The Greening of Spring and Foreshadowing of Summer

April is the greening month. The earliest spring plants, which came up with not a trace of green, such as rue anemone and twinleaf, turn green. Other plants, such as crested iris and Pennsylvania sedge do most of their growing in these few weeks.

The ribbon-like Tulipa tarda leaves frame a very grassy Pennsylvania sedge with flower buds; it blooms in mid- to late April. Its flowers will not be not exciting, however. Photographed on April 4, 2024.

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Ginger’s Water Tale

We had a 5¼-inch rain deficit from September–December 2022. It turned out to be the third-driest year of this century for us.

I was thinking that we started spring relatively well hydrated until I checked the local precipitation data through the National Weather Service. January–March had a rainfall surfeit of over 2½ inches, but that didn’t completely make up for last fall. It was enough rain at the right time to make the early spring plants happy, including the ginger.

Wild ginger coming up. Photographed on April 17, 2023.

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An Appreciation of Rain

We started the year dry, and the weather patterns are so all-over-the-place that it’s worth stopping to appreciate the rain.

It’s a secret—don’t tell anyone—but almost as often as not, morels come up in this yard. This year a few appeared and disappeared in the first week of May.

A morel. Photographed on May 7, 2022.

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Edge Effects in Shade

“Your garden looks like an estate!” That comment really surprised me, but I realized that there is one thing this little yard has that most yards do not: beds with clearly defined edges and swaths of plants that are the same variety. Edges and swaths lead the eye around, and can make your yard seem both larger and calmer. 

Fall is a great time to think about what changes you would like to make to your yard; many plants can be divided and moved around now that the temperatures are cooler. Summer’s damage can be appraised, and gardening mistakes can go discreetly into the compost pile.  Continue reading “Edge Effects in Shade”

The Wild Ginger Is in Bloom!

I was poking around after dinner, pulling up elm seedlings—this is the year of the elm—when I noticed that the ginger was blooming. Elm seedlings love to snuggle up to stems.

These are the furriest flowers ever.

An ant’s-eye view of wild ginger. Left, a newly opened flower; upper right, a flower bud. Photographed on May 14, 2019.

I wasn’t really expecting wild ginger to be anything more than a nice groundcover, but it has turned out to be a very interesting plant.

See more wild ginger.

Mystery Solved: Wild Ginger Seedpods Spotted

I was weeding—the Oxalis seed bank in my yard seems endless—so I was poking around under edges. When I got to the wild ginger, I felt something a little gooey, so I peeked. Not slugs. Whew. It was a ruptured seedpod, complete with some seeds. I am surprised to see that there are still flowers as well, as these plants start blooming in early May.

The open wild ginger seedpod shows six compartments with light olive green glossy seeds attached in double rows to the dividing membranes near the center of the pod.
Wild ginger seedpod, showing the seeds. Photographed on June 24, 2018.

According to the US Forest Service, wild ginger seeds “have a little oily food gift attached to the seed; this appendage is called an elaiosome. The elaiosomes attract ants that carry the seeds off to their underground home where they consume the tasty food and leave the seed to germinate.” That probably accounts for the gooey feeling.

There are definitely ants living near the wild ginger, including a nest of the same tiny little ants I wrote about in Mass Migration on a Tiny Scale.

The plant is also an alternate host for the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly—a beautiful blue swallowtail.

November’s Gloom Has Its Bright Spots

The weather people are starting to make breathless prognostications about sleet and snow flurries—Novemberish weather, in other words—however, the sun came out for a little while shortly after lunch today, so I zoomed outside to capture some more color. Continue reading “November’s Gloom Has Its Bright Spots”

The Wild Ginger Is in Bloom

Back on April 8, I mentioned that the wild ginger had poked out. They’ve completely leafed out, and they have started blooming.

Wild ginger. An ant’s-eye view. Photograph taken May 3, 2017.

On the far left, you can see parts of maple-seed wings—one coming out into the foreground, and the other just partially in the frame, more or less at a level with the flower.