Thursday, April 29, 2021

Painted Trillium

White Trilliums have been a focus here for the 27 years that we have owned this land.  Their naturally occurring numbers have been extremely limited and we yearly add additional purchased plants with somewhat disappointing success.  We have encountered photos and written words focused on Painted Trilliums but have never seen them in the wild nor in stock at nearby native plant businesses.  Four or five years ago we stumbled upon a Tennessee based mail order dealer that offered this plant for sale at a somewhat reasonable price.  Six plants were Fall ordered since overwintering new transplants gives them the best chance of survival.  The photo shows that exactly half of the plants remain alive.  That is close to our success rate for the more commonly seen native whites.

The year following transplanting did not show any signs of growth.  A phone call to the dealer revealed a no show was a common experience and that I should give them another year.  He promised replacement if nothing appeared during their second season here.  I was certain that I was being hustled but accepted his promise.  This place of business remains in operation but will now not ship to New York State.  I expect that the issue is sales tax not my struggle with his plants.  So the present appearance of four plants will hold my attention for as long as we remain on this land.

The lesson learned is the pace of growth among many wild native plants.  Seven years is often listed as the time required from planting seed to seeing a flower.  Our transplants may open their buds this year just slightly faster than a plant grown from seed.  Deer dancing among our native plants may have diminished the number viable plants so a wire cage now protects these highly prized plants.  If flowers occur here, that should happen soon.  We may see White, Stinking Benjamin and Painted Trillium flowers fairly close together in our woodland garden this year. With a little luck today's warm rain will speed the process along.  We are watching in breathless anticipation!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Worth The Wait

These are the days when anxious eyes make daily searches for native woodland plants that have been moved into our gardens.  If there is a more brazen presentation than these Trout Lilies, we do not know such a plant.  These yellow petals were closed tightly in response to last night's freezing temperatures.  In the heat of today they are thrust way back, boldly revealing the sexual parts of each flower.  The long brown colored rods are evenly split between male and female.  The longer ones with the end to end groove are female.  The groove will collect pollen.  The shorter thicker grainy rods are male and we have yet to see an insect move the pollen from grainy to groove.  Wind may well be the pollinating force.  We have discovered that Trout Lilies are wildly invasive and have crowded out other prized plants.

Finally my leg injuries have healed and working while on hands and knees is now possible.  Nearby oak trees had a great growing year and their fallen leaves may well have shaded out parts of the Arbutus plants.  Hand picking leaf litter from a native plant seems to be a contradiction on some level but these transplanted treasures continue to receive tender care.  For the first time today we saw dead Arbutus stems and leaves.  Death must be a part of the natural order but these plants must outlast me so perhaps overprotective care continues.

The wire cage that keeps marauding woodchucks and rabbits on the outside has been replaced so these plants are now free to generously grow.  We intend to take cuttings from the edge in an attempt to create new plants taking only growth that would be otherwise eaten.  Failure is seldom the last word here and we now know that strong rooting compound is needed to establish new plants.

Tucked in among the speckled Trout Lily leaves are newly emerging Trillium plants.  Root removal of the encroaching plants will not be undertaken but leaf pruning is a definite possibility.  For now the close side by side placement seems to be working but there is no question that the Trilliums are the desired plants.  So we will meddle with these native beauties again as we transplanted both here.  There is always tuition for everything we learn but we will try to avoid the loss of the Trilliums at least in the short run.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Garlic Weeding

We have read that it is impossible to grow garlic in New York State because of the June and July Alabama slammers that bring us torrents of rain when the plants are trying to dry down.  Some of this excess moisture finds its way into the bulbs thereby inviting disease and rot.  Slow to learn, we persist trying to grow our own.  This garden near the back woods was initially opened to provide disease free soil for garlic growing.  Of the 220 carefully prepared cloves planted here, all are growing.  Only one is struggling and it will be removed and placed in the garbage.  The weeding is only almost done with 60 plants still growing alongside of weeds.  Today was bright and clear but the wind was bitter cold forcing an early retreat to the warmth of our home.

The bed in the foreground was clear weeded last fall and covered with ground fallen tree leaves. Occasional weeds were pulled today during our brief time spent outside.  A decision needs to be made as to what will be planted here.  Voles have viciously fed on our Siberian Iris planted down by the road for the second consecutive year.  We may move some of the remaining bits and pieces here providing them with a chance to regrow.

Yesterday we were working here to the sound of the drilling of a Pileated Woodpecker.  The narrow valley between our meadow and the bedrock ridge traps this sound sending it back and forth.  With no other sound here, this repeated tapping is quite the experience.  To my limited hearing the sound seemed to me to have a metallic component.  Becky's response to this observation was to remind me that Iron Wood trees grow here.


 A pair of much smaller woodpeckers are raising young in the holes in the tree trunk.  I could see them fliting about gathering food while Becky could hear the sounds made by the babies. From the garden the nesting holes are hard to see.  When the Red Maple leafs out they will be invisible!

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!