years. Mother Nature is in control and we are painfully aware of it. Everything is growing in response to the daily rain, especially the weeds and the lawn. We did get a little sun today. You'll have to excuse me now, I have wet garden clothes to launder.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arbutus Moved

Conventional wisdom says to never transplant trailing arbutus, Epigaea repens, since it will die if moved. We found a location where arbutus grows in the path of a lawn mower.  Regular repeated mowing will likely kill these plants where they are.  These facts allowed me to sail in the face of conventional wisdom.  Actually, I frequently choose my own path in an uncommon direction.  A search of the lawn was made to find small plants of arbutus at generous distance from others.  Since arbutus grows from an underground network of branching roots, small isolated plants might be levered out with their root mass intact.  A complete root system seems to be the first requirement for a successful move. A five foot pry bar was used to unearth large deep clumps of ground.  We do not want the plants to know that they have been moved.

A planting site was prepared well in advance of taking the plants.  Some specific micro-bacterial activity is reported to be a requirement if arbutus is to survive.  An area under a white pine tree was prepared to receive transplants since some believe that the necessary bacteria or fungus grows on white pine roots.  Large flat stones were placed over the site to kill weeds and encourage organic decay.  We believe that the combination of organic matter, moisture and stones causes a unique and beneficial kind of compost to form that we call duff.  These stones were placed around the edge of the transplant circle to direct rainfall onto the arbutus, keep down the weeds and clearly mark the location.  We need to remember to water here for two years when the rain does not fall.

It is likely that our transplants will fail.  If that is the outcome, we will report that here.  If these plants live, we will also report that here.  For now we have a total of four different arbutus plants so it is likely that both genders of the plant are here.  Viable seed may occur here.  For now I will prepare another transplanting hole to receive the stem cuttings that I plan to take six weeks from now.  A different source of these cuttings must be found.  Perhaps I can hobble the friend's mower.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trillium Pink and Apple Blossom White

It's hard to get pictures of the garden these days. Rain seems to be an every day thing. Amy was lucky to get this picture of apple blossoms.

It's amazing to see blossoms on all of the old apple trees . This year all the old apple trees in the woods are covered with blossoms. The weather has been warm so frost is not a concern as far as setting fruit goes, but we don't see too many pollinators with all the rain.

When a white trillium turns pink it will soon be gone. Amy was lucky to get a picture of this one. Before she finished her walk the rains came again and she came back wet enough to have to change her clothes.

Ed transplanted the trailing arbutus this afternoon. It had to be done as soon as they were moved so he planted them in their carefully prepared spot in the pouring rain.

With all the rain the garden is lush green and growing. New flowers are blooming and need their photo op. I really could use some dry time in the garden tomorrow. I know I'll get wet feet, but I like to keep the camera dry!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Watch Where You Step!

Ed and I stopped by friends to look for their patch of Fringed polygalas. The flowers were not open just yet. Their house is on the North facing side of a hill. The view is amazing! We have been looking for places where trailing arbutus grows, and wow do they have it there. Part of a huge area that was bulldozed twenty years ago when they built their house is kept mowed now. The open area on the hill below the house protects the view. Rock lies just below the surface. Arbutus, lichens, moss and tiny cut- off white pines make an interesting surface. It's hard to know where to walk. Since this area passes the "more than you can count " test, and our friends have offered, Ed will try to move a couple of small arbutus plants.

We went for a short walk on a path through the woods. Little red efts scampered away as we walked. This little guy stuck his head under a leaf. I guess if he couldn't see us he felt safe. I thought about these gorgeous little guys being on the bottom of the food chain. The multiple bug bites I had when I got home reminded me that there is no bottom on the food chain. It's a circle.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome Spring Arrivals

Apple blossoms are beginning to open. I was pleased to see Rosy breasted grosbeaks at the bird feeder. A gorgeous orange and black Baltimore oriole and his flighty girlfriend dropped by as well. They are so beautiful, but I have mixed feelings. It is a vivid reminder to cage and bird net the lilies . Best of all even though it was raining, I saw a hummingbird on the Buffalo currant blossoms. We had a little sun in the afternoon. Blogger is back online. Thanks to everyone who made that happen. It was a great day!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Successful Move

Fringed polygala, Polygala  paucifolia, has held a fascination for us since we first found it growing in our woods.  Its numbers were small and some years we could not find it in bloom.  Unable to find a source to buy gay-wings we considered taking one plant.  Our forest floor is thick with ferns and briars. Any previous attempt to pry common plants out here ended in frustrated failure.  I could not separate the ground's fiberous root mass from the plant I wanted to move.  Knowing that polygala grew from a large underground system of slender branching root stems, I left it alone.  Last summer I found a plant growing around the edges of a sizeable flat stone. Carefully the stone was lifted.  The network of roots was visible.  With great care and gentle prodding, the entire plant was lifted and replanted in our shade garden.

When the snow melted this spring we were surprised to find green leaves still on the plant.  In the upper right corner of the photo, the dark green leaves are last year's growth.  Evergreen in nature makes polygala suseptible to smothering by fall tree leaves.  Fortunatly our shade garden is in a windy location.  Fallen leaves are quickly blown away. Stick like stems from our locust tree hold some organic matter in place but the polygala easily grows through them.  New bright green leaves and flowers seem to indicate that the move to our garden was successful.

An orchid by structure, this flower captivates me.  Its color is a draw but the diverse arrangement of its parts holds my attention.  Reproduction is by a cleistogamous flower.  This on the ground flower has so far eluded me.  Daily inspection of this transplant may allow a sighting of the fertile flower.  For now we will take good care of this plant recognizing it for the treasure that it is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First a Light Frost, then Sunshine

It was pretty late in the day yesterday when the frost warnings showed up in the forecast. We were tired , but Ed decided to cover the frost sensitive plants. If we covered them and didn't get a frost, it would still definitely be worth the effort. As it turned out we got a frost, but it was a light one. The frost seemed to be heaviest on the roof of Ed's truck. The morning sun made short work of the frost, and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. Ed spent the entire day in the garden, and when I returned home there was a bouquet of wonderfully scented Buffalo currant flowers on the kitchen counter. Also known as clove currant, Ribes oderatum is a welcome fragrance in the garden and in the house. It is the yellow bush just to the right of the stone patio. Sometimes I get to see a hummingbird on these flowers. With the weather warming there's hope for that..