Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Largest Wildflower Garden in New England - in Spring

One of the best places in the Northeast to see a huge variety of wildflowers is at the Garden in the Woods, located not too far from Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts. This 45-acre woodland botanical garden is also the headquarters of the New England Wild Flower Society, which focuses on the promotion and conservation of native plants of the region.  I first visited the Garden in the Woods last fall, and I was very excited to visit it again a few days ago when many of its spring-blooming plants were in flower.

Bee enjoying Claytonia virginica, aka Virginia spring beauty.
The Garden in the Woods boasts over 1700 types of plants, including over 200 rare and endangered native ones, making it the largest wildflower garden in New England.

A sunny spot filled with wildflowers!
The different plants are spread out in different micro-habitats throughout the woods, including slopes,  pine barrens, sunny meadows, swamps, and wetlands.

Painted turtles enjoying the garden's pond.
Walking paths offer a very enjoyable stroll throughout the wooded grounds.

Informational signs placed along the paths tell about each habitat and the plants found there.  Usually there are guided tours of the woods each day as well, which are very helpful and educational.  Unfortunately when I went this time, the guide had called in sick, but (thankfully!) many of the plants are labeled.

Red-flowering Trillium cuneatum next to yellow Uvularia grandiflora (Larger-flowered Bellwort)
I was delighted to come in time to see the Garden in the Wood's impressive collection of trilliums in bloom!  I had no idea there was such a variety of these lovely spring ephemerals.  Most trilliums are native to North America, and several species are endangered or threatened.

Trillium flexipes - Bent Trillium
Trillium cuneatum - Little Sweet Betsy
Trillium luteum - Yellow Trillium
Trillium simile - Sweet White Trillium
Trillium recurvatum - Prairie Wake Robin
Trillium grandiflorum - White Wake Robin
Did you know there were pink trilliums?

Trillium grandiflorum forma roseum - Rose-colored Wake Robin 
Trillium sulcatum - Barksdale's Trillium
And one with doubled petals?
I've never seen a trillium like this before!

Trillium grandiflorum forma petalosum - Double White Trillium
There were also many other horticultural treasures there, some of which we don't get to see very often anymore.  I think this was the first time I've ever seen a Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a plant that my Mom talks of often finding in the woods as a kid.

Plants clockwise from top left:  Swamp pink (Helonias bullata), Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), Double rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides 'Shoaf's pink'), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum),  Goldseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Golden-club (Orontium aquaticum
Committed to educating people on native plants, the New England Wild Flower Society also offers many classes there at Garden in the Woods, as well as at other locations throughout New England.  The kids aren't even left out - a part of Garden in the Woods holds an activity area for children to explore and learn.

A structure at the activity area where kids can make their own little 'habitat' for critters.
And if the gardens and classes aren't reason enough to visit Garden in the Woods, the garden store would be.  Garden in the Woods also contains the largest retail native plant nursery in New England!  While still not as huge as regular nurseries, it has a good number of native plants that are hard to find anywhere else.  They sell everything from tree saplings to specialty plants such as native pitcher plants and lady slippers.  I have yet to go home from a visit there without a treasure of some kind stashed in my car...

A pollinator on Virginia spring beauty
So if you are passing through the greater Boston area, I definitely recommend you check out this great horticultural gem.  Just make sure you leave room in your suitcase or car for a horticultural find of your own!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Hellstrip Garden in Spring

There's something about the challenge of hellstrip gardening that just calls to me.

The hellstrip is that piece of land between the street and the sidewalk that is so named by gardeners due to its difficulty in growing plants in it, thanks to factors such as glaring heat from the asphalt, poor soil, and winter saltings.  Normally they are just weedy strips of grass, which is why I think hellstrip gardening appeals to me so - those poor weedy patches are just screaming out for a makeover!

When we first moved into our house, the strip between the street and the sidewalk was an uneven and unsightly mess of weeds.  To one side of the driveway, the hellstrip was also the place where our mailbox was situated.  I adore mailbox gardens (so homey, don't you think?), so I just had to make it my mission to turn that section into a garden bed, despite Mr. Red House's misgivings about how poor, dry, and gravelly the dirt was there.

I dug up the weeds and grass, added lots of compost, and planted the hardiest plants I could find.  Mr. Red House was unsure about the results even last summer, as my perennials were still small and the weeds often outpaced me, but after this Spring's display, he's finally come around!

hellstrip in bloom
Most of the plants survived through the winter, and all the bulbs appear to have come up.  Between the last two years, I've planted dozens of Daffodils, some little Grape Hyacinth, and - the pièce de résistance - bright red and gold 'Flair' Tulips.

'Flair' Tulip
I bought some 'Flair' Tulip bulbs a couple years ago on one of those impulses we gardeners get, and after they bloomed, I just fell in love with them.  After a long, very white winter, it is so thrilling to see such a blazing color in the garden.  I have to spray them as soon as they come up with a deer deterrent so that they don't get eaten, but they're worth the little extra hassle.

another bloom of the variable 'Flair' Tulip
This year I'd like to start turning the hellstrip on the other side of my driveway, which is an even longer strip than this one, into a matching garden bed.  Mr. Red House is still rather unsure, since we also just extended the front garden beds quite a bit, which means there will be a lot of garden that will need attending to.  But at the moment it seems like such a fun project that I am quite excited about it. We'll see how I feel about it later this summer when I am weeding everything...

But right now I'm just thrilled to be able to enjoy such a beautiful spring show from my previously weedy and ugly hellstrip!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring Fever

The snow has all melted, the days are (mostly) warm, the Crocuses are up, and the Daffodils are even starting to bloom.  It's now official...

Crocus chrysanthum 'Romance'
it's finally Spring!

After this long winter, hungry critters are coming out of the woodwork.  I'm almost relieved to see that there are still deer alive after the incredible amount of snow we got.  They romped through my front garden, biting the tips off of the Crocuses and Tulips.  They even nibbled some Hyacinths, which are supposed to be poisonous, so they must have been pretty desperate.

The deer bit off the tips of the Crocus, pulling out some of the bulbs in the process.
The bees were out as soon as the weather warmed up, emerging even ahead of the Pussy Willows and other early spring food sources.  For a couple days, all the Crocuses that were saved from the deer were being swarmed by the hungry bees.  I don't think I've even seen my Crocuses so popular before!

Thankfully, it wasn't too long before the Pussy Willows started flowering their distinctive silky catkins, quickly followed by the little blooms of the Maple trees, and the bees dispersed to find more plentiful food.

One early warm day, I even saw a butterfly flying by.  It was a strange sight to see, as I felt that we had just been shoveling snow a few days before.

Iris reticulata
Now that it's Spring, it's time to take stock of the garden.  Thankfully most everything made it through, including a few that I was surprised about.  I was very happy to see new shoots of the woodland Mayapples, which had barely made it through last summer, poking through the dirt.

The strange shoots of Mayapples coming up
There are a few dead-looking plants and empty holes in the garden, but I'm still holding out hope for a few more weeks before digging anything up.  Other than that and a few shrubs with broken branches, most of the damage we sustained from the winter actually occurred inside the house.  Due to an ice dam (something I had never heard of until this winter), some water soaked in under one of our upstairs floors, so we are in the process of getting that fixed. We were fairly lucky, though; I know a lot of people, especially those with older homes, that had a lot of water damage to their walls due to ice dams this year.

Now that the snow is all melted, we have started all our outdoor projects.  Our backyard is soon going to look very different; we are getting a patio built, which Mr. Red House has been looking forward to for a very long time.  (What is it with men and patios?  I think it's a barbecuing thing...)  We've also been working on building raised beds for the vegetable garden, as the plants did not fare as well as I liked last year in the existing soil, even though I had amended it somewhat.  Mr. Red House is building the beds, and I am painting them - red to match, of course!

new raised beds being built
While Mr. Red House is excited about the patio, I'm very excited about a very different brand new addition to our backyard: a Red Trillium!

Trillium erectum
I bought this little guy as a bare root back in February at the Boston Flower & Garden Show.  It sat in my refrigerator until I could finally plant it in the woods out back, and I am so happy to see it actually flower.

I am also keeping busy with starting probably hundreds of seeds, as well as working on plans for expanding the front garden... by a goodly amount.  Mr. Red House thinks I am a little crazy for wanting so much space for gardening, which I very well might be.  I might have caught a bad case of gardening Spring Fever.

But after this past winter, can you blame me?

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