Herbaceous Changes

Things change so fast at this time of year. I’m going to arrange this post by plant, as these photographs were taken over a few days.

Tulipa tarda, a Species Tulip

I was puttering around Saturday morning and spotted these little tulip buds. I was certain it would be a couple of days before they opened.

Tulipa tarda on the morning of April 15, 2017.

Continue reading “Herbaceous Changes”

Showy Spring Bulbs

I love my little spring natives because they entice me out of the house, but I also love the more standard spring bulbs that you can see easily from the house. I just cannot bring myself to say “average”; spring flowers are our reward for enduring the dark and cold of winter.


The original bulb was probably planted by squirrels, but it is one I had been wondering about putting in, so I left it where it came up. That one bulb has turned into a small patch just far enough away from the bluebells to foreshadow their blueness. They are both a remarkable blue.

Squirrel-planted scilla patch. It started as one plant. Photographed April 14, 2017.

They are in a spot that is remarkably shady most of the year—under the Annabelle hydrangeas and hemlock that are under the silver maple. It’s early enough in the season for them to get dappled sunlight. Continue reading “Showy Spring Bulbs”

Spring Ephemera Are Changing Rapidly

It’s been just a few chilly, rainy days since my previous post on spring ephemera, and the changes are dramatic. Yesterday brought wet snowflakes that melted on contact; I’m hoping that was our April snowstorm. We did not get the 1–3 inches that the meteorologist postulated, but the ground is quite soggy. There will be no plant rearranging this weekend. Revisiting the same plant species as in the previous post, I find bigger plants and lots of flower buds. Continue reading “Spring Ephemera Are Changing Rapidly”

Happy Spring!

It didn’t take long, and it didn’t take much warmth. Things are popping in the garden. Today’s topic is native spring ephemera; the hallmark of spring ephemera is that they come up early and then disappear completely sometime in the summer. They are also usually very small plants.

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, are an oddity size-wise: even freshly germinated seedlings are large; they bud in shades from bubblegum pink through mauve, get fairly big very fast, bloom prolifically in a beautiful clear blue, and then keel over. They need to be planted where something even bigger and more distracting will come up because they literally keel over and linger, yellowing, before dying.

A young Virginia bluebell budding up. I suspect it is a second-year plant. The new seedlings have just two leaves, and are 1–2 inches tall; there’s a seedling just peeking in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph.

Continue reading “Happy Spring!”

…and Snow in March

So why am I relieved? We had about 5 ½ inches of snow yesterday, which will protect the plants from the worst of the temperature swings. The bulb part of hardy spring bulbs will survive anything that erratic late winter weather can inflict on them (so far). The flowers may fizzle and sometimes the foliage looks roughed up, but the plants are fine the following year.

Daffodils, finally protected by snow.

The tips of the daffodils are mostly what’s visible today, although there are some leaf tips of dwarf irises poking out here and there. What else is under that snow? Continue reading “…and Snow in March”

Dwarf Irises in February?

Dwarf irises are a neat small flower that normally buds the last week in March to bloom at the beginning of April around here, although not this year; the majority are already blooming. The last time I saw even a hint of buds in February was February 29, 2004.

These dwarf irises were open on February 24. The wispy short plants around this clump are a species tulip.

Dwarf irises are a very nice minor bulb that does not seem to get eaten and spreads slowly, unless the squirrels rearrange them. Our squirrels love to check my work.

The bluebells and the tulips are also up and already struggling under the leaves, so I’ve raked. Dutchman’s breeches do not tolerate leaf cover well at all—which is true of other spring ephemera—but I am uncertain about how those juicy-looking bleeding heart sprouts will do in our current cold snap. Tonight and tomorrow night are supposed to be around 20°F, which seems awfully cold for them.

We are on the late winter weather roller coaster. The weather report says it will hit 60°F on Monday.

Pondering My Rain Garden on a Rainy February Day

Our meteorologist predicted 55°F today. It’s been raining steadily since the middle of the night, but the snow has not all washed away; it’s 41° and mid-afternoon, so I think she got a little optimistic.

I have been in this house a very long time. Back in the early 90s, the floodplain crept onto a corner of my lot. The floodplain keeps moving. The boundary is now halfway up my very narrow front lawn, so when an online Master Rain Gardening class opened up through the Washtenaw County Extension office, I jumped at the chance.

This photo was taken in mid-August 2016. You can see the rain gutters pointing to the street at the house corners.

Continue reading “Pondering My Rain Garden on a Rainy February Day”

Something’s Blooming—Even in January

The witch hazel bloomed on January 21.

Generally, the only month without something blooming in the yard is December. The witch hazel that is currently in bloom usually blooms right at the end of January, but in winter 2015, which was memorably wicked, this shrub did not bloom until March 11.

There is one detail: the flowers are quite small. This shrub forces me out the door to look for these flowers. When it drops below freezing, the petals roll up tightly inside the sepals; when it’s warm, the petals unfurl and flutter like tissue paper.