April 15, 2014

Butterflies, blooms, and big puffy buds

It's a cold April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day here in a large portion of the U.S.

Some gardeners have snow, while others have had brutal overnight temperatures that required covering even hardy perennials.

mourning cloak

Last week, the first butterflies of the season in my garden were sunning themselves, like this mourning cloak.

Here in Southern Wisconsin, we went from spring weather last week to summer weather on the weekend, and then we crashed ... to snow flurries and overnight temperatures around 20F (-6C) last night. We awoke to another white dusting on the lawns and gardens.


Before the "crash," some of the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivaliswere blooming. I think these are 'Flore Pleno.' I clipped the remains before nightfall and put them in a vase in the house. They would have survived, anyway, but I wanted them in a place where I could enjoy their beauty.

Other spring-blooming flowers either got covered or should survive because of their natural antifreeze capabilities.




Hellebores, Hyacinths, and Daffodils need very little pampering, even during a cold snap. But I covered the Hellebores, just to be safe.


And of course the Crocuses (C. tommasinianus) are fine. Actually, the cold will preserve them for a little longer.


It's magical how they close tightly with the cold and dark, and then open their faces and translucent petals to the sun.


Meanwhile, a turkey feather holds its place in the flower pots until warmer weather.


Inside, the Cyclamen is still blooming--two months and going strong.


But the plant I'm most excited about right now is the potted Meyer Lemon tree. I'm including this photo to show how it gets light from three directions in the south-facing sunroom. Not only did it survive the entire winter inside, it's thriving. And it's covered with big, puffy buds that are just about ready to burst.





While only a small portion of these will become Lemons, the blooms soon will perfume the room. And it will be fun to see how many Lemons we get this first year.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Head on over to her blog to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

April 07, 2014

My tree in April

twin hickories

Garden and nature bloggers from around the world are participating in Loose and Leafy's "tree following" meme. I'm honored to be part of the celebration. As many of you know, I'm following the Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata).

Changes from March to April are subtle, but springtime is definitely at work. I've included captions with each photo.

bald spot3
I often worry about the "bald spots" on the bark after the winter,
but it's a natural process of shedding each year.

bald spot2
A closer view of a "bald spot."

A healthy crop of moss and lichen.

The peeling bark is even more dramatic from the side.

Indiana bats roost in this bark, although I've never seen one here.

big piece
Another dramatic strip of bark.

A cardinal in the neighbor's yard sang to me while I was photographing the trees.

I suppose the cardinal wanted me to move away from his food.

This robin was very tame, taking a bath about four feet away from me and the Shagbarks.

This perch is a common squirrel hangout, although I didn't see one there today.

The buds are starting to swell. They'll look dramatically different next month.

The buds on Shagbark Hickories go through a dramatic transformation during the spring.
Soon they'll look like large, dramatic "candles."

A closer look at a puffy bud.

Soon, this view will be totally different. I'll share it again next month.

Head on over to Loose and Leafy's blog to learn about other fascinating trees.

And just a note that I might be slacking off a little with blogging and blog visits for a couple of weeks. I'm just trying to catch up with work, gardening, family priorities, and some special garden projects, which I'll share with you soon!

April 02, 2014

March 26, 2014

Plant of the Month: Bloodroot


"Every woodland garden needs Bloodroot." Try Googling that sentence and you'll see how many people recommend this magical ephemeral that pokes its way through the forest floor for a brief moment in time in early spring.


While it isn't blooming in my garden yet, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is one of the first plants to emerge in spring. It blooms quickly, as the spring sun warms the soil, but before deciduous trees add their leaves. You're likely to miss it if you aren't watching for it, because the blooms only last for one to three days.


One of the best descriptions of the "how" and "why" of Bloodroot's growth and pollination is in this article at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. No other plant is quite like it.


The single-stemmed large leaf and separate-stemmed bloom emerge side by side, with the leaf curled around the flower.


The blooms open during the day, and close up at night.


The name Bloodroot comes from the red color of the sap in its stems and roots. I haven't wanted to pull mine up, because I have so few, but here's a link to a photo of the roots from the USDA Forest Service. The plant was used by American Indians for many medicinal purposes, and for dye and war paint, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.


Bloodroot is native through about two-thirds of North America--starting in the north from Manitoba and down through Texas in the south, and eastward through most states and provinces. It likes moist, wet soil; shade or part shade; and a healthy layer of leaf mulch.


I found out recently that the best way to propagate it is from its seeds, planted immediately in the soil before they have a chance to dry out. The seeds ripen about four weeks after flowering and are ready at that point to be harvested and planted.


I'm planning to sow some Bloodroot seeds this spring. I noticed a large, healthy patch of it last year that I hadn't noticed before, so that's a good sign.


Bloodroot is definitely one of my favorite plants, and I'm learning more about it every year. My friend, Karin at Southern Meadows, in Georgia, has Bloodroot blooming in her garden now, so visit her to learn more about this beautiful plant.

I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday. Head on over to her blog, Clay and Limestone, to learn about favorite wildflowers from around the world.