Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Snow!?! Yep, Madison Snow

The small-leafed Rhododendron cultivar "Madison Snow", a selection of Rhododendron dauricum forma alba. Always the first Rhodo to flower here. Planted in 1990 as a 2 in or 5 cm tissue culture sprig, it is now about 6 ft or 2 m high and wide. Usually flowers around the beginning of May. And a close-up of the flower.

And here, the second day of flowers on "April Rose", a double-flowered R. dauricum hybrid which usually doesn't open until the first week of May. Smaller than the above, but the same age. She has two sisters around here, a larger-flowered "April Mist" with lavender blooms, and a double white "April Gem".

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Reversions

13 April Some peonies are quite far along; these are in the uppermost species bed near the house/walkway. Even the common garden peonies, latest to emerge, are showing their red asparagus-like shoots just about everywhere on the property. The particularily tall plant here (2nd pic) is a Paeonia mascula, nice marble-size buds already showing.

16 April An inch or 3 cm of snow last night, temperature down to -4C. The more precocious shoots (or taller ones if you will) are bent over quite far. Will they recover to full upright?

17 April Sunny and warm (8C-ish) so the snow didn't last long. Question answered, plant seems undeterred.

Last night (18/19April): more of the white stuff, but temperatures just at 0C. At 11a.m. I measured the snow depth at 4 inches or 10 cm with some melting in progress so it might have been an inch or a couple of cm deeper when it fell.

Rhododendron "April Rose", which might actually open in April this year!! Took this pic only because it shows fairly well the amount of snow still hanging around at 11 a.m.

Here, the reason for black or almost black Hellebores! (an orientalis hybrid). The "pitting" in the snow is from clumbs of it falling off the maple tree branches above as it melts.

Red Elderberry, Sambucus pubens, deploying buds seasonally decorated... but most of the decoration has melted off already.

And a collection of species peonies, the next 3 pics. I admit I was expecting to find the tall mascula from above folded flat and was surprised to find that it like most of the less advanced shoots had managed to shed most of the snow and were standing mostly upright. So much for a certain individual's (not me) trite and dysfunctional motto of "No expectations, no disappointments"

Red maple trees still flowering; if the seed set is reduced by these cold snaps the squirrels will be unhappy (and nursery customers less likely to get a free red maple shoot in every potted plant purchase)

Monday, April 12, 2010

More double Hellebores, and Spring continues

A couple more of the new double-flowered hybrid Helleborus seedlings. These two are quite similar but not the same plant. I'll be interested to see how the doubles progress with fertilization, since it looks like the inner row of petals are mutated actual petals (the outer set are sepals); the actual petals on single Hellebores being some inconspicuous little things, usual but not always green and they fall off once the flower is pollinated while the sepals remain and continue to provide a show for a lot longer.

Since we're on Hellebores, this is the group of Helleborus niger shown after the frost day, now in the midst of starting to change colour. Fairly spectacular, I think.

And the first Narcissus types around here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Night Callers (or, Leo and the Night Visitor (with apologies to Amahl and Menotti))

Last night just as I was thinking of heading for bed, a strange sound penetrated the noise of tv, gentle rain and dripping eaves and whatever extra audio was going on in my head. Listening more closely, didn't sound like a leak in roof or plumbing, and had a bit too much volume to it to be one of the mice that frequent the basement willy-nilly between trappings. Fervently hoping it wasn't a rat or a squirrel (one occupant of each variety over the years (that I knew of!)) I headed for the basement to see what I could hear (answering a Call of Nature, so to speak). Passing the front door, I heard the noise again and it seemed to be coming from outside. Porch light on-- Ah yes, nature calling indeed: a porcupine was on the front step (more of a porchupine, I suppose...), apparently-presumably looking for a place to stash some extra quills for later use and very intrigued with the possibilities of the screen door (and why not-- at one quill per hole that would hold quite an armoury of spares). It was unfazed and even unphased by the porch light coming on, and equally unimpressed by me rapping on the door. Fetched the camera and dazzled it with the flash a few times (useless results photographically, I got better pics without the flash) with little effect on the animal, except that he decided to investigate the other side of the screendoor (it was roped open, with about a 15" space between it and the wall of the adjoining "wing"). So I went out onto the porch and asked it to wander off, which eventually it did. Slow, stately, and unimpressed. Mind you, the whole time I was out there it was gnashing it's teeth at me; nothing vocal, just a continuous clicking of teeth at a couple of clicks per second; I suppose it could have been clicking quills, but it sounded more solid and regular to me. And refusing to tell me just what was so fascinating about that screen door!

The photos are not great, the light was rather dim, but here it is first investigating the screen and then taking it's stately departure. Viewers are asked to ignore the banana skins up against the house (yes, those distracting yellow shapes), just as the porcupine did.

Not exactly the stuff of grand opera, but yet passable Friday night excitement out here in the sticks of NS...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

More Spring Things including a National Symbol in a form we don't usually see

Acer rubrum, the Red Maple, flowers high in the canopy (and for convenience about 8ft away outside one of my upper windows). Sweetly fragrant, and a spring fragrance which was a mystery to me for years until I was lucky enough to find a branch down at nose level (that branch since removed, since it was also at eye level!). The close-up is from back then, 26 April 2000. Anthers are open on most of the flowers in the first photo, but not yet open in the close-up, hence the lack of yellow. However there is some natural variation in the colour of the flower from one tree to the next. Sugar maple, Acer saccharum, blooms somewhat later, with smaller less showy yellow-green flowers-- and no scent that I've located yet.

Some other Spring things:

Chionodoxa sardensis, Glory of the Snow, the brightest blue I've seen in a flower except for a few gentians. A different species of this is more commonly grown, has larger flowers but not as blue. Every spring I am amazed that this little thing is still alive (and increasing!) since it is in an area replete with weeds.

Hepatica nobilis. Used to be a clump with dozens of flowers but the darn deer are fond of it and browse it to the ground, usually when in full flower. So it loses a lot of energy each year regrowing a few leaves to replace those that went into the deer salad.

Not finished with the Hellebores yet:

A double form of Helleborus orientalis hybrid, grown from seed obtained from I don't know where anymore, it has taken a few years to see the first flowers on some of the plants; it looks like about half will be doubles but the others aren't yet in a state useful to photograph yet.

Another hybrid, this one showing that the cold snap caused damage to the flower despite it being in a tight bud still at that point-- the anthers are all dead (the little cone of brown things in the middle)

And here, Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose, already pollinated so the sepals are turning from white to a pinkish shade of tan (on other plants they go to green or something between or ...). There is something in the leaf litter that likes to eat the sepals of this species, but it leaves the orientalis and hybrids alone. Might be just because the flowers of niger are so low and touching the litter whereas the others have longer stems and are above all that.

And one final spring thing for today, a few colour forms from seed, of Corydalis solida, a small but showy spring ephemeral that grows from a bulb and is quite adaptable as far as sun and shade are concerned.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spring Progresses

Saturday, 20C; today 23C!! Stuff is just jumping out of the ground and/or into bloom. Many hours on the bike this weekend too, despite back and butt problems which are just about conquered (I hope)...

Daphne mezureum shown here has added it's scents to that of the red maple flowers (no photo)

And the bees are out in force, this bumblebee condescended to sit still for a photo. More honey bees this year than the past several too.

And the white form, Daphne mezereum forma alba. A sweeter more clovelike scent than the pinkish type.

Here, a worm's eye view of some snowdrops. Not the best focus, but they are interesting flowers up close. Canopied by Rhododendron fortunei.

Peony noses of all types are up suddenly just about everywhere that I've put them. This is the furthest along as usual, Paeonia mairei. Still in small pots but rooted into the former lawn below; Every spring I swear to get them planted out in fall and every fall manage not to...

Surprisingly, to me, the tree peony Paeonia rockii is also already breaking out of it's buds, rather earlier relative to the rest of the peonies than what I am used to seeing.

Muscari species (a Grape Hyacinth) sort of in bloom, it's sometimes hard to tell when they open. I've lost track of the name of this one, I think it might be something to do with Armenia but not sure anymore. It seeds around like none of the other species that I have tried, a great bonus.

A Thlaspi species, not long-lived but seeding about in the sand bed. These are little alpines which have been with me for over a decade now.

The main crocus show. The Thlaspi is in this bed, far back on the right but I don't think you'll be able to see it in the photo.

An addendum to the previous post on frost damage amongst the Hellebores. This poor ugly blasted shoot may also have been the victim of that frost, but it was fairly well-covered with dry bracken leaves so I hadn't seen it before the cold snap. It is also possible, particularily since this plant was moved into the ground from a pot late last summer, that this was unseasonally last autumn's growth and the frost damage is the more normal result of the entire winter.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Frost damage after a disgustingly cold snap

Friday 26 March- overnight low here -8.5C, Saturday high -3C, Saturday overnight low -12C. (Schizophrenic weekends; the forecast for the valleyfor the coming weekend approaches +20C!) Then daily highs above freezing and generally warming temperatures. Hellebores showed some damage in places depending on plant and location; mostly it was brown patches on open sepals, or stems that turned a bit translucent and folded over. Were the reproductive parts of the flowers damaged? I don't know- the flowers face downwards, so perhaps enough warmth was trapped in the parasol to keep the ovaries from freezing, if not the anthers. Following photos show some of the damaged and undamaged flowers.

Frost damage on Helleborus orientalis/caucasica, above. The first 2 photos are of the flowers featured a couple of days ago, the third is the plant recently shown with snow on it.

A group of potted Helleborus niger; those on the south side of the group (first photo) were seriously frost-damaged, others on the north side of the group (second photo), not.

Helleborus orientalis hybrid, the plant near the warmest foundation. Some flowers affected, some not. Predictably, those closest to the foundation are still fine.

And some daffodil (Narcissus) stems likewise folded following frost damage: