April 22, 2013

Garden Delights from the Planet Earth

Native trees and shrubs are emerging now that spring is here, but this is not a native, but a bud on a plant from
the southern northern hemisphere (thanks Panayoti for setting me straight!) - a Kiwi vine, Actinidia kolomikta from east Asia, and not New Zealand as many people believe.

Dare I say that I am old enough to remember the first Earth Day, I was in 8th grade, and I remember that my school offered a special Earth Science class that year. I became so interested in all things environmental that my parents bought me subscriptions to National Wildlife and The Conservationist ( a New York State magazine at the time). I think all of this interest remained, as later I went onto college in Maine, majoring in Environmental Science. As things often go, I never took a career path that involved anything remotely environmental, a fact which still bothers me today, but my interest remains, so today, on this Earth Day, I am going to share some random images that I took this weekend around the garden, which, in a way, offer some proof that indeed, some of this early environmental awareness affected me.

Epigaea repens
Native New England plants are precious, and these, which I shared in an earlier post, continue to bloom in this nice, cool, spring. Mayflowers are fragrant, and love acid soil.
As anyone who has visited our garden, and you will find out - it's not that nice. I mean, it's nice if you like plants, but design-wise, it's pretty dumpy. It's all just too much to take care of for me, and I really have no idea how my parents we're able to do it with full time jobs. Oh yeah, they had kids to do the work - duh! Anyway, one of my plans is to convert the land back to woodland, a task that is virtually impossible in an urban environment, as anyone who has tried to do it, knows. So instead, I am gradually introducing select species of trees and woodland plants from all over the world, trying to create tiny ecosystems that can be more independant. Birch groves that can be allowed to drop their leaves, which in turn, will become mulch, and layer after layer will build up into a biomass where hellebores from Germany, Chinese and Japanese woodland plants, and of course, natives. Throw in a few small bulbs, ferns and low-level shrubs, and maybe, I will have something close to a care free garden.

The 'hot' trillium of the moment, Trillium pusillum "Roadrunner' is a selection of this running species
that currently is enjoying lots of chatter on various rock garden groups on Facebook and Twitter.
A dwarf species, this one (hopefully) will start running soon, for one cannot had too many trillium!
Dutchman's Breeches, Squirrel Corn
Dicentra cucullaria, commonly known as Squirrel Corn, or Dutchman's breeches (or what I used to call
it as a kid, 'Squirrel Breeches'). This one we collected when Joe and I had our first house in upstate New York, when I had my first job in the city, it was growing in the woodland all around our back yard. Yes, BAD to collect in the wild,
but I was 24, and probably drunk.
Another 'stollen plant' from our 20's, this Podophyllum peltatum, or Mayapple, was growing on his parents property in Northborough, MA. Today, we have hundreds and hundreds, as it runs, but in the nice way. I just love how
these Mayapples look when popping out of the ground in the spring. Like umbrellas, they love the moist
woodland soil on the edge of out property.

Last year I decided again to try some of those new Cypripedium hybrid  ( lady slipper orchids), as I have had little luck
getting them established. This cultivar called 'Gisela' seems to have 'taken', with two spikes this spring. It's growing
where I have had luck with some species, so I am hopeful.

One of Darrell Probst's Epimedium species from his early collecting days when he first started exploring
China with Dan Hinkley. The tag is lost forever, but this one spreads nicely.

From Iran, Fritillaria imperialis add's it's skunky, musky odor to our woodland. I love it. One would think that
these gaudy giants would feel out of place in the garden, but surprisingly, they don't, and in Iran, they look
natural when they dot the highland meadows in spring.

Primula kisoana, a rather uncommon Asian species from  south west China, Nepal and Tibet are a running primrose, which also will not become a pest, but one which you must allow to run, so that colonies can form. Woodland conditions, which remain slightly damp and rich with natural leaf mulch, will suit it best. No wood or bark mulch, and most woodland plants dislike anything other than leaf mulch.
From the high mountaintops of the Alps comes one of the world's most beautiful wildflowers, Pulsatilla, or Pasque Flower. There are both American species and European ones, even one in Japan. This plant, one that I started
from seed obtained in a seed exchange has bloomed in our stone wall for over ten years now.

Saxifrages define the authentic rock garden, or trough, and that's where this one lives - growing in a tiny crevice in a piece of tufa rock in one of our many alpine troughs. The encrusted saxifrages are delighful, from the highest of the world's mountain peaks - even higher than ski resorts in the Alps, where they cling into deep, protected crevices.

Joe found this House Wren egg, while cleaning out the wren houses this weekend. I am surprised that it survived the winter. It is so tiny, that at first, I thought that it was a hummingbird egg.


  1. What absolutely gorgeous, inspiring pix, Matt! I swear I could smell the Epigaea all the way here in Sweden! I have been lucky enough to find this several times on visits East in April--and the memory of that heavenly smell still lingers. I must quibble on your Kiwi--the New Zealanders have done a good job snowing the world on these--they are mostly Chinese and east Asian, kolomicta being from the northern end of the generic range...Happy earth day!

  2. It's funny how we all assume that Kiwi fruit come from New Zealand! So, China it is! Thanks Panayoti, I guess I better do my homework next time!


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