Echinacea purpurea: a Hive of Activity

Echinacea purpurea is a scruffy-looking plant when it’s not in bloom. It gets interesting when the flower buds start developing. They are very individualistic, and both the flower buds and leaves noodle around while the plants manage to stay stiffly erect.

Echinacea purpurea flowers developing. Photographed on June 25, 2021.

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Michigan Lilies: Breaking Ground to Dormancy

The Michigan lilies break ground at the very end of April under the redbud, with a lot of company. Last year, the wood phlox had just broken dormancy by the end of the first week of May. This year, the phlox was in full bloom, and the lilies were a little less obvious.

The northern end of the rain garden: the big, oval, chartreuse leaves are bluebells; the lavender flowers are wood phlox; and the sprays of narrow leaves are the Michigan lilies. Photographed on May 6, 2021.

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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.

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.