Posts Tagged Bladdernut
Is it just me, or is Spring flying by even faster than usual this year? I am running from dawn to dark and still my gardening to-do list continues to grow exponentially. In the last few weeks, I have at least been taking a few pictures, which I’d like to share today. All but the latest blooming daffodils are done now, but the one in the above photo was so pretty a couple of weeks ago that I just had to share it.
The above photo is also from two weeks ago, when the fern fiddleheads were just beginning to rise out of the swamp. The shiny leaves all around them belong to Atamasco lilies, which last time I checked, were not yet blooming.
It took a warm spell to finally coax them from their winter hibernation spots, but the Green Anoles have now resumed sunning themselves on my front deck.
The Solomon’s Seals are now well up and blooming profusely, but two weeks ago, their fat reddish buds were just emerging from the soil.
My Bloodroot flowers were badly damaged by our 18-degree cold spell this spring, but a few late bloomers managed to save themselves for warmer days.
My patch of Mayapples grows larger every year, as does the patch of Bladdernut shrubs at whose feet these spring ephemeral wildflowers grow.
I took this long shot because I liked the way you can see this year’s flower buds emerging above the branches while last year’s fruits still dangle below them.
The above photo and those that follow were all taken on April 12. Weather and time constraints have prevented more recent shots, but a promised upcoming dry weekend will once again provide time for photographs, I hope.
The Redbuds are mostly past their blooming time now, but a week ago they were still spectacular.
The magnificent dogwoods on my property are a bit ragged from recent rains now, but they were perfect a week ago.
The above was an early blossom. Now my yard is covered in the blooming stalks of Eastern Columbines. I’ve long known these are a favorite of hummingbirds, but only this week did I learn just how sweet the nectar is. Sally Heiney, a Horticultural Technician at the NC Botanical Garden, insisted that I taste the nectar hiding in the long spurs of these flowers. It was delightfully sweet! Sally tells me these flowers are a lovely addition to salads, and I hope to try some that way this weekend. Thanks, Sally!
My early-blooming deciduous magnolias were also casualties of the 18-degree cold snap, but like the Bloodroots, a few of this tree’s blossoms opened after the cold had passed, yielding a perfect parchment-colored blossom.
Alas, most of Elizabeth’s blossoms and buds looked like this. So sad.
The Florida Anise-trees are blooming profusely. The yellow flecks are pine pollen. Thankfully, the rains have washed all that away — for now, at least.
The Golden Ragworts continue to spread and bloom. They’re becoming a ground cover in their area, which is fine with me.
My thanks to Wonder Spouse for taking the above photo. These flowers are small, and I always have trouble persuading them to pose for me. I love our naturally occurring patch of Pawpaw trees beside our creek. They are the only larval food of our native Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. And I’ve already spotted a fresh Zebra flying around the yard this year! They are gorgeous.
My Pinxterbloom Azaleas are in full bloom now. They were just getting started when this shot was taken on April 12.
I love this native shrub for its clusters of yellow-green flowers that call to every pollinator for miles, and for their Chinese lantern-like green fruits that form after the flowers are done.
I am thrilled that the trilliums I added to my north slope garden a few years ago continue to re-emerge and bloom every spring for me. Nothing speaks of spring more eloquently than trilliums.
And that’s enough for today, I think. Next week, I’m planning at least two posts. One will be my annual post in observation of Earth Day (April 22), and I’m hoping to also add one on April 24 for Arbor Day. Until then, I’ll be weeding and digging and planting as fast as my creaky joints will let me. The weather seers have promised me a dry weekend, with heavy rains returning for Sunday night into Monday. That will be perfect timing — assuming all my little green charges are safely tucked into their permanent summer beds by then.
Happy gardening, ya’ll!
With a little planning and minimal effort, one of the fastest ways to enhance your home landscape is through the addition of shrubs. Most folks in the southeastern Piedmont are in shrub ruts, thanks to the overuse of the same few bushes by landscapers of new subdivisions and commercial buildings. A few of those overused shrubs — like Wax Myrtle — are native plants, and so provide food and shelter for wildlife without the invasive tendencies that many non-natives exhibit. But boxwoods, grape hollies (Mahonias), and evergreen azaleas are not native. And the invasive tendencies of Mahonias in our native wetlands is an increasing concern to ecologists.
Today I encourage you to think beyond standardized Piedmont shrubbery. It’s time to consider adding some of our many gorgeous native shrubs to your home landscape. There’s a native shrub for any growing conditions you may have. Some can attain the size of small trees, such as a mature Bladdernut. But others remain just a few feet tall without the need for pruning, including some deciduous azalea and blueberry species.
The advice I offered in my previous post about tree planting applies equally to shrubs. Understand the site where you want to add your shrubs. Is it at the top of a sunny hill? Shaded by larger trees or buildings? In a low spot where rainwater collects? Clay soil? Sandy loam?
When you know the answers to those questions, if the area in question is not already a mulched bed, take the time to create a bed. Break up the soil, work in compost or other organic material to create a moist, loamy planting site. When you add the shrubs, be sure to gently stretch out any roots that might be winding around the interior of the pot. Be sure the level of the dirt in your bed matches where the dirt in the pot touched the base of the stem.
Water in your new addition, then mulch the bed with an inch or two of organic mulch — leaves, wood chips, bark — any of those will do nicely. As with new trees, your new shrubs will need a bit of pampering for their first year of growth. If your area goes into drought, water your newbies. Don’t worry about fertilizer. Native shrubs in a well-prepared planting site don’t need it and don’t really want it.
If you’ve read much of my blog, you’ve read about a number of native shrub options worthy of any Piedmont landscape. Here are a few for your consideration.
For Colorful Drama: Deciduous Azaleas
The southeastern US is home to spectacular native deciduous azaleas, and I’ve described all the ones I grow in this blog. If you search on deciduous azalea, you’ll find the relevant entries. The one here is probably mostly Rhododendron austrinum, but it was listed as a hybrid in the catalog. Talk about making an impact in the spring landscape! Not only are its numerous flowers impossible to miss, their fragrance is equally impressive, and utterly heavenly. The spring-blooming deciduous azaleas mostly do so before their leaves emerge, thereby increasing their visual impact. The summer bloomers, like Plumleaf Azalea, bloom after leaves appear, but the visual impact still stops visitors in their tracks.
Not all deciduous azaleas are fragrant, colors range from pure white to pale yellow to deep gold to rich pinks, oranges, and deep crimsons. Sizes and site requirements vary too. Truly, there is a native azalea ideally suited for almost any growing condition.
Because they drop their leaves in fall (after a spectacular fall leaf color display), deer mostly ignore these shrubs in the landscape. Every once in a while, one will bite off a flower bud in winter or grab a mouthful of summer leaves as it walks past, but deer don’t seem to want to devour this shrub, as they will with Virginia Sweetspire, for example. The deciduous azalea native to my area is Pinxterbloom Azalea (see top photo). I have a ten-foot-tall-and-wide specimen growing on the slope to my floodplain that has always been completely unprotected. The deer eat nearby plants, but ignore the giant Pinxterbloom Azalea.
In my yard, even small, newly planted deciduous azaleas usually begin blooming within the first three years, most sooner than that. Try them; you will not be disappointed.
For Four-Season Interest: Hydrangeas
If you’ve got dry shade, Oakleaf Hydrangea is for you. Yes, you’ll need to water it for the first year during dry spells until it’s settled in, but that’s about it. Late spring clusters of white flowers eventually dry on the shrub, making lovely additions to dried flower arrangements. Leaves are bright green in summer and turn scarlet in autumn, remaining on the stems well into late fall. Winter bark is a deep rich brown that contrasts beautifully with snow. In neighborhoods plagued by deer, the leaves of these shrubs will be eaten. In my yard, I find that if I spray the leaves with one of the repellant mixtures you can buy at any landscape supply store, the deer don’t touch them. In my yard, if I spray in early spring when the leaves are just emerging and again in autumn, I deter most of the nibbling. These are the times when the deer are hungriest in my area. The spray I apply smells horrible (garlic and pepper, I think), but when it dries, I can’t smell it — but the deer still can.
For Lingering Berries: Deciduous Hollies
That photo was taken in late winter. The bright red berries of our native deciduous hollies are the food of last resort with my local birds. Eventually, usually at the tail end of a cold winter, a flock of Cedar Waxwings will descend on these shrubs that I’ve added to my floodplain and strip them clean. I love these shrubs because the persistent crimson berries really pop in a winter landscape, especially because the branches drop their leaves well before that season. Ilex decidua and I. verticillata have been favorites of horticulturalists for a while. Many spectacular cultivars are available reaching various sizes. They’re native to floodplains, but happily tolerate higher ground in a well-prepared bed.
Note that all hollies are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers develop on separate plants. Females produce the lovely berries, as long as a male of the same species is close by. I usually group two or three females where I want them to be seen, and then tuck in a male plant nearby but more in the background — close enough to provide cross pollination, but far enough away to prevent its lack of berries from detracting from the visual impact of these shrubs in the winter landscape.
The List of Options is Long and Varied
This post is growing lengthy, so I’m going to close with a few more suggestions and links to where I’ve described these shrubs before.
- Spicebush — Lindera benzoin
- Virginia Sweetspire — Itea virginica
- Viburnums — Mapleleaf, Arrowwood, and Haws, to name a few
- Beautyberry — Callicarpa americana
- Bladdernut — Staphylea trifolia
October fast approaches. Now is the optimal time to plant native trees and shrubs. Almost every local nursery has a sale this time of year, and so do most public gardens, including the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC. Members-only night is this Friday. If you live in this area, I hope I’ll see you there!
If you’ve got a moist, shady spot in your southeast Piedmont yard, consider Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia). This trifoliate (three-leaflet leaf) shrub that naturally occurs on Piedmont floodplains makes me smile no matter what time of year I’m admiring it.
I rescued mine from a floodplain about to be bulldozed some twenty years ago when it was a spindly little foot-high bit of green. The mother plant is now twenty feet tall, and it has produced a crop of suckers from its roots, creating a pretty little Bladdernut thicket.
Right now, the bell-shaped clusters of yellow-green flowers are just opening in earnest. Yesterday afternoon, I spotted two Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies dangling from the clusters as they sipped nectar from the newly opened flowers. Some years, I’ve seen as many as a dozen butterflies simultaneously enjoying the Bladdernut flowers, resembling animated Christmas ornaments as they floated between floral clusters.
I’ve never noticed any fragrance from these flowers, but the butterflies and other pollinators seem to have no difficulty finding them. However, it’s not just the flowers that make this native beauty special. The fruits are even more amazing. The inflated balloon-like fruits look like miniature pale green Japanese lanterns as they dangle from the ends of branches. These little fruits persist from summer through fall and always spark questions from visitors to my yard.
When I was taking Piedmont plant identification classes in long-ago days, this shrub/small tree was one of the easiest to learn, because its leaf arrangement is so distinctive. It is our only trifoliate opposite-leaved shrub. Combine that with the fact that it grows in floodplain environments, and you have every student’s dream — an easily identified plant. Younger shrubs also have distinctive and attractive striped bark.
The trifoliate leaves emerge bright spring green and darken a bit with summer; its fall color is nothing special. But the Japanese lantern fruits often persist after leaf fall, providing late-season interest.
That’s just gravy as far as I’m concerned. This lovely native had me the moment I realized it is a butterfly magnet in bloom, and that it throws its own outdoor parties — complete with Japanese lantern decorations — from summer through fall.