Monday, May 27, 2019

Making Seed

It seems that the prime directive for all living things is to establish the next generation.  We have worked with Pinxter bushes for years but have never witnessed their interactions with a pollinator.  That all changed yesterday.  While working in close proximity to these delightfully scented beautiful flowers, a bumble bee appeared and spent several minutes interacting with the flowers.  Their sexual parts are brazenly displayed with five pollen producing anthers.  The single longer stigma is visibly moist ready to grab and hold pollen.  The bumble bee is huge by comparison and the exchange of sexual cells was accomplished while airborne.  Occasional contact with the flower petals sent everything rocking.

In the upper left corner a single wilted blossom can be seen dangling from the long filaments and single style.  Investigation revealed that the filaments came away with the falling flower.  Only the style remained firmly attached to the ovary.  It seems likely that the pollinating bumble bee dislodged this blossom.  Since the flower petals play no part in fertilization, a seed capsule may develop here.  These flowers have been open for only two days and the business of creating the next generation has been completed.  The beauty and scent of these amazing flowers is mine to enjoy alone since the work of the bees has been done.

Arbutus had an unusual year here.  Some flowers opened early while an occasional late flower can still be found.  Two developing seed clusters are visible near the center of the picture.  When the seeds are mature the five green outer layers will peel back revealing a white berry covered with tiny black seeds.  Ants find the white substance sweet to eat and they carry pieces of it back to their nest.  The seeds are cast aside as ants feast on the white berry.  We have been tempted to try a taste but so far have resisted.

These recently purchased Bloodroot plants were displaying their seed pods when purchased.  Rows of seeds line the inside of the cylindrical seed pods.  Each seed carries a elaiosome whose function is to attract ants.  The tasty substance is eaten as the ants cast aside the seed.  A difficulty with this system of seed dispersal is that all of the seeds are dropped near the parent plant.  A tight cluster of plants will follow making Bloodroot a civilized garden specimen.  The background rock was set at an angle to divert rainwater to the area where these moisture loving plants were intended to grow.  Ants keeping the seeds close by fits perfectly with our plans.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

What A Difference A Day Makes

I guess I thought I might have to title this post "The Morning After" like the title of some doomsday movie.  Transplanting native wildflowers is tricky and often ill advised.  The plants were in a spot where they were being crowded out by other plants or would be squished by truck tires.  Permission of the landowner was granted since both Ed and I agreed that the move should be made. We must have been a sight while we were soaking large soil clumps in water and carefully searching for the delicate roots of the plants.  It was raining slightly.  Working without gloves with mud up to our elbows, we soaked the clumps in water.  As soon as a few were worked free, Ed planted them immediately.  We finished the Starflower first.  Ed watered them well.  That was yesterday.  This is how the Starflower looks this morning.

Behold a Starflower  plant standing tall. It's two delicate white flowers looking terrific complete with yellow pollen and a visiting pollinator.  Whew!  Do we feel better!

 This Polygala was worked free of the woodland soil tangle with an impressively long piece of root.  If a break occurred, it happened when the soil block was pulled from the ground.  Polygala develops an underground flower that produces seed.  The taller stem has unusual growth at the soil line that may well become cleistogamous flowers.

Our own mix of woodland soil was added to the existing ground after the leaf mulch was pushed aside.  Carefully the roots were placed horizontally in this soft soil.  Gentle compaction helped some of the plants return to an upright position while others needed the addition of leaf mulch.

We were somewhat surprised at the number of plants that were somewhat hidden if the forest soil.  All but one were intact enough to plant.  We were hopeful that some of these treasures may live in their new home.

We were shocked to find these flowers looking like they did yesterday before they were yanked from the ground.  This picture was taken before this mornings watering washed the litter from the leaves.  The condition of this transplant has me looking forward to winter so that we can see if these plants appear next spring.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Our Walk In The Woods

Our day started this morning with a trip to the back meadow intending to clear a fallen section of a White Pine tree that was blocking part of the mowed meadow.  With that task completed, a short walk to check on our now officially wild Cardinal Flower seemed in order.  We have a survivor with no help from people.  An additional walk into the forest seemed like the only thing to do.  Glacier ground ridge rock in all sizes litters this forest floor.  Beauty is everywhere.  Plants here must be left alone since the stony soil prevents their removal.

This wild Jack In The Pulpit is close to the first Trillium that we have ever seen in this section of our woods.  A stately Red Trillium was a welcome surprise.  Invasive Garlic Mustard is far less welcome and we feel compelled to remove it whenever it is encountered.

Purple-pink winged flowers are what we wanted to see.  Little is written about Fringed Polygala and its culture is difficult.  These dainty plants are in the company of rather nasty neighbors and their long term survival here is in doubt.  The large oval leaves and the white cluster of flower buds mark the presence of Wild lily-of-the-valley.  It is a horribly invasive native and will choke out nearby plants.  Escaped pasture grass is also in the picture and it is unclear which will ultimately reign in this area.  What is apparent is that the polygala is being strangled here.

A long pry bar aided the removal of clumps of this ground.  This was no easy task as roots from nearby bushes helped to hold the soil in place.  Each  soil block was placed in a container of water.  Swishing around that mass aided in the gentle removal of all parts of the weeds.  Intact civilized plants was our goal.  We accept the possible outcome that nothing will survive the move but we cannot risk placing these invaders into our shade garden.

These Starflowers could survive their move since complete root masses remained with the rest of the transplant.  Delicate accurately describes every part of these plants.  Our hope is that enough of the plants remains functional enabling a return next year.  Their pointed white flowers are quite attractive and a sizable patch would be a welcome addition to our collection of native plants.

The outcome with the polygala is far less certain.  We had a past experience where several plants with horizontal roots were connected to a single deep taproot.  Despite our caution today, only plants with the horizontal root were removed.  The web of forest soil is so tight that deep clumps are impossible to remove.  We did our best and these plants have been added to the list of transplants that will receive water nearly every rainless day.  Any survivors here will be treasured while those left behind in the woods should persist for the time that we will remain here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Frost And Flowers

Frost on what we refer to here as lawn was light and patchy.

Frost on Ed's daylily leaves will not make much of an impression.

Frost on flowers is sometimes a different story.  Some flowers drop dead at Jack Frost's touch, some survive but never look quite the same but others take it in stride and keep on blooming.  I'm expecting these Sweet cicely flowers to be in that last group.

We have not yet planted our frost sensitive plants.  Ed brought the tomato , pepper,  and Heliotrope plants inside last night.  June 1 has always been our frost safe date.  You can't count on global warming.  By 9:00AM all of the frost will be gone.  I've become a bit frost sensitive myself.  I'll stay inside and enjoy the rest of my coffee and look at the beautiful  Amaryllis  flowers till then.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Update On Our Nearly Native Woodland Garden

One of the qualities necessary if you are going to garden with Native plants is the ability to enjoy the plants when they are at their best and then accept the way they look as they fade.  Spring ephemeral wild flowers are a fleeting phenomenon.  There is the thrill when they first come up, proving that they have survived Winter.  Then there is the pure pleasure of watching them bloom followed by the period of time when they fade away.  Some completely disappear until next year.   On the other hand some of the plants are just getting started.  The Sumac trees that are the wood part of this woodland garden are only now leafing out to provide some leaf shade.

The view from our garden bench is very satisfying . Ed's garden vision is really taking shape.  The plastic bags filled with leaves and the piles of woodland soil are a necessary part of the garden  metamorphosis.  Today Ed planted Woodland Phlox and  some tall, pale lavender Monarda.  The Monarda is planted right behind the bench.  Hummingbird moths find the  fragrant flowers irresistible and it is my hope they will visit the flowers while I am sitting there.

The yellow lady's slipper is perfect today.  Ed took this incredible picture, but it is still more thrilling to see it in person!

I only saw a  Rattlesnake Plantain once before and I am very pleased that this one looks so terrific.  It may bloom later in the season and if it does I will be elated.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the intricate beauty of the leaves. and patiently wait.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Still Learning

Considering the time spent both reading about Cardinal Flower and working with it, my lack of understanding this plant seems limitless.  Just finding a name to describe its growth cycle is futile.  It may be perennial in effect but no part of the plant lives longer than a single year.  My suggested name is recurring annual.  We shall see if that term becomes used by anyone else.

This picture shows the usual totally dead remains of last year's flower stalk and the new daughter plants that grew around the long dead stem.  Never before have we seen uprooted plants.  It may be that this location near the driveway combined with last winter's heavy snowfall resulted in plowed snow pushing over the tall stem.  This year we will cut away the spent stem before snowfall becomes abundant.  For now the stem has been removed and the remains of the daughter plants have been pushed back into the soil.

Whether from seed or new growth, Cardinal Flower sends low rosettes of evergreen plants into winter snow.  Usually, bright light green stemless leaves are revealed when the snow disappears.  These tender plants did fine under the snow but ours are frequently destroyed when exposed to severe frosts.  My habit to avoid this outcome has me potting up the new plants just as soon as the ice has left the soil.  This year sixty plants were split between four carrying frames.  When a freeze is threatened, these plants are carried into the basement.  That system would be perfect were it not for the difficulty now experienced carrying the heavy load of fifteen plants per tray.

When we were clearing away Siberian Iris leaves, bright green Cardinal Flower rosettes were uncovered.  How these young plants maintained function when left totally in the dark surprised me.  Just recently one of the ladies given plants last year asked me what she should do next.  Carefully pulling away a thick covering of slimy wet fallen tree leaves, she found bright light green Cardinal Flower plants.  It appears that a solid covering of mulch saved these plants.

This photo shows six of my plants that were just set out releasing them from their pots.  These protected plants are sending up the stalk that will bear flowers well ahead of any of our plants that were left in the garden.  I still do not understand how some of these unprotected plants survived frost while others were ended.

This picture shows just how close these plants are to the driveway.  My habit is to plow snow toward the center of the lane then use the snowblower to send it clear of the plants.  This past winter the plow truck was called three times and that is when the pushed snow may have uprooted plants.  The brilliant red flowers look great at the edge of the new shade garden and survivors or potted plants will keep this display an annual event here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Planting In The Rain

We are trying for the third time to find a successful location for Bunchberry.  Our first attempt resulted in a plant that barely held on while getting smaller each year.  Our second try featured bare root plants since our supplier located in the mid west could not ship plants in pots because of an invasion of jumping worms.  Those plants just died during their first year here.  This plant is by far the largest that we have ever seen.  If more than one plant had been in stock, we would have purchased three.  Perhaps when we return new stock will have arrived.  If not, we will go with just one plant.

Reading has given us additional information that might improve this plants chances of survival here.  We have no control over our elevation above sea level so this plant will have to adjust to where we are.  We can control the soil and this spot was filled with a mix of soil taken from under a Hemlock tree and a White Pine.  Poor acidic soil is reported to be where Bunchberry thrives in the wild.  A White Pine supplied the top mulch as shown by the cone.  This plant began to separate into pieces as the potting medium was rinsed clear but it was planted as a single unit.  Now we watch and wait hoping that the third time is the charm.

We were concerned about these Jack In The Pulpits.  Last year, following a generous set of bright red berries, something walked here and broke all of the plants.  The surface was littered with plant parts.  As is sometimes the case, worry was not warranted.  Eight beautiful plants have held their ground and are off to an impressive start this year.  Low temperatures and rain are in the forecast for the next several nights.  Perhaps the rain will offset the negative effects of cold air.  No seeds will follow if these plants experience frost.  This is intended to be a native plant garden growing as if they were in the wild so no protective cover will be in place.  Here again we will watch and wait.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Found Treasure

Our quest to establish a native plant garden has been difficult.  One major hurdle is finding a reliable source of plants.  That problem may be solved.  The Fernery located just north of Hartwick is a local operation with one person having a passion for native plants carefully doing all of the work.  With the exception of the Snowdrops growing close to the stone wall, the pictured plants are our first purchase.  Bloodroots, Trillium, Early Meadow Rue, Bunchberry, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain and Fragrant Ladies Tresses made the trip home with us today.

Bloodroot has been a difficult plant for us.  We had a naturally expanding planting of it but poor placement and a severe drought ended our plants.  Attempts to purchase new stock have twice been a complete failure.  This pot appears to contain three plants each displaying a developing seed pod.  We will leave these plants in their pots as they finish their natural growing cycle so that substantial roots develop.  Their ground in the developing shade garden is presently ready but we need to proceed carefully here.  We have never before seen plants of this quality offered for sale.

We have never achieved success growing mail order Bunchberry plants.  This small pot contains growing plants that need freedom soon.  Very acid soil is necessary to maintain this plant and we will be harvesting native soil developing under an aged White Pine tree.  When that soil is placed, these plants will be set out with a surface mulch of pine needles finishing the job.  These plants look like they need freedom now.

The holding area has received our new plants and a mulch of ground hardwood leaves is being applied.  Moisture retention and weed elimination are the reasons for the mulch.  White clothing covers nearly all skin leaving only part of my face exposed.  White is reported to deter ticks and protect sun damaged skin.  Granted my appearance is bizarre, some who know me might ask what's new with that, and if it frightens passersby that might also be a good thing.  This was one wonderful day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Weeding Trilliums

Giant White Trillium is a flower from my youth.  Childhood memories dictated that they hold a prominent  place in our shade gardens.  Like many native wildflowers, considerable time is necessary for them to adjust to new surroundings.  This is an impressive old clump that is under attack from Trout Lilies.  This picture was taken after the area was cleared.  Chopped leaves now cover ground that was gently cleared of invaders.  More lilies will be weeded out.

When we first explored our newly purchased land twenty-five years ago, few flowering Trout Lilies were seen since stony ground limited their growth.  When moved to our shade garden that was built with deep stone free soil, they grew like weeds.  Their removal was necessary to protect the Trillium.

These removed weeds show just how serious their invasion will become.  Each white thick new root will grow a more deeply placed corm.  One single leaved nonflowering plant sports three such roots.  This single plant will become at least four by next year.  The only option was to make some clear ground between the two types of plants.

This piece of our new shade garden lies between our neighbors lawn and a stone lined path.  Placed in this ground that is not connected to the main part of the garden, ferns and Trout Lilies can compete for the open ground.  Each is expected to hold their own with this placement.  The lilies are approaching the end of their season with flowers just as the ferns are beginning to send up new growth.  Since both are stunning woodland plants, more of each will be transplanted here as new woodland soil is mixed.  Many other duties are calling for our attention now but for some reason this new garden has taken on an undeniable urgency.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Crinkleroot Moved

It is easily understandable how this plant has been overlooked by us for so long.  This time of year comes with a high work load and as a result Toothwort remained basically unnoticed.  Fortunately for us that has now changed.  This picture shows a mature plant sporting two sets of three leaves each and flowers.  The scent of these small white flowers is incredible perhaps outdistancing the fragrance of Arbutus.

These plants were released from the jungle of growth in the old shade garden.  This spot in front of the most natural looking stone deliberately placed here seems like a proper place for this newly rediscovered plant.  We expect that Toothwort will soon completely fill this area.  Since it is shallow rooted other plants can grow alongside with no detrimental effect on either one.

White bumps on the long root may be the source of the name Toothwort.  John Burroughs did introduce me to this plant with just two sentences.  He described memories of himself as a boy taking a shortcut on his walk to school passing through a wooded area.  White roots were liberated and pocketed intending to eat them with lunch.  On most days the tasty roots were eaten during morning classes.  Our supply of plants is large enough to consider sampling their flavor.  Pepper root is another common name for this plant referencing its hot taste.  Native Americans are reported to have allowed the roots to mellow under cover for several days before eating them.  The aged flavor sounds more desirable to me than that of the fresh root.

This is the source of our plants dug for transplanting.  A single plant purchased many years ago has done well here on its own.  We intend to keep the new planting free of invasive plants like the violets that also claim this ground as theirs.  Deer are frequently seen feeding here and violets are on their list of plants to eat.  We do not know if Toothwort is also on their menu.  We hope to sample the scent of a larger set of blossoms that may follow an introduction to better growing conditions.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Little Good News

First, the bad news.  In the garden near the woods 210 onion plants were carefully placed in the ground.  Yesterday we discovered that most of them had been pulled from the ground and eaten.  Onion eaters are not common but written reports of meadow voles' appetite for them were found.  Spring traps and sticky traps have been set but nothing yet.

Several years ago we purchased Toothwort  plants in response to the words written by John Burroughs.  His description of these flower's scent made them a must have plant.  After years of scant growth and no flowers, finally we have something to smell.  Nose to the ground was required but the trip was well worth the effort.  Their fragrance was wonderful and several deep breaths were taken.  Many small plants now fill the place where we planted one and some will be moved to the new garden down by the road.

This variety of Toothwort is slightly smaller that distinction possibly influenced by the remembered names of Greater and Lesser.  Here again, new plants are numerous and they too will be moved down the hill.

Yellow violets underwent rescue and a move to proper ground.  We have discovered that the ground beneath trees cannot be penetrated without damage to the trees,  This area sported cover from bags of leaves for two years.  Quack grass roots were gently removed and man made woods dirt was brought in.  The violets were planted in that finely screened soil.  Mower chopped fallen leaves were applied to a depth that might limit weed growth.  A more natural forest soil will be produced by the rotting leaves.  We now need to find a way to limit the return of the neighbor's pasture grass.