Monday, May 26, 2014

It is hard not to gush about the delightful warm dry weather we have been experiencing. There are a few drawbacks for the garden; a few plants that are usually blooming through early June are mostly gone (late daffodils e.g. Pippit) and I'm watering quite a bit just to keep planted out vegetable starts and seed beds viable.  Must admit that it was enjoyable watering this morning, nice to feel the spray of the hose on my bare legs and smell the newly wet soil.
There are a number of shrubs blooming right now, but today's focus will be on the Rosy Lights Azalea and Cunningham's White Rhododendron, both seem to be about peak right now.  Rosy Lights is a deciduous Northern Lights hydrid (Rhododendron x kosteranum and Rhododendron prinophyllum) according to the Minnesota Cooperative extension article.  The one I have has lived happily in a large black plastic bait tub (long-lining) for the last 15 years next to the path to the vegetable beds. Occasionally I have the urge to plant it out, but it seems pretty content in the tub and is free from being overrun by more aggressive plants, so it will likely stay put. I fertilize it twice yearly with commercial rhody food using the minimum amount called for on the box. It is covered with wonderful hot pink flowers early spring, and this year they are exceptionally fragrant, (clove pink like). Maybe the dry warm temps?  It is definitely a shrub I'd recommend.

Cunningham's white is much less gaudy; lovely white flowers with a bit of yellow sprinkled on the upper petal. This rhododendron lives on the east side of the house on the far side of a rather huge Blue Peter Rhododendron.  One site gives an ultimate height of 3-5 ft, but this rhody is already about 6ft tall, perhaps taller than normal because of the partial shade from the rhody forest.  I've had this plant for maybe 15 years as well and it also gets twice yearly feeding. There is a wonderful place to sit under the canopy of the two rhododendrons, the space is open enough (I've trimmed out some salmonberries) that is is relatively well lit and delightfully cool on a warm day.  Today I got to watch (from relatively close by) a Song sparrow do some extensive preening,
This photo of the flowers was taken from this spot (standing not sitting though).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Time to pick up the threads of this blog again.
A good way to restart is to perhaps start cataloging what is living in my garden, before I completely lose track.

One shrub that is blooming now is Fothergilla major a member of the Hamamelidaceae or Witch Hazel family. There are two species native to the United States; major and gardenii.  Mountain witch alder is one of the common names for both species of Fothergilla. The genus was named for Dr. John Fothergill, a Quaker natural history enthusiast who subsidized various botanical and scientific endeavors including William Bartram's collecting expedition to the southeastern United States in the 1770s.
I seem to have lost the original tag for the plant in my garden, but based on the phenology and morphology, I'm fairly certain that I have F. major which produces flowers and leaves simultaneously; F. gardenii produces flowers before it leafs out.  F. major is also more abundantly branched and taller than is F. gardenii, which also fits my plant.  The latter has been in cultivation in England since the mid 1700's,
   Currently the plant in my garden is about 5ft tall and 3ft wide.  It is a pretty slow growing, hardy and unassuming. The flowers are white bottlebrush that are supposed to have a fragrance like honey. I haven't noticed any strong scent, perhaps it is more noticeable in warmer weather.  The dominant white color comes from the stamens (filaments) petals are lacking, sepals small. Some years, the leaves turn a nice golden color. I haven't given this plant much care other than occasional light fertilizer and keeping the invading Sitka rose, Salmonberry and Spiraea from taking over its territory. Fortunately, it seems to enjoy the well drained, acidic soil and exposed site in which it lives.