Friday, April 10, 2015

No Damage, No Cry

The last weekend of March, we had a big old cold front sweep through Middle Tennessee, sending temperatures plunging into the low 20s where I live (as low as 17 degrees a bit west of Nashville in a community called Kingston Springs).

I was worried.

Many of the perennials and trees were starting to leaf out. Would they come through the cold snap OK?

I'm not sure why I was quite so worried. Last year, we had an even later cold snap in April and most of the plants managed just fine, with the exception of some exotics like rose of Sharon, boxwood, vitex and crape myrtle.

We were probably ~6 degrees colder this time, but since the cold snap arrived weeks earlier, none of those sensitive plants mentioned above had even leafed out yet (except the evergreen boxwood of course, but I didn't notice any damage on those...perhaps they haven't pushed new foliage yet?)

Anyway, here are pics (taken April 3rd) of a bunch of plants from around the garden that seem to have made it through the freezing temps just fine. If you're looking for strong, resilient perennials, I present these for your consideration:

Typically I don't much care for plants with yellow or golden foliage, but I've made an exception for Abelia x grandiflora 'Rose Creek'. Just planted last autumn, this is its first spring in the garden. (Update - As Tammy at Casa Mariposa points out, this is probably not 'Rose Creek', which actually has green foliage. So unfortunately I don't know which Abelia cultivar I have here...)

Ajuga genevensis, blue bugle, Geneva bugleweed

Platycodon grandiflorus, balloon flower

Baptisia australis, blue wild indigo, this is its third spring in the garden and I'm happy to see a number of stems emerging. Baptisias have a reputation as long-lived perennials that can take a few years to establish a presence in the garden. I'm a little worried that three other small baptisias that I planted last autumn have not yet emerged from dormancy. I hope they're OK...

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' (a hybrid of unknown parentage). I have a feeling this is a better garden plant than the much-hyped Amsonia hubrichtii, Arkansas blue star.

Clematis 'Crystal Fountain' embarking on its fifth year in the garden. I love the fact that this plant has fully leafed out and budded by late March / early April!

Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' -- this is its second year in the garden and I'm pleased to see that it seems to have multiplied and spread exponentially. You're looking at two clumps here, each of which only had a few stems last year.

Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl' - this relatively low-growing eastern red cedar that typically has bluish foliage, but now it seems frosted with golden highlights, which makes me think perhaps it is about to push new growth

Pleased and surprised to see new growth emerging on the Hakonechloa macra, Japanese forest grass. It didn't perform well last year and I thought it might not survive the winter, but I'm glad to be proven wrong. I've been told these grasses can also take a few years to get established, so perhaps it will do better this year with a bit of pampering.

Could this be new growth from Hosta 'Golden Tiara'? Not sure. I planted a few specimens of this hosta last spring and I thought they had all croaked, but again, I may have been far too quick to write off these plants. Can't imagine what else this could be...

New growth suddenly emerged on this Hypericum densiflorum, planted last autumn

Seemingly overnight, the lilies that I transplanted to a sunnier spot in the backyard with absolutely awful heavy clay soil (pottery quality) have pushed up thick gorgeous stems. (This was one of the few plants that suffered some foliar damage from the freezing temperatures the last weekend in March. You can see a few dead brown leaves on the ground that got blasted by the cold, but they seem to have been rapidly replaced by new growth.)

Hydrangea quercifolia, oakleaf hydrangea 'Snowflake' embarking on its third full year in the garden (planted November 2012). Oakleaf hydrangeas have some of the most beautiful foliage of any plants, IMHO.

After much anticipation, I was overjoyed to see new growth at last on the Rhus aromatica, fragrant sumac 'Gro-Low'

Here are some buds coloring up on the Gro-Low sumac. This is the second year in the garden for my three Gro-Low shrubs.

Viburnum dentatum, arrowwood viburnum -- I was so pleased with the performance of two arrowwood cultivars (Pearl Bleu and Chicago Lustre) last year that I ordered and planted a straight species arrowwood last autumn. I'm really charmed by this fresh new foliage with the rusty tinge on the edges.

I have to admit I was a little bummed that I only had a couple of flowers on my Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), another plant that I just added to the garden last autumn. Still, so far I'm liking the shape and color of the new foliage.

This is the time to shine for Veronica peduncularis, speedwell 'Georgia Blue'. This clump just keeps getting bigger and better every year. I wish the flowers attracted some pollinators, but at least Douglas Tallamy says that the genus serves as host for 6 native species (and 1 exotic species) of Lepidoptera.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Puffer and the Juniper

OK, so I didn't have an actual pufferfish on my juniper... (photo via a different Aaron)

But you have to admit there is some family resemblance with these cedar-apple rust fungi (Gymnosporangium juniperivirginianae) that I found on a couple branches of my Burkii eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana).

If I had not removed the fungal galls, the tiny brown protrusions (called telia) that you can see in the previous photo would have absorbed water from the warm spring rains and transmogrified into these jelly-like orange horns composed of thousands of two-celled spores called teliospores. The telia go through multiple swell-shrink cycles as they absorb water and then dry out. With each cycle, apparently the horns get longer and release more fungal spores. From what I understand the fungal galls typically don't cause much damage to the junipers, but if the spores land on young apple (Malus spp.) leaves or twigs under appropriate moisture and temperature conditions, they can infect those plant tissues. From what I understand, the fungal galls typically don't cause much damage to junipers, but since I have a crabapple growing nearby, I'm trying to remove any galls that I find to reduce the infection risk on the crabapple so that the tree stays healthy and able to produce flowers for the insects and fruit for the birds. (My limited understanding of this topic comes from reading materials prepared by experts at institutions like Cornell and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Photo by Mike Lewinski)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Crab and the Bee

We had this 'Sugar Tyme' crabapple added to the landscape in Spring 2014. It was not all that exciting last year -- well, except for the gorgeous stinging rose caterpillars that showed up. They were pretty awesome. Anyway, this year, Sugar Tyme was smothered in pink buds that have opened into these lightly scented white flowers. Beautiful!! (That cold snap we had a week ago with temperatures in the low 20s didn't seem to hurt the crabapple or its buds one bit.)

There were lots of little bees (and perhaps other insects) buzzing around the crabapple, but they were moving too fast for my rudimentary digicam to capture any images of them. But this big bumble bee paused to pry open this flower, which gave me a chance to capture his posterior for posterity.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Did Somebody Order Turkey?

Look who breezed into the garden last week...

These turkeys flew in for a little stroll. I was pretty excited, because it was only the second time in four years that I've spotted turkeys in the garden. I hope they'll be more frequent visitors in the future. From what I read, wild turkeys are making a comeback in the USA...