April 30, 2014

My little Camellia experiment

Well, I did it.

cam bud

Earlier this spring, I ordered a Camellia from Camellia Forest Nursery.

I was so excited, I didn't stop to take pictures of the package and the unveiling of the plant ... like all good garden bloggers do. Instead, I simply ripped open the box!

And there inside was a sweet one-year-old plant in a little pot. Camellia japonica 'April Pink.' Soft pink, formal double flowers. Hardy to USDA zone 6B. Click here to see what the blooms will look like.

OK, I know what you're thinking: "Beth, you live in Wisconsin. Your winter lows can reach -20F (-29C), or occasionally colder. You have no business trying to grow a Camellia."

And, of course, you are right.

I posted about this crazy Camellia fetish of mine here.

Crazy and misinformed as this decision might seem, I did receive some coaching and encouragement from fellow garden bloggers and Camellia experts. Camellia Forest Nursery says gardeners as far north as Toronto, Ontario, successfully grow cold-hardy Camellias.

And one other thing: This Camellia will be inside during the coldest months of the winter. It will keep the Lemon tree company in the cool sunroom. Because this plant prefers part shade, it will be placed away from direct light, of course.

I don't know if this experiment will work, but I've been told that other people in cold climates grow Camellias in conservatories and partially heated rooms. So I just had to try it.


I found a new small pot and the perfect spot for this little Camellia during the spring, summer, and fall: on the back screen porch in a shaded corner that gets indirect light most of the day.


I'm showing this angle so you can see where it sits next to the house.


We close off this part of the porch and put clear acrylic panes over the screens from November through April, which helps to keep the temperature a little warmer and the winds a little less harsh.

stem buds

The Camellia seems to be doing well so far, and the buds are starting to swell. More new buds are developing along the stem.

What do you think? Am I crazy to try this?

By the way, the Lemon tree is blooming.


It started blooming the day after Easter.


I used a little brush to help pollinate the flowers because it's too cold to set the tree outside just yet for natural bee pollination. Looks like some Lemons are starting to form. This is fun!

April 23, 2014

Plant of the month: Trillium erectum

T. erectum

So many ephemerals appear and bloom in the wink of an eye in my garden between mid-April and mid-May. When they actually appear varies from season to season. As ephemerals, they emerge, flower, and disappear within a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the species.

Any day now, I'm expecting to see the first Trilliums. In fact, they may have emerged already under the leaf mold on the forest floor. But when they bloom, they put on quite a show for a short period of time.

I didn't plant any of these Trilliums. Either the previous owner added them, or they were true wildflowers--existing on the undisturbed glacial drumlin forest at the back of our property.

Great White Trilliums (T. grandiflorum) are rather abundant here, but Red Trilliums (T. erectum) are not. A few years back, I discovered a small patch of them mixed in with the Wild Ginger, False Rue Anemone, and other wildflowers.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists Trillium erectum as native to the lower 48 U.S. states and the Canadian provinces, but apparently a rare find west of Lake Michigan. Other nicknames for T. erectum include Wakerobin, Purple Trillium, or Stinking Benjamin. That last name refers to the foul smell of this plant, which attracts carrion flies as pollinators.


Can you count the pollinators on this flower? I'm seeing at least four.

It is a "stinker," but it's located far from our house at the edge of the woods, so it's not a problem in my garden. I wouldn't recommend intentionally planting a large patch of them near your back door, though.


It's a lovely flower. I think the red-trimmed sepals are stunning when backlit by filtered afternoon light.

T. grandiflorum

The buds are similar to those of the Great White Trillium.



But Trillium erectum has a more "nodding" posture, and the blooms aren't as large. There's also a white variety of T. erectum, although I don't have any of those in my garden.


The development of the fruit of this species (apparent in the center of the flower in the photo above) is quite fascinating, as The Nature Institute describes at this link.

It's a fun ephemeral to find in a natural setting and a beautiful plant to include in Gail's Wildflower Wednesday line-up at Clay and Limestone. Head on over to her blog to learn about other wildflowers blooming in gardens around the world.

(By the way, another species, T. sessile, also goes by the nickname Red Trillium, as well as Toadshade and Toad Trillium. Visit this link to learn about that species.)

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!