Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring - Is Sprung? Finally?

I don't know about you but I'm thinking the winter of 2010-2011 is going to go down as one of those winters that just didn't want to give up.  My friend Theresa and I went up to Ubly (it's OK if you don't know where that is) on March 25 and it looked like Christmas up there - they had had a snow day two days before!  Crazy!  And the day we got in from Chicago, April 18, we were greeted with snow when we got up later in the morning, when we had to unload the truck.  My most indelible memory of late snow has to be 1983, though, when it snowed on April 30 in East Lansing.  So, it could be worse.

But, things are finally starting to warm up.  I can go outside in my garden in the morning and the evening and things look radically different.  So you know I'm going out there at least twice a day, right?  Just to see what's happened in the last 8-12 hours.  What's happening - and it's happening fast, now, between all the torrential rain, the gale-force winds and the sudden warming up - is that things are popping, budding, flowering, fading, some at record rates of speed.  So I got out there yesterday, between cleaning up the big central bed in the backyard, putting down five bags of mulch and pruning another 10-15% of my Clematis, and took a few pictures of some of the Spring flowers.

The first two pictures are of Sanguinaria canadensis, or Bloodroot.  I used to have some of the double form of this plant from my Mom but it died out and none the plants I dug from her garden before we sold the house seem to have survived - not even with the two friends with whom I shared them.  However, woodland wildflowers have an interesting habit of going dormant for a season when disturbed so I'll hold out hope for next year.  What I do have is the more common, and hardier, single form, which is quite lovely as well.  (The double looks like a miniature white water lily.)  This plant is a true harbinger of spring, with the flower rising up through the curled leaf, emerging, blooming and then withering.  Of the flowers in these pictures, all but one have already dropped their petals, all in a day or so.  So their beauty is as fleeting as it is fragile.  The leaf will continue to expand and unfold into a distinctive, deeply-lobed, roughly heart shape.  And then it will go completely dormant.  Why "Bloodroot"?  Because the plant's sap is a true red and was used in a number of functions by indigenous populations.  A friend has offered me the opportunity to collect some of the double form from her yard later this year, and I probably will.

The next two pictures are of Twinleaf, or Jeffersonia diphylla.  (The epithet in the botanical Latin literally translates as "twin-leaf".)  As William Cullina says in his authoritative work on wildflowers, capturing an image of this flower is not easy.  It is especially short lived, lasting no more than a day or two - which is interesting, as there cannot be that many pollinators floating around this early in the season.  (I saw my first bee on Sunday, so they are out there).  It started to look like it would flower on Sunday but it didn't warm up enough early enough in the day for it to really get going.  By Monday it showed itself a bit more but still did not open completely as conditions were not yet acceptable - it seems it isn't just a function of the amount of sunlight but also of the overall temperature.  Finally, on Tuesday, it opened completely, as you see here.  And by this morning all the petals had dropped.  So, I'm grateful to have been able to capture these images.  The plant persists after flowering, setting a small urn-shaped seed pod with a little lid, unlike any other seed pod I've seen.  It does spread modestly and makes for a nice ground cover of medium height.

Finally, a picture of Erythronium americanum, or Yellow Trout Lily.  The members of this genus go by a number of names, including Fawn Lily (which, like "Trout Lily", refers to the mottling of the leaves) and Adder's Tongue, a reference to the seedpod with its projecting stamen.  There are two species native to the eastern United States, this being the more common; the other, Erythronium albidum, although less common overall, is quite common on Belle Isle here in Detroit and for a time, before the shrubs began to grow in after the deer were penned up, covered whole swathes of clearings in the woods near the racketball courts.  You can still see many of them there but they are losing some ground to the Spicebush and Drummond's Dogwood, among other species.  Like Mayapple, only mature plants - meaning those with two leaves - will flower.  I had dug these from a friend's property in Macomb Township last Spring, so you can imagine my delight when I had not one, but two flowers this Spring.  (Some lummox of a squirrel broke the smaller one off sometime today.)  These plants have a tendency to pull themselves lower into the ground, preventing flowering; the strategy is to lay a slab of rock about 5-6 inches below grade and then planting above so they don't have the chance to do that.  So, I'll be digging these guys up (again) and planting them again accordingly, in hopes that we will have flowers again next year (and maybe the next).

Lots of great events coming up.  We have the final line-up for the Garden Tours on June 4 and August 20 (10:00am-2:00pm) and will be featuring the art of Black Cat Pottery, Notable Greetings, Farmbrook Designs and Bird Homes by Tim.  My friend Stephen Hulbert of Hulbee will be providing refreshments - so we're going to have a great time!  Look for updates on the events here and on my Facebook page.

It's raining.  Again.

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