Sunday, March 30, 2014

Trout Lillies

These lovely trout lilies (Erythronium) were blooming in the garden of a friend who is a wildflower enthusiast. These beauties have several other names, none of which are as appealing as the blooms themselves. They are called dog's tooth violets and adder's tongue, both names referring to the long tooth-like bulbs. Trout lilies and fawn lily refer to the spotted leaves.
I have quite a few of these  bulbs that come up every year, but I seldom get more than an occasional flower. This year I didn't get a single bloom. They are not long lasting blooms at best so I try to keep an eye on them to make sure I don't miss them if they do bloom. The bulbs do not bloom until they produce 2 leaves. All my plants only had one leaf this year.
The grower of these trout lilies advises that in the wild he has seen them growing on soil associated with limestone and says when they are planted, the planting hole should have oyster shells (of the kind fed to chickens). Maybe that is my trouble. My soil is incredibly acidic.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Japanese Magnolias

As usual the Japanese magnolias got burned by frost and the blooms  are now just brown wads on the still bare branches. This happens every year here in east central Alabama. This year frost came at 2 junctures, just in time to take out the first bloomers, then waiting a bit to get the second group a few days ago. This is the reason i do not grow Japanese magnolias, altho I think they are superbly beautiful. The heart break is not something I willingly take on.

I usually gather a branch or two from the yard of a vacant house down the road, and enjoy them as cut flowers for the few days they last in a vase.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Maples In Bloom

Maples are in full bloom right now. Driving around yesterday they were bright carmine exclamation points all through the woods. Spring is coming, faster every day. Today's rain will undoubtedly speed things up even more.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elaeagnus, Invasive Shrub

Elaeagnus umbellata, also known as Autumn Olive, is an invasive menace, yet I see it planted around homes and wonder how on earth that decision was made. It forms dense thorny thickets that even a rabbit might shun and spreads by off shoots from roots, rooting tips, and seed. In a short time the thicket becomes impenetrable, seemingly even to deer. The thorns may be 1-2 inches long, and take it from me, they don't care who they bite. In cutting them, wear thick protective clothing, or you will pay a price.

They grow 10-20 feet tall, often taking refuge beside a tree and leaning into the tree so that it's branches stick straight up. without a tree for support, the tips bend to the ground and root. In 2 or 3 years they form a trunk that requires a saw to cut.
See the berries? Pretty, huh? It's a trick. The birds love them and spread the plants far and wide. It blooms in the fall and you can smell the sweet fragrance before you see the plants. You may look around to find the source, but the flowers are inconspicuous. to me it smells like cold creme.
Like many invasives, Elaeagnus was introduced for use in landscaping, roadbank stabilization, and wildlife food, but has invaded forests, edge areas, and fields. I have it in my woods and I fight a constant battle to keep it back out of my yard. While seedlings are small a lawnmower can keep them cut back, but if you miss a mowing or two, more drastic measures will be called for.There is no possibility of eradication.
I find this a far worse pest than privet. Privet has no thorns, and it can be easily pulled up until the stems reach pencil size or larger. It would take an ox to pull up an Elaeagnus! And as far as I can tell, deer shun it for food, whereas they graze privet back till it outgrows their reach.
  My preferred treatment is to cut it back as close to the ground as I can and paint the stems (trunks) with herbicide. I am still wondering how to handle general spraying. Even if the tickets were killed, if they were not removed, the dead plants would provide a great nursery for the upcoming seedlings to flourish in, and it still would not be possible to pass through the dead plants.
 My advice is vigilance and if you spot any plants on your property, treat immediately. and above all, DO NOT PLANT ELAEAGNUS!!! grrrr

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Questionnaire by Wendell Berry


by Wendell Berry
How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy

In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security;
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

Spring's Greening

More scenes of greening are developing every day; some seem to happen hour by hour. I saw this one a week or more ago, and it cheered my heart. But now the signs are everywhere, not the least of which is in my own yard. It won't be many days till my old mower will be struggling to push through foot tall grass . Yet I wait on... There are other more fun things to do besides try to crank that grumpy mower and push it around this the yard, leaving clumps of fading daffodils. Other things like planting seed, putting up cucumber trellis', and even-- yes! cutting brush. I am a scratched mess from all those Elaeagnus thorns. ( I call it Ugly Agnus). talk about an invasive plant! I will some other time.

Friday, March 14, 2014


This is the old fashioned (non-hybridized) hyacinth which are sometimes called Roman or French Hyacinths.
The stalks are thinner with fewer flowers, but same great fragrance. They don't tend to bend over when fully open as bad as the hybridized ones do.

These are very light pink, almost white. They grow at my back door where I can enjoy them every pass in or out.

                                                  “If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
                                                   And from thy slender store two loaves
                                                   alone to thee are left,
                                                   Sell one & from the dole,
                                                   Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
                                                  - Muslihuddin Sadi,
                                                  13th Century Persian Poet

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Henbit, A Winter Weed

 Along the road I see a purple field every now and then. This time of year (February and March) the purple is probably the flowers of henbit an annual winter weed. It's scientific name is Lamium amplexicaule, and it is a member of the mint family--think square stems.

It can be eaten either raw or cooked. Added to a salad, it provides a different texture to the crisp lettuce. or if you prefer, harvest a bunch of it and boil it lightly with butter and cardamon. I found a recipe online if you feel inclined to try something different:

Chop four cups of shoots, cover with water, boil 10 minutes. In a separate pan melt three tablespoons butter, add one teaspoon curry powder, two whole cloves, and a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Stir and cook for one minute, stir in two tablespoons of flour and cook one more minute. Add a half a cup of boiling water from the Henbit, stir until smooth. Drain and add the boiled Henbit  and 3.4 cup sour cream. Cook on low for 15 minutes.
While I am weeding my flower beds and garden spot, i may save a few handfuls and try thrm for lunch.
Henbit, also known as Giraffe Head, grows everywhere in North America, even into the arctic circle. It grows in waste places, lawns, gardens, and even in places where grass won't grow. It is easy to get rid of by pulling it up when the ground is moist. but never fear, it will be back next year.

Friday, March 7, 2014

More Daffodils for March!

                         I think I say this every year, but my daffodils have never been more beautiful.

                                    There are the old timey kind with 2 (mostly) flowers per stem.

                                         I believe the variety of this one is Unsurpassable.

         This is another old variety . See the twisted petals?  I live at an old home site and most of these old           varieties were here when we built out house.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Edgeworthia (Rice Paper Plant)

My Edgeworthia plant (Rice Paper Plant) is blooming right now, having opened in February. It certainly has a sweet fragrance, which is why I got it in the first place. This is the second winter I've had this shrub, and it has doubled in size since I got it. But it was just a rooted stick when I got it and I paid $25 for it. When you are looking for something unusual , plants or otherwise, it frequently costs more than you want to pay, but then, you are paying for the unusual part, as well as the plant.
I hope in years to come it will become a big nice shrub like the ones I see online. A fragrant winter blooming shrub is a welcome sight (and smell). I hope also as it gets bigger with more blooms that the fragrance will become more pervasive.

This shot was taken in November while the leaves were still on and the buds were still developing. The large green leaves lend a tropical appearance and set off the reddish stems. The leaves stayed on til the freeze made them shrivel and drop. In summer give it some shade and water when the leaves droop.
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