May 26, 2015
Imagine stepping out of your car in a large parking lot and seeing delicate, periwinkle blue, tiny blooms in all directions.
That's what happened to us during a visit to a Florida state park in early March.
The blooms we saw were those of Blue-Eyed Grass and, although I don't know for sure, I'm assuming they were the more common North American species (Sisyrinchium angustifolium).
Besides the fact that they were incredibly lovely and plentiful in this naturalized setting in Florida, I knew they also bloom in my northern state, albeit much later in the season ... like now, in May and June.
In fact, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, this species is native to most of Eastern North America--from Newfoundland, west to Ontario, in the north; through Florida and Texas, in the south. In other words, it thrives in USDA zones 3 to 10.
I also found a patch within my parents' Florida retirement community. The landscaping folks mow it once a week, and it pops right back up to bloom again! Floridata, the Floridata Plant Encyclopedia mentions that, "Blue-Eyed Grass is a great little plant for almost anywhere in the garden. It needs almost no attention, thriving with neglect."
Although its nickname includes the word "grass," this plant is a member of the same family and subfamily (Iridoideae) as Irises. It only grows to 1.5 feet, and forms tufted clumps. It can be propagated by seed or division. And it prefers moist conditions, although it can tolerate poor to average soils.
I was familiar with Blue-Eyed Grass, having seen it growing wild in Wisconsin in prairie settings. But I had never seen it naturalize in such a wide expanse before. In addition, I hadn't planted it in my own garden, because I figured it needed more sun. Recently, I was delighted to find out that not only can Blue-Eyed grass tolerate some shade, "especially high shade, as under tall trees," notes Floridata, it also takes well to potting. So, Blue-Eyed Grass will soon make an appearance in my "high shade" garden.
I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday meme, over at Clay and Limestone. Head on over to learn about fascinating wildflowers from around the world.
Update for Wisconsin readers: Sisyrinchium angustifolium is a State Special Concern Plant in Wisconsin. Click the link to learn more about what that means. Propagate by purchasing plants or seeds from a reliable native plant garden center.
May 15, 2015
Yes, it's a crazy busy time of year. In addition to weddings, graduations, proms, picnics, and gardening, all the plants in this part of the world seem to bloom and grow with ferocity in May.
There was a time, about a week ago, when some species of Magnolias, Crabapples, Redbuds, and Lilacs, and many spring ephemerals and perennials were all blooming at the same time. The temperatures had warmed, then cooled, and everything was in a holding pattern. Quite the stunning show in the community.
We've had just enough precipitation and sunshine and clouds to make the plants very happy. For this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up, here are a few highlights of what's currently blooming and thriving in my Southern Wisconsin garden:
The Red Trilliums are stunning, backlit by the dappled sunshine.
The Great White Trilliums seem to have multiplied this year--in many spots where there was a single last year, there are now multiples. Seems they're just now recovering from the 2012 drought.
Same with the Jacks-in-the-Pulpit. I lost count of how many are in the woodland garden this year.
The Columbines I added to the garden last summer have returned and are just about to bloom.
Redbuds are blooming and starting to add their heart-shaped foliage.
Lilies-of-the-Valley are at peak, and the scent is magnificent.
Our native Bleeding Hearts seem healthier than last year.
|Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'|
I added a new cultivar of Alyssum to some of my pots. Love the color and the scent!
False Rue Anemone is still blooming away, and the foliage is as pretty as the flowers.
The Honey Locusts are opening their unique fans of foliage.
Tendrils of Bleeding Hearts are glistening everywhere.
Most of the Crabapples have finished blooming, while a few old fruits remain and new fruits form.
Ostrich Ferns are nearly completely unfurled.
Vincas have added their periwinkle blue to the landscape.
|Paeniaceae 'Sarah Bernhardt'|
Ants on the Peonies are preparing them to open.
Mayapples are in full bloom under their shady foliage.
Many Lilacs are in full glory (ah, the scent!).
|Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'|
While my favorites, Dwarf Korean Lilacs, are just about to burst.
|Clematis 'Nelly Moser'|
Same with the Clematis flowers.
And, finally, the state flower, Wood Violet, is popping up everywhere. The pollinators are loving it!
May 12, 2015
Have you ever tried overwintering Lettuces and Scallions in a coldframe over a heated pond?
How about growing salad greens in windowbox liners?
These experiments are new to me as of last spring, and they've been pleasantly successful, thus far. I'm breaking this series into three parts:
- Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners;
- Part II: Construction of the coldframe; and
- Part III: Successes, failures, and miscellaneous observations.
So, Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners: you know, those portable, lightweight troughs you can buy and place in your windowboxes for planting ornamentals ... windowboxes that make your windows look extra snazzy and give your house lovely curb appeal ...
Turns out, the liners make great planting mediums for salad greens, too. You can add rich, healthy potting soil and compost to give your seeds a boost. And you can start the seeds early in the season and move the troughs in and out, as needed, as the temperatures fluctuate. It's similar to raised-bed gardening, but with the additional benefit of being portable--an especially great option for those of us with shorter growing seasons and "surprise" spring and fall frosts and freezes.
I planted 'Mesclun Mix' Lettuce seeds last spring, with Scallions (Onion sets) planted around the perimeter to repel critters. I watched them sprout quickly, then harvested many cuttings through the summer, clipped them down to the base in the fall, and overwintered them in coldframes above our heated pond.
|In Part II, I'll describe how the fishman constructed this mini-coldframe on top of our pond.|
(The fishman gets the kudos for coldframe construction!)
|Lettuce rosettes, as seen through the plastic and condensation of the coldframe.|
They survived! They remained in a state of perpetual rosette through the winter as the temperatures hovered around 32F to 45F.
|A new blog topic? "How to grow moss in a coldframe."|
(Turns out, these are excellent conditions for growing moss, as well. In this case, I'm considering it a cover crop for my salad greens.) Once the temperatures warmed in April, I moved the trays into the sun, watched the plants grow, and started clipping greens for salads again.
A couple of weeks ago, I also planted 'Tuscan Baby Leaf' Kale and 'Peppermint' Swiss Chard seeds in additional troughs, placed directly in the garden.
We've already thinned the seedlings, and harvested some baby Kale!
Next in this series: Construction of the coldframe. But first, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on May 15!
To see what other gardeners are growing this season, check out the Dear Friend and Gardener virtual garden club.
May 04, 2015
In the past, when I've tried to photograph our Crabapple trees, I've been less than thrilled with the results. Somehow shooting up into the blooms just didn't do them justice. I'm still working on capturing this subject, but recently I experimented a bit.
As I walked into one of our second-story rooms, I realized a glorious view: Crabapples blooming just outside the window. (The scent was amazing, too.)
Now, photographing them outside this window would mean focusing through glass, but I thought I'd give it a go. The results were fun. This first one is unimpressive for tons of reasons, but it shows the perspective of the Crabapple tops just outside the window:
It might appear that the blooms are touching the window, which isn't the case, but they do drape over the roof line a bit. And with an open window, one could reach out and touch them. (Did you notice the Blue Jay?)
I'm not sure of the names our cultivars. There are approximately 1,000 varieties of Crabapples (Malus spp.), with about 100 commonly planted in the U.S., according to Colorado State University. One of ours here has peachy/white buds that bloom to bright white; the other has vibrant dark pink buds and blooms, with red/gold-tinged foliage.
As I was experimenting with the camera through the window glass, I noticed something moving in the distance among the white blooms.
Several Cedar Waxwings, enjoying the sweet flowers.
I experimented with focusing through the screen, which yielded interesting effects.
I noticed sunlight hitting the petals in lovely patterns from a side view.
I also picked a few blooms for a bouquet, and included a sprig of Bleeding Hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) and foliage from Ressurection Lilies (Lycoris squamigera). (I'm linking this post to Rambling in the Garden's "In a Vase on Monday" meme.)
In my experience, the vase life of Crabapple blooms is only a few days. Then again, their stunning show on the trees lasts only as long as the next thunderstorm, of which we have several in the forecast during the next few days. So I'll savor the blooms while they last.