A Lot Can Happen in a Week

We are roughly two weeks behind where we were last year, based on last year’s photographs. Everything I mention in this post was in bloom at this time last year. The weather changes so much from year to year that I cannot tell you which year is closer to normal—or if there is a normal any more.

Weather aside, I love spring ephemera and will search for them doggedly from mid-March on as long as it’s not pouring rain. They are mostly very small, so I have to actually walk away from the window, go outside, and exercise my eyes looking for changes. Changes are rapid, so there is plenty of incentive to go outside frequently.

Dutchman’s breeches, left, and twinleaf , right, erupt from the ground with flower buds. Photographed on April 3, 2022.

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Aprilish Snow Precedes Cold Snap

A couple of people I chatted with on Friday used the “s” word when mentioning this weekend’s weather. My response was “Bite your tongue!” After all, our April snowstorm isn’t due for another week or two.

I was wrong. It snowed yesterday, looking very much like an April snow. It stopped before 10 a.m. It was the sort of snow shower that causes weather people to say “It will stick to the lawns, but not to the sidewalks.” (They do still warn you to be careful driving across bridges and overpasses.)

Snow-capped witch hazel flowers. Photographed on March 26, 2022.

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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 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.