May 27, 2013

Please join me for a hike


Come along with me as I explore John Muir’s childhood stomping grounds. This plot of land is a National Historic Landmark, located about midway between Portage and Montello, Wis.

Let’s head for the trail.



First, we stop to read about John Muir, the father of the U.S. National Park System. As a boy, he emigrated from Scotland with his family in 1849, and moved to this Wisconsin property, which the family named “Fountain Lake Farm.”


A map of the area surrounding the lake shows a rich diversity of ecosystems.

invasives sign


We make sure to clear nonnative hitchhiker seeds off our boots. Along this trail, we will see native plant life common to Oak openings, fens, wet mesic prairies, Sedge meadows, and Oak woodlands.


One of the first things we notice is the beauty of young Oak trees—and how plentiful they are here.


Also noteworthy—several species of Milkweed, likely including Asclepias incarnata, A. syriaca, A. tuberosa, and A. purpurascens. (Mental note: Check back later in the summer to positively ID and to watch for Monarchs!)


As we hike across the mesic prairie, we see a pleasant view of Ennis Lake beyond the native grasses and shrubs.


And wildflowers, like Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea).



In the fen, there’s a nifty stand of Meadow Willow (Salix petiolaris).


And plentiful wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana).


The Black Raspberry canes (Rubus occidentalis) show signs of plentiful fruit this season.




In another Oak opening, more young Oaks show their stunning colors.



False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum) and Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).


Another pleasant view of Ennis Lake across the next Sedge meadow. As we enter a large Oak opening, the vegetation dramatically shifts to mature Oaks, Hickories, and woodland plants.


Notable understory plants here include Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium),


And Horsetail Reed (Equisetum hyemale).


Another pleasant view of Ennis Lake at the opposite end—we’re about halfway done with our hike. Don’t worry—only about one more mile. We enter another Sedge meadow, where we could spend hours identifying plants. But there’s so much more to see.


One that catches our eye is hard to identify without the flowers. Is it Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale), some type of Lily, or something else?


The red twigs of Dogwoods (Cornus sericea) catch our attention as we move from the Sedge meadow to the Oak woodland.


We cross a creek on a quaint bridge and head for the forest. Large, mature Oaks ahead.


But first we notice Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) reaching for the sky.


Here we go … into the woods!


These tiny white flowers have a unique shape. Looks like Bittercress (Cardamine spp.)?



Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Wild Geraniums (Geranium maculatum), and Star Solomon Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) greet us along the way.


The view along the stream bed.


Almost the end of the trail.


This plant must be a type of Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens?).




We’re out of the woods and greeted by a giant Juniper tree and an open field showing signs of a recent soccer game.

We vow to come back when the Milkweeds and the Lilies are blooming. (Mental note: Bring mosquito/tick repellent and don't expect cell phone reception next time either.)


What a pleasant walk on a cool, cloudy spring day! And a good way to remember a man who made a difference.

To read more about Muir's first years in Wisconsin and the subsequent uses and restorations of this historic plot of land, click here.

May 21, 2013

Plant of the month:
Asarum canadense

If you're trying to eliminate Garlic Mustard (an invasive, non-native plant in the U.S.) from your garden, Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) can help. I've read several articles lately extolling the virtues of A. canadense as a Garlic Mustard deterrent.

Unfortunately, we've had a Garlic Mustard problem for several years in the small forest at the back of our property. Largely due to the efforts of the fishman, it's now mostly under control. (To see a photo of Garlic Mustard to help identify it, check the link in the first paragraph.)

To help keep it away, I'm thinking we need more Wild Ginger!

Wild Ginger and False Rue Anemone

This attractive, native ground cover plant with heart-shaped foliage grows naturally in our woods, along with False Rue Anemone, Trillium, Bloodroot, and many other wildflowers.


Wild Ginger's unassuming, tiny flower hides under its foliage, and until recently I had trouble locating the flowers. In my garden, thick Oak leaf mulch covers the base of each plant. But it's a fun scavenger hunt to find the flowers where the plant's paired stems meet.


You feel a little like you're exposing a shy creature, because the tiny magenta blooms seem to shun exposure.

A. canadense is native to all 48 lower U.S. states, but now is found mostly east of a line from from North Dakota south to Louisiana, according to the USDA. There are other Wild Gingers in the U.S. and around the world. A. canadense retains its foliage throughout the growing season. Each plant grows to about 6-12 inches in height and spreads to about 12-18 inches.

Its roots taste similar to culinary Ginger, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden, although I haven't tried it. I want every plant I have firmly in the soil.

twin leaves

A. canadense prefers partial to full shade. It grows in most USDA zones and prefers moist, acidic soils--although it tolerates average, medium to wet soils. Rabbits and deer tend to avoid it, but it's a food source for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.

This is a plant I've taken for granted in the past. Now I hope to propagate more--to establish it as a ground cover and to chase away the Garlic Mustard.


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This is PlantPostings' 200th post. I've posted one to three times per week since October 2010, with only one lengthy break earlier this month. I'm still enjoying the journey, and I hope you are, too. Thanks for visiting my blog and continuing to share your garden stories.

May 14, 2013

What's new in your garden?

It's time for May Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up, just in time for the peak of color in most Midwestern gardens! I don't recall a year when Hellebores, Forsythias, Maples, spring bulbs, most spring ephemerals, Magnolias, and Crabapples (and many more) were all blooming at the same time, but it's happening this year.

Many are fading now with a welcome blast of warm air, but others are just starting, and it has been a spectacular spring so far!

Rather than posting about everything that's blooming and thriving in the garden this May, I thought I'd share some of the new plants I've added this year, some that I haven't photographed much in the past, and a few newly blooming standouts.

New this year are...


Lantana (L. camera 'Sunrise Rose Improved'): I fell in love with Lantanas during last year's trip to New Orleans, where I saw them growing all over the place. They only survive as annuals here in the north, but they're Monarch-attractors, and a perfect addition to my small veggie/flower sun garden.


Umbrella Grass (Cyperus involucratus 'Baby Tut'): This plant was an impulse purchase that caught my eye at the garden center. I'm planning to add it to some potted arrangements.




Milkweed: I have very little sun in my garden, but in my small attempt to help the Monarch butterflies, I planted two species of this plant. The Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is in a pot with Marigolds, and the Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa) is planted in my potager garden. I've resisted planting Milkweed in the past because of the limited sunlight here, but the Monarchs really need our help. Their numbers are down by about 59% this year. Milkweed is the only plant the larvae eat.


Clematis 'Nelly Moser': I'm determined this year to bring back Clematis to my garden! During our first spring in this house, two trellises facing south on the back of the house were thick with Clematis. One year, I trimmed them too severely and they didn't survive the winter. I've tried a couple of times to bring them back, but rabbits nibbled them before they had a chance to bolt. This year, I placed tripled wire fencing around them and mounded mulch at the base. So far, so good.



Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'): Another entirely new plant for me, this beautiful climber has chartreuse foliage. We found the perfect ceramic pot for it, which matches some of our other garden decorations, and we added a wire obelisk for it to climb. The fishman is worried it will take over, but I'm planning to snake it up and down the obelisk and trim it before it becomes unruly. It does, indeed, grow very fast!


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea 'Camelot Lavendar'): I don't have a lot of words for this plant, except that it's dreamy and it makes my heart beat faster (literally and figuratively).

New photos of old plants...


Wild Ginger (Asarum canadensis): While I've captured Wild Ginger a couple of times with the camera, I had trouble locating the flowers because of heavy leaf mulch on the forest floor. Then I read an article that suggested gently parting the paired heart-shaped leaves to find the flowers. Voila! I hope to write a little more about this fascinating plant in an upcoming post.



Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): I've photographed this spring ephemeral quite a bit, but this year there are several very healthy patches of it in the woods. Yay! As you can see, the flowers have faded, but the foliage is bigger than my hand.

And then there are the favorite May bloomers, currently the standouts in my garden...



Crabapple (Malus spp.): If I could share the scent, I would. Its sweet perfume is second only to Lilacs for me (which are starting to bloom here in southern Wisconsin).



Flowering Almond (Prunus landulosa): I'm embarrassed to show you the full shape of this sweet shrub, because it was pruned heavily last fall and is filling in now. But the flowers are...sorry, I can't think of an adequate adjective.

What's new and newly blooming in your garden?

For more posts about May bloomers and foliage from around the world, check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dream Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up at Digging. Enjoy!