Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coral honeysuckle

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is probably my favorite native vine.  It wants to go up, without popping up everywhere else (or being too rampant in its growth).  When it's happy, it's totally delightful.

We have a number of really nice looking plants now (put in at various times).  Some look better in wetter years; others flourish in hotter and drier years.

This one, next to the porch, is looking great, after a year with MORE than abundant rain (and I just noticed that it's jumped up to the porch railing, too!)  That's not necessarily where I want it, but it's striking none the less. 

Lonicera sempervirens
I'm sure "our" hummingbird was visiting it this afternoon in the rain. I saw him out my study window visiting Carolina Jessamine (Gelsimium sempervirens) flowers in a medium-heavy rain about 2 pm.  I'm thinking that nectar from coral honeysuckle would be much "tastier" than the alkaloid-rich nectar of Gelsimium!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A last flirt with cold weather?

The temperatures up in the mountains are predicted to get down to 27°F, as the Tuesday night low.  Brrr.  Happily, my mountain beds only have cool-season greens, lettuce, beets, and sugar snap peas! 

I'm hoping for a cool April and May so maybe I'll actually have something to harvest.

Here in the Piedmont, my fingerling potatoes are sprouting nicely (especially evident in the grow bag) and my flats of spinach, lettuce, and mixed greens look pretty decent, too. 

The garlic, leeks, and chives are all doing well, too, undeterred by a cool March, apparently. 

I've snagged tomatoes and peppers to plant, from our spring plant sale last weekend, so I'm set (I'd better bring them inside for Tuesday evening here, too;  the temperature is forecast for 36°F, not a warm-season friendly temperature.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finally, the first hummingbird(s) of the season

Yesterday evening, eating dinner on the porch, my gardening companion said "there's a hummingbird"  -- woo-hoo!  I didn't see it, but heard the whirring wings.

This morning, out my study window, was perhaps the same hummingbird, visiting Carolina Jessamine flowers.

And we saw another one this evening.

There are certainly good nectar-producing plants (for hummingbirds) in flower now in our garden -- coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).

The early arrivals don't always cross paths with these, but this year they have!

This image is from a lovely small pocket guide to Eastern birds: Early Birds, by Minnie Miller and Cyndi Nelson, Johnstone Books
And, of course, the feeder is out and ready, too.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Greening begins

Coming down the Blue Ridge Escarpment this evening, the trees looked different. Leaves are emerging. Greening has begun.

It still looked like winter, when I drove "up the hill" to the mountains on Thursday, but not anymore.  The soft greens, pinkish-greens, and pale greens of new foliage were evident across the landscape today.

I wished that I'd had an opportunity to stop and take a photo -- I had my camera, but coming down the escarpment is steep, and there's not really a pull-off opportunity.

But spring green is welcome, for sure, after an unusually long winter.

Interesting to search my previous blog posts for "spring green" (lots of similar musings, along with some outliers).

This was the most pertinent to what I saw today.

From a couple of years ago:

Dogwoods, sassafras and expanded leaves (farther along than today)
An addedum:  I just visited Pearson's Falls today again with my garden group.  Magic.  It's a totally great botanical wonderland of rich cove forest woodland wildflowers.  Visit if you're anywhere nearby!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Carolina jessamine

Carolina jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina and it's in flower now.

Carpenter bees are the main visitors to its flowers that I normally see, though I have seen a couple of hummingbirds brave the alkaloid-tasting nectar, too.
view from my study window, 2009 (it could have been taken this afternoon)
I've had two sightings of hummingbird visits to the Carolina jessamine over the years outside my study window, apparently, as these posts (on a Carolina jessamine search within my blog) document.

What fun to have those records!

This will be post 1401, since I started blogging in the summer of 2007 -- I can hardly imagine that, really.

A fellow naturalist (Bill Hilton) over in York, SC, and a hummingbird expert, posted this interesting piece back in 2008. about Carolina Jessamine.  There are definitely some potent alkaloids involved!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm waiting for hummingbirds

My feeder has just been refreshed with new "nectar" - aka sugar water.  I refilled it several weeks ago, being hopeful (my first ever sighting here was on March 18).

My blogging friend Janet, just an hour away in Greenwood, SC has had hummers visiting her feeder today -- I hope the link to her FB post works!

Here's the current map on Journey North with hummingbird sightings:  the early male scouts are flying north, for sure and the females won't be far behind.
April 2, 2014: Journey North hummingbird sightings

Monday, March 31, 2014

A beautiful spring day

Finally, a day worthy of real spring.  Clear blue sky. Temps in the mid-70°s. Redbuds in flower and dogwoods well along.

I planted sprouted fingerling potatoes this afternoon -- the woodchuck shouldn't like the above-ground parts, I hope, even though s/he seems to have snagged my collards already.

I weeded some of the abundant winter annuals (they are not tasty on the plate, regardless of what wild foraging folks write about, in my opinion).  Even with plenty of garlic and olive oil.

Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit)
Can I have just have mustard, spinach, or kale, please?

Hooray for spring and the end of winter, finally.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Early flowering bulbs

In spite of a early spring dusting of snow this morning, and a howling wind, it was lovely to see hyacinths and grape hyacinths on my walk in the mountains this morning. 
a Wikipedia image of grape hyacinths:  they're everywhere in our historic neighborhood
It felt wintry, but the visible signs of spring were there. Tulip foliage is well up, too, and the flowers won't be far behind.  We enjoyed a lovely dish of fresh creasy greens from the raised beds, too, rebounding from winter's deep freezes.

In the Piedmont, the white bracts of dogwoods have expanded, and the warm weather predicted for the next few days will accelerate their progress.  They'll be close to "full flower" by the end of the week, I hope.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Native woodland gardens

It was nice this morning to share thoughts about creating native woodland gardens  with an OLLI class (check out OLLI programs if you're in the US -- a great lifelong learning initiative).

It's been a lovely journey to transform lawn to woodland habitat over the last two decades, and we now finally have Christmas ferns, bloodroot, wild ginger, crested iris, green-and-gold, and pussytoes flourishing along our front pathway.
a giant bloodroot
It was all about creating a decent "forest" soil -- more full of humus, a bit deeper, etc. from the shallow, shade-stressed grass that grew there before.

And the water oak that anchors the driveway produces slow-to-break-down leaves -- not the best situation, but eventually they DO turn into humus-rich leaf mulch.

That's what supported the bloodroot expansion!

P.S. See the sidebar for a link to a pdf version of the creating a woodland garden presentation.
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