Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Arbutus Flowers

These transplanted from the wild arbutus, Epigaea repens, are in their third year with us.  Never has a plant received as much attention as these have.  Daily visits, a protective wire cage and hand removal of covering fallen oak leaves or white pine needle clusters are just the beginning of lavish care.  When  I kneel on the large flat stones that surround these plants, it must appear that I am in prayer.  Thoughts of encouragement flow freely but I steadfastly deny speaking aloud to the plants.

Bud searches have been carefully made since fall.  Few were found and I accepted that as a consequence of the woodchuck attack last spring.  Today's visit found two new flowers peeking out from under a covering leaf.  A closer look from ground level revealed a much larger cluster.  The covering leaf was pulled up for the top picture.

This photo is as the flowers are.  The covering leaf is visible.  These flowers are so newly opened that they are for the moment scentless.  Tomorrow should see more mature flowers in full splendor.  This is the plant that made seed last year so its gender is female.  Recording the development of seed is at the top of the agenda this year.  Expect to see more pictures of this flower cluster as we move toward summer.

These western trout lilies, Erythronium, have been a delight this year.  Red squirrels or chipmunks ate the first planting during the fall or winter.  The following year these bulbs were planted inside of a wire mesh cage.  Its top is hinged and the pink plastic closure is visible above ground.  Some munching creature ate the fresh above ground growth the second year.  Now in year three the added above ground cage is visible.  All of that protection permitted a rich flush of both leaves and flowers.

When we wish to view the plant, the upper wire cage is simply set aside.  One must put their head at ground level to see the structure of these short downward facing blooms.  This much brazen beauty deserves to be protected from casual view.

We are facing our third consecutive night of possible freeze or frost.  These trout lilies will not be covered tonight.  Forecast overnight low temperatures are not frighteningly low and we must see just how hardy these plants are.  If they get frosted, we will always have the pictures.

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