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.