Articles for the Month of April 2011

The Birds are Coming

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We’ve reached that time of the year when one can start to look for new and different birds to show up in the garden.  Even knowing that I was very surprised to see a Wild Turkey in the pasture last week.  It flew off so fast that I only got a blurry picture as it headed for the trees.  I had seen him in the woods just a few days earlier so maybe we have a new resident.  It is a big bird when you see it take off.  However, it’s not as big as the Great Blue Heron that flew across the garden just a about 15 feet off the ground and maybe 25 feet away from me.  Think of someone you know turned sideways and slowly moving across your view.  It was startling as the bird gained momentum in front of me.

Later in the same day a little Ruby-crowned Kinglet came by to announce that spring was officially well under way.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet female

I also saw a female Twohee which was a first for me.

Eastern Towhee female

Today we took a little hike at Worthington Farm in the Monocacy Battlefield National Park to look at the fading Bluebells.  My ulterior motive was to see what birds might be out as well. I was rewarded by two Warblers down near the river.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Palm Warbler

There may be more warblers in that area so I need to return.

The bluebells were pretty much done but we did see Star of Bethlehem and Spring Beauties to extend the hike to the horticultural side as well.

Ornithagalum nutans

Pink Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica)

Easter Morning Mist

Easter Morning Mist

I awoke this morning to a lovely morning mist overhanging the hills.  I grabbed my camera and wandered down through the yard in the direction of the woods.  Photography always presents that challenge of preserving some vision as the light is changing.  In this case the ground was wet and the leaves all sparkling from an overnight rain seemed to promise opportunities.

Easter Morning in the front yard

The daffodils all provided tempting targets for my camera.

Daffodils in the morning

But I had in mind the taking advantage of the woods at first light.

Woods at first light

Woodland Trail

And where I ended up was at the Fairy Circle, a clearing in the woods that we have frequented since my kids were, well kids (they are very grown now).

Bench in the Fairy Circle

This will be my entry into the April Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Contest with it’s theme of Let’s Talk About Light.

Daily Satisfactions

Tulip Monte Carlo and Iris bucharica

On Saturday night we were beset by fearsome winds and rain and at one point decided to check out the latest weather forecast.  You will appreciate that we don’t watch television all that much so that at first we struggled to find a weather show.  But then the emergency broadcasting alert came on with a tornado warning and told us to get our little fannies down into the basement forthwith, and so we did.  I’m usually pretty slow to react to such things but when it’s dark outside you really don’t know what’s coming.  As it turns out the worst part of the storm passed through pretty quickly though it did dump a lot of water in the area.   The next day we learned that a tornado had touched down just 15 miles away.  We definitely dodged a bullet.  The next day was sunny and delightful.  We went off to our favorite local nursery (Thanksgiving Farms) and stocked up on far too many plants which we spent the rest of the day planting.  I think it must be a measure of the improving quality of our soil that we could plant despite the inches of rain the night before.  Anyway, by the end of the day we had reached the point of exhausted enjoyment of what was planted (both the days work and the older plantings like the Iris and Tulips above) and Beth proposed a few moments of wine and contemplation in our proverbial red adirondack chairs that overlook the pasture.  As we sat down two herons flew across the sky in acknowledgement of the season.  We could look out over a gorgeous skyline and hear the sounds the birds from all sides.  The ear filters out the extraneous noises like traffic and planes on such occasions and lets in only the soul satisfying sounds of the season.

We picked some more daffodils and brought them inside where Beth distributed them as is her wont.  Here is the current state of the household…

Daffodils on the kitchen counter

Daffodils on the sideboard

Daffodils on the mantle

More Daffodils on the mantle

Daffodils at the entryway

Daffodils in the meditation room

Daffodils in the Bathroom

Daffodils in the Bedroom

Daffodils for Easter...

Guests sometimes think that we set up the flower arrangements just for their visits.  But the flowers are always present.  It’s just the guests that are noteworthy additions to the household…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for April 2011

Hepatica nobilis 'Lithuanian blue'

Well it is an April Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and as you might expect there are a plethora of flowers to choose from in reporting what is blooming.  This is the crossover point between the smaller spring ephemerals, the bulk of the Tulips and Daffodils, and the major flowering trees and shrubs.  There is no way that I’m going to enumerate everything that is blooming today and I’m not going to repeat some of beauties I’ve reported on recently.  Instead I’m going to single out some of the most photogenic of the lot and that is, of course, a very subjective filtering.

The little gems are well represented, not only by the Hepatica above but by the following.

Jeffersonia dubia

Anemone lipsiensis

Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

First Epimedium in flower

Trillium pusillum ‘Roadrunner’

That is my absolute favorite Trillium.

A particularly rewarding little guy is the White Trout Lily which we had never succeeded with before.

Erythronium 'White Beauty'

I don’t want to ignore the Daffodils and Tulips.

Tulip 'Portland'

This one sits just outside the backdoor.  And out in the front yard is a wonderful display of Tulip tarda.

Tulip Tarda display

Tulip tarda

Daffodil cluster in the front yard

A particularly nice double daffodil

Two of the classic flowering trees have started — our double white cherry and the volunteer dogwood by the front porch.

Double Flowering Cherry

Flowering Dogwood

And for shrubs it’s hard not to mention the Spirea at the back of the garage or the Flowering Quince beside the garage.

Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’

Chaenomeles 'Toyo Nishiki'

It’s also true that some things look almost as good before the buds open.

Viburnum carlesi

Glaucidium palmatum

Virginia Bluebell in bud

And as a final mention I should note that some of the Camellia flowers are getting full enjoyment in the house including this giant single.

Big single pink Camellia

Amidst the Rain

I returned this afternoon from another short trip with the rain coming in spurts for the rest of the afternoon.  We had had a bird bath full of rain while I was gone and the Hepatica and Shooting Stars that we planted in the woods this past weekend seem to be doing fine.  What I did find in the front yard were some Fritillaria that seemed to be enjoying the rain.

Fritillaria meleagris

I also noticed quite a number of flowers appearing on the little Rue Anemone.

Anemonella thalictroides (Rue Anemone)

And the violet version of the Chilean Crocus has finally shown it’s face.

Chilean Crocus (Tecophilaea cyanocrocus v. violaceae)

In between rain showers I also went down into the woods to check on the Bellworts.

Large Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflorum)

I keep being nervous the deer will find these little beauties, but so far, so good.

While in the woods I discovered a particularly nice set of daffodils growing next to the old bench.

Narcissus by the old bench

As it turns out these are tazetas that are not even supposed to be hardy here.

Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or'

Usually these are grown in the south or for forcing.

Here’s my harvest from the walk through the daffodils that are coming in right now.

The Daily Pickings

We bring in a batch like this every other day and there are still many more outside.

Spring is in the Details

Jeffersonia dubia (twinleaf)

One of the fascinating things about this time of year is watching the progression of little plants and bulbs as they emerge.  Many times as a reminder that ‘oh yes, I did plant that last year after all…’.  The Jeffersonia above was a gift from the kids last year and I’ve added others since it’s definitely a winner for the woodland garden.  I was surprised to discover that I had put another little treasure in the midst of the snowdrops.

Anemonella thalictroides ‘Shoaf’s Double’

I guess my thinking was that they wouldn’t compete but after seeing the number of snowdrop seedlings I’m not so sure.

It is truly an Hepatica time of year.  Each one of them is a study in elegance and I can see why they have developed a devoted following.  The little one that I have in the woods is worth watching each day as it emerges.

Hepatica acutiloba in bud

And the ones in the Camellia garden get a regular inspection.

Hepatica acutiloba light purple

Hepatica acutiloba light purple

One of the plants that I picked up at Plant Delights this spring is a ground covering Iris that has very distinctive flowers.

Iris japonica 'Eco Easter'

I’ve always liked the foliage on the species Peonies, in particular the Molly the Witch,

Paeonia mlokosewitschii (Molly the Witch)

but I’m beginning to realize that with the deer resistance and general hardiness I should be planting more and more Peonies.  I added some from Edelweiss Perennials this spring.  One in particular has striking red undersides to the foliage.  Really pretty.

Paeonia cambessedesii (Balearic Peony)

Since this is a native of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean I’m not certain it will survive here, but It’s more than worth giving a try.

One particularly pretty little Tulip is Persian Pearl.  It’s small enough to fit right to the front of the perennial garden.

Tulipa humilis 'Persian Pearl'

There is so much happening around the yard right now that it would difficult to capture it all, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the Trout Lilies that are now flowering in various forms.  We’ve got several species coming up but the old stand of Erythronium americanum are still the most striking.

Erythronium americanum 'Trout lilies'

They freely naturalize in woodsy soil and we have about 5 different colonies now in the woods, not flowering yet but I’m confident they will.  We’ve also added a couple of Yellow Trillums in the side yard which will mix nicely with the Pagoda hybrid of the Erythroniums.

Trillium luteum

And while I’m discussing yellow I should flash a picture of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that came to visit yesterday.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Note the large circular holes that he drills around the trunk of the Pecan tree.  This happens every year at various levels on the tree (other trees too but especially the Pecans) and the tree seems to survive it.  My son sent me this reference on the Sapsuckers?  I guess I’m not alone in seeing Sapsuckers at work…