Saturday, May 30, 2020

Walk In The Garden With Me

I'm taking a walk in the native plant garden.  I would love to take you with me.  Please stay on the path and don't be afraid to ask any questions you may have.  I may or may not have the answers.  This is a Greater Yellow Lady'slipper.  Back again this year, this plant should not be missed!  It actually had four buds, but one day a flower drooped and the next day it was gone.  Three flowers are still terrific!

 If I remember correctly, the wild ginger was planted here first.  Ed planted the stump last year.  This year the black cohosh that Jane gave me so long ago was transplanted right behind the stump.  The rock polypody is new.  The little flowers are a  baby woodland phlox that grew from a piece that I stuck in Ed's carefully prepared soil early this spring.

The gorgeous original  clump woodland phlox  is back again this spring.  The pale blue flowers make a lovely companion for the smooth Solomon's seal.  In the evening the flowers seem to glow and the clump can be seen from the road if you slow down  to look at gardens like I do.

The early meadow rue plants are here for their second year and I am delighted to have proof that  just like I thought I do have a male and a female plant.  A few leaves of the mother plant show in the lower right of the picture.  The tiny pale green seedlings are baby meadow rue plants.  We could never have too many of these delicate looking plants!  I will watch these grow and transplant them to fill in empty spots.

Red columbine  and white shooting stars were transplanted this spring from the shade garden up by the house.  Clearly they are happy in their new home.  Virtual garden walks are not as much fun as real ones.  On the other hand I can taake this walk again in December if I want to do that. So can you!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Incredible Beauty

Trillium is a flower from my youth.  Finding a huge patch of them while walking in the woods is an unforgettable experience.  This picture was posted eleven days ago when these plants first opened their flowers in our shade garden.

Now that the trees are unfurling their leaves, the time of the trillium is coming to an end for this season.  Those pure white blossoms are now pink.  Just how wonderful is that?  One must pay attention or risk missing this part of the show.  Withered brown totally spent flowers can also be seen in this picture.  Soon this will be bare ground with no trace of these native treasures as their short time in the sun becomes over.

This native Pinxter bush is just now opening its buds.  Most remain closed but the overall affect is sweet smelling pink.  Actually two bushes grow here.  Perhaps this will be the year when I find the courage to move the smaller plant.

Flowers seen from their side reveal the brazen presentation of the sexual parts.  Five rather long filaments have their pollen producing stamens waving in the wind.  The sixth longer filament will receive the pollen sending it to the base of the blossom where seeds will be produced.  When fertilization is complete, the withered remains of the flower will detach and slide down the limp pistil.  Despite the fact that this is only the second day when flowers have been open we did see the remains of a spent blossom.

After the post was written another visit intended to savor the sweetness of the open flowers revealed two winged pollinators.  A massive bumble bee was sampling the open flowers.  Despite the pollen laden stamens placement way beyond the open petals, the bee was working its way to the base of the blossoms.  Its backwards exit is likely the cause of the flower that was pulled away.  The second pollinator appeared similar to a bee but it was tiny.  This represents the first time that pollinators have been seen near these flowers.  I always assumed wind spread the pollen.  Must watch out for those assumptions.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Finally May Rain

As is sometimes the case, May weather has been harsh.  Lack of rain and frequent freezes or frosts have damaged many plants.  Last night a gentle warm rain fell for hours.  It totaled less than one half of an inch but even that much was welcomed by the plants.  We have been generous with the watering can but nothing can compare to an actual rainfall.

These Hepaticas are very recent transplants.  With rainfall in the forecast, we wanted these new plants in the ground.  The nearby area needs additional work as we see these plants in the wild growing surrounded by stones.  Our open ground will see appropriately sized stones nearly buried between the plants.

Violets are both a longtime family favorite and commonly occur in our nearby woods.  The decision to include them in the garden was not easily made.  Our deer herd frequently eat violets and that may be part of the reason why they often visit here.  The wire cages make walking difficult and stones placed just outside of the cage will prevent snouts from simply pushing the cage aside.  Time will tell if violets in the garden was a poor choice.

These Yellow Lady Slippers did not have any buds yesterday.  We say that with certainty since they are checked every day on the walk to the mailbox.  We believe that the rotting tree stump adds something to the soil that benefits these plants.  They have been here for several years and the number of stems and flowers is increasing.

We were unsure if these Jacks would make an appearance this year.  Marauding deer tore these plants up last year but their appearance now is impressive.  We cannot cage everything so these plants will grow here just as they grow in the woods.  That statement is an exaggeration since we usually see only single plants growing in our woods.

Early this spring Becky was clearing around her Woodland Phlox and accidentally broke off a single stem.  She then stuck a finger into the ground and planted the broken piece.  I mentally gave her action no chance of success and now she has a transplant with two flowers.  This plant will rapidly increase in size making its placement near the rescued stump look more natural.  We cannot wait for expanding phlox plants to close in on the fern.  They will also be transplanted allowing them to claim a nearby area.  All of this because of a broken stem and the belief that it could be saved.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Walk In Our Woods

When we found this land twenty-six years ago, much of our time was spent walking in the wooded section along our southern border.  Here the bedrock ridge was well worn by past glaciers and disappeared under level field forming deposits.  Water oozes constantly from the base of the ridge but it never finds an outlet.  Gravel soil drains it away.  Trees growing on rock makes them prone to being wind thrown and these woods have experienced great changes during our time here.  Age and concern for our safety have limited the time we spend walking here but today Becky wanted to look for a specific plant.

In 2009 she found a single Dwarf Ginseng plant growing among the Hemlocks.  It later disappeared but when found again something had eaten its flower.  One of our wire cages was hauled into the woods to protect this rather rare plant.  Despite our absence from the woods, we easily found the wire cage.  One small plant had become three .   As luck would have it each of these plants were in flower for our visit.  We plan to return to try and see the yellow seed berry.

Spring beauties have been rather common in several places.  Their growth habit makes them nearly impossible to move.  The visible above ground growth is a considerable distance from the pea sized corm.  The thin connecting thread could not be removed intact.  As the plant is dying down the corm is filled with nutrients.  If enough of the connecting thread still exists, it can be followed from the remains of the plant revealing the location of the corm.  Dug then the corm can be successfully moved.  We have never been able to find a corm.

This is the largest stand of Spring Beauties on our land.  These plants always remind me of my maternal grandmother.  She and her father were likely responsible for my interest in growing plants.  Both maintained impressive gardens.  Every time I encounter this plant it reminds me of her.  She referred to a group of plants in her garden as Spring Beauties.  I think that those plants were violets.  Her words may have referenced their appearance rather than calling them by name.  Given the difficulty in moving these, we must walk to the woods to enjoy them.

That walk has become very difficult for us.  A ground hugging single strand of barbed wire marks the property line.  It has always been difficult to see but now fallen trees block what was our path.  Large pieces of broken bedrock litter the ground making sure footing difficult to find.  We need to stay close to the barbed wire to find level dry footing.  Neither of us fell or scratched our ankles so the walk must be considered a success.

Despite being listed as an endangered plant, Gold Thread thrives on the present conditions here.  A careful look might reveal the white flower located near the center of the right edge of the picture.  In addition to vast spreads of this plant on the lumpy wet hemlock forest floor here, we have also found it growing on the soil mass held by wind thrown trees.  This is another plant that we will not move to our shade garden.   Nearby are extensive stands of Toothwort.  A few of those plants will be carefully moved.  It makes an excellent ground cover when placed near other plants that cease to show any above ground growth when the tree leaves open.  The Goldthread, Dwarf Ginseng and Spring Beauties  will remain where they are.  We seldom get to see them but we know they are there.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Transplant Day Plus One

This is the condition of two of the Maidenhair Spleenworts transplanted here yesterday.  So far everything looks good.  We must remember to carry water here every time two days without rain happens.  An unknown is if the added limestone was sufficient to promote growth.  Yesterday's pictures showed me perched on both knees.  Today must be a day of rest to allow my hips to recover.

These Jack In The Pulpits are a welcome sight.  Last year our resident deer herd held a dance party here.  All of these plants were broken off and trampled before seed could be matured.  My concern was that the sharp hooves might have damaged the corms.  This new growth is well timed as it protected the new plant growth from frost damage.  This entire area has been filled with wire cages in an attempt to keep the deer out.

Bitterroot is native to western North America as the location of the mountain range bearing the same name might suggest..  We have purchased new plants every year since none have every wintered over here.  A listed plant requirement is growing in stony soil.  We kept the stones small so that transplants could be placed by pushing stone against the root without damage.  For reasons that remain unknown, this plant survived.  We must reread plant requirements in an attempt to keep this one here.

Lewisia redivika is the Latin name recognizing yet another plant discovered by Lewis and Clark.  Native Americans collected and dried the roots which were eaten despite a likely harsh flavor.

Jacob's Ladder is a plant native to eastern North America that is highly prized by Becky.  It has grown to an impressive size in our shade garden near the house.  It is one of the early flowering plants that keeps its leaves all summer.  We must look for a plant or two to place in the garden near the road.  Here is another plant that does not photograph accurately using our point and shoot camera.  The flowers are colored a bright pure dark blue that the picture only suggests.

These Trilliums have been growing near the house for years.  It is written that seven years are required for these plants to bloom from seed.  Transplants require almost that many years of growth in their new home.  We continue to buy new plants each year since one simply must have a broad sweep of these plants.  With age more flowering stems appear and they are welcome.  We have yet to see a new plant from seed in our fake shade gardens.  For some reason this plant is absent from our woods.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Winter Reading

When we found this land twenty-six years ago it was our four season playground.  Now winter finds us indoors sometimes reading about plants.  On just such a day Maidenhair Spleenwort was discovered.  It is a rather small native plant that grows from cracks in rock outcroppings.  Pictures of it growing in the wild made this a must have plant.  Reason tempered our enthusiasm since it was unlikely that we would find a source for this plant.  Less than a one hour drive from our home is a native plant business that specializes in ferns.  As luck would have it Maidenhair Spleenwort was included in her inventory.

My habit is to wash away most of the potting medium used to make the plant legally sale-able.  Actual soil cannot legally be used and the plant has a better chance of survival if a more natural woodland dirt surrounds the root mass of the transplant in its new permanent home.

Very special stones were used to build a suitable rock ledge in the available space.  Many years ago Becky was active in The Jericho Fiber Arts Guild.  There she met an amazing woman two decades our senior.  Jane was also totally at home exploring woodlands and shared her considerable knowledge of native plants with us.  A stream crossed her property and she allowed me to remove water worn stones to be used in our gardens.  We have always viewed her stones as special.  That pile of treasures gave us the stones used to build the necessary ledge.  Pockets were formed between stones to provide both soil and stone for our plants.  Without question Jane would have approved of how we used her stones.

Sharp eyes may find six new plants placed in the artificial ledge.  With luck they will increase in size  becoming easier to see.

This long view shows how we use fallen leaves to build woodland soil.  An unsightly pile of plastic bags holds our supply.  When needed the leaves are run through our push mower twice to make a fine mulch that will not blow away in the wind.  They reduce weed growth and quickly rot down forming rich black soil.  These plants prefer sweeter soil so lawn limestone will be added with each addition of more leaves.  So now we watch and wait to see if this new plant will grow under our care.  It would only be fitting that Jane's stones support their growth and keep her in our memories.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Where Do I Begin?

Ed and I have been waiting for today!  If NOAA's crystal ball is correct we are in for a warm, welcome change.  After a cold night our morning garden walk had Ed removing the covers from the plants while I walked along looking for something good to photograph.  The Smooth Solomen's Seal is back and spreading. That's great news!

Uncovered, my Fragrant Lady's Tresses  already look fantastic!  Just you wait until they get some  warm rain and sunshine instead of frigid nights!

The Hens and Chicks on top of Ed's stone wall are still red from winter's chill. I could not help but notice this baby milk snake right at my eye level!  A baby milk snake is a sure sign of warmth to come.  I love the way this little guy is woven in the  spiny plants.

The snakes eye is cloudy which means a change of skin is in the works.  That has got to itch! Hens and Chicks must make a terrific back scratcher.  It's time to get my garden cart and head outside. Where will I begin?  Does it matter?

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Snowed On

Snowfall in May is not unusual in our area of NYS but the degree to which it is welcome here is probably not favorable.  These Forsythia plants grew from three whips that were given to us by a fantastic gardening pair.  Untrimmed, they have established themselves as reliable in producing flowers.  Their location at the base of a conically shaped glacial deposit is the site of frequent unusual weather.  Snow accumulated in only one small part of the hedge.  How and why that happened cannot be explained by us.  This section of the nearby driveway always receives more accumulation of snow than occurs anywhere else.  Somehow the winds from the north unload their snow load before being pushed up the hill.  It is a common import from Europe or Asia and we hope it is not on the list of plants to avoid to protect natives.

Surprisingly, Creeping Phlox is a native plant.  Placed near the edge of the broken stone path, it has grown into a huge specimen.  Perhaps the heat and dryness near the stones have pushed this plant to its glorious presentation this year.  Its former location in rich damp soil threatened their life itself.  We expect snow melt to reveal absolutely undamaged plants.

Magnolia is also native to both North and South America.  This Canandaigua bred tree has survived our zone 4 weather.  Usually few flowers were seen as the deer were eating the buds.  This year a four foot high wire fence was placed around the plant.  Low wire garden cages were placed against the vertical barrier to block any path to the tasty buds.  Orange plastic fencing made the barriers very visible.  For the first time our special tree is covered with flowers.  The time to get rid of the unsightly fence is now.

Mention must be made of the source of this hardy magnolia.  Miller Nurseries supplied us with plants for decades.  These two brothers took great pride in the quality of their nursery stock and we were always pleased with our purchases.  Sadly, one of the brothers passed and the business was closed.  We miss the quality of the purchases made there but this tree always reminds us of its source.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


This certainly is a time when finding a reason for hope is a good thing.  Actually finding it in the image of Arbutus blossoms where the sweetly scented flower cups have been pulled away from the plant might bring my judgement into question.  The first time I was confronted with this mess, devastation was the emotion that presented itself.  Now I know that pollinating bumblebees pull the outer flower part away as they exit.  That part of the flower is no longer needed.  Seeds are almost guaranteed to form on these seemingly damaged flowers.  Just why huge insects are part of the pollination process of these rather tiny blossoms is a question without an obvious answer.

That this image greatly lifted our spirits requires explanation.  Last year this ground held an impressive planting of Bloodroot plants.  They experienced a fantastic season of growth with huge leaves and mature seeds.  Then the deer herd walked or danced across our shade garden.  Broken plants littered the ground and it appeared likely that deer hooves had pierced the corms.  Many days have passed with our daily inspections finding no sign of these special plants.  Then this single leaf, possibly wrapped around a flower bud, pushed itself above the soil.  More may follow but if this is the only plant that appears at least our Bloodroot is still alive.

Trilliums end their growth cycle soon after the trees open their leaves.  The deer's later visit might have pierced the corms and any sign of growth here was long in coming.  These leaves show signs of frost damage but appear to remain functional.  Circular wire cages now surround nearly all of these plants.  Our hope is that the congested area will prove unpleasant for the deer.

 Right now living in New York State is not ideal.  As a red-blooded American I bristle at the idea that the government gets to decide what is necessary for me.  That being said, I agree with the "Do no harm!" directive.  Before Covid-19 when only the winter cold kept me housebound, I ordered some native plants  intending to plant my treasures in the spring. Anyone reading this blog knows that our plant addiction is serious.  So we donned our masks and went to a place where we knew we could find the plants we wanted.  Everyone stayed outside in the fresh air and sunshine. We got the plants we needed and paid the money that was due.  Where is the harm in that? 

New York's travel ban has left us confused.  Despite instructions that I am to stay home, Greyhound buses still travel from the Port Authority in NYC to Syracuse.  The Binghamton mayor has asked that these buses not stop in his city and that request has been honored.  We have been limiting our car use to grocery shopping.  Liquor stores remain open under the State travel ban regulations but many plant nurseries remain closed.  Somehow thirty-one new plants have appeared here.  I do not consume alcohol but remain addicted to new plants.

Friday, May 1, 2020

One Year Biennial

Typically, a biennial plant needs two years to produce a flowering specimen.  In its first year, seeds germinate and a low cluster of leaves follow.  The next year taller growth appears with flowers displayed.  Cardinal Flower has found a way to cram that growth habit into one year.  After flowering in late summer, the mature plant completely dies.  Up to six daughter plants begin their growth around the base of the dead plant.  These low plants appear to grow under the snow.  The following spring the tall stalks will begin to grow with flowers to follow.  This plant is perennial in effect since there is no year without blossoms but no part of the original plant is seen in the second year.

Several hurdles must be cleared for these tender green plants to survive.  Frost can be a real killer.  We frequently experience early warm days with temperatures approaching sixty degrees.  Then the wind shifts to the north bringing a hard freeze.  If these tender plants experience moderate temperatures following snow melt, their leaves seem to become more frost tolerant but an early frost can be a real killer.

The first picture shows the present condition of a cluster of plants in our garden.  A loose mulch of chrysanthemum stems covered these plants following snow melt.  Many frost damaged leaves are evident but some of these plants will recover and flower this year.  Overcrowding is the result of each plant replacing itself with up to six new plants following each year's growth.

Our habit is to remove a cluster of plants from the ground just as soon as possible.  This year ice crystals remained in the ground as we tenderly pulled these plants apart.  This tray of transplants was watered regularly and carried into the basement when frost threatened.  The ground hugging cluster of overwintered leaves can still be seen but the vertical stems that will produce flowers are rapidly growing.  Little imagination is required to see the promise of huge clusters of brilliant red colored flowers later this year.  Our primary purpose in potting up this native treasure is to insure that frost will not completely remove this plant from our gardens.  Age is slowing me down.  Four trays of transplants filled the top of this wall last year.  This year we are down to one.