Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring woodland wildflowers

A second visit to a botanical wonderland this weekend ("The Pocket" on Pigeon Mountain, GA) -- along the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail found numerous treasures in flower.  The Pocket is a rich cove forest (so pH levels are nearly neutral), supporting a rich array of wildflowers. 

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are abundant and were in flower (actively visited by bumblebees on the day we were there).

Mertensia virginica

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) was still in flower (it was in flower 3 weeks ago on our first visit).

Claytonia virginica
Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum) was in flower (younger plants and seedlings are abundant at this site). Its large flowers were impressive.

Erythronium americanum

And the fiddleheads of Christmas fern were striking!

Christmas fern fiddleheads

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The power of nature

Those of us who are walkers, gardeners, hikers, birders, and/or naturalists know the power of green nature.  Folks that just enjoy being outdoors in the park, hanging out, or having a picnic know this too.

I loved reading this piece in the NYT (in Well) about easing brain fatigue with a walk in the park, describing research documenting (positive) brain activity in response to green!

I vividly remember spending a week at a conference in NYC years ago (an BGCI International Botanical Garden Education conference, interestingly), where I felt jangled by the city surroundings at the hotel that I was staying at (in lower Manhattan), overly stimulated by the city vibe, but suddenly felt at home in the lovely forest (remnant) on our visit to the NY Botanical Garden.  It was definitely an aha! moment for me.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Almost a full moon

An unusually chilly spring evening, crisp clear air, and an almost full moon made for a beautiful walk this evening.  The still leafless trees were silhouetted against the clouds at sunset, with the moon high in the sky.  Breathtaking.

March temperatures here in the Carolinas have been much colder than normal, even though spring flowering is advancing (the sassafras flower buds are about ready to pop & the dogwood buds are swelling).  There are even early azaleas in flower!

But a lovely evening, to be sure.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Piet Oudolf's garden

back garden - Piet and Anya Oudolf's private garden
I've talked a bit about my visit last fall to naturalistic gardens in the Netherlands and Germany recently, and have been reminded, again, about how amazing they were.  Piet and Anya Oudolf's garden in Hummelo, in the Netherlands, was remarkable when I visited during their open garden days in late September, 2013.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring birds are singing...

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, and American Robins have been the primary voices that I've heard this week (they've had to push themselves into my consciousness as I've been enveloped in writing and layout on our spring newsletter -- uh, work stuff).  Hhrmph! 

Hopefully, I'll have more time next week during spring break to listen more carefully.

I did see one of our (that is, the SC Botanical Garden's) red-shouldered hawk pairs early in the week -- it looked like the male was transferring something to eat to the female (maybe for nestlings?)  Possibly it was for her, but I do think they'd have nestlings by now in mid-March.

I'm looking forward to seeing if any of my early cool-season vegetable seed sowings in the mountains have done much this weekend. It's been cool, and rainy, so reasonable weather, but the temperatures have also been quite cold.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

The bloodroot in the oak hickory forest along the Heusel Nature trail (in the botanical garden where I work) is in full flower now.  It's right on time - I usually see Sanguinaria in flower from early to late March, depending on the year.  It's definitely spring here in the Piedmont of South Carolina!

I've posted about bloodroot over the last 5 spring seasons, apparently. 

This was the most impressive plant that I've ever seen:  a happy camper featured in this 2010 post

Bloodroot in the front woodland border, March 2010

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Natural landscaping, natural diversity, and wild plants

I love visiting natural places full of plant treasures - they're increasingly rare, but the protected ones are totally special.

On the way to a Natural Landscaping symposium sponsored by the Wild Ones chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee (a delightful event), we (that is, my sometime gardening companion and me) were able to visit one of these places for the first time.

lower Pocket area along boardwalk
The Pocket is a rich cove forest site (near LaFayette, GA) with an abundance of spring wildflowers.

a rich diversity of wildflowers

Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
We were delighted to see emergent vegetation of Virginia bluebells, Trillium, and trout lilies, along with toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), Claytonia virginica (spring beauty), Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot), and Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger of spring).

I'd never seen Erigenia before.  Amazing!  Incredibly small flowers lighting up the forest floor. 
Erigenia bulbosa (Harbinger of spring)
Harbinger of spring is an extremely small member of the parsley family (Apiaceae).  You'd hardly notice it, walking by, but it was great fun and such a treat to finally see.

The symposium was wonderful -- a treat to participate and attend with over 150 native plant enthusiasts. It's so nice to be able to experience the interest and enthusiasm, and share my own passion for native plants, too!

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Creativity and gardening

Gardening is a creative activity, in my experience.

I've loved putting plants together in containers in agreeable ways, mixing up vegetables and herbs in attractive combinations, and helping my gardening companion recreate natural plant combinations while restoring landscapes, etc.

Finalizing a weekend program (on Gardening and Creativity) for the John C. Campbell Folk School (for next April, 2014) had me thinking again about the gifts of gardening.

I'd mused on this subject last December as I was thinking about doing programs (and re-reading Fran Sorin's lovely book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening.)

And my thinking about this was reinforced earlier this week at the Davidson Horticultural Symposium, where Noel Kingsbury talked about a German garden designer whose muse was music and gardens, and Julie Moir Messervy recounted (at the end of a presentation about contemplative gardening) the experience of designing the Toronto Music Garden. 

I found a visit to the Toronto Music Garden amazing -- it was totally inspirational for me (in the context of visiting a garden with a meaningful experience) to listen to the audio tour through the garden in mid-summer some years ago).

Do you hear music in gardens? 

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