April 27, 2016

Plant of the Month: Smooth Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum biflorum

After roughly 66 months of writing "plant of the month" posts (I skipped a few since October 2010), I was surprised to discover I hadn't featured Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum). This is one of the most reliable, shade-loving, native wildflower plants in my garden. I didn't plant any of them, but they cheerfully nod throughout the garden and woodland every growing season.

Maianthemum racemosum

My post today is about Smooth Solomon's Seal, not its closely related "cousin" False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum racemosum), also called Solomon's Plume, which also grows in my woodland. (Also an excellent plant!) The two plants look very similar, but have slightly different growth patterns and very distinct blooms.


When Smooth Solomon's Seal emerges (as it is now in my garden), it begins as a straight shoot with a green tip, and slowly bends as its leaves unfurl.


The individual flowers hang like miniature bells under the stems and foliage.

mature blooms

As the blooms mature, their stripes and yellow-green hues gently blend with the plant's foliage.


Even after blooming, the stems and foliage add great structure to cut arrangements.


Smooth Solomon's Seal plays well with ferns ...


And daylilies ...

bleeding heart

And Hosta species and Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis).

Smooth Solomon's Seal, notes the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

  • Prefers shade or partial shade;
  • Will tolerate sand to clay and dry to moist, acidic soils;
  • Attracts birds and butterflies;
  • Is native throughout much of North America (USDA zones 3 to 9); and
  • Provides food for mammals (roots) and birds (berries).

This plant regularly self-seeds and gently spreads throughout my garden, but I'm usually very pleased with where it lands, since it blends so well with other plants.


Plus, in late summer and early autumn its dark blue berries are striking (if the birds don't get them first)!

I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone and Diana's Dozens for Diana at Elephant's Eye on False Bay. Visit their blogs to read about excellent plants growing around the world.

April 20, 2016

Wordless Early Ephemerals

Enemion biternatum

red trillium
Trillium erectum

Podophyllum peltatum

Podophyllum peltatum

Arisaema triphyllum

wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Sanguinaria canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis

April 15, 2016

The Bright Side of a Yo-Yo Spring

chionodoxa 2

I concede there are garden benefits to spring snow and cool temperatures. The snow protects the plants when nighttime temperatures plummet, and cool temperatures help the blooms last longer.

While changeable weather ... from cold to warm and back again ... can be tough on the constitution, it also encourages plant growth and then holds the blooms.

Our forecast here (Southern Wisconsin, USDA zone 5) heading into mid-spring looks warm, which pleases me. In the meantime, many of the early spring-blooming bulbs and plants are still going strong, concurrently with spring ephemerals beginning to emerge. That makes for quite a show!

I'm linking this post to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up at Digging.

Most of my Crocuses and Snowdrops are done, but some spring bloomers are still with us. Here are a few as they looked a couple of days ago:

c. tommasinianus
Crocus tommasinianus

Eranthis hyemalis

Scilla siberica

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'

c. sieberi
Crocus sieberi

Muscari armeniacum

Galanthus nivalis

chionodoxa 1
Chionodoxa forbesii

Hyacinthus orientalis

The Hellebores have been blooming for weeks now:

hellebore 2
Helleborus x hybridus

hellebore 1
Helleborus x hybridus

I did cover them before the recent ice storm, and when nighttime temperatures dipped below 30F/-1C.

Some spring plants are starting or about to bloom, including Vinca and Clematis:

Vinca minor

nelly moser
Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

I didn't cover these guys during the cold nights, but they don't appear to have any damage.

You might wonder why I allow these next two plants to grow in my garden:

white avens
Geum canadense

White Avens (Geum canadense) forms hitchhiking seedheads after flowering, so they're often considered nuisance plants. But I like the early rosettes, and the flowers attract butterflies. White Avens grows along the edge of our woods, in an area with little foot traffic.

urtica dioica
Urtica dioica

Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) also grows in the woods. It's one of only a few host plants for the Red Admiral butterfly.

Several more "desirable" native plants are showing their attractive foliage, including:

Mertensia virginica

Virginia Bluebells and

virginia waterleaf
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Virginia Waterleaf.

Podophyllum peltatum

The Mayapples will soon form tiny umbrellas in their colony on the side of the hill. This photo series shows the stages before the foliage unfurls.

Other plants with interesting foliage: 

Rheum rhabarbarum

Rhubarb is growing fast. These two photos were taken about a week apart, during cold weather. When the heat hits during the next few days, this plant will really take off.

lycoris and hemerocallis
Lycoris squamigera

The foliage of Surprise Lilies (Lycoris squamigera) makes an early spring appearance. The foliage will fade and decompose during the summer, and the blooms will shoot up out of nowhere in late summer.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Some of the Bleeding Hearts look a bit tattered after recent nighttime freezes, but they'll be fine.

Digitalis hybrida 'Camelot Lavendar'

And the Foxglove, which formed its rosette in December, will be spiking up with its tall flowers soon.

How about you? What's blooming, about to bloom, and emerging in your garden? Head on over to May Dreams Gardens and Digging to learn about other blooming plants and fab foliage in gardens around the world.


April 07, 2016

Tree Following: The Mystery Buckeye in April


Are you following a tree this year? It's a fun activity for any garden blogger or nature blogger, or really anyone who likes trees.

To participate in the formal "tree following" meme, simply publish regular updates about your selected tree throughout the year, and then add your monthly links to The Squirrelbasket's link box, on or near the seventh of each month.

I first posted about my "mystery Buckeye" tree in January. I didn't post in February or March because the potted tree was in the garage, dormant for the winter. Now it's beginning to transition to new life. If you look at the first photo in this post, you'll see the small terminal bud of the tree in autumn, winter, and early spring. Notice how plump that tiny bud has become!


I recently pulled the pot out of the garage, and placed it along the east side of the house, adjacent to the screen porch. This is very near the place I initially found the tree--in the garden bed near the rock wall. Our severe "subzero" weather is done for the season, and the potted tree will now fare better outside, where it can break dormancy as spring unfolds.

Apologies for the messy view. We've had cool days lately, so I haven't gotten around to hosing down pots and cleaning the porch. I wasn't planning to show this view, but it gives you an idea of the size of my little tree.

Yes, it's very small; insignificant, perhaps. Remember, this is a seedling I found in my garden, likely delivered by a resident squirrel.

bud one

Wait ... this tiny tree isn't insignificant. In fact, it's a miracle about to happen!

bud two

Notice the reddish color and the lateral growth buds.

bud four

This little tree might look very small now, but it's about to expand--dramatically.

bud three

A week of warm weather will do it now! I'm very excited!

What type of Buckeye (Aesculus spp.) tree do we see here? Can anyone guess from the buds or the foliage? To read more about this Buckeye tree, visit my January post. To participate in or learn more about tree following, visit The Squirrelbasket. Happy tree following!