Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blooms on a cool day in May

We're having a break from the heat, so it's lovely to go out and look at the flowers. Happy GBBD!

If you want to see what bloomed in the interim between April 15 and now, check out posts here and here. (Including pawpaws!) And here's what's blooming today:

Golden alexanders, Zizia aurea

Honesty, Lunaria annua

First orange poppy, visible for a hundred feet or so

One of the many celandine poppies, with bleeding hearts

A lone allium (guess I need to plant these again)

Unless you count this, but it's now called Nectaroscordum siculum

Still have a few bells of Virginia bluebells!

Sweet woodruff, almost done

Viburnum 'Winterthur' about to bloom

Purple ninebark, same

Red buckeye - documented this before, and in focus too, but can't help posting again

Bridal wreath spirea

Maple-leaf viburnum


Amsonia hubrichtii

Geranium maculatum
A nice selection, and I didn't even get the columbines and the mock orange. We'll see what June brings!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Trees: unsatisfactory, unproven, and coming into their element

Trees are a long-term commitment and a promise to the next generation - except when you mess up and plant the wrong one. Many years ago now (around 1997, I think), we fell in love with Sophora japonica, the Japanese pagoda tree, found a young specimen at the now-sadly-defunct Carroll Gardens, and planted it by our driveway. This fall I think we'll be cutting it down. It's always hard to make this choice, and I hope we have the guts to go through with it (I decided on fall so that fewer above-ground perennials will be trampled by arborist boots. Lots of lovely shade plants will have to be moved). I suspect we'll be reminded in August, when the tree flowers - but how lovely, you say! Blooms at a season when they're lacking elsewhere! Except when the sticky mess of spent petals and nectar falls on the cars.

If that was the only fault of the tree, I'd get over it - we can cover the cars in season. But the damn thing drops crap most of the year, whether it's flowers or leaves or sap or pollen, or - most importantly - seed pods. Which were nicely innocent until it reached maturity, and then started proving the true invasiveness of this plant. We have seedlings everywhere.

Here's the tree itself:

It has a beautiful form, perfectly-rounded and delicate. Leaf closeup, showing that's it's definitely in the legume family:

And here is one of the damn seedlings, and another shot to show how closely-spaced they are under the tree:

This is the worst year ever - I've already pulled out hundreds of seedlings, and have many more to go. They root well, too, even in the shade, and grow speedily unless removed. I bet we are going to be dealing with suckers for years after we cut the parent tree down, as well. But it really has to be done - I can't handle this every spring, and since the seed pods blow, we're subjecting our neighbors to seedlings as well, though at least not at as great a concentration.

I have a seedling redbud growing under the pagoda tree, which might eventually replace it, but I'll probably end up moving that and planting a somewhat larger tree - which will take years to provide the same degree of shade, alas. Suggestions for pleasant small native trees that don't drop crap are welcome. I have some ideas but can always use more.

Since we lost the cryptomeria and holly planted a couple of years ago (I neglected to put fences around them, and deer rubbing and/or chewing proved fatal), another screening tree was needed for the Way Back (the $12 deodar cedar is doing well, but has a lot of growing to do still). So I've planted a loblolly pine, which in a few years I'll either be very happy or very sad about.

 (I could have and probably should have chosen something like Green Giant arborvitae, but why not take chances? Aside from the lesson cited above.) The conditions should suit it, aside from possibly not quite enough sun, but it does tend to be brittle and we do have ice storms and hurricanes. So we'll see. (It also gets chewed on by deer - note fence.)

Also in the Way Back, the dawn redwood (which is deciduous and therefore doesn't provide screening year-round) is a mature specimen of great magnificence:

(When you can't get the whole tree in a shot without backing up so far your view is blocked, go for the understory region.)

And the two-trunked gingko is also doing beautifully:

There are other trees in the landscape I am not so happy about, but might as well end on a positive note.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A few more flowers

Spring passes so quickly I feel I'd better keep track of it. That said, some daffodils are still blooming, along with lots of other stuff documented mid-to-late-April. But here are the new blooms on the block.

My pawpaw is blooming! These are remarkably difficult flowers to get a photo of (at least with an iPhone and not much patience) - I took this from underneath, since it's a downward-facing dog flower, and it's still too dark despite some color adjustment. The bloom doesn't mean I'll get fruit, since pawpaws aren't usually self-pollinating and the other tree I have is still little and not blooming yet. But it is a very cool thing to see.

Azalea close-up.

Packera aurea (formerly Senecio aureus), or golden ragwort, blooming up a storm. I'm going to move this around to all those places where I need things to spread in the sun.

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). So glad I planted this.

And this is the quince (fruiting) that I tried to kill because it always gets fireblight and never produces anything but these lovely flowers, but it came up again from the roots, so it is now a quince bush rather than a tree, and I am keeping it despite the disease (maybe one of these years we won't have the right conditions. Or I could spray it, but that's unlikely).

Okay, I went back and picked a pawpaw flower and took a photo to show the inside:

And a dozen ants ran out while I was doing it. They must be gathering nectar - not likely they'll help with pollination, but you never know. A lot of people hand-pollinate pawpaws, because the flies and beetles that are attracted to the faint but kind of unpleasant smell are not reliable. Anyway, cool flower!