There is a pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) growing up against the front of our house. I’m almost certain it’s a seedling, because it’s much too close to the house to have been planted and I want to take it out. Before I do, I’d like something growing that will take its place but I may just need to do the deed. A few years ago I planted a camellia called ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ but the two very cold spells we had in the next two winters did that one in. In 2017 I bought a variety called ‘Kumasaka’, which is fairly hardy, as camellias go. It nearly died the first year but there is a small stem with about 8 leaves on it and this spring it bloomed. I’m not entirely sure this is ‘Kumasaka’ and not the root stock, but it’s a big, beautiful, pink flower so I’ll live with it. Hopefully it will live with us. And hopefully it will start to put on a little growth because right now, it’s barely taller than the pachysandra.
Monthly Archives: April 2020
One thing Cathy and I are thankful for is walks in our neighborhood. It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood, especially now, as traffic in the area is considerably lighter than normal. Foot traffic has always been high with a lot of dog walkers and people out for a stroll but that’s increased significantly during the covidian interval. This shrub, Viburnum carlesii, is scattered through the area and right now, you can often smell it before you see it. The fragrance it strong, spicy, and sweet with a hint to me of vanilla. This and Viburnum × burkwoodii, which is cross with V. utile, are among the best viburnums for fragrance (and it’s possible that the one in this photo is the hybrid rather than the species). In fact, Cathy has requested that I plant one in our yard when we’re able to browse the garden centers once more.
Most of the saucer magnolias (Magnolia × soulangeana) have finished their bloom but there are a few in the neighborhood that are still at their peak. This has been a good year for the magnolias, coming a little early and with no late frost to damage them. The saucer magnolia is a hybrid of M. denudata x M. liliiflora. The first of those, the yulan magnolia, has pure while flowers, which seems like it would be very nice, as well. The second, commonly called the lily magnolia, is a bit more hardy and provides the hybrid with its color. Many of the named varieties of saucer magnolia come from a breeding program at the U. S. National Arboretum. The hybrid epithet comes from Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a “disgruntled cavalry officer.”
This is the little flowering almond growing near the corner of our garage. It’s done pretty well the last few years, as we’ve had relatively mild winters but I don’t think it’s ever going to get more than about four feet tall. Maybe it isn’t in the best spot but it’s nice to have when it’s in bloom. There was a bumble bee on it and I tried to get pictures of that but this late in the day it’s in shadow and there just wasn’t enough light to get a sharp enough shot. The flowers are nice by themselves, though.
Like most folks, we’re mostly confined to our house and to walks in the neighborhood. We figured that we could go for a drive so yesterday we went out and about. One place we went was the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park on Muncaster Road. I didn’t take my camera with me, which is pretty unusual, so we went back there today with my camera this time. There were a few others there but everyone kept their distance from one another.
They have a small, woodland garden that is particularly nice right now, with mostly early spring blooms. These Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are just starting to open and are so lovely.
Another photo from our trip to the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park on Muncaster Road. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) has very pretty, pure white flowers that don’t last very long. I love them as a true sign of spring. There are some places where you see this native plant in the woods one day as you drive by and then it’s gone the next. The plant is still there, obviously, but not so obvious without it’s bright blooms. The leaves are quite interesting, being deeply-scalloped. The leaves continue growing after the blooms are gone, and are present until mid to late summer when the plant goes dormant.
The third and final photo I’ll post from our visit to the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park today. This is trillium and someone more in the know than I am could probably tell you which one. I’ll guess Trillium cuneatum, “the largest and most vigorous of the sessile trilliums that are native to the eastern U. S.” but I stress, that’s just a guess without much research behind it. Whichever it is, it’s a pretty little plant that should be in any woodland garden in our region. They don’t transplant well but it seems to me they would be worth the effort.
I went out to take pictures last this morning, taking a short break from work. I had expected to take pictures of flowers of one sort or another but I happened to see this greater bee fly (Bombylius major) and was able to get pretty close to it and got a reasonable photo. It’s a fairly distinctive looking fly, with a hairy body. Differentiating flies from bees is generally easy if you can count their wings. The order Diptera, which is the flies, is so named because they have two wings (i.e. a single pair) instead of the normal insect wing count of four (two pairs).
Cathy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood after work this evening. I had hoped to have a photo of a pile of rocks dressed up as a nurse. There is a house a few blocks from us with a stack of rocks, between 4½ and 5 feet tall. Occasionally they “dress” them in something for the occasion, such as with a Santa suit at Christmas. Yesterday, Cathy saw them in a nurses outfit, presumably in honor of health care workers during the covidian interval. Unfortunately, they were back to their bare selves this evening. So, instead, I give you photo number 175,000 from my camera, some maple samaaras, or winged seed capsules on a tree down the street from us.
Technically, this is only photo number 174,983 because the photos are numbered from 1 through 9,999 and then it starts over at 1, meaning there is no photo numbered 10,000, 20,000, etc., so the 175,000th photo will have been taken tomorrow (but I probably won’t post that one).
The woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) is blooming in our back yard. Cathy planted these and they have spread to various places, mostly in the lawn, and they are very pretty little things. Similar to the flowers of the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) he buds are pinkish purple and the flowers change to blue as they open and mature. Also, the little white “eye ring” around the center change from white to yellow. They are delicate little flowers and although they are not a native species, they are lovely and don’t go to crazy in our yard, so I don’t mind.
The afternoon sun was lighting up the newly opened leaf buds on a small flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) in our back yard. I got my camera and went to take pictures but between the wind moving the stems around and the sun going behind clouds, it kept changing. I think this is my favorite of them, although the light is a bit less strong than it was in others. Our eyes are amazing in terms of their dynamic range and cameras have a much harder time with extremes of light at dark. So, in the one that’s brighter, parts are a bit washed out, although in Real Life™ it was gorgeous. This one, where the light was a bit more subdued, has the right feel. Just imagine it super-bright.
With Easter in two days, as Lent comes to an end, the Lenten roses are finishing up a very spectacular year. They are pretty reliable, once established, but this year has been particularly good for them in our neck of the woods. This one is either ‘Red Racer’ or ‘Rose Quartz’ and I’d have to check my notes to know which. They were both planted in the fall of 2014 and are near each other but I don’t remember which is which. Regardless, it’s got a really nice color, even as the flowers age.
It was a lovely day today and Cathy and I went for a longish walk (about four miles) near Lake Frank. We saw one of the two bald eagles nesting there, who was by the nest, then flew off and around for a while before landing in another tree near the nest. We saw lots of wildflowers, including this star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), and yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum). The ferns were coming up and we saw some jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). All in all, a very nice time in the woods.
This will start blooming in a week or so, but even before it’s in bloom, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, also known as sweetscented bedstraw) is quit pretty. In fact, I’d say this photo doesn’t do it justice. The shades of green are just lovely and it makes a really nice groundcover where you don’t need something evergreen. We have a few patches of this and I really like it where it is. It isn’t too aggressive and it fits in very nicely. When crushed, it gives off a strong odor of freshly mown hay, even more so as the plant dries.
We had rain overnight and it continued into the day, raining quite hard off and on. In the early afternoon I could hear thunder from my basement office and I lost the remote connection to one of my office computers, although the other stayed connected. I went out front, under the porch, and took a few pictures of the rain. In the few minutes that I was outside, the rain stopped. This photo was taken then, of a pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) growing and blooming at the front of our house. I loved the way the drops of water were glistening on the branches. A few minutes later I went out back and half the sky—to the south and west—was blue, while the other half—to the north and east—was still an ominous grey. The thunder faded into the distance as the storm moved on.
The plant this gooseberry flower is on was one that Albert had growing in his yard. Brady left me dig it up before she moved out of that house and it’s done very well against our back fence. Dorothy made little tarts with gooseberries from it last year and it looks to have a pretty good crop again this year, if the number of flowers tells us anything. The flowers are generally considered insignificant, at least from an ornamental standpoint. They are quite small and not particularly showy except from very close but they are actually pretty little things. The gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) is native to Europe, N. Africa, and the Caucasus and is, as you’d guess, primarily grown for it’s wonderfully tart fruit. The leaves of gooseberries contain hydrogen cyanide, a toxin that, in sufficient quantities, is pretty bad for you.
Where there used to be a large oak tree in our front yard (technically in the road right-of-way) there is now a small garden bed. Around the tree was Pachysandra terminalis and that’s still there. Where the tree was Cathy plants annuals and there are some tiger lilies there now, as well, which seem to enjoy the spot. Around the permimeter are daffodils of various types, all different shades of yellow. They look bright yellow until these fireflame tulips (Tulipa acuminata) start to bloom with their really intense yellow flowers.
I had a photo of dogwood leaves coming out of their buds recently (see Thursday, April 09, 2020) and they were pretty well liked on Instagram. That tree is a volunteer seedling that has been growing in a large bed in our back yard there there was once a large silver maple tree. That bed has been left pretty much to itself for quite a few years although we starting taking it back last summer and will do more this year. Along with the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) there is a small maple seedling coming up. It’s close enough to the dogwood that we cannot really keep them both, but before I cut it out, I thought I’d post a photo of the new leaves coming out on it. It appears to have Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in it’s makeup. But it’s going. Sorry.
I lost many of my roses over the last two years do to mostly unknown circumstances. One that only mostly died is Rose ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’, a large R. rugosa hybrid bred by Jules Gravereaux (France, 1901). It’s a generally healthy, easily grown shrub getting 7 or 8 feet tall here and with deep green leaves and crimson-purple, very fragrant flowers. Thankfully, one major stem is doing fine and since that means the roots are still alive, I have every hope that it will send up new canes.
I know I’m repeating myself but this pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is so beautiful I cannot help myself. It’s really loaded with flowers and they deserve to be seen. This tree is growing much too close to the house and I really need to get rid of it. I planted a camellia in front of it with the thought that when that gets big enough to stand on its own, I’d cut down the dogwood. That’s the flower I posted back on Wednesday, April 01, 2020 but as small as it is, I’m not sure I really can wait that long to get rid of this tree. So, enjoy it while you may.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is starting to bloom. We have it in a few places around the yard and these are at the front corner of our house where they get just a bit more sun than the other places so are a little ahead. It’s a lovely plant and has lovely, sweetly fragrant flowers but all parts of the plant are very poisonous so if that makes you nervous, you might want to avoid it. It contains cardiac glycosides, “a class of organic compounds that increase the output force of the heart and increase its rate of contractions.”
We dug some up in a yard that was being torn up when a road was being widened and it was growing through asphalt paving, so it’s pretty tenacious. We have it in a fairly large bed in the back yard but it is actually being forced outward by Vinca minor which I wouldn’t have thought possible.
I recently had a photo of dogwood leaves (see Thursday, April 09, 2020) which got some positive feedback. This is a flower on the same tree, a seedling that’s been growing on the edge of a flower bed in our back yard. I’m of two minds about this tree. On the one hand, any flowering tree has merit. On the other it’s not really where I’d want a flowering tree. There was a large silver maple (Acer saccharinum, not to be confused with Acer saccharum, the sugar maple) here but we had it cut down because it was large enough and leaning towards our house enough that we got very nervous every time there was a storm. We have a perennial bed where it once was, the this tree is right on the edge of that.
You can pretty much be sure that if there are things blooming, there are at least a few insects about. Insects aren’t the only pollinators, of course but they do the lion’s share of the work. Nevertheless, they are not out in numbers that we’ll see later in the year. I saw and photographed two different insects today. This one is an eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas) and the other was a syrphid flies (Syrphidae, probably Toxomerus geminatus). So, the insect season is getting underway.
Our northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is coming up in the back garden. It’s really in much too sunny a spot and I think this year I really will split it and move at least some of it to a shadier, less dry spot. It does surprisingly well here, even so, only getting a bit burned late in the summer, especially in particularly dry years. It’s easily grown and one that should be in more gardens. I also think this is the year I’ll get a royal fern (Osmunda regalis), which has been on my wish list for a long while. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to making a water feature and bog garden.
Cathy and I took a break in the early afternoon and took a walk in the neighborhood. We got mail for someone else delivered to us (same house number, different street, happens fairly often) and we wanted to take it to the correct address. I carried my camera, as I usually do on walks, and took pictures of a few azaleas starting to bloom in the neighborhood. There are quite a lot around here, although most are just starting to come out. Soon the neighborhood will be full of color. Actually, it’s already full of color, but there will be more and different colors.
Cathy bought a couple hosta plants last year and put them in a container in the front of our house. If we grow them quite close to the house they do reasonably well but the deer and rabbits really seem to like them and if they are farther from the house, they get eaten. Of course the slugs are just about as likely to get them close to the house, but they don’t consume an entire plant over night. This one, called ‘First Frost’, is one of the two that are in this container and it such a pretty little things.
One of the most common birds in our area, winter or summer, is the American robin (Turdus migratorius). They are always around, in the lawn, in trees, singing and making a racket throughout the day. They aren’t anywhere near as cute as the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), which is classified as an Old World flycatcher (family Muscicapidae) rather than a thrush (family Turdidae), which is where the American robin stands. Although they are migratory (as their specific epithet suggests), their winter and summer ranges overlap and they can be seen year round through nearly all of the contiguous 48 states.
We have a number of different columbines in our yard and garden. This one is growing in a container just outside our front door. This is a relatively simple columbine flower, close to what you’d find in the wild. Some others that we have are much fancier and I’ll probably have photos of them in the days to come. They are a reliable bloomer and well worth adding to your garden, blooming after the bulbs are mostly done and before the summer blooms start, so they fill an important role in the garden plan.
Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima, a.k.a. Senecio cineraria) is a marginally hardy, herbaceous perennial. It’s hardy here, anyway. We have it growing in an urn-shaped container near the end of our driveway and it seems happy enough. It does have flowers but they are not particularly ornamental and many people prune them off so as not to distract from the foliage, which is what the plant is generally grown for. It does well in both shade and sun and really takes very little care.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this evening. That’s been something we’ve done a lot more of since we can’t really go out as we once did. Spending time outdoors is important for mental health, I think, and particularly in the spring when the weather is so nice, it’s a real blessing to be able to get out. These are the leaves and flower buds of a Photinia × fraseri shrub around the corner from our house. As you can see, the new leaves are red and it’s quite a striking plant, particularly when growing in full sun, where the color can be even more stunning. Photinia × fraseri is a hybrid of P. glabra (Japanese photinia) and P. serrulata (Taiwanese photinia).
This is purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) although obviously there isn’t any purple color here right now. These are last year’s seeds, which we generally leave up all winter for the birds. They are obviously well fed, because by spring, most of them are still here. It’s just about time we cleared them all out. Most of the black-eyed Susan seed stalks have been cleared, although we’ve left some yet.
I was on the ground taking photos of a columbine (Aquilegia) and happened to notice this coneflower stem next to me, so I rolled over on my back and took a few shots, hoping to get a little detail in the seeds, which were seriously back-lit by the sky. This one turned out pretty well. I would have liked to get a little further away, as well, but I was looking nearly straight up and getting further away would have required that I dig a hole to get into. So, not going to happen.
We had some significant rain today. I don’t mind too much, as it’s spring and it’s the time of year you expect rain. The ground gets good and soaked and the plants really enjoy it. Things are greening up all over. The pink dogwood in front of our house is just about finished blooming and this rain storm is speeding up the petal drop. I really love water on flowers, though, so when I went out this evening, that’s what I looked for. The forecast is for more rain on Saturday and then warm and sunny on Sunday. We’ll see, of course.