The Latest Chipmunk Farming Efforts

I know chipmunks can make some people really, really upset, but if you don’t have a tasty garage door, they are more hilarious than anything else.

I have written about the chipmunks’ farming efforts before, but I thought you might enjoy their latest efforts, which have focused on the edge of an aging compost pile. Their lines may not be straight, but you have to admire their regular spacing.

Three chipmunk-planted safflower bouquets. The arugula on the right is a volunteer. Photographed on May 17, 2021.

The rest of the seediness in this picture is caused by a banner year for the silver maple and the elms. The chipmunks eat as many maple seeds as they can manage, but the tree has probably put out enough seeds to fill my city compost container halfway—more than even they can eat. I have filled the container twice, so I am guesstimating the quantity of raked-up leaves and broken branches that filled the rest. This year, I have to rake so that I can mow.

The Case of the Twinning Iris cristata

I don’t know why this is the first year I have seen twin buds in my Iris cristata, but I have many, many with twin buds, in a couple of different spots; it’s especially obvious now that they are fading. Maybe they are sports. Maybe it’s the unusually dry weather. Maybe they’ve been there all along, and somehow I’ve missed them. I will be watching the area more closely over the next couple of years.

These flowers, at the beginning and end of their lives, are over a week apart, and coming from the same flower bud. Photographed on May 14, 2021.

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Twinleaf’s Busy Season

It’s been just over a month since I spotted this year’s twinleaf. It probably came up a couple of days before I captured it.

Twinleaf unfurling. Photographed on March 30, 2021.

Within a week, it was blooming!

Twinleaf in bloom. Photographed on April 4, 2021.

The flowers do not last long.

Twinleaf that has lost all its petals. Photographed on April 9, 2021.

These nascent seedpods will spend the next month or so maturing. Meanwhile, last year’s seeds have sprouted and the baby twinleaf plants are peeking out from under their parents’ leaves.

Twinleaf seedlings in the shade of their parents. Photographed on April 17, 2021.

For now, we are in the only sober and serious phase this plant has: growing those seeds. If you look carefully, the swelling seedpods are hiding in the foliage.

A ripening twinleaf seedpod, hidden from easy viewing. Photographed on May 6, 2021.

As you walk by, there is no obvious activity.

Twinleaf. Photographed on April 30, 2021.

It’s all very discreet, until the seedpods are ready to pop. That’s when twinleaf enters the botanically rare, but wonderful, silly phase.

The Final Update on the Leaning Pawpaw

I’ve been eying my bigger pawpaw nervously since last August.
By the end of March, I was sure it was leaning more, and it was leaning too much. It had to go. I’ll figure out what to do with the space later. The best time of year to remove a deciduous plant that you want permanently gone is right when the buds are starting to swell—all that new growth uses up the plant’s reserves—and the buds were starting to swell.

On April 4, I took out my limb saw and cut off all the limbs as well as the main trunk, as high as I could reach on a ladder.

The pawpaw really was leaning more. Photographed on April 4, 2021.

Now I had that trunk glaring balefully through my kitchen window. My bow saw seems to have disappeared. I suspect it got mixed in with some stuff I had hauled out of my basement. I really didn’t want to tackle it with my limb saw. The teeth are way too fine for this job, and the blade is rather short.

On the other hand, I had that dying trunk glaring at me, and a very sharp saw that cuts on both the push and the pull stroke, with a comfortable handle, and the tree was leaning quite a bit. There was no question of where it would land.

It took two weeks to talk myself into using the limb saw. I took the trunk out very carefully, because it turned out that the trillium are multiplying under cover of the Dutchman’s breeches, right in range of the saw tip. I tried not to wreck them. I mostly succeeded—you can see a couple to the right of the stump and just below its near edge.

In the end, I pushed the trunk over and walked and rolled it out of the way.

The end of the leaning pawpaw. Photographed on April 18, 2021.

None of the remaining plants get any shade at this time of year because pawpaws don’t leaf out until May, and the silver maple above everything is just leafing out now. My current plan is to go through this calendar year and see what changes need to be made. Trillium really like shade, so I will watch them closely.

The other pawpaw seems to be fine, so I will leave it alone. They are neat trees. Unfortunately, there will be no pawpaws without a second tree.

The Last Week of Winter, in Bloom

Two Mondays ago, March 8, when I went to put away my trash can, I noticed the witch hazel. I noticed it by scent–it’s a wonderful scent–a little spicy, but neither heavy nor overwhelming. The plant is a good 50 feet from the sidewalk. In the light of morning, I noticed that its flowers are all going wah hoo! The petals are sticking straight out.

Witch hazel celebrating the warm sun. Photographed on March 9, 2021.

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The Annual Witch Hazel Watch

December and January were pretty warm, relatively speaking, and I was wondering how it would affect the witch hazel. Last year this plant bloomed on January 15; not this year. My guess is that the plant did not know that it was officially winter. The ground was not frozen at this point.

Witch hazel flower buds. Photographed on January 2, 2021.

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The Longest Short Winter Ever

It is three days shy of six months since I last posted, which is utterly ridiculous for a gardening blog. We are all in the same boat, and many people, including some of my students, have had it far worse than I did. Do.

The dumpster fire meme for 2020 is a fitting one. Students were quarantined, students were hospitalized, and students were attending funerals for people who should not have died. Almost everyone I normally see on Sunday mornings for coffee came down with COVID last fall. Thankfully, they recovered. Continue reading “The Longest Short Winter Ever”

The Roses of Summer

My favorite rose started blooming in late May, bloomed right through the dryness of August, and will continue for a while yet. At this point, I’m leaving the hips on to ripen, as they turn a very nice orange. It’s a David Austin rose called Windrush, which has a fabulous scent.

The rose Windrush in full bloom. In the upper righthand corner there are columbines; to the right, there are geraniums, Johnson’s Blue. Photographed on June 9, 2020.

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Watch Out for Leaning Pawpaws!

I believe that if this were an apple tree, with an apple tree’s superficial and small root system, it would have been completely ripped out of the ground by this storm. Pawpaws have taproots, and I think that’s what is holding the tree up.

Using a level app on my phone, I see that the trunk is leaning roughly 17° off vertical, and the big cluster of pawpaws at the top are pulling the top section to  horizontal. Just add adolescent raccoons…. If the tree were to go over, it would probably land on the blue fescue and whack the western edge of the oakleaf hydrangea.

A pink line highlights the edges of the main trunk of the leaning pawpaw.
The heavily fruiting pawpaw is leaning badly after a couple of inches of rain at the end of August. Photographed on August 29, 2020.

It has a very heavy crop ripening, mostly just beyond the upper right-hand corner of this photograph. The lower branches form a tent you could hide in. I will be even more careful about where I stand under this tree.

I have to assess it this winter when I can see the trunk and branches. I may be removing both pawpaw trees in late winter. There’s no use keeping one—they are not self-fruitful.