Sunday, May 8, 2016


Sometimes the right-thinking Gardener simply devotes her whole day to wandering about her Kingdom, suitable beverage in hand, exclaiming 'Oooo, aaaaah', at appropriate intervals.

The late and rather chilly Spring this year means a great rush to bloom in the woods and fields.

Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis blooms

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, while not the first flower of Spring, (which is Mayflower or Epigea repens), holds its sparkling white faces up to the morning sun. The leaves are still tightly wrapped around the stems and the stems this year are very short.

Bloodroot flowers must surely be the most ephemeral of the Spring ephemerals - the flowers last only a day or two. The double form is much longer-lasting, sometimes remaining crisp and fresh for a week. I've been trying to get a clump of the double going and not having much luck. Of several plants purchased in the past, only one has survived at all, and both the plant and the flower seem very small. Now I have a bigger clump from Kiwi Nursery in Perth, and I have hopes it will do better.  There are also forms with fewer, wider, petals, and a pale pink form.

Jeffersonia dubia pale pink flowers

Almost as fleeting is Twinleaf. The one here is the Japanese cousin of our native Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. I've had seeds of the native species several times and have never managed to get any to germinate. The one time I had seedlings I was rather thrilled, right until they bloomed and I realized I had J. dubia, not J. diphylla.

A clump of Twinleaf (Canadian version) blooms year after year, just getting bigger and bigger. You can divide it, just do it after it blooms, and keep it watered until it re-establishes. At least, so I am told...
yellow Trout-lily blooms
The Trout-lilies, Erythronium americanum, are in bloom all through the woods. In places there are so many leaves they form a sheet of green, mottled but green nonetheless. The younger plants tend to have only one leaf, and it small. Trout-lilies grow from corms, which develop at the ends of short underground stolons. Older, larger, corms produce two leaves, with a flower between them. Squirrels and chipmunks dig up and eat all the larger corms, which would completely destroy the species if it weren't for that sly technique of growing many many tiny corms. It probably takes a number of years for a corm to become large enough to bloom, but once it does it will bloom every year, or at least until it gets eaten.

I have a population of Trout-lilies with unmottled, blue-green leaves. I keep hoping to see a bloom and almost hoping it will prove to be E. albidum, but so far no luck. Still, there are some noticeably larger leaves this year...

The Hepaticas seem to have had a bad winter. I notice that the H. acutiloba plants in my woods seem to have no leaves at all, and most have only one or a few flowers. Normally there are at least a few leaves per plant, and enough flowers to polka-dot the forest floor. H. acutiloba leaves are not evergreen, H. americana leaves are.

My H. americana plants, which I have introduced into the garden from my previous garden, are also much reduced and have fewer flowers than usual. The round-leaved Hepatica prefers acidic conditions, while the sharp-lobed prefers more lime-y conditions. This certainly holds true at my place, with no round-leaved ones in my woods at all.

The bright violet (dare I say, 'magenta'?) flower is a small plant I grew from a few seeds surreptitiously collected from a similarly coloured plant never-mind-where. I had to move it last year, and was very afraid I had lost it, so I am very happy to see it this year. Maybe if I promise not to move it again we can have two flowers next year?

The white flowered Hepatica was sold as H. transylvanica, and it probably is. I have had that plant for many years, moved it several times, cajoled and threatened and bullied, but it has never bloomed. This year there is one flower. Not a very exciting flower, but a flower. The leaves still look odd to me, almost diseased, really, but they develop into perfectly normal-looking leaves, split into the three distinct lobes that are typical of H. transylvanica.

viola striata small pale yellow-buff flower

Violets are beginning! For some reason, violets intrigue me - such odd flowers, such a variety of characters. Some are sweet and demure, others are not characters you would want to welcome into a well-ordered life.

This one, Viola striata, came to me from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden annual plant sale. It has taken to life in my garden quite happily, possibly too happily, and has many soft buff-yellow flowers this year. Like many of the Violets, it is stoloniferous and spreads quickly. Some blue Scilla  seeded themselves in among them and for once they bloomed together. Bright electric-blue and buff-yellow, it works!

Daffodils are springing up everywhere, a few Tulips which have escaped the attentions of the bushy-tailed residents are showing colour, the Moss Phloxes are covered in buds, Peonies are waving their red fingers above the Forget-me-nots, White Trilliums (and several of its cousins) are getting ready for their Spring extravaganza... such excitement!

The Gardener needs more tea.