From ace flower-portraitist & commentor Ema Ema:
Here are some pictures I took in July and August 2020 around Lincoln Center and Lexington Ave.
From ace flower-portraitist & commentor Ema Ema:
Here are some pictures I took in July and August 2020 around Lincoln Center and Lexington Ave.
Winter is not the season we knew. My latest column: https://t.co/XLGPz0kgzI
— Adrian Higgins (@adrian_higgins) January 8, 2021
Since it’s the Washington Post, this is about the DC area, but many of us are feeling the less-than-salubrious effects of warmer winters:
… The year 2020 was so abnormal, so disconnected, that it was easy to forget that the weather was strange, too. Last winter was almost nonexistent, even if we had a cruel late freeze. In February, in one of my last professional outings before the pandemic shutdown, I was in Maryland listening to emerging tree frogs, spring peepers, filling the air with a wall of croaking sound. From Texas to coastal New England, spring arrived as much as a month early, according to the USA National Phenology Network…
This induced plants into bloom or precocious development. In my neighborhood, autumn-flowering cherry trees, which normally bloom sporadically from November to February, bloomed in a single cloudburst of white-pink blossoms. The autumn-flowering sasanqua camellias enjoyed a long and unmolested season that continues, and they have been joined now by the earliest of the Camellia japonica varieties, normally seen in late winter. The winter jasmine, with its yellow bells, erupted, an event that leads many to think the forsythias are abloom. But this winter, the forsythias were also in flower, or at least a couple of shrubs in a protected corner that I saw…
All this misalignment might be a lovely distraction, except there is a price to be paid. April-flowering trees and shrubs need their winter chilling to remain cyclical and healthy. Prolonged mildness allows insect pests to survive and multiply. Winter weeds, such as chickweed, are deeply entrenched and spreading. This year, if you wait until April to tackle your winter weeds, you will be doomed…
Need this be stated? The elephant in the room is climate change, and with its effects come an altered appearance of winter and, for us, an altered consciousness of winter.
The changes foster ambivalence in gardeners. Suddenly, the once-fringe idea of planting a garden (or a corner of it) for offseason interest, with such plants as winter aconite, witch hazels and wintersweet, becomes a much more mainstream notion.
As the pandemic has proved, we are adaptable creatures, though I still feel the loss of a landscape rendered drab but predictable by brown earth and gray forest. The bleakness had its appeal, a place and a season away from the sapping power of life without rest.
There were a lot of perennials in my neglected garden that didn’t seem to have made it through the last abnormally mild winter, even before summer’s heinous drought. Now I’m getting bombarded with the usual winter plethora of gardening catalogs, but… for the first time, I’m actually reluctant to place any orders. Maybe (probably) this will change by the end of January, but there’s plenty of work I need to do cleaning up and transplanting in the existing beds, and right now it feels like dumping more money into wishbook plants that won’t survive is just wasteful.
Even my beloved (annual) tomato plants! I cut back to a mere 18 rootpouches last year, which meant we could have not enough homegrown tomatoes with a lot less effort on my part, and now I’m having trouble assembling a list of even a dozen varieties that I know will be rewarding, or at least craved (Chocolate Sprinkles, Cherokee Purple, Chocolate Stripes, Ramapo, Tati’s Wedding, Bear Claw, Sungold… ) I mean, both the Spousal Unit & I adore the Paul Robeson heirlooms, but we’ve never gotten more than three or four ripe PR tomatoes even when I had multiple plants…
Also, in case it wasn’t obvious: I’m out of photos from you guys. You want your Sunday photo fix, you gotta step up & send me some!
What’s going on in your gardens (planning / tropical / indoor), this week?
Another mood-lifter from commentor Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!):
One of my friends, a professional photographer of gardens, once told me that entering a photograph of back of a sunflower is a sure way to win a prize in a photography contest. So, even though I don’t enter contests I do find myself taking a lot of pictures of sunflowers.
I also have several wild-type species of the perennial persuasion in our garden and I would like to share three of my favorites to celebrate the returning of the sun.
North America is the original home for what are called the “true” sunflowers in the genus Helianthus, including the two most widely known species that are in widespread cultivation. The best known is annual sunflower of birdseed and vegetable oil fame (Helianthus annuus) whose wild ancestors were from the Western USA. The other is the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) which is a perennial known for taking over gardens.
Today we have two “true” sunflowers and one close cousin that looks very similar and all are native to the Eastern USA.
First is Pale-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus) a.k.a. Thick-leaved sunflower. This is a spreading species that grows to about 5 feet tall and attracts lots of bees and butterflies to its flowers.
As a bonus the seeds are very popular with American Goldfinches and I have to race them if I want to collect seed for propagation.
Second is Tall Sunflower (Helianthus giganteus) a.k.a. Swamp Sunflower, which live up to its names. This species normally grows 8 to 12 feet tall and has very woody stems, but this also is a perennial and dies back to the ground in winter and grows new stems each year. It’s a clump forming species it only spreads by seed not by roots or rhizomes.
It does well in most any kind of garden soil here in the moist area where we garden in Southeastern PA and doesn’t need swampy soil, but it doesn’t mind it. The seeds are smaller than the pale-leaved sunflower’s but goldfinches devour them as well!
The third species is a cousin with a very sunny scientific name, Heliopsis helianthoides, which more or less means a sunflower which looks like a true sunflower! The common names are Ox-eye, Ox-eye sunflower or smooth oxeye. It grows to about 5 or six feet tall and spreads modestly. It’s showy and popular in wildflower seed mixes.
It isn’t appreciated by birds as much but it is a reliable garden plant the butterflies do visit. Although we grow this lovely flower in our garden, the picture with the Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly isn’t from our garden, It was taken in the garden at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary about 30 miles north of our house where my wife and I are garden volunteers and also help with that famous hawk and eagle migration spot’s native plant sale.
What’s going on in your garden (planning / prep / tropical / retrospectives), this week?
More loveliness from commentor Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson):
For your enjoyment, here is a small selection of white flowers while you ignore the blizzard outside. They are all from our garden in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania and are from the last few years.
Looking back at pictures from recent summers is something I like really to do at this time of year and it helps me get through the short, dark winter days to spend time remembering the flowers of spring and summer. Also it makes me really look forward to something beyond the next few snowy months!
So, when Anne Laurie said she was about out of pictures for Sunday Garden Chats I thought it was about time I got my act together to share some pics of our garden with you all. We have just a little over an acre and it isn’t all native plants, but we do have a lot and that has been our focus over the last 25 (of the 35) years we’ve lived here. So here we go…..
The first two species are members of the one fragment of what used to be the Lily Family (sensu lato) and are now part of a more distant lineage the Melianthaceae. One characteristic of this family is nectar or sap that is toxic to some insects. The best-known plant in the family with this character is Fly-poison (Amianthemum muscitoxicum). Another character I like with these lovely white flowers is that after pollination the petals* don’t wither and fall, they just turn green with chlorophyll and start photosynthesizing!
(*or tepals as botanists call them in families where petals and sepals look the same)
This Common Featherbell bloomed in our garden this summer — it was the first time I’ve ever seen this lovely flower as it doesn’t grow in eastern PA. It is found in the mountains of W. PA and south.
Its cousin, Virginia Bunchflower is a plant of circum-neutral soils and grows in damp meadows on limestone or trap rock (diabase) soils. I know of three places where it grows within 25 miles of our house, but it only blooms regularly in the one that is a powerline right-of-way in full sun. The other two populations are in shady woods and only occasionally have a flower when a tree falls and allows some extra sunlight through the canopy of leaves to the hit the ground. We grow it in our rain garden and it loves it there.
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) is also a damp or wet meadow plant, but it isn’t fussy in the garden where ordinary soil conditions are fine. The flowers may be white as in these pics or lavender in hue. Bumble bees love them either way!
I’m not sure of the origin of this species common epithet, but I assume it is from herbal use by a Mr. or Mrs. Culver in colonial days. Several large clumps of this species grace our front yard meadow and hold their own with the tall asters, grasses and rosin-weeds.
Growing Trilliums from seed is something I’ve been doing for over 20 years, and it’s fortunate I started when I was younger, as it takes about seven years to get from seeds sprouting to flowering plants in this wonderful genus.
Many people are familiar with the Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) and I could share hundreds of photos of that beautiful species, but I felt maybe another less common, but equally pretty species deserved a little time in the spotlight. This is a plant we grew from seed from a population to the south of us along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.
The population of Trilliums in the Susquehanna River valley have been confusing botanists for over a century. They are apparently a hybrid swarm with the two parent species being the white-flowered Declined (or Drooping) trillium and the more upright and red-flowered Ill-scented Trillium (Trillium erectum) resulting in what botanists now call a “population with a reticulated phylogeny”. The plants can have a mixture of characters between the two parent species. This plant in our garden has the white flowers and large white ovary of T. flexipes but is upright like its T. erectum ancestors and not drooping at all. It and its siblings are excellent every April in our woodland gardens and we are glad they are happy here! I do have to give them a little bit of crushed eggshells or pelletized dolomite every year so they get enough calcium which is lacking in the very acid sandstone-derived soil here in our yard.
Starry Campion (Silene stellata) a summer star rather than a Christmas star. This lovely native woodland flower seems to prefer sandy soils. The flower petals may wilt on a hot summer afternoon, but the revive every morning.
2020 was also the first year we had this nice summer flower bloom in our yard. It was grown from a few seeds sown about two years earlier that came from a local population. I’m looking forward to how they will do as more mature plants next summer.
Thanks to our ever-dependable, poetical Ozark Hillbilly:
from Song of Myself:
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any
more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may
see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon
out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
What’s going on in your garden (memories / planning / indoor / tropical) gardens, this week?
More from commentor Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson):
Top photo: Pasture or Carolina Rose (Rosa Carolina) We don’t have too many species of native wild rose and they all look similar and lucky for us they all have a similar wonderful fragrance to their flowers. I have to stop and smell they every single time I walk by this bush!
Royal Campion (Silene regia) are the names I prefer for this lovely Midwesterner. You’ll also see the unlovely common name Royal Catchfly for this beautiful flower from wet meadows in Illinois and surrounding states where hummingbirds are their main pollinating species.
We have a similar flowered, but smaller flowered species in the woods of the east called Fire Pink (Silene virginica) that grew in the woods on the steep slope behind my childhood home near Pittsburgh above the Allegheny river. I always wanted so see it up close, but the slope was too steep to get to it safely. I was in high school and in a flatter, less hazardous location before I got a chance to admire that species and its flowers close up!
Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is one of my favorite native vines, mainly because it is the favorite of hummingbirds, but also because it is relatively well behaved and doesn’t tend to attack trellises or houses like the similarly named Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) does!
This lovely native honeysuckle has a big flush of bloom when the hummingbirds return and start to nest in June and then has a nice smattering of flowers until late fall. In fact, our biggest and oldest plant on our back-porch’s trellis still has a flower cluster today on December 7th as I write this even though we’ve had several nights with temperatures below freezing!
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is another native I wouldn’t be without. It is appreciated by many bees and butterflies in late August and September, including monarch butterflies who need to refuel on their long trip to central Mexico in the autumn. I like the purple 4 to 5 foot tall, wild variety rather than the smaller cultivars and It seems that the butterflies prefer the wild types too. There are wild pink flowered ones, but I’m a big fan of the color purple so you know which one I have!
We have a good number of other native asters in the east, none of which are any longer classified in the genus Aster, where the Old-World species are placed, because their appearance is due to convergent evolution as a butterfly and bee pollination platform., not the sharing of a most recent common ancestor. I like almost all of them in the garden although a few to try to take over. The late season pollinating insects love them all.
I need more photos, if this Sunday-morning feature is going to continue through the winter!
What’s going on in your garden (tropical / indoor / planning / retrospectives), this week?
From commentor Mike S:
Today I’m sharing some of my pics of native plants flowering in our garden in southeastern Pennsylvania from the last few years. We grow so many plants and I have so many thousands of pictures of flowers (both native and not) that I’ve taken over time that it’s impossible to pick the “best” one of any species.
Up until COVID cutbacks I wrote and illustrated a weekly newspaper column in my local paper about nature/natural history; especially birds, native plants and insects, so I had some real use for some of these pictures, but now I’ve just been taking them for fun and maybe a few Zoom presentations for local garden and native plant clubs. Anyway, I’ve pulled a few I like of plants that grow well in our garden to brighten up the beginning of winter for you all with some thoughts of the next growing season. I’m including a little info below if you want to go beyond the eye-candy.
At top: Wild Senna (Senna marylandica) being visited and buzz-pollinated by a Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens). The flowers of this species produce pollen inside tubular anthers and only a few insects, like local bumblebees, have the ability and instinct to vibrate the flower with their thoracic muscles to shake the pollen out so they can take it home to feed their babies. This exclusionary adaptation helps their pollen reach the correct destination and not be wasted on little insects that can’t do a good job.
Green-headed Coneflower ‘Herbst Sonne’. Our front yard is a meadow of tall native wildflowers and grasses. One of the stalwarts is one that was unappreciated in this country (i.e. weed-wacked and sprayed when growing along roadsides), but when taken to Europe a German gardener selected one and named it. Then it became popular here. Although many people say it’s too tall for their garden a 5 to 8 feet, I like it and it isn’t the tallest flower in the garden either!
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is less well know than its scarlet-colored cousin Bee-balm (M.didyma) but I like having them both in our garden. Hummingbirds go to the red one and this species is visited by hummingbird-moths, bees and butterflies which is fine by me. If I could give some plants a new common name, I would change this genus to Crown-flowers, because that is what I think of when I look at them!
Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) is another tall yellow member of the daisy family that is popular with pollinators. Botanically oriented people would call this and the coneflower DYCs for damn yellow composites. And those of us in the east don’t have the huge number that grow out west to worry about identifying!
Most people don’t realize we have a native wisteria here in eastern North America, but do. Wisteria fruticosa. It is a lovely, if not quite as exuberant, vine as the common Chinese and Japanese Wisterias of horticulture. The flower clusters are smaller than the Asian species which are now becoming invasive in the woodlands around here…
To Be Continued
What’s going on in your garden(s), this week? What went down in your gardens, this past year?