Monday, May 6, 2013

Cactus Know It's Spring

To the best of my knowledge, these are Mammillaria cactus , but online I cannot find any with orange flowers. They all seem to be pink. I have had this slowly expanding group for years and with almost no care they grow, bloom in spring , and multiply. If anyone can tell me more about what cactus this is, I would appreciate it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Buckeyes headed into Spring

 These pictures reveal the opening of red buckeye flowers (Aesculus pavia). They are beautiful at all stages. This year the progression has been slower than usual, I suppose because of the cool wet weather this spring. I look forward to a bumper crop of buckeyes. The wildlife around here are looking forward to that event also.  Unless I check the bush every day when the seed pods begin to open in the fall, I won't harvest any. The seed must be very nutritious as they are relished by squirrels, chipmunks, and rats and mice. (They are reputed to be poisonous to humans, but we know rodents can eat almost anything.) I have found several apparent seedlings near and under my bushes and I guess they were missed in the harvest, or hidden and forgotten by squirrels.
 The red flowers make a beautiful splash in the landscape and woods in spring, and I am usually surprised to see them in the woods in places I had not noticed before. Keep your eyes peeled on woodlots as you drive along and you are likely to see their bright flowers. The flowers provide a nectar source for eastern swallowtail butterflies, as well as bumble bees and carpenter bees.
  Red buckeyes bloom in both shade and sun but white or bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) do best in shade. Altho bottlebrush buckeyes bloom in sun, their leaves get a washed out cast that makes me wish I had been more thoughtful of their wishes. Both red and white buckeyes are said to be native to the southeast, but I have never seen a white one in the wild. That could be because they are less spectacular in bloom and not at all spectacular when not in bloom, but they have the same big brown shiny seed. The seed make great worry "stones' and some people still use them as good luck charms.
 If you want to transplant one, get your back ready to dig. They have deep roots (this makes them drought tolerant), and they suffer for 2 or 3 years after transplant from the ground. If you want to grow them from seed, plant the seed right after it ripens. They will not germinate after they dry out. Plant them where you want them to grow and let nature do the rest, but do keep in mind that the resulting bush will be quite large in a few years.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sloe Plum

This is my sloe plum, probably Allegheny plum. I collected it as a seed . Every year it produces glorious bloom. One year I decorated it with Christmas balls, which I subsequently added to. I think the decorations look even better with the spring bloom. The balls are too hazardous to remove because of the thorny fruit spurs.  I had always called this a sloe plum, mistakenly thinking the name was slow plum because it does not ripen till about August. A little internet search showed that sloe plum originated in Europe where the fruits were used to make jelly, preserves, and wine. There it was harvested after frost, like persimmons are here, to reduce the astringent flavor. This could be the English plum, but I rather think because of  where I found the parent growing, that it is our native Allegheny plum. I have never tried to make jelly from it, but that might be a good project for this year.
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