Monday, April 19, 2021

Back To Irma's Woods

The need to explore these woods is made obvious by this photo.  A tree trunk, wild leeks, hepaticas in bloom and unfurling trillium leaves in the foreground and the promise of more in the background creates a strong desire to explore this land.  We can only imagine the promise of beauty likely to be found further up the hill.  Passersby have yet to be seen while walking on this dirt road but still that is where we stay.

This brown growth is something that we have never seen before either in person or in a book.  If we hit a day with little to do, a search might be made to try and identify this splat.  We find this on each visit here but have yet to notice any change at this busy for plants time of year.  It is growing on a moss covered rock rather than a piece of a long ago fallen tree.

Hepatica have been the star of the early show.  This cluster of many white flowers is unusual because of their closeness to each other while spread along a line.  Two of the blossoms have dropped their colored petals revealing their three green backings.  Seeds may be forming in the dangling white dots in the center.  What really caught our eye is the cluster of three connected larger leaves marking an early appearance of a Trillium.  A second plant is seen under the upper one.  A third is at the right edge of the picture.  A massive past display of white Trillium flowers is what first caught our eyes here.   It is somewhat impressive that we have finally noticed just how many more plants are also growing here.

Spring Beauties are a personal favorite because they connect me to my maternal grandmother. She may have used that name when showing off her violets but seeing this wild flower always brings back pleasant memories of her.  In many ways she introduced me to the wonder of plants.  Most of my past attempts to get a decent photo of these beautiful blossoms have been disappointing with the lines of color largely invisible.  Somehow today was the day to capture a complete and accurate picture of these tremendous flowers.

 This is just a small corner of a huge collection of Spring Beauties growing on the top of a large flat detached chunk of the bedrock ridge. Spring Beauty leaves, pointy and narrow, are easily seen in this photo.  This surface is above the soil level of the forest floor.  Here a thin layer of rotted vegetation enriched with the minerals dissolved from the rock supply nutrients to these plants.  Yesterday, carefully working among our garden plants reopened a leg scrape resulting in wisdom demanding that a light day would move it toward healing.  Part of this down time was spent next to plants that require no human intervention.  It was a day well spent. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Early Arbutus Flowers

Several years ago four small Arbutus plants were transplanted here.  The following Spring a woodchuck ate one of the plants down to the ground.  The wire cage placed inside of a low stone wall was the result.  The stones make it impossible for a critter to simply push the cage aside and with protection and care these native treasures have prospered.  The tree trunk visible in the photo is a White Pine since rotting pine needles created the acid soil required for Arbutus growth.  Fallen Oak leaves also create acid soil but the covering from these sizeable leaves can smother and kill Arbutus leaves.  Recent skin scrapes have prevented me from kneeling on the ground to date so the Oak leaves remain.  For now these Arbutus are truly wild native plants and some death is natural.

 This Spring has been nearly totally lacking rain.  Recently we had a two day rain event that resulted in nearly one inch of gentle rain spread across two days.  Previously we had a single day of light drizzle.  With these early drought conditions the plants have widely responded to moisture.  The common name May Flower has been earlier been used to identify these plants but here we are just short of mid April and we have flowers.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Irma's Woods Once Again

We found this wooded slope next to a little traveled dirt road quite by accident.  The posted signs identified the landowner as a person that taught in the same school I did for one decade.  Irma was a class act and her standards of expected behavior are honored even after her passing.  We look at the native wildflowers growing here from the edge of the road.  Only pictures are taken.

Bloodroot has held my attention for a number of years.  Plants have been lost to drought or rude deer altogether too often.  The preferred conditions for continued growth are unknown.  Here these plants grow only in one small area for reasons that completely escape me.  The closed flower bud is tightly surrounded by circle of leaves until it is pushed above the tangle of forest soil as can be seen in the upper most plant.  The white petals are fragile and wind frequently pulls them loose.  Blossoms last only for a short time and the display can easily be missed.  These flowers may be only one day old and will be gone early next week.  Our visits here have been frequent.  This is what we wanted to see. 

Sharp lobed Hepatica blossoms have been open for many days now.  Many of the early native woodland plants end their growing season about the time that the trees leaf out but Hepatica is still holding on to last year's leaves.  The foreground area between the two sticks is filled with trios of liver colored leaves that continue to nourish the plant.  These plants also have the rare trait of a wide range of petal numbers on each blossom.  Our frequent visits here found Hepatica to be the first plant to open its flowers.

One narrow section of Irma's woods is home to this unusual and brightly colored plant.  We have yet to find its name while its appearance always gets a long second look.  Becky will have the identification of the foreground plant when it has grown some.

Spring Beauty is a friend from childhood.  Its pinkish colored flower petals appear white in our photos but to the naked eye these flowers are stunners.  The underground structure that supports this growth resembles a pea but it is located at some distance from the above ground growth.  If one remembers to visit the plants near the end of their period of growth, the slender underground connecting rod can be followed to the pea.  With its growth period over, the pea can be successfully moved but the timing is critical.  If one is early the pea has not completed storing nutrients and will likely die if moved.  If the dig is late the underground stem will have disappeared.  We have never moved this plant.

 This sight improved our moods immensely.  One of our Fall planted Bloodroots has pushed its leaf cluster above the ground.  Deep deer hoof prints widely cover this ground and we were fearful that the new plants were destroyed.  Water will be hauled to this area to help any others along.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

First Native Flower

For this year there is no question concerning which native plant is first to open flowers here.  Round Lobed Hepatica is the clear winner.  This plant is located in our raised bed and we drove to Irma's woods across the valley where the sunlight makes a stronger statement.  We found open Hepaticas there also that looked as fresh as ours.  This light purple coloration is our favorite and it is common with these round lobed plants.  Pictures taken yesterday in full sunlight did not show much color.  This picture was taken later in the day today.  I was kneeling on the stone wall to cast a shadow on the plant.  That provided a good picture but the skin lost on my leg while attempting a smooth dismount will prove to be an inconvenience for many days to come.


The other common blossom color for this plant is white.  Their brightness and purity is a major mood booster and we are pleased to have both.  Here the bright sunlight had a positive impact on the picture.  Usually these plants hold last year's leaves that turn liver colored over winter but continue to nourish the early flowers.  For some reason our plants do not have these functional leaves this year.

Early Meadow Rue is a prized plant here.  We found it for sale just a little north of Hartwick.  This plant is female and the fact that Becky knew of its two genders impressed the seller.  Flowers were pollinated here last year with the new seedlings now making an understated appearance guaranteeing that this plant will grow here in numbers.

The newly emerged male plant appears more subdued than the female.  Flower structure will be different and we will closely watch the growth cycle of these plants.  

Bloodroot is another early blooming native plant.  Weather has not been kind to these plants for the past two years.  Our search today did not produce a sighting of an emerging plant at either Irma's woods or our garden.  Bloodroot is usually in flower close to the time of the Hepatica but this year no trace of these plants has been found.  Spring rainfall has been missing here and that may be a factor in the lack of these plants.  Deer made their presence know here with many hoof prints and holes where our Bloodroots were planted.  New plants were Fall purchased and planted but to date there is no sign of plant growth here.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Thrill Of Spring Flowers

For me early spring ephemerals in the garden  are an exciting waiting game.  Some of my favorite plants look mostly dead or missing.   This year with all of the rodent tunnels the possibility of them being gone for good is a bigger concern.  This delightful blue carpet of Giant Glory of the Snow makes me almost giddy! The flower stems are 4-6 inches tall.  Someday I will cut one and bring it indoors, but I really like them where they are.


I adore blue flowers and this Siberian squill  hiding in the grass made me get down to get a close up of its blue pollen.  The flowers are like tiny little blue stars growing here and there in the grass.  The original bed where these were planted became overgrown with tall grass.  The survivors are right next to the old bed where Ed keeps the grass cut. 

The first Windflower opened today. These are planted where I can watch them dance in the wind from  my bedroom window on chilly mornings.  While they last they are a special treat.

I gave the windflowers an encore because I could not choose between the pictures. The dark pink bud will be coming right along.  The soft grey leaves are a nearby Rose Campion that will bloom after the windflowers are gone except for the stone marking their place.

Ed and I have become very interested in Native plants.  I have been watching and waiting for the arrival of these Sharp-lobed Hepatica flowers.  Most years last year's leaves remain but this year they did not. That was worrisome.  It is a real joy to see these flowers.  I know my plants will return if they can.  They want to grow and are just waiting for their chance in the rain and the sun.  Spring is a wonderful time in the garden. This is just the beginning!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Warm Days And Light Rain

From our front window we can still see snow covered ground and open flowers.  Recent days have begun with frost on the windshield followed by afternoon temperatures above 70 degrees.  Other days featured day long light rain delivering enough moisture to pull plant growth above the remains of last season's plants.  Dutch Iris have been long favored here because of their early purple colored flowers.  Cold and new snow would help these plants last longer while continued bright sunshine with warm temperatures will melt these plants into a memory.

These Windflowers will soon be covered with brightly colored ray flowers placed close to the ground.  Both their color and structure are more commonly seen later in the year.  Like many of the early plants, these will soon leave bare ground.  Small flat stones carrying their name will be placed near these plants mainly to remind the old weed puller of their location.

This Prairie Fire is an interesting mix of browned old leaves and green new growth.  Depending on individual definitions of native plants, this Arizona specimen might not make the cut.  We know gardeners that limit their interest to plants found naturally in a small corner of Otsego County. 

The intact plastic plant marker identifies these perennial  Bachelor Buttons as a new acquisition.  The cluster of new growth is much larger than what was planted suggesting that we have found a plant that will prosper under our care.

These Chrysanthemums are growing close to the south facing house wall and their new growth is a welcome sight.  Others planted out on more open ground give every appearance of being dead.  In this neck of the woods potted plants on display in nearly every place of business offer people living in this climate potted flowering plants to place in their gardens.  We have spent years and a small fortune in search of Chrysanthemums that will prove to be winter hardy.  We will wait and see just how many will have survived.  With the recent persistent snow cover and lack of frigid winter temperatures we expected to see widespread survivors.

Two things stand out in this photo.  The house wall can be seen  in the background near to a pile of deer droppings.  We frequently see a fair number of deer that daily visit our gardens close to the house acting like this place belongs to them.  Natural fertilizer is a positive contribution for the plants but does it have to be this close to our home?   Village people cleaning up after their dogs are a common sight now but this deposit will probably remain where it was dropped.  Other issues will likely get our attention today.

Friday, March 19, 2021

First Open Flowers

Sometimes snobbish loyalty to native plants gives way to special characteristics.  Winter Aconite has earned a fair sized spot in our shade garden.  Early brilliant yellow petals and pollen are a real eye catcher although  pollinators have yet to be seen.  Late snow will do them no harm while last year's plant litter will slightly delay the emergence of an impressive patch of these plants.  Somehow it now seems like the next gardening season is well under way.

Having sinned once a repeat offence is guaranteed.  Snow Drops are also imports.  These white blossom parts have been visible for several days but most remain tightly closed.  Downward pointing blossoms placed very close to the ground can only be examined with a mirror or by snapping off a flower.  Neither is likely to happen so one must imagine what the reproductive parts look like.  In any event, we now have open flowers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Fall Formed Flower Buds

We still have snow covered ground anyplace where the slope of the ground dilutes the strength of the sunlight but we can walk about and find plants mostly free of snow.  Trailing Arbutus is widely described as impossible to transplant but we have found success.  This native plant is among the early flowers that form their buds in the fall.  It seems reasonable that a flower bud would be fragile and tender but since flowers will be open as soon as four weeks from now an early start is essential.  Oak leaves are covering areas of these plants but any work among possibly frozen or brittle plants will wait for reliable warmth.  The promise of incredibly sweet scented flowers after a winter of isolation is a major mood booster.


Pinxter is another native plant that forms its flower buds in the fall.  Our deer herd are fond of eating these buds so wire cages surround the plants at some distance to keep these future flowers beyond their reach.  Sweet scented pink flowers will soon fill this area.  We have found this plant resistant to reproduction.  Root runners are expected but have yet to be seen here.  Many open seed pods indicate that an abundance of seeds were present at the end of last year.  Try as I might, I have yet to see a seed.  They are described as having milkweed like fluff at both ends of the seed.  Seeing that and having seeds to plant are totally unrealized goals.  We will try again this year.

Snow drops are the first to flower, frequently while surrounded by snow making them popular without limit.  Early widespread transplantation makes its native occurrences impossible to describe.  We follow the centuries of moving this plant about totally disregarding the purity of our native plant shade garden.  The Sumac berries cover this ground with bright red seeds.  It seems that every seed germinates so we will spend a great deal of time weeding out baby Sumac trees. 

Becky took a first walk in our main garden near the house.  A deer herd of some size summer feeds on our plants but have been largely absent when deep snow covered this ground.  Retreating snow revealed the heavily chewed on bony remains of one of our deer.  When snow melt is complete, it is unlikely that any fleshy remains will be found.  Coyotes usually pull of pieces and drag them into the cover of Japanese Honeysuckle to eat their meal.  A small pile of bones and fur will be moved to a distant compost pile.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

56 Degrees In The Shade

Today was a day well worth waiting for featuring clear skies and warm temperatures.  A cautious walk across ice and snowpack led us to plants that are just today free of snow cover.  This is a picture of Bluets that have a long history of disappointment here resulting from their frequent disappearance.  Here we see a plausible explanation for that problem.  Fresh deer tracks in the snow and an uprooted plant likely illustrate the problem.  Today, Becky firmly replanted the chewed then spit out plant piece deep in a narrow crevice in the wall stones.


Columbine is a persistent native plant.  Breeders have developed wild colors for this plant but we prefer the red natural color.  John Burroughs had a blue flowered version of Columbine growing in front of his cabin located on land where he grew up.  During our visit there seeds were ripe.  We do not usually snatch plants but some of these seeds found their way into my pocket.  As a possible lesson in maintaining proper behavior, none of these seeds grew here.


This may well be the star of today's show.  Round Lobed Hepatica is a native woodland plant with the uncommon habit of carrying over functional leaves from the previous summer.  These tattered leaves will provide nourishment  for the first wildflower blossoms of the year.  They will be followed by a compact cluster of new leaves.

This fern was a new purchase last year.  Rock Polypody is its name and two fernlike leaves are visible.  Above and to the left may well be the freshly chewed stems that correspond to the nearby new deer tracks.  Wire cages are both unsightly and common in our planned wildflower woodland garden.  If the ground thaws tomorrow, another cage will be placed here if we can find one free of frozen soil's grip.

Chickweed suffers from the same ailment that keeps dandelions from being seen as a treasure.  Both are wildly hardy and excessively common.  Chickweed is constantly weeded out but we cannot eliminate it.  That may be a good thing since in the past persistent leg sores on an old man were cleared with the application of Chickweed tea when the doctor had no treatment to suggest.  As the photo shows, this plant grows under a thick layer of snow although new blossoms may be days away.


This plant is new to us and its name remains elusive.  A stone still hidden under the snow carries the name but we could not see it today.  This plant is obviously hardy and we remember its yellow flowers.  Safe from the deer, we look forward to another year with this plant.  When we learn more about its growth habits, a better location may be necessary.

Woodland Phlox may solve a huge problem for us.  It grows with reckless abandon and will soon fill a respectable area with yearlong growth.  Many of our shade garden plants are more reserved and leave much ground free of desirable growth.  After a winter of covid lockdown, it was simply wonderful to find living plants growing where just yesterday only snow could be seen.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Spring In 15

This winter has held its first snowfall on the ground right up to today.  The only soil that we have seen is the many time plowed driveway.  The sun is steadily climbing higher in the sky and its warmth is now sufficient to melt lane ice despite the still frozen ground.  We placed the long wall of the house facing south.  It is massive and white and both plants and soil are in view here as a result of reflected heat.

Rose Campion is a European native.  It prefers poor stony ground to carefully enriched garden soil.  Here it has seeded itself in the stone paths adjacent to garden beds where it spreads impressively.  Move it to rich garden soil and it will flower once then vanish.  Its bright purple flowers look great next to its whiteish green leaves.

We are not in agreement as to the identity of these plants.  Daylilies usually form large dense clumps but these plants grow in the shade of a Rose of Sharon tree.  Whatever they are, we welcome them.  They remain green despite temperatures in the mid twenties.

These green leaves may well be Coral Bells that are native to Arizona perhaps in the high country.  They are green and ready to grow and will soon be weeded and mulched.  Moss growing on stone walls looks great also.

These Sweet Williams look like they are suffering but are clearly alive.  My mood has brightened just with the idea that working among the plants will soon be possible.


This bright green belongs to my arch enemy Quack Grass.  Despite our decades long battle, this plant will quickly take over my gardens when I am no longer able to kneel on the ground to remove it.  Still, its early growth is bright, green and strong.

These Iris were a gift from Jane.  Sadly she is no longer with us but many of her plants and wall stones remain.  Royal purple will be the color of this plants huge blossoms.  Early division and replanting will help us maintain this treasure.  Of course, clearing last season's leaves will soon happen.  We believe that the insulation provided by last seasons leaves helps the plant survive winter.

 If anyone needs to mark the location of their septic tank, now is the time.  No close placement to basement walls melted this snow.  An underground organic heat source did that job.  That strange dark shape in the foreground is the end of a low stone wall.  Sunlight and heat absorbing stone melted some snow here.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

No Fool Like An Old Fool

Anyone living in this part of NYS does not need to hear me whine about the lack of a midwinter thaw.  This year our snow cover has been continuous since the first December storm.  Every native knows the dangers of failing to clear the entire driveway.  This area was driven on before it was plowed.  The packed snow held the melt water creating an icy area that simply cannot be safely crossed.  Vehicle tires may be firmly held by the ice.  We are staying here today.

Yesterday Becky and I cleared the ramp leading to the basement.  We had considerable help from warm sunlight since nothing was done here for two full weeks.  Our vacation was the result of following the doctor's instructions concerning the time required for new skin to form on the back of my hand.  Most of another week must pass for the healing to be complete.  The ridges in the snow pack behind me show the strength of yesterday's day long sunshine.

For the first time ever, night winds blew over our trash cans spreading recycling over a wide distance.  The photo does not show the length of time necessary for me to bend far enough to reach the ground but the contents of one hand show that I was able to return to an upright position.

Both cans usually reside near the shed wall hidden from view.  The ice field likely made them easier to move but the recycling can was nearly full.  No way was I going to return them to their usual placement.  For now they are upright on the clear ground in front of the plow.  Only most of the liberated recycling was returned to the container. The larger tractor stored inside of the shed is my usual way to make the trek down the hill to the mailbox.  The ice field that extends to the door is why no mail will be sent today.  There are places in the lane where ice might prevent the tractor from climbing back up the hill.  If it got stuck, I would have the choice of walking on ice or sitting on the tractor waiting for the next thaw.

 The snow cover has been unmarked and pure white.  Apparently last night's wind snapped off the ends of pine branches which now litter the ground.  Still, this is a beautiful place to live.