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V is for Violets on the A to Z Challenge

Common meadow violet

Common meadow violet in my garden

 V is for Violets on the A to Z Challenge. Violets have always been a part of our lawn, more correctly called a flowery mead because of the all the ‘weeds’ growing in it. And yet dandelions, clover and violets provide nectar and pollen for pollinators in the  early spring when very few plants are blooming.

Of course, there are many more types of violet and you can read all about them on the American Violet Society website.  I just love plant societies who share their knowledge and expertise with all of us.

Click here to see who else is posting every day in April on the A to Z Challenge.

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U is for Umbelliferae

Vegetable Literacy by Madison

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

U is for Umbelliferae. Umbelliferae is the family of plants that includes carrots, cilantro/coriander/ dill,  lovage, parsley, parsnips and Queen Anne’s Lace. As well as a few others. I hadn’t thought about the range of this family until I read Vegetable Literacy, a wonderfully informative horticultural book – and cook book filled with delicious recipes.

The name Umbelliferae refers to the type of flower form – umbel.

queen-annes-lace-7-18.jpg (600×366)

I wrote about Queen Anne’s Lace here  and identified it as Daucus carota, or wild carrot. You would understand the wild carrot part if you ever sniffed a Queen Anne’s Lace root. Daucus is a genus within the larger umbelliferae kingdom. The taxonomy rules go from Kindgdom, to Phylum to Class to Series to Family to Genus to Species. There are about 3,700 species in the  Umbelliferae Kingdom.

Dill

Dill

You can see the similarity between the Queen Anne’s Lace Flower and this dill flower starting to go to seed.

To see who else is trying to post every day on the A to Z Challenge click here.

After Pollinators and Wildflowers Comes a Cocktail Hour

Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes

Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes

It doesn’t seem so very long ago that no one gave a thought to pollinators. People were afraid of bees and stings, but they never thought about the hundreds of bee species that kept vegetable and fruit farms producing. Perhaps that was because so much of our food came from far off places like California where we were never aware of what farms, farmers and crops needed.

Nowadays, with people we are more sensible of the benefits of local farms and local food. We realize that at least 30% of the world’s food crops need to be pollinated. Happily there are many more bees and insects that do this important job than we ever imagined. Unhappily human civilization continues to encroach on the habitat that pollinators need. Developments of all sorts, housing, business and even agriculture are taking land that was wild, land that provided the plants and living spaces that bees and other pollinators need to thrive.

Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and other Pollinators by Rhonda Fleming Hayes (Voyageur Press $21.99) notes that our awareness of the needs of pollinators has been raised. Hayes has set about showing us how we homeowners can take responsibility for improving pollinator habitat right in our own backyards.

Hayes interviews pollinator experts to talk about the value of native plants versus ‘nativars,’ native plants that have been hybridized; the problems created by GMOs; the need for shelter for pollinators; and the necessity of many other beneficial insects.

She provides plant lists to help us include useful plants for pollinators, plants that bloom throughout the season providing nectar, and food for caterpillars. Once I realized how important dill and parsley were to the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, I never again bemoaned loosing my crop to those caterpillars.

Pollinator Friendly Gardening includes occasional Fun Facts, as well. Did you know that the bees in White House kitchen garden produce enough honey to give as gifts at state dinners and to visiting diplomats? That a single little mason bee does as much pollinating as 100 honeybees? That milkweed seed capsules were collected during WWII so that the fluffy seed material could be used to fill servicemen’s lifejackets?

Hayes, a Master Gardener, has gardened, photographed, and written in various locations and in Minneapolis for the last few years.

Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman

Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman

Ted Elliman and the New England Wild Flower Society have put together a comprehensive new wildflower guide that has images and information of over 1000 native plants. This book not only has beautiful and helpful images, the introductory section is a veritable course in botany that will help you to identify the plants you find on your nature walks. Since 90% of the wild plants around the world need pollination I can’t help thinking how wildflowers would suffer without pollinators.

Wildflowers of New England (Timber Press $27.95) is very easy to use because it provides a clear road to identitification. You begin with color, but within the color sections plants are organized by petal design and number. For example red Kalmia angustifolia with 5 radial petals is listed after dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) which has 4 radial petals.

With this guide I have hopes of finally differentiating between 11 varieties of aster from 4 different genus: Doellingeria; Oligoneurn; and Symphyotrichum. Of course, the fleabanes (Erigeron) are similar (to my uneducated eye) but I think I stand a fighting chance of knowing one from the other because of the clear photographs and text.

Wildflowers of New England is a substantial little book, in many ways, but the heavy, shiny cover, complete with ruler marking, is tough enough to take on hikes for frequent, on- site referrals.

After all the joyous work of studying pollinators and wildflowers, you might be ready for The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining by C.L. Fornari (St. Lynn’s Press $19.95) who lives out on Cape Cod.

The Cocktail Hour Garden by C. L. Fornari

The Cocktail Hour Garden by C. L. Fornari

Fornari suggests we consider our domestic landscape as a party venue, beginning with a quiet cup of coffee in the morning and all kinds of family celebrations that might take place in the garden, to a companionable cocktail hour with a spouse or friends in the evening.

What plants should be included in this garden? Some plants can provide tactile experiences like the soft blades of Mexican feather grass or velvety silver lamb’s ears. Fragrance on the evening air can be supplied by perennials honeysuckle, lavender, oriental lilies. Don’t forget fragrant annuals like Virginia stocks or nicotiana.

Fornari also makes suggestions about lighting, water in many forms, and sound in the garden that can be enjoyed by the gardener, but she also writes about keeping butterflies and birds happy too.

Since this is a cocktail hour garden she is talking about, she also includes cocktail recipes, including non-alcoholic drinks, and the herbs and  flowers that can dress up and spike those drinks. Her tone is conversational, a charming invitation to join her for a cocktail and conversation at the end of the day.

Between the Rows   April 9, 2016

 

 

G is for Groundcover – Gill-over-the-ground

Gill-over-the-ground

Gill-over-the-ground

G is for Groundcover like ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) otherwise known as gill-over-the-ground, seen here creeping from my lawn into the new Lawn Beds.

There is a lot of cross-over, if not confusion, about what is a wildflower, weed, or ‘real plant.’  A friend was trying to figure out how to rid of the gill-over-the-ground that had suffocated the strawberries growing under her grapevines. We discussed carboard and solarizing, but another friend asked why she didn’t just leave the gill-over-the-ground. It was a  wildflower with pretty blue flowers, made a nice ground covering mat and kept out other ‘weeds.’  Sounded like a good idea. That is what she is doing. Maybe I will too.

When this ground ivy, gill-over-the ground isn’t keeping out weeds it can be used as a spring tonic, an appetite stimulant and has other more serious medicinal uses.

I might let my own gill-over-the-ground have its way more often, but others feel very differently

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. One week down – a post every day.

F is for Foam Flower

Foam flower

Foam Flower – Tiarella cordifolia

F is for foam flower, more properly named Tiarella cordifolia.  Foam flower is a delicate perennial shade loving groundcover that sends up plumy racemes of white or pale pink flowers in the spring and early summer. The heart shaped foliage explains the ‘cordifolia’ in its proper name. When the flowers are finished the plant will continue to spread by runner (stolons) over the ground making a very attractive groundcover.  It prefamp humusy soil. However it cannot thrive where it will be wet in the winter.

The photo is from my old Heath garden. I did bring divisions down to Greenfield, and I can see that it has come through the winter.

I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. Click here and see who else has something to say every day of April.

Roadside attraction – chicory and daylilies

common daylily and chicory

Roadside attraction – daylilies and chicory

One traditional roadside attraction is summer is chicory (Cichorium intybus) with sky blue flowers, sharing space here with the  common orange daylily. Stunning combo.

roadside chicory

Roadside chicory

Of course, chicory is a pretty stunning roadside attraction all by itself. Mother Nature is no slouch when she plants a garden for the public.

First Dandelion – First Signs of Spring

dandelion

First dandelion of 2015

The first dandelion seems  early this year, an indication that spring has arrived almost all in an instant after our very long and very frigid winter. The grass is suddenly green and the green veil across the trees at the edges of our field is becoming more opaque. The lilac leaf buds seem to double in size every day. Violets are blooming in the hots spots along the house foundation, too thick with weeds to make a good photo.

Van Sion Daffodils

Van Sion daffodils

Van Sion is an old variety of daffodil, multi-multipetaled and very early. It has been blooming for over a week, while the other daffs are just beginning to bloom.

Forsythia

Forsythia

When we moved to the end of the road in 1979 this forsythia never bloomed. Just as a bud or two began to open there would be a hard freeze that would blast all the buds. Forsythia is very hardy so the shrubs themselves were not really damaged, but never any bloom. Last year we were shocked by the brightness of the forsythia hedge for the first time.  This year is another year of bloom, just beginning. The cold lingered and lingered, but was not freezing and so now that we are having instant spring the bloom is beginning. How appropriate that so many spring bloomers, dandelion, daffodil and forsythia shine with a reflection of the warming spring sun.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.

Coltsfoot, Not Dandelions in April

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot, properly known as Tussilago farfara, has other names like horse foot, foal’s foot and bull’s foot all referring to the shape of the plant’s leaves which will not appear for a while yet. Another name for Coltsfoot is Coughwort because of its use as an antitussive, a remedy for throat irritation and coughs. In both China and Europe it has been used in medicines for all kinds of respiratory complaints.

I have a cough but I have never made a tea or tincture out of coltsfoot. I just admire it as one of the earliest wildflower bloomers in my garden. This is growing on the Rose Bank where I thought it might form a ground cover, eliminating weeds. You can see this theory has not been successful.

I have written about coltsfoot many times before, and I  just noticed that its bloom time has been pretty conisistent.  I am just so glad to see color in the garden.

 

Wildflowers and Others in the Field

Panicled aster

Panicled aster

I have wildflowers in the fields around our house. Other flowers have joined them unexpectedly. These wildflowers showed up mysteriously en masse this year. I believe they are panicled asters. They are tall with ‘willow-like’ leaves, numerous rays and they bloom in August through October.

Panicled aster

Panicled aster

Lots of these pretty flowers in the field and along the roadside.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Goldenrod, solidago. Maybe this is Solidago juncea which has tiny leaflets in the axils of the slim toothless of the upper leaves. The flower clusters have what they call an elmlike shape.  There are many types of goldenrod and you’d think it would be easier to tell them apart.

Steeplebush

Steeplebush

At least I know this is steeplebush, Spiraea tomentosa, a low woody shrub with pink flowers and leaves that are a pale brownish color on the underside.. If you look very closely you can see that those tiny flowers have five petals and grow in a kind of pink fuzzy cluster.  Right behind the steeplebush is a clump of wild mint.

Wild mint

Wild mint

This isn’t a very noticeable plant. Icertainly never noticed it in the field before. Mine doesn’t seem very minty, but I am fascinated by the tiny flower clusters that grow in the leaf axils.

Thyme escapees

Thyme escapees

Behind the wild mint is a large clump of escaped thyme.  Actually there is a lot of thyme in the field. And in my ‘lawn’.  I didn’t realize it could spread by seed, but it must. I have been deliberately planting thyme in my lawn for a number of years. It gets mowed often enough that it rarely blooms, but I consider it an important element in my ‘flowery mead.’

Bee balm escapees

Bee balm escapees

This bee balm is growing right at the very end of the road, in front of our brush pile. Possibly it is the result of a stray root from a thinned clump of bee balm in the Herb Bed nearby.  Escaped thyme and bee balm – do they now qualify as wildflowers too?

Tree Peonies Lead Off Early June Bloom Record

Guan Yin Mian tree peony

Guan Yin Mian tree peony

My plan to have a twice a month bloom record is off to a slow start, but the tree peonies are right on time, beginning to bloom on the first of June. This is Guan Yin Mian. Guan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy, and the work ‘mian’ is face. Not hard to see the face of a goddess in this beautiful and hardy plant.  Next to her is a deeper pink tree peony, name lost, that was more damaged by the heavy rains the other night.

Red Tree Peony

Red Tree Peony

The camera lies. This tree peony blossom is a bright red.  I do have the names of the tree peonies somewhere. I will have to search through my records. The herbaceous peonies are budding up, but it will be a little while before they bloom.

Aguilegia canadensis

Aguilegia canadensis

This native columbine, Aguilegia canadensis, is still blooming after 2 weeks. I love the red and yellow and the delicacy of the flower.

Columbine

Columbine

These columbines, from friends’ gardens, have just started to bloom in the shade of the Mothlight hydrangea. Another camera lie – the dark columbines are purple, not blue.

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons

The hard winter hasn’t seemed to have affected the rhododendrons at all. This is the white Boule de Neige and red Rangoon. The rhodie on the right is Goldbusch (I think) and is not yet blooming.

Rhododendron 'Calsap'

Rhododendron ‘Calsap’

‘Calsap’ is a younger rhodie, and is wonderfully dependable.

'Miss Willmott' lilac

‘Miss Willmott’ lilac

Most of the other lilacs are going by but the heavily fragrant ‘Miss Willmott’ is looking very good.

Trollius

Trollius

What a picture of spring sunshine. Trollius. I bought the original plant at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale a couple of years ago.

Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart

The bleeding hear, also bought a couple of years ago at the BOF plant sale, is just beginning to go by.

6-5 heuchera, volunteer pansies

This is a complicated and not very lovely area yet. The heuchera (coral bells) is just coming into bloom, and the cranesbill to the right will also be blooming soon. The pansies are all volunteers, and very strong and cheery they are.

Fleabane

Fleabane

And, just for the early June bloom record, the funny plants growing in the lawn,  nearly a foot tall, with a white bud have finally opened. I have identified this wildflower as a fleabane, but I am not sure which one.  Of course, the annuals that I bought in mid-May are blooming, mostly in pots, but I am looking forward to the day they look a bit more settled.