Posts Tagged Cercis chinensis

Warp Factor Spring

In mid-March, this is what I expect to see: vivid crocus blooms. This year, these two are stragglers, blooming later than their crocus comrades by more than three weeks.

My blooming trees are at least a week ahead of last year. Prompted by our absurd eighty-degree weather, Magnolia ‘Butterflies‘ has exploded into flower. Look how vividly yellow they are in the early morning as they just open:

And here’s what the tree looked like as I stared up its trunk from ground level:

I couldn’t stay too long. The potent perfume of the zillions of flowers was overwhelming.

My Chinese redbud is at peak bloom. Here’s a close-up:

And now the native redbuds are getting into the act. Here’s what the branches of one of my larger specimens looked like this morning:

And, yes, the sky really was that blue.

The winterhazels are nearly at peak bloom. Here’s a view of branches obscuring one of my bird feeders:

And here’s a close-up of winterhazel flowers:

I think their vivid color makes forsythias look dowdy.

There’s lots more, of course, but I want to give you a brief veggie update. Yesterday, I transplanted the Super Marzano tomatoes to larger pots. They didn’t miss a beat. Here they are looking like they’ve always lived in these pots:

And here are the other tomato, pepper, and basil seedlings:

Their roots are mostly hitting the bottom of their pots now. So they’ll be getting upgraded to bigger pots very soon.

Today, I sowed seeds of many of the free flowers that I got from Renee’s Garden as a benefit of my membership in the Garden Writers’ Association. I’ll be reporting on how they do throughout the growing season. I also sowed more basil seeds, because I’m planning on giving away some plants to a community garden. I’ve got the greenhouse and the seeds; I figure I should share the wealth.

Last weekend, Wonder Spouse double-shredded a big pile of fallen leaves that we had collected last winter. These broken-up leaves make the absolutely best mulch in the world for my vegetable garden. As fast as Wonder Spouse shredded it, I was tucking it around my sprouting sugar snap peas and onion plants. The peas responded instantly by growing taller. Here’s what they looked like this morning:

I am worried about our heat wave. We are predicted to remain 20 degrees above normal several more days, then we back down to a mere 10 degrees above normal. Even though I got my spring garden planted earlier than ever before, if the heat persists, I won’t get much of a yield from it.

For now, I’m watering often, in hopes that plenty of moisture will help the spring veggies thrive despite the heat. Our area remains in moderate drought, so every time I’m watering, I’m also praying for significant, frequent rain. And cooler temperatures, of course. Eighty-four degrees in mid-March is too much for any of us to handle for long.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Racing ahead of the vernal equinox

See those little green sprouts just peeking up through the soil? Those are the Sugar Sprint Snap Peas I planted two weeks and four days ago. A few peas have been up for several days, but this morning I counted 24 pea sprouts. When the warmth returns day after tomorrow, I predict that at least that many more will appear. I like peas. I planted a lot of seeds.

Although I thought I had watered them well, I think the peas were waiting for a significant rain event, which we finally got this past weekend. My rain gauge reported 1.1 inches of rain for the two-day event. My creek actually rose and got silty! The floodplain held puddles of rainwater for over 24 hours. That hasn’t happened in so long that I can’t remember the last time it happened. Ten years ago, the floodplain was usually puddle-covered most of the winter. Of course, it helps to actually have a winter season, something we didn’t get this year.

Which brings me back to those enthusiastic peas. Most years, I’m just thinking about planting them, and this year they’re up and running. Did I mention how much we love the flavor of snap peas? They freeze well, so no pea is ever wasted.

It’s not just the vegetables that aren’t waiting for the vernal equinox to start their spring shows. Check out the blooms on my Chinese Redbud:

Chinese Redbud

Not all the blooms have opened, but enough now display their lavender radiance to brighten that corner of my winter landscape.

The native spicebush is covered in diminutive yellow flowers that make their visual impact by their sheer numbers — especially effective against a winter sky:

Lindera benzoin flowers 

The crimson flowers of the red maples are morphing into equally vivid seeds — samaras, the botanists call them.

Acer rubrum flowers morph into winged crimson seeds

Many of my ornamental stars are rushing full tilt into spring bloom. Check out these pink hyacinths:

My beautiful Magnolia acuminata ‘Butterflies’ is cracking open its petals. I’m hoping they’re still closed enough to avoid getting zapped by tonight’s predicted temperatures in the low twenties.

Magnolia acuminata ‘Butterflies’ showing hints of yellow

There’s more, which I’ll show you soon. Every time I walk our five acres these days, something else is taking a headlong leap into a spring that hasn’t officially started yet.

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, all the tomatoes I sowed last Wednesday have germinated; most achieved 100% germination. Viva Italia, Early Goliath, Sweet Treats, and Big Beef are all up; these are my old reliable varieties, and I’m not surprised they’re raring to go. Indigo Rose seedlings began showing up a day after the first sprouts of those other varieties, and now all but one of the seeds I sowed has sprouted. My primary supplier of tomato seeds sent me a freebie package of mixed heirloom tomatoes, which I couldn’t resist. Most of those have germinated now, responding in about the same time frame as Indigo Rose.

With the impending explosion of tomatoes in the greenhouse, it is imperative that all spring veggie starts get planted out into the garden ASAP. My goal is to get them all tucked in before predicted rains return this Friday. I’m also hoping to direct-sow all the other spring garden veggies: beets, two carrot varieties, and many varieties of salad greens. Before I can start, I must pull winter weeds and crimson clover off of two large beds. I see a tired body and cranky joints in my near future.

But the pain will be worth it when I’m dining on just-harvested spring salads. My timing is good. The full moon will be smiling down on the newly planted garden this Thursday while Spring Peepers and American Toads chorus in the swamp, and the eerie territorial calls of Screech Owls (heard for the first time ever yesterday) echo among the still bare trees.

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Seventy degrees tomorrow …

Chive bed on morning of 2-20-12

Last Sunday night, a cold rain morphed into brief snow, just as the weather seers predicted. It began melting as soon as it stopped, so Wonder Spouse ran out with a ruler to document it: right at an inch — for about 15 minutes.

The next morning after the sun rose, I grabbed a few photos of the yard before the white stuff from our twenty-four-hour bout of winter vanished. In the above photo, those are chives that I grew from seed last year. They had already begun putting out vigorous new growth, and they are laughing at this bit of snow — probably enjoying the added moisture.

I told you about the onions I planted here. This is what they looked like yesterday morning:

Snow onions — for 12 hours

You can barely see them poking through the snow, but they’re there, and they are just fine. Ditto for the skinny ones I planted on either side of the sugar snap pea trellis:

Snow sugar snaps and onions — for 12 hours

I am hoping the peas will emerge later this week during the bout of predicted 70-degree weather.

The rain that preceded the snow coated many of the trees and shrubs, and that water briefly froze as the snow fell, creating thin ice encasements for some branches and buds. But, again, it didn’t last long enough to hurt anything. Instead, the ice added to their aesthetic appeal, as you can see here:

Emerging Cercis chinensis flowers capped by fleeting ice

Alas, the weather forecasters were correct when they backed off on their precipitation quantity predictions. All told, our rain gauge reported a mere 0.75 of an inch. Not enough to begin to quench the rising thirst of wakening vegetation. If the rains don’t come soon, it will be a very depressing growing season indeed.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Redbud versus Redbud

I mentioned previously that my Chinese Redbud (Cercis chinensis) was beginning to open its flowers. It always begins blooming a few weeks ahead of our native Redbud (Cercis canadensis). I especially love the arching branching pattern of the Chinese Redbud. This photo is my attempt to show you what I mean:

Chinese Redbud

If you click on the photo to see the larger version, I think you’ll see how the branches droop and arch. The flowers accentuate the shape of the branches without obscuring them, as the leaves will do soon enough. The branches of one side of this tree are covered with lichens. Lichens don’t hurt the tree, but they do give the gnarled branches a more ancient appearance. This tree was planted about fifteen years ago, and it’s about eight or so feet tall and equally wide. Here’s a closer view of its flowers:

Chinese Redbud Flowers

To my eye, these flowers are just a tad more magenta than the paler pink-lavender flowers of our native Redbud.

When we moved to this property, no native Redbuds grew here. I saw them on adjacent properties, but not here. I concluded that this understory tree was eradicated by the previous owner, along with the Sourwoods and other smaller natives I expected to find growing here. Before I could buy and plant any Redbuds, however, a whole crop of seedlings sprouted in a pile of wood chips left by my arborist. His truck had chips from an earlier customer to which he added the chips from my yard (I always ask him to leave the piles of chips.) The following spring, the seedlings appeared. I assumed that some Redbud bean-like seed pods (they are legumes) had been serendipitously mixed in with the wood chips from my arborist’s previous client.

That was twenty years ago. Here’s the base of the trunk of one of those early volunteers:

Native Redbud Trunk

I love the rough shagginess of the mature trunk. This tree grows near the vegetable garden and is just beginning to open its flowers. Most buds are not fully open, but you can see their color:

Native Redbud Flowers

They’re not really open enough for a decent portrayal. I’ll get a better shot in a week or so. Even from this close-up, you can see that the native Redbud’s branching pattern is much more erect than that of its Chinese cousin.  It’s also a much larger tree at maturity. This tree is about 25 feet tall now — a true piedmont understory constituent.

A key reason my native Redbuds are growing well is their location. Redbuds — like our native Dogwoods that will be blooming soon — occur naturally along forest edges. Adjacent taller canopy trees protect them from hot afternoon sun and cold winter winds, but they get enough sun to bloom well by being along a forest edge (or an open area deeper in a forest).

I always cringe when I see a poor Redbud or Dogwood planted smack in the middle of a suburban lawn without any other trees around it. Even if the homeowner manages to keep such a tree alive in that location, it will never come close to reaching its full potential. Such trees are too exposed there — too prone to root damage, over-fertilization, and shallow watering.

The southeast piedmont region of North America is home to many wonderful native trees and shrubs that will flourish in piedmont homeowners’ yards, if the growing requirements of those plants are met. A little thinking ahead of time will yield great results for decades to come.

, ,


%d bloggers like this: