Monday, April 24, 2017

They're Escaping...

In the past, I've blogged about how the deer keep eating the bright and beautifully bold tulips I planted for my hellstrip garden.  I've pretty much given up on trying to grow those red and yellow tulips in such an inhospitable environment, despite how beautiful they were.

Well at least one very smart tulip got the message and planned its escape.  I'm not sure how, but it packed up and moved completely out of my garden...

...and into the middle of my neighbor's lawn.

Smart little plant.  All of the tulips on my side were eaten.  Again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pussy Willows to the Rescue for Precocious Pollinators

As winter recedes into spring, the pollinators start emerging on warm, mild days. First the gnats, flies, and beetles, then the bumbles and other bees appear, hungry and ready to forage.  Finally now the early blooming flowers of spring are beginning to open here in New England to meet that demand.  But where did precocious pollinators go before now, on those sporadically warm but still barren days we got before those spring flowers started opening?  To find that answer, we have to look up...

emerging Pussy willow catkins
We don't often think of trees as great plants for pollinators, but they are actually some of the earliest available sources of pollen and nectar.  Here the American Pussy Willow, or Salix discolor, is one of the earliest bloomers around and a wonderful resource for bees and other early pollinators.  They break out of dormancy in late winter or very early spring, the distinctive furry coats on their catkins trapping heat from the sun to keep the developing reproductive parts warm.  

bee on male Pussy Willow tree
The furry emerging catkins open into white and yellowish odd sort of flowers.  Pussy Willows are dioecious, that is, they have male catkins and female catkins on different plants.  The earlier blooming male trees have the most to offer pollinators, with their catkin flowers containing both strongly scented nectar and pollen. The female willow trees, whose more greenish-colored catkins tend to open slightly later, offer only nectar.  

bee on female Pussy Willow catkin
While many trees with catkins are wind-pollinated, the Pussy Willow relies on insects for pollination. Its early flowering time proves beneficial, as there is much less competition for attracting pollinators when hardly anything else is in bloom!

The American Pussy Willow is native to much of the northern half of North America, and grows around 10 to 20 feet tall, usually with multiple stems.   Like many willows, it loves water and sun.  It grows wild all around the Red House Garden in the wetlands and in the detention pond we have out back. I love the Pussy Willows, as they are the first sign of the coming spring here.  Now that other trees and spring flowers are now starting to bloom, the Pussy Willows are finishing up for the season, leaves slowly replacing catkins.  Their job has been done...

a tiny pollinator on a male Pussy Willow catkin
...and what an important job it is to those early pollinators.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daffodil Explosion

Ah, daffodils, one of my absolute favorites!  Who doesn't love those cheerfully bright yellow blooms after a long dreary winter?  Here in my garden, it's always a much-anticipated race to see which daffodil blooms first.   The winner is usually the somewhat unspellable 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation', which can even bloom in March here.  This year, sadly, the ones that were almost about to open by the end of March saw their buds zapped by an April Fool's Day freeze.

(That wasn't funny, Mother Nature.  Really.)

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
This week, however, the temperatures have risen back up for several amazingly beautiful days, and several varieties of daffodils were all ready and waiting to bloom.

It was a glorious explosion of daffodils in the garden.

miniature daffodils in the hellstrip
Technically tied for first spring daffodil blooms were the tardy 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' flowers that managed to avoid the April Fool's freeze...

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
...and the little 'Tete-a-Tete' daffodils, which opened at the same time.

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'
But they were quickly followed by other daffodils that were eager to strut their stuff.  We had some big bloomers...

Narcissus 'Ice Follies'
and lots of little miniatures...

Narcissus 'Topolino'
and even the tiniest, daintiest little daffodil in the garden came out for the nice weather.

Narcissus 'Mite' starting to open
I adore daffodil season.  There's something about planting all those sleeping bulbs in good faith in fall and getting to see the result when they wake up after winter to joyfully herald the return of spring.

Narcissus 'Monal' starting to open
Here is to many more to follow.
Happy gardening!

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