Friday, May 28, 2021

Recent Transplants

Sweet Cicely has been with us for at least three decades.  Scent, taste, beauty and hardiness make this a must have plant.  At this time of year the newly forming green seeds provide a tasty anise flavored snack.  When the seeds mature and turn black they can be made into a furniture polish.  The fern like leaves are attractive and pleasantly scented as are the white flowers.  Aside from the seeds willingness to grow crowding out neighbors, this is in many ways a perfect plant.

Our first plant was purchased from Ruby in Otego.  Using a pointed shovel to sever the impossibly long tap root, Ruby assured us that with generous watering the dead appearing plant would recover.  Apparently I still remember her planting instructions.


Approximately one week ago, I bruised my hands trying to remove sizeable chunks of plant root attached to generous amounts of above ground green growth.  These were placed in freshly made forest soil and watered generously.  The watering continued daily while all of the leaves wilted and dropped to the ground.  It is highly likely that the sight of these dead looking plants caused the right of way users to enjoy a hardy laugh at the sight of my most recent plant failure.  I continued to bring water to the transplants.

This new growth strongly suggests that soon sizeable plants will fill this area in our shade garden with stunning strength and beauty.  Not only is the growth attractive, its future density will shade out weeds making this a truly no care plant.  The easier way to obtain this plant is to scatter fresh ripe seeds on the soil surface and wait.  Tiny plants will be seen the following year with each subsequent year featuring larger plants.

Ferns are a logical addition for what is loosely intended to be a native woodland garden.  Catchy names are not characteristic for ferns and we speak little Latin.  At this point in our lives remembering anything is unsure so our admiration of ferns is limited to expressions like, "Hey look at that".   A fern similar in appearance to these once grew in a small area at the top of our gravel bank hill.  Tall brown seed heads appeared later in the year creating an unusual appearance.  Those plants are no longer seen there but these plants spontaneously appeared very near the foundation wall on the north side of our home.  Dug yesterday in anticipation of a day long rain today, these plants were placed in old soil and watered heavily.  They seem to find their new home satisfactory.  Perhaps the stone has added to this soil minerals similar to what leached from the foundation wall.  What is next for us is to continue to bring water here and learn the name of this native fern.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Old Can Be Beautiful

Giant White Trilliums are true to their name producing pure white flowers.  As they age other colors appear.  This pink may well be more attractive but the color signals that the end is near.  Recognized as a plant that features three petals, three leaves, three of those smaller green not leaves right behind the flower and a hidden rhizome existing in three sections, the dark veins not usually seen divide each leaf into thirds.

The ageing flowers vary widely in their presentation of mature blossoms.  We will keep an eye on this one to see if the change in color is incomplete.  The rusty wire cage is less visible from a distance but these native treasures need protection from our large herd of deer.  Sometimes the cage is removed for photos but this one protects a plant with one stem inside and the other outside.  This cage will remain unmoved until the plants die down.

Native Ramps display a growth habit similar to these Alliums in that both have their leaves die down before flowers are displayed.  Old dead leaves could be hidden behind plants that remain green at this time of year.  Finding something tall enough to hide the leaves while not blocking the view of the flowers is difficult.  Chrysanthemums are green at this time of year but not tall enough to hide the ugliness.


In this instance age applies to the source of this Bearded Iris but just how long Jane had this plant is unknown.  She has joined the great majority but her many gifts of plants to us keeps her memory alive in our minds.  Her knowledge was extensive while her manner was gentle.  She helped us greatly for the many years that we were lucky enough to have known her.  We find it fitting that the color of this blossom suggests royalty.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Disappointment Four Years In The Making

Trilliums have been on our must have list for many years.  Giant Whites and Stinking Benjamins are well represented in our two shade gardens.  We have wanted Painted Trilliums for what seems like forever.  Despite our past habit of frequent woodland hikes, we have yet to see a natural occurrence of that beautiful flower.  We have also never seen it offered for sale.  A search taken just minutes ago did offer seeds for this plant.  We would be 84 years old before a Trillium from seed might be seen.  No order was placed.

When we first saw this bud we expected our long wait to be nearly over as this plant was sold to us as Painted trillium.  Daily visual checks were made for the past two weeks and we could barely contain our delight.

This purple colored bud is all wrong for the mostly white colored flower that we were expecting but that realization did not hit home for entirely too long.  We did order these plants four years ago.  No above ground growth appeared during their first year with us.  Pathetic is an appropriate description for the small plants that did appear over the next two years.  This year their appearance strongly suggested that our wait for a flower might be over.


When the realization that the petal color was all wrong we continued to wait for the typical blossom configuration of flat petals.  That has not happened and never will.  This hands over head is as open as these plants ever present.  Trillium cuneatum or Little Sweet Betsy goes about the business of pollination from this position.


This is the other flowering plant from the six purchased.  Each is close to another plant but that increase in number happened only as the result of underground action.  This is as close as we will ever get to having a Painted trillium.  We would happily settle for simply seeing this plant in the wild if anyone would share the location of this apparently rare treasure.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Finally Fringed Polygala Blossoms

In our area Mother's Day is associated with Fringed polygala for those who even know of this plants existence.  We appeared here on that day but could find no trace of this plant.  This is what we found five days later.  The promise of seeing one of our favorite native plants then seemed highly likely.

Today we returned to this woodland rock and were delighted to find open flowers.  Their visible structure is certainly unique.  John Burroughs described them as looking like a flock of tiny purple butterflies that had gathered on the forest floor.  In addition to the unusual appearance, these blossoms play no part in producing seed.  These are exclusively for beauty while another plain appearing flower, located just at or slightly below the forest floor, is responsible for setting seed.  Cleistogamous is the name assigned to this rather unusual method of reproduction.  Violets also reproduce in this manner.  In their case, I believe that the reproductive flowers appear much later than the beautiful blossoms.  Perhaps we will look for Polygala seeds later in the year.

Many Mother's Days have been spent searching for this plant.  Its flower is certainly different looking but I had never previously seen the beak protruding in the direction of the spiked sphere.  


This plant is located on the other side of the lane leading up to the field that is totally separate from the rest of the original farm.  We were pleased to find additional plants growing nearby as this is a rare native plant and we do not want to see it disappear. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Finally Underway

When the Trilliums fully open their blossoms, the wild flower season is well on its way.  These transplants have been growing here for a decade or more.  Single plants have expanded now sending up several flowering stalks.  Bare ground does not predominate but plants considered to be weeds are evident.  They were cleared out earlier but as always they must return.  They will be removed again after the Trilliums have completed their growing season's work.

This shade garden within sight of the road is a more recent project.  Most of the moved plants are still alive but few have advanced beyond a single shoot.  Just to the right of the flat stone at the bottom of the picture perhaps one dozen Jack In The Pulpits are pushing up new growth.  We were concerned that our crowd of deer had ended these plants with repeated deep hoof stabbings.  If nothing else, the scattered wire cages have made it difficult for the deer to walk here.  The Woodland Phlox in the upper right corner is densely covered with white blossoms.  A favorite snack of the deer required the placement of a circular wire cage.  A curved swath of recently planted Trilliums fills the center of the photo.

Our point and shoot camera does not accurately capture the color of this Jacob's Ladder flowers.  In the upper left corner find the Twin Leaf plants now encased in a wire cage.  It took far longer then it should have for us to focus in on predation as the cause of this plant's repeated disappearances.  Slowly we catch on.  The wire certainly detracts from the natural look that we strive to create but at least the plants remain alive now.

To most people this might not look like much but we finally have two Painted Trilliums that appear determined to open flowers this year.  The purpose of flowers is to produce seed intended to establish the next generation of plants.  We are wildly pleased with the prospects of open flowers and intend to remain above this land long enough to at least see an increase in the number of these plants growing here.

This Woodland Phlox was seen in the background of an earlier photo but we feel that it deserves no less than a picture of mostly it.  This is a hardy plant despite of its attraction of the deer but we expect to see numerous plants scattered about garden.

This is not the first picture of our Bloodroot.  No flowers were produced this year but there is a fairly large number of new plants growing from old seed.  If the weather cooperates, we should see perhaps three blossoms here next year accompanied by several small second year plants promising future flowers.

This planting of Cardinal Flower has been left largely alone.  Some Chrysanthemum stems were scattered about following snow melt but otherwise these plants have been on their own.  The remaining Wild Geraniums need to be removed.  Their above ground growth appears small and attractive but the underground root mass is huge.


 This is the northern tip of Moss Island.  The white flowered Shooting Stars have settled in nicely but the moss clumps barely cling to life.  These plants simply need more moisture and denser shade.  A heavy rain will turn them green but only for a short period of time.  Still, their determination to remain alive is at least inspiring.

Our digital camera is outdated and showing signs of rigor mortis.  It worked today but I don't know about tomorrow.  Eight pictures is perhaps excessive for a post but who knows when its replacement will actually arrive?

Friday, May 14, 2021


It is common for fantastic natural sightings to unfold so rapidly that no photograph is possible.  That was the case today when two special events happened right before my eyes.  I was mowing at the time so no camera was even with me to endure the vibrations of tending long abandoned pasture.  On a single pass heading toward the remains of our bedrock ridge, two birds were seen.  A wild turkey flew over me and landed on land much like what is shown in the photo.  Turkeys find it difficult to fly preferring to walk.  This ground near the ridge is rough beyond description with huge chunks of rock interspersed with lumpy ground and standing water.  The turkey fed on dry ground nearest to the ridge and may have flown there to avoid getting wet.

Ingeborg and husband Rudy emigrated to NYC from Germany between the two World Wars.  Rudy was a skilled carpenter making a good living in the city.  When accumulated money was sufficient they found land upstate that was more to their liking.  On one of their trips to the land, they saw their first Indigo Bunting.  So thrilled with the sight of this iridescent bright blue bird, Rudy began building bird houses placing them about on their new land.  Several of these birdhouses now serve on our land.  This morning on the same pass with the mower that featured the turkey, a male Indigo Bunting also flew from the pasture to the woods behind our pond.  Watching it disappear into the forest was a rare thrill.  Every sighting of this bird brings to the surface memories of two people that helped us develop a lasting relationship with the natural world.

The flowers in the photo are Marsh Marigolds purchased and placed here last year.  It appears this this location suits them and I avoided a possible fall into a muddy ditch by buying potted plants.


We have a long history with Fringed Polygala having both successfully transplanted this rare treasure then watched it die when overrun by fiercely aggressive native plants.  Traditionally, flowers are open on Mother's day but this year's weather slowed the plants appearance.  We returned to the forest once again searching for this plant.  The flower buds have yet to open so we will return, possibly daily, to see these unusual and beautiful flowers.  The spade like leaf in the lower right corner of the picture is Canada Mayflower one of the aggressive plants that ended our otherwise wildly successful transplant.   

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Frost Burned My Magnolia

It was beautiful at midday yesterday.  The Magnolia flowers were gorgeous.  The underneath side of the flowers show lovely pink shading.

The inside of the flowers is white with perhaps a slight tinge of pink showing through.  I was delighted to find a flower low enough that I could take this shot.

Blue sky and white clouds are my favorite background for a Magnolia photo.  Amy taught me that when we visited the Botanic Gardens together in the city.  We planted this Magnolia 10 years ago for Amy.  It has had good years and bad.  With so many beautiful flowers this has to be considered a good year!

But the weather forecast and the sky were ominous. There was a definite chill in the air  I'm glad I got this year's Magnolia flowers  pictures when I did.  We were told to expect a hard frost.

It was hard, cold and cruel.  The ground was covered with white.  I am well aware that the usual frost free date here is June first.  The truth is last night's frost burned my cork and my Magnolias.  I will get over the disappointment quickly but the Magnolia flowers will have wait until next year!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Umbrellas In The Woods

We have  huge patch of Mayapples growing in our woods.  To date we have made no attempt to move any of them to our shade garden near the road.  The problem is with their growth habit that I have only read about.  Apparently all of these plants are connected by shallow roots that serve to transport nourishment harvested by a single deep root.  Without that tap root any transplant will perish.  We have encountered that problem with other native plants.  Wintergreen is just such a plant.  Written words describe a method for its successful transplantation.  One must expose the runner root just under the soil surface and sever it on both sides of the desired plant.  A marking flag attached to a wire will aid in finding the chosen plant the following year when a deeper root may have formed.

This newly opened flower caught my eye.  Having no idea of just what the name of this plant is, we will wait for Becky's return from her visit to New Paltz to identify this plant.   Without anything other than a quick look at the photo, Becky identified this as a Red elderberry and reported that the deer feed on this plant unmercifully.  We will soon return to see just how these flowers present themselves.

Just how plants are named is a subject rarely encountered in books.  Trout lily is the only plant where the naming process is known here.  In one of his many essays, John Burroughs describes his issue with two common names of a native treasure.  Dog's Tooth Violet or Adder's Tongue both seemed just wrong to him.  The flower in question is a lily as shown by its flower parts so identifying it as a violet would never do.  Any similarity to the interior of a snake's mouth seemed indefensible.  Burroughs suggested Trout Lily as a more appropriate name.

This pictured plant is frequently called Stinking Benjamin for reasons that remain unknown to me.  An unpleasant odor of the flower is possible but once again kneeling on the muddy ground to take a sniff did not seem wise to me today.  If a flower is seen higher up on the bank, a sniff test might be made.  That still leaves the connection to Benjamin unknown.  Wake Robin is another somewhat common name for this plant but it does not prompt a smile that frequently accompanies uttering "Stinking Benjamin".  

At a greater distance from the road, White trilliums cover the ground in impressive numbers.  These plants are just getting started opening their flowers so this picture showing mostly green will likely fail to excite anyone.  New posted signs have been placed so we remain on the public road.

 This is another photo that most people would see as little more than something green.  For reasons that remain elusive, Bloodroot grows only in one small piece of this wooded hillside.  Its flowers are always very short lived and harsh weather prevented the formation of any seed pods this year.  Since our visits to these woods have been nearly daily this year, the lack of seeds is an accurate observation.  At home our plants failed to open a single flower but some of the old seeds are pushing up new small leaves.  Fortunately we find that incredibly exciting. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Another Return To Irma's Woods

Once again the written words of John Burroughs introduced me to a must have plant.  He described a frequently taken detour into the woods while walking to school.  His goal was to harvest some Toothwort planning to eat it with his lunch.  By his own account, the plant parts were usually gone by lunch time.  This plant lives happily in Irma's woods and we aspire to create a natural setting similar to this one.

We know of two different forms of Toothwort and subtle differences in both flower structure and leaf shape are clearly visible.  We would like to use Toothwort as a background plant with some of our more showy plants.  We have yet to find extensive numbers of this plant in local markets but now that we understand its gentle growth habit, we plan to buy in large numbers should we run across it.  One of its characteristics that would make it an excellent companion plant is its close to the surface long root.  That is the source of the other popular name Crinkleroot.

Whole fallen leaves mark these plants as growing in Irma's woods.  On this day, we also had two white Trilliums with open flowers.  It seems that the solar advantage of her land that slopes to the south east is less of an impact at this point in the season.

There are two dead giveaways to these being cultivated plants.  Finely chopped fallen tree leaves clearly reveal the gardener's hand here.  He does not have ten thousand years to build natural woodland soil so some shortcuts must be taken.  Also, there are no rusty wire protective cages in a natural forest.  The companion plant is Winter Aconite, a moderately well behaved nonnative plant.  Some thinning of it will likely be needed to allow sunlight to strike the Trillium leaves.

These days there aren't many places where wild native plants cover the ground in large numbers.  Irma's Woods is one of those locations.  Choose any small spot like this photo.  You can see beautiful violets, spring beauty leaves, a single trout lily leaf, foam flower leaves, moss and maybe even Hepatica.  Over the years we have tried to be careful sharing Irma's woods only with those who will appreciate it and take away only photographs snapped from the road.  I have a friend I plan to invite as soon as the white trilliums add their flowers to the green sea of ramps extending up the hill.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Fantastic May Day

The long ago lesson encountered while reading Johnny Tremain focused on working on the Sabbath was not totally ignored today.  It is possible to view being among plants while maintaining a respectful attitude as an acceptable use of Sunday.  Rain was forecast but the morning was beautiful so we took advantage of what was offered.  Bagged tree leaves hold a central part in our attempts to grow native plants.  Our supply of reground leaves was nearly exhausted so opening somewhat intact aged bags of leaves was necessary.  Two piles like the one shown were created this morning intending to use this fine natural mulch to cover recently weeded ground or newly planted areas.  Native ferns are planned for this ground on the western edge of our land.  Since it is nearly impossible to dig planting holes in the tangled fabric of soil surrounded by trees, we will introduce our custom mix of forest soil deep enough to cover the root mass of new plants.  Then a top dressing of ground leaves will finish the job.

We are trying to find a combination of native or woodland plants that can grow next to each other without one destroying the other.  Wild Geraniums seemed like a positive choice.  Their flat deeply incised leaves and bright flowers were both attractive but the root mass was huge so now the task of removing them without harming the nearby desired plants is underway.  The pictured ground was intended to grow Wood Anemones.  Carefully removing many geraniums revealed this leaf that is likely a from seed Bloodroot.  Bloodroot seeds are encased in a coating, elaiosome, that lures ants into carrying off the seeds but discarding them when the coating is eaten.  This plant is close enough to the ground where we have tried for years to grow Bloodroot so it may well turn out to be a naturally planted specimen.  That is the type of action that we would hope to see more of in what is intended to be a natural garden. 

Sharp eyes may see tiny green new leaf growth that may prove to be first year plants from seed.  The larger leaf is part of a new Bloodroot planted last year.  Deer have a steady record of destroying these plants so they are now covered with a wire cage.  That is far from the natural look desired but we must find a way to keep these prized plants alive.

Our weeding out interlopers brought into sharp focus this beautiful purchased violet.  Unfortunately its name was lost but the new growth visible under the leaf to the left of the blossom would indicate that this treasure is here to stay if help is provided.  It seems that our resident herd of deer highly prize eating violets.  Violets are super tough and usually survive the attack but nearby plants are either trampled or eaten so once again wire cages are in widespread use both to discourage the deer and protect nearby plants.  This morning was by far the best time spent near our plants this year.  We are merely days away from Trillium blossoms above recently weeded and mulched fake woodland soil.  Pictures are guaranteed to follow.  We simply love time spent near our plants when the rewards for our efforts are so close at hand.