Friday, May 27, 2022

Initial Disappointment

We have slowly come to realize that many native perennial plants need time to adjust to a new home.  In the recent past new Giant white trilliums have been unreliable to accepting their new home.  Some show no above ground growth in their first year with us.  Small flowerless plants sometimes appear in their second year.  Our harsh early spring weather really hammered many of our plants.  Yesterday we were cleaning up some weeds and finally took a close look at our collection.  Huge plants are absent but there are new plants growing close by older plants.  It is not hard to see the possibility of an impressive group of pure white blossoms on display here next year.

Cardinal flower apparently has always been mostly absent in this part of NYS.  More that one century ago, Roxbury native John Burroughs described his difficulty in finding at least a single flowering plant.  Our weather is the problem.  These plants overwintered as new growth.  Their emergence from the snow cover saw beautiful light green tender rosettes.  Given time to adjust to typical early spring cold snaps, these plants would survive.  Here we get winds from the south raising temperatures into the 60's followed by hard frost.  Our habit is to cover these plants with Chrysanthemum stems following snow melt.  Still the bitter cold blackened these leaves.  We were certain that these plants were dead.  Clearly they are alive and we will soon see their brilliant red flowers.  A nearby group did not experience that success.  More than half of them are now gone but seed is on the ground.  Plants from seed will not flower this year.

Bloodroot has been smacking us around for years.  The cage protected area where transplants have been placed for several springs did not produce a mature plant.  Extremely small leaves did appear this year but hard frost ended them.  These pictured plants first appeared here last year.  They are self seeded  and were tiny.  Perhaps four plants are growing here and we very carefully remove weeds.  At our age we are no longer buying plants.  What grows here is largely on their own.

 Fragrant ladies tresses
grew here for several years.  It is a southern plant and we felt lucky each year that it produced flowers.  It did send up several shoots this year but a severe frost ended them.  We will leave this ground alone after we remove the garlic mustard because it might be possible for us to see desired growth next year. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Second Flower

In many ways these purple tinged Trilliums look completely different from their initial form showing pure white flowers.  These transplants have held this ground for many years now producing blossoms sized much like the native plants across the river.  Maidenhair ferns in the immediate background have also been here for a number of years.  Somehow these plants cover and hold their ground.  It is the result of luck not skill.  The general area is also home to a large number of violets which pull the deer in for a tasty snack.  The wire cage is intended to keep the deer foot prints away from this ground.  Not native but it works.

Decades ago daughter Amy and I were hiking at the Buttermilk Falls park near Ithaca.  A sharply sloped shale ridge was home to a huge group of Columbine plants.  How these plants were able to send out roots into tiny cracks in the stone wall remains a mystery.  This single from seed plant growing from our drystone wall serves as a reminder of the day we happened on generously flowered cliff face.  The Ground ivy is viewed as an invasive pest but it does have blue flowers.

Bluets have a long history here of resisting our efforts to grow them.  This small group is inside of a small mesh wire cage but they are self planted on the horizontal surface of the stone wall.  These plants were originally taken from a sloped lawn that was moist from a septic dry well.  Subjected to mowing and dampness they thrived.  We have been largely unsuccessful in our many attempts to grow this plant.  These will stay caged where they are while we look for new from seed plants in the immediate area.

Prairie smoke is a Great Plains native that has held this spot near the house for a few years.  These after the flowers airy presentation is just super.  We do not know if the cage is necessary but why risk removing it?

It has taken several years for this Perennial bachelors button to hold its ground  The initial transplant appeared to have died but a low cluster of leaves could be seen during the second year.  It took awhile for the plant to reach a size that allowed blossoms.  Some care is needed to remove nearby weeds.

It seems that we hold a fascination for ditch weeds.  Dame's rocket seems to be everywhere alongside of any road.  It resists transplantation since it has a hefty tap root.  A true biannual, it shows a large coarse robust circle of  close to the ground leaves in its first year.  The explosion of growth in its second year features a variety of colored flowers.  We keep it in our garden by allowing plants from seed to grow in the stone paths between planting beds.  How could anyone not see these blossoms as desirable?

Pinxter bushes are more than welcome here.  When we still had a sense of smell, the calming effect of these flower's scent was a real mood booster.  Their growth habit of open flowers ahead of leaves  is unusual but the number of blossoms is amazing.

The fox has not been seen here for quite some time.  Its right front paw has sustained an injury.  Every step features a limp but when it is time to move on super speed is still possible.  When this animal was first sighted a slow walk straight toward the window was attempted since past movements inside of the house have sent the fox running.  It was in the freshly mowed lawn when first seen but my movement sent it away.  Several days after this picture was taken we came upon a dead fox in the road.  We were about four miles from here when we encountered it and hope that it was not the one that hunts here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Deer Me

In the background of this photo between the trunk vees, some bare ground can be seen.  Weeding that area was my focus this morning.  In the foreground close to a fern, a new fawn is visible.  Apparently the fawn was there the entire time that I was working.  I moved intending to weed in the right foreground.  That was when I discovered the fawn and left the area to get Becky.

Several years ago I came upon a new fawn in the path to the back.  I advanced slowly to try for a closer look.  The fawn jumped to its feet trying to move away.  Its legs shot out to the sides and I left the area.  The next day the remains of a coyote fawn feast littered the ground.  I felt responsible for this death.  We kept our distance this morning using the zoom feature on the camera to snap the picture.  Our distance away was acceptable as the fawn was still curled up next to my garden fern several hours later.  I view this garden ground as mine but apparently the deer also claim ownership.  I could not disturb the new baby.

We saw the fawn in exactly that same spot several times during the day.  An internet search revealed that it is normal for the newly born deer to be placed in hiding all alone for upwards of twelve hours.  We found it somewhat troubling that this new baby was without food, water or company.  In the early evening from the comfort of our sofa we saw the mother deer and her new baby briskly walking across our lawn.  Mother was setting a fairly quick pace with junior working hard to keep up but seemingly enjoying the action.  All was right with this new life despite its being placed in our much fussed over native plant garden.

We used the car to get Becky down the hill to see the fawn.  Believing that short trips are harmful to the vehicle, we drove across the valley to Irma's woods.  This native violet is a family favorite.

Despite the pure white appearance of the front of each flower, the back side of each blossom is purple.  Identification of a flower is easy.  Exactly what Viola  it might be is more difficult. Viola rugulosa looks very possible to me.  These violets appear here in huge numbers and removing a couple would do no harm.  Remembering the former owner of this land, we did not dig anything.

American sarsaparilla grows wildly here.  The bud covered spheres promise a generous display of flowers.  Several of these plants are growing in the gravel that edges the road.  It seems only prudent to rescue these plants that recently survived a brush with the snow plow.  We had no tools with us so no digging was done.  We repeat this conversation with ourselves every year but no digging here is ever done.


 These Marsh marigolds were purchased last year.  We let someone else remove these plants from the wild.  This ground is close to the base of our bedrock ridge.  All of this low ground is presently filled with bands of water although none can be found at the far end of the field.  Apparently, the water here is sufficient to support generous growth for these plants.  Wet spots are common here especially after the recent heavy rainfall and it was no easy task to keep feet dry while approaching these flowers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Fringed Polygala At Last

Traditionally in this part of NYS, Fringed poylgala is associated with Mother's Day.  This year the weather has been beyond harsh resulting in delayed appearance of green growth.  Yesterday's generous rainfall instantly made a widespread difference.  Leaves and flowers appeared where previously there had been little growth.  Our previous check for these flower's appearance found nothing.  Thinking that the rain may have drawn these plants out sent us back to our woods.  Initially nothing was found.  The marking stick previously placed alongside of where this plant had grown pointed to nothing.  Nearby a recent fallen section of tree covered another known location for this plant.

Not ready to give up the search, a route was found around more fallen tree branches to an area where in year's past this plant had been seen.  Initially nothing was found.  Then one spot of the characteristic purple color became visible followed by seeing many more.

We had previously successfully transplanted Fringed polygala to our shade garden.  All went well for several years when other native plants moved in.  The broad green leaves, one holding a white flower bud, seen in this photo is Canada Mayflower.  A nearby section of forest contains only trees and this native invader.  There all other native plants have been crowded out.  That was the same fate of our transplants.  We never knowingly moved Canada Mayflower into our garden but it soon made its presence known.  We lost each and every Polygala to this brute.


This photo shows just how crowded woodland soil can become.  In the lower right corner next to a long brown stick, Polygala leaves fill a single vertical stem.  A similar plant is just behind the flowerless stem.  The nearby double flowers have bent their stem.  This is without a doubt a crowded neighborhood.


Little has been found about this plant and what we encounter is sometimes contradictory.  It is generally accepted that seed formation occurs in  never open flower just below the soil surface.  The function of these open flowers remains mostly unanswered.  Today an internet visit to Native Plant Trust Go Botany revealed twin seed pods positioned where the two horizontal flower petals can now be seen.  We will mark the location of this plant with a florescent red flag so that we can find it when its flowers are past.  The possibility of seeds is exciting.  We have vowed to never again dig this plant.  We discovered that each stem grows from a horizontal close to the surface root.  Nutrition is found by the vertical tap root of some size.  It that tap root is not intact, the transplant will die.  The possibility of seeds above ground is simply wonderful. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

After the Thunder Storm

NOAA gave us ample warning that severe weather was headed our way.  From the comfort of the living room we watched lightning strikes hit behind the ridge that we could see.  We did not know what to expect to see when we walked down to the mail box.  The difference in the plants was absolutely stunning considering that the rain had just ended.  These transplanted ferns benefited from water that was carried here.  That water protected life but today's heavy rain caused these plants to fully open.  Visible buck rubs on the tree trunks clearly show that wild animal life consider this ground their home.

Here we have a mix of transplants and naturally sown plants.  Jack In The Pulpits were transplanted here several years ago while the Early Meadow Rue grows from naturally spread seed.  Deer broke off all of the Jacks before their seed had ripened.  Hoof prints were everywhere so the fate of the Jacks was uncertain.  Additional cages will soon be added.  We needed to wait until all of the plants could be seen.

William Cullina suggested planting Wild Ginger and Maidenhair ferns together.  As always, the Ginger has an early start but the ferns will soon catch up.  We find this combination attractive while the underground plant parts occupy different depths.  Soon this display will be stunning.

These Shooting Stars were moved here from the shade garden near the house.  The more attractive blue flowered plants are less hardy  and have basically disappeared but these are firmly claiming ground.  Perhaps they prefer more sunlight.

The recent frosts severely hammered these Bleeding Hearts.  The damaged foliage was quickly hidden by new growth with today's rain drawing out the flowers.

Two years ago, Daisies were moved from the gravel bank lot here.  Flowers were seen but this year there was no sign of these plants here.  These were moved from nearby ground and several days saw water carried here as transplanting them looked like a failure.  Today's heavy rain made all of these plants look alive.  Perhaps Daisies are a biennial and we will have to adjust to them claiming new ground leaving weed filled ground behind.

Cardinal Flower has truly struggled to hold onto life this year.  Repeated warm days were followed by hard frosts.  Yesterday these plants appeared to be dead and we found comfort from the fact that this ground held seed from last year's flowers.  Water was also carried to these plants but it made little obvious difference.  Today's rain seems to have brought them back to life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

From Frost To 84

The past several days have featured overnight frosts.  NOAA provides our weather forecasts and most of the time we cover frost sensitive plants.  Last evening their overnight low temperature was 37 degrees.  With our self imposed cushion of 4 degrees, I felt that frost was unlikely.  Wrong again.  When I wake up I can see some of our lawn from the bed.  The grass between the apple trees was bright green and frost free.  However, frost drains downhill from the bedrock ridge following low ground to the final drop to the river flat.  Once out of bed, it was apparent that frost had once again poured across our gardens.  A trip to get water was made.  My footprints across frozen grass will turn black once the sunlight hits them.

This Golden stargazer clump is about all that remains of our period of major efforts to grow Oriental lilies in climate zone 4.  These plants are close to the south facing wall of the house but did have frost on them when I gave them a cold shower.  Our belief is that the change of state from frost to liquid gives off heat that burns the surface of plant leaves.  This cold shower simply washed the frost away.  Yes these lilies need to be both weeded and divided.  Here I will play the getting old card and hope for a little understanding.

Today's heat sent us on an afternoon drive across the valley to a dirt road that cuts across a forested slope.  This natural group of a moss covered tree trunk with two Trilliums and Miterwort growing between its roots is close to the road.  No trespassing was needed to snap this picture.  This is the look we are trying to create in our shade garden but rather young Sumac trees growing on river bottom flat land will never look this great. 

It seems that Toothwort is a mild mannered companion plant.  Its clusters of three toothed leaves are both attractive to the eye and open for neighboring plants.  If one can still approach ground level, the scent of these white flowers is delicious.  We have managed to keep some of this plant alive in our gardens but huge sweeps are the look we are trying for.  We have neither the slope nor the stones to create a copy of this scene.

Here three Trillium plants, two in flower, are surrounded by many Toothwort plants.  All seem to be thriving together.  Our weather this year has been harsh and dry.  These two flowers will likely set seed but the plants are only about half of their normal height.  The missing third flower could be a weather causality. 

These speckled Violets are a rather recent purchase at the Fernery.  Their beauty is subtle and they need to be growing under a wire cage.  Our deer herd frequently visit here and they find Violet leaves tasty.  Both the leaves and the flowers are safe for humans to place in natural salads.  Harvesting would be easier if the growth was not this close to the ground.  Plans are forming to place several of our special Violets under a cage.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Finally Warmer Weather

Our recent weather featured three consecutive days of overnight frost.  Some plants were damaged while others look just fine.  These two Goldenseal plants were transplanted about four years ago.  Native plants sometimes do not take that well but these are now sending up new plants.  We may have the option of relocating the young ones.

Trilliums are a plant remembered from my childhood.  Our woods featured a large dense group of these plants.  Many authors describe a seven year wait for plants going from seed to maturity.  Each year we transplant more but few survive.  These are doing fine with first flowers open.  The white flowers in the background are Wood anemones and they have increased in numbers creating a more natural looking carpet.  We hope to live long enough to see the Trilliums more densely packed.  The newly applied leaf mulch was run through the mower last Fall.  Somehow it lacks a natural appearance now but will build a rich black natural looking soil.

The cage protecting these two Twinleaf plants is necessary as our resident deer have destroyed them in the past.  Each plant produced two flower buds but one was broken in the wind.  The flowers lasted less than two full days.  We  will be watching for seeds but the frosts may have ended that.  At least the plants look good.

Trout lilies present a genuine puzzle.  The last glacier left behind soil filled with many stones.  We find a large number of plants with only a single leaf since their struggle to move their corm deeper and flower is blocked by stones.  This garden placement featured soil that was sifted and is stone free to a depth of eight inches.  Here these plants moved from our woods grow like weeds.  We have never seen a dense mass of flowers like this in a natural setting.

Later that day a deer was seen feeding here.  Inspection revealed that these blossoms are tasty since all are now gone and they were bitten off.  No seeds will form this year but more plants are clearly not needed in this location.

Our Bloodroot continue to struggle.  Three plants from seed are trying to grow here.  The oldest plant next to the dead stick flowered first but never opened its leaf.  It appears to be dead.  Close by to its left is another plant trying to spread its leaf and open its flower.  In the center of the picture is a plant in flower but no leaf can be seen.  We have been trying to establish a natural looking group for many years.  Clearly something is missing here.

Nearby a more successful introduction of a native plant appears to be off to a great start.  Our transplanted Yellow Ladies-slipper initially had only two or three  stems.  We knew of a wild plant that was growing right next to a rotting tree stump.  We planted a dead stump here and it continues to break down.  Perhaps the stump contributes something to the soil that this plant needs.  This new growth promises an impressive mature flowering plant this year.