Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Last spring I was at The Anita Gorman Discovery Center and was delighted to find a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), a shrub native to this area.

Later in the year it looked like this...

And then later in the summer, it bloomed.

The flowers are just so darn odd.

They look like a styrofoam ball pincushion...  Oddest, oddest things.

When I went on the Miami County Farm Crawl last May, I stopped at a nursery and brought home three buttonbushes.

I wasn't sure where to plant them and since they like water and they don't mind even living in water occasionally, I set them in the creek so they wouldn't dry out by the time I returned the following week (or um, weeks).

Sometimes I'd find know, after it rained. Then I'd have to track the missing ones somewhere down the creek. I don't think they were very happy to have more than their roots submerged in water.

And I don't think this guy was happy about me removing him from a submerged pot, his newly claimed home.

He finally had enough of me (and our staring contest) and then backed away quickly right back into the creek. Just like that. Gone.

I also bought another buttonbush somewhere along the way last year, a small one, and that one stayed in my backyard for the summer and then surprised me with one bloom. One day it looked like this...

...the next day it looked like this:

And that's when the bugs discovered it because that flower was sticky sweet with nectar. The flower was so sticky, if you disturbed a nomming insect, it had a hard time lifting its feet to get out of the way.

Eventually I got them planted in a row on a bank beside the creek but kind of late in the year. I wasn't so sure they would survive my bad treatment of them...

...but they did. And at the end of March, they had already started putting out their fresh new leaves in their new, finally permanent, home...

...looking relieved and in plant language, shouting out a hallelujah.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring beauty

I've been so bad at keeping up with this blog and good grief, although today is April 21, outdoors it is already midsummer. Everything that was supposed to bloom in the spring bloomed and everything that was supposed to bloom a month from now.....bloomed (Roses! I have roses the first week of April!). There's a lot going on out there but I want to capture the beauty of what was blooming a couple Sundays ago before I venture out to Kansas again tomorrow.

The Dwarf Crested iris (Iris cristata) I planted last year along the stream bank was blooming. I only got one bloom but the rest of the plants are looking good so hopefully next year they will be spectacular.

The non-native irises were blooming too and of course, they were spectacular (irises always are). I remember the very first iris I met. My best friend in high school's mother was a gardener and I remember walking out the back door of their house one spring and seeing her mother's irises in bloom. They were the most exotic thing I had ever seen...regal, sturdy, delicate, upright and tall...irises just have a special presence to them. Although I did have a big collection of houseplants as a teenager (dozens), I hadn't realized until now that I had an equal interest in the plants growing natively outdoors too. I remember talking about trilliums with my friend's mother, a plant she coveted. I had seen trilliums growing in Northern Michigan and promised to dig her up some if I ever found them again. That was a lonnnnnnnnnng time ago but every spring when I see my first irises in bloom, I think of Mrs. Maki. :-)

Last year I had planted some Heart-leaf Golden Alexanders (Zizia aptera) in an area I had cleared in the woods...

...but this year, you can hardly see them because of all the mayapples that took over this newly cleared area (I was trying to get rid of the coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus)... a native plant that is absolutely everywhere. Everywhere. It's in the honeysuckle can tell it's a relative because it makes its presence known absolutely everywhere. Everywhere! Coralberry is a woodlands plant and is probably of some use to deer if they are starving but in my 15 acres of woods, nobody seems that interested in it.....especially me. Okay, end of rant.).

Mayapples. Mayapples. Mayapples. They were coming up everywhere...this one was popping through an old oak leaf.

I remember when I saw my first small colony of mayapples when I first bought my land and was so happy to find that 10 square feet of native prettiness. Hahaha. Those mayapples are just everywhere this year. To the horizon line. Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) are spring ephemerals so in a couple months they will be gone...I sure wish that boring coralberry/buckbrush was an ephemeral. Too bad it's an "everpresent."

Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) was blooming right on the path. I had never seen it before.

You can tell it's in the oxalis family because of the shamrock leaves.

This has been a spectacular year for Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica). I usually find them lost in the growing grass but they were as elusive as mayapples this year. :-)

They were blooming in every little cranny in the woods, as well as in the areas that get a lot of sunlight.

The oak leaves were beginning to unfurl.

Feathery prettiness even before they let go...

I walked past a little 4 foot tree in the woods that looked like yellow-green Christmas bulbs were hanging from it.

That little oak tree had five huge oak galls on it. Five. It was something (here Tilly helps with the photography by moving in to provide some extra contrast).

This year the hickory leaves are unfurling when they feel like it. I remember them synchronizing their ballet a few years ago so that it seemed like all the unfurling took place in just one day. I've been watching these guys unfurl for a couple weeks now. It's random this year for some reason.

Still, it was a day full of spring beauty...but this guy wouldn't know it. He had his head stuck in a hole in the dirt.
I pulled him out to get a look at him to see if we had met before.

Nope. New box turtle to me. He was unimpressed with me and everything around him...nothing new there when it comes to turtles.

I sure would hate to have to perform in front of an audience of turtles because whatever you do to entertain them, nothing will impress them. Nothing.

I put him back in his napping spot. So much concentrated spring beauty around him but since he's a turtle, it's all a big whatever to him.

But of course, not to me. :-)