Monday, May 26, 2014

A Sunny Day In May, Photos By Amy

A newly transplanted and watered Lady's Mantle is a beautiful study in light, shadow, color and texture.

Here's a mass of fragrant Johnny Jump Ups to brighten an already sunny day.

Yellow Iris and purple alliums are a winning combination here!

New oak leaves let the blue sky show through.

With the warmer weather and sunshine the leaves of the oak will grow and change that sunshine and blue sky to cooling shade.   It was a very beautiful day to be outside in the garden.  We all enjoyed it !

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Arbutus Seed Clusters

To say that our arbutus plants are closely watched would be a gross understatement.  Still, these are busy days in the garden and what we found today came as a complete surprise.  This recently transplanted from the wild arbutus has turned two of its three flowers in this cluster into developing seed containers.  What is disturbing is that the rod like structure in the center of each seed pod looks very much like what we previously identified as the male pollen producing organ.  We will have to look again closely next year and get our male and female parts properly identified.

This is the status of recently transplanted arbutus patch.  The two plants showing seed clusters are the right most plants in the middle and at the bottom.  We will identify them as three o clock and five o clock.  Also notice how the color of these plants has darkened since they have been moved out of full unrelenting sunlight and placed in the partial shade of a white pine tree.

This seed cluster is on a plant that was moved here several years ago.  Its pale green color may redden as it matures.  This rather small plant was deeply tucked into a moss patch and flowered for the first time this year.  I made no record about my gender speculations of this plant and it is the only plant in the collection to show developing seed this year.  A closer look will be made next year.

A single clump of soil containing at least three small  separate plants was planted near the house.  Three white fuzzy stems of new growth are growing out of this tiny plant.  Its appearance this Fall should impress anyone.  The various more primitive life forms are interesting to look at but will likely not survive in their new location.

We need to reread William Cullina's description of gathering and processing arbutus seed so that we are ready when the seeds are mature.  Plans are to simply scatter some seeds under different white pines and start some of the seeds in a flat.  We shall see how we do.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bigger Than A Mouse's Ear

There are those who say that it is safe to put in your garden when the new oak leaves are as big as a mouse's ear.  Oak trees usually hang onto their brown leaves until spring if they can, only dropping them when the new leaves are ready.  New oak leaves are frost sensitive and the tree does not like to expend all that energy to make another set of leaves.  In a year when they have to do that there are frequently no acorns.  Thoreau had faith in a seed and I would love to have faith in a tree.  That would be so simple, but not all of the oak trees agree.  This one is down by the river.  Trees up closer to the garden are not so advanced.

I do see signs of the soil temperature rising.  My favorite pink poppies, sunflowers and lamb's quarters have started to come up.   But this year the weather has been unpredictable at best.  Today has been a mix of sunshine and  dark menacing clouds.  Talk of winds, hail and flash flooding make it hard to risk our new plants.

Again tonight many of the plants you see on this wall have been moved safely into the basement.  We are going to plant these out soon.  Maybe when there's more of a consensus among the oak trees and the meteorologists we can do it.  For now we will wait!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Two Degrees Of Frost

Posted frost warnings ended the night's sleep early this morning. Legend has it that if the frost is washed off the plants before the sunlight strikes them, frost damage may be avoided.  Whether that is fact or fiction is not the point.  Washing frost was the only thing that could be done since our overnight low hit 30 degrees F.

Footprints in the white grass will blacken in the sunlight.  Brittle blades of grass were broken by contact with my boot.  Many times valley fog prevents formation of frost but this morning the droplets of mist are themselves frozen.  Clear blue sky is peeking through directly overhead.

Strawberry freezer jam is a special treat that starts many a morning here.  Recent heavy rainfall changed our muddy flat river into a finger lake as the river filled low fields with brown water.  A phone check revealed that the flat where we pay to pick strawberries did not flood and it is low enough that frost may not have hit there last night.  Our two dozen plants were just mulched with straw and it lessened the hardness of the frost.  What frost did form was washed off.  Our strawberries should have avoided widespread damage.

Sod block walls and a tarp provide protection for the newly emerged Oriental lilies.  Sunlight is already hitting the higher ground and will soon find the tarp.  Warmth will build under the cover and the tender new growth under it should be fine.

Every plastic pail that we own was used to cover something tender last night.  Three Salmon Star lilies spent the frosty night under this garbage can.  Water splash can be seen on the stone wall where frost was washed of the Pinxter.  We will wait to see if those flowers escaped damage.

Our wild blueberry bushes grow in the shadow of the gravel bank hill. Frost pours down upon us as cold air slides down the nearby ridge. In this protected spot, these blossoms may have escaped damage. The blueberry opens its flowers a few at a time so the still closed ones should still have the potential to form fruit.  Slender green rods push outward from past blossoms that have already made fruit.

Sunlight is now streaming down on all of the gardens.  Time to get my feet wet while removing all of the protecting buckets and the tarp. Then the many pots of plants that spent the night inside will be returned to the stone wall.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Perennial Multiplication

A diverse collection of plants that return year after year is our goal but we have found that the only guarantee on this point is the amount of annual work required to maintain plants in great condition.  When five trios of Siberian Iris were placed in front of the stone wall, we expected that only occasional future weeding would be required.  We really missed the mark on that one.  When our land was used to feed dairy cows, this is the point where the girls lined up to cross the road at milking time.  As a result of their twice daily droppings, this ground is incredibly deeply fertile.  The recently placed iris had outgrown their allotted space and needed to be moved.  Their deep and dense root mass made uprooting them a difficult task.  The behemoths have been moved to open ground where they will remain undisturbed for the balance of my time here. Since we are slow to learn, new trios of Siberian Iris have been planted in their place.  Two varieties replanted here have been slow to prosper in the garden near the house.  We hope they like their new home and present the challenge of moving future giants.

Cardinal flower is native to New York State but it has not been found in the wild around here.  Our harsh winters and late frosts frequently brown the early bright green growth sometimes ending the entire plant.  Every year a tray of new plants are placed in pots with the plan of moving the tray to the basement when frost threatens.  Every year enough plants survive in sheltered locations near stone walls or under shrubs to guarantee the continued existence here of this treasure.

Divided and watered these ten plants will find June homes in various spots around the gardens.  This native requires help beyond frost protection.  Not a true perennial, no part of last year's flowering plant returns.  Six new daughter plants appear in the fall around the base of the recently dead stem.  If left alone, each of those six will make six more plants creating a crowed tangle that cannot support that much plant growth.  The clump will at some point die out but new plants also grow from seed.  We have managed to maintain a sizable collection of this red flowered beauty.

Our search for a hardy white Shasta daisy has taken years.  Every Spring we would find a small piece or two to keep hope alive but none prospered.  Last year we purchased a variety with Alaska in its name and it appears that our search is over.  A single plant yielded nine healthy divisions.  More could have been taken but we wanted survivors.  Three were returned where they grew and six were potted up waiting for a new home.   This appears to be a great outcome but what happens next year?  If this bounty is typical, what will we do with 81 new plants next year?  Friends have expressed interest in acquiring some of our plants but only if we pot them up and deliver. That much extra time at this part of year simply does not exist.  The only realistic choice is to compost perfectly good plant stock for lack of time and an open planting spot.  Somehow that waste seems like heresy but we will enjoy an impressive display of white ray flowers this Summer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Looks Like A Lily Year

A USDA hardiness map shows a long frigid finger of cold reaching from the high wilds of the Adirondack Mountains nearly to the Pennsylvania State line.  Our garden is centered near the southern tip of that cold.  Killing frost is likely here for most of the month of May.  Last season early extreme warmth drew the lilies from the ground many weeks before their usual emergence time.  Our attempts to provide frost protection for that many weeks stressed both plants and gardener.  This year our late Spring has kept the lilies safely in the ground until just recently.  The first picture shows eight emerging lilies and a marking stone.  It also shows a covering of reground tree bark mulch from a local lumber mill.  All of these factors worked together to delay emergence until a more seasonally correct time.

These lilies are planted in a three gallon pot.  Clustered together, all thirty pots of these lilies can be covered with a single tarp.  When frost is less likely, the plants will be removed from their pots and placed around the garden for the remainder of the growing season. Fall will see the best bulbs returned to pots in preparation for the Winter.  This year the mulch blanket held frost in the ground until just recently.  It will be a far easier task to transplant these short lilies compared to last year's nightmare of trying to unpot fully grown plants with exposed buds.

Our first lily is still hanging on here.  One bulb has become two and this earliest riser will be covered in place when frost threatens. Sometimes being short is an advantage.  A 5 gallon pail should be large enough to cover this lily.  Other lilies could similarly hold a spot in the garden if other plants are kept far enough away to accommodate a covering 30 gallon trash can without damaging the nearby plants.  That requires a lot of bare ground.

These Simplon lilies tested my courage.  The original three bulbs had become at least six and the strength of will had to be found to dig them up and pry them apart.  All three bulbs Fall placed here are growing with one having divided over the supposedly dormant time of late Fall and Winter.  The second planting of these bulbs is just now starting to push the mulch aside so the number of survivors there is for the moment unknown.  At the time the moment of separation seemed violent but it appears that the bulbs healed the wounds.

With more than three dozen groups of lilies scattered about, one would think that no new ones are needed.  Want trumps need here and our two kinds of new lilies are just now pushing through the soil. Proud Bride is a shorter white variety that could replace L. longiflorum as our forced Easter Lily.  This year our Easter lilies displayed splendid green growth and a total lack of flowers.  When their die down is complete, we will look to see if sizable bulbs followed the no flowers year.  Table dance, I am ashamed to admit, was selected in part for its name.

We have recently seen a male oriole flying across the garden.  His flashy orange and black plumage is an eye catcher that is pleasing to see but we remember the damage done to our lily buds and flowers by a family group of these same birds a few years ago.  The following year wire cages with bird netting were placed to protect the remaining flowers but that is both unsightly and extra work.  If this bird is nesting nearby, we may return to the ugly cages.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Forest Floor

This carefully focused photo could have been taken in the wild.  Mottled brown leaves mark the location of trout lilies.  Canada anemone displays solid green pointed leaves.  Bright pink flowers are on fringed polygala.  All of this natural wonder is artificially located in our raised shade garden.

Several years ago the poylgala was found in bloom around the edge of a sizable flat rock located in our unspoiled woods.  Carefully lifting the rock revealed the entire root structure of my favorite wild flower.  An impressively large clump of woods soil was moved intact to the shade garden.  Three native plants have now appeared in the moved soil.  How they came to survive under the stone remains a mystery. I can find no reason why any farm activity would have moved that stone.  It was far removed from any of the fields.  Perhaps forest dwellers hid seeds under the covering stone.

Both the color and the structure of this flower have made it my favorite native plant.

It did grow in several different locations in our woods but this year I found barely a  trace of it there.  Grass from the adjacent field now grows where the polygala formerly survived.  All to often, one reads of the disappearance of this treasure.  Our source of arbutus had two huge patches of polygala growing under young oak trees.  The next Spring no trace of the polygala could be found.  Apparently, they smothered under the thick layer of fallen oak leaves.  Moving native plants is unacceptable to many responsible naturalists and I hesitate while doing just that.  Since the moved plant has survived, I find some redemption as my interference has allowed life to continue.

These Jack in the pulpits grow just West of the polygala.  Purchased from a responsible plants-man, I had no direct involvement if they were harvested from the wild.  These plants grew in the woods near my childhood home and I still remember encounters with them.  Late frost has killed these to the ground in the past.  Now they are on the list to cover when frost threatens.  With help these specimens have increased in number during their time here.  Again we take comfort in the fact that the wild plants are increasing under our care.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Wildflower Walk, Photos By Amy

What a fabulous Mother's Day today.  The weather was glorious! We decided that it would be fun to drive over to Irma's woods to look at the wildflowers.  It is a wonderful nearby place with many wildflowers to see.  The road runs along the base of the hill and a short walk gives you a chance to see lots of great wildflowers.  I think this one is red elderberry.

I thought this was a toothwort and I looked it up when I  got home.  It is Dentaria cardamine. 

The large patch of bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, no longer has flowers, but the leaves are huge. Almost all of this plant is concentrated in a small area.  Something about the spot provides the perfect conditions for this plant.  I've tried to grow it at home with difficulty.  I wish I knew its secret!


Many white trilliums, Trillium grandiflorum, can be seen here.   Some years this hillside is covered with white.  It seemed like their numbers were down, but they are still pristine white and show no signs of the pink color that they develop as they age.  Perhaps more of them will open soon since the weather is warming up.

We saw several large patches of these lovely Bird's Foot violets, Viola pedata.  The coloring and markings on these are amazing, but the shape of the flower is what makes it fascinating!

I have been watching for spring beauties here at home.  I watch for those little oval leaves with a narrow neck.  At least Amy managed to get a shot of one.  Their beautiful markings are hard to capture with a digital camera.  Notice the part of a ramp leaf across the upper left hand corner of this picture!

The fringed flowers of early meadow rue, Thalictrum dioicum are dainty and festive looking. They are only half of the story as this lacy fern like plant has male and female plants. 

This plant is smooth Solomon's seal, Polygonatum biflorum.  It is an interesting member of the lily family.  Amy and I love to look at wildflowers.  I always think where ever I go I will find some new plant that I have never seen before.  I did find one this time too, but I still have not found  the answer to the mystery. Perhaps I never will.  Soon it was time to go.  What more could a Mom ask for than to spend time with  her family doing something they love?  It was a perfect day!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Amy's Magnolia

We carefully planted this magnolia in what we thought would be a good spot especially for Amy back in 2011.  We were hoping it would do well even though we often get late spring frosts.  This year some of the flowers might have slightly brown edges from our last frost, but they are pink and pretty just the same.

Some buds are still in their fuzzy shell.

This one wears the shell like a hat . These pictures were taken yesterday.

After a night of thunder storms and a day of warm sunshine the flowers are looking good.

Some of them are still buds. I really hope the flowers will last until she come here again.

She loves to look up at the blue sky through a magnolia tree.  This afternoon the sky was gray and not blue.  Perhaps we will get more rain. The effect is not quite the same.  In 2013 it had 8 flowers.  After 3 years it may still be small, but a magnolia of your own is a special treat.  I hope this year more flowers open and it continues to be pretty in pink!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Transplanting Wild Arbutus

This area at the base of a white pine tree has long been our choice for a second planting of arbutus.  Weed growth had been cleared and large stones placed to both discourage a return of the weeds and promote natural decay of the fallen pine needles.  A truly wild plant needs a wild location if it is to prosper.  Commonly reported failures with arbutus may have resulted from treating them as a garden plant.  Here, no modification of the soil was made.  No compost was added and no rich soil was brought to the site.  With the exception of the removal of invasive briers and roses, this area is as it has been for decades.

Removing the large covering stones completed the preparation for transplanting.

 A pry bar is my preferred plant digging tool.  It will find its way deep into stony ground.  A small plant well removed from others has been selected for digging.  The goal is to remove a complete plant with its entire root structure totally intact.  If successful, the plant roots will all be inside of the soil mass levered out.  The plant need not know that it has been uprooted.

This arbutus plant will remain with its neighbors throughout the move.  The moss, wild strawberry and sheared off pine tree may not live in their new quarters but the arbutus will thrive.  This soil mass will be planted intact weeds included.  It may take two of three years for the arbutus roots to extend into the soil of their new location.

The upper layers of decaying pine needles have been brushed aside to expose soil.  A depression large enough to accommodate the arbutus soil clump is scooped out.  After placing the arbutus the surrounding voids are tightly filled and the plant is in its new home.

A fungus used by arbutus to extract nourishment from poor soil is reported to grow near white pine roots.  This arbutus is placed between two pine roots.  One is massive and old.  We will watch with interest to see if this arbutus finds its new location super favorable.

William Cullina has written that transplanted arbutus plants must be watered every rain-less day for two years.  We came close to following that schedule with our previous attempt at this.  The earlier moved plants all survived so we will likely try to follow that schedule again here.

The fallen pine needles have been pulled back in to cover this ground.  A natural appearance is spoiled by the rusty wire cage but these new transplants must be protected from both wild animals and the neighbors pack of dogs.

Our search for wild arbutus has taken us to many different locations.  We have also found it growing in the company of both blueberry bushes or oak trees.  Poor stone filled soil seems to be a common supporting medium for this plant.  I would never try to place it in a garden but a wild area nearby might just support this transplant.

This photo was added one year after these plants were moved here.  All are alive and new growth is appearing.  The plant located at the middle right edge had a difficult first year here.  Another sizable white pine branch was about to fall.  In removing it, a chain saw nick opened a small wound in a remaining branch.  Sap dripped onto the left edge of that arbutus for the remainder of the summer.  The wound has healed over and the arbutus plant does show new growth although dried pine pitch still covers some leaves.