Posts Tagged Golden Ragwort

All Signs Point to Spring

birdbath

Blossoms abound, bird song delights ears from dawn to dark, pollen is ubiquitous — yup, I’d say spring is most definitively here. Those are petals from a redbud tree floating in that little birdbath. Here’s one of the native redbud trees adorning our landscape at the moment:

Redbud bloom color really pops against a background of red cedars.

Redbud bloom color really pops against a background of red cedars.

Along with all the flowers, native wildlife is suddenly more evident everywhere, especially the water-loving birds. In addition to the Wood Ducks that nest along our creek every spring, this year, a pair of Canada Geese has moved in. I see them paddling up and down the creek at dawn most mornings. They seem to have claimed the downstream end, while the Wood Ducks dabble in the waters upstream. The geese will leave as soon as their young are adept fliers. But I’ll likely see the family patrolling the floodplain for about a month before they leave.

More exciting than these waterfowl is the return of the Belted Kingfishers. Every day now, I see and hear one flying the length of our adjacent creek, calling raucously before it settles on a good fishing perch.

The water birds are here because the creek is healthier than it has been in recent springs. Water levels are back to optimal levels, thanks to abundant rains. The surrounding wetlands are very, very wet, dissected by many water-filled channels, where crayfish and frogs thrive. The cinnamon ferns have unfurled their fiddleheads, the glossy green leaves of Atamasco Lilies promise imminent flower shoots, and any day now I expect to spot Jack-in-the-Pulpits poking up out of the mud.

My two gorgeous early-blooming Magnolia acuminata varieties have been perfuming the air and delighting the eye for several weeks now. ‘Butterflies,’ as usual, was the first variety to bloom, its 25-foot tall frame covered in deep yellow blossoms.

One of the last Magnolia 'Butterflies' blossoms.

One of the last Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ blossoms.

Magnolia ‘Elizabeth,’ now 50 feet tall, started opening her paler yellow blossoms about a week after Butterflies started.  She still sports many gorgeous blooms, but I fear the mini-heat wave we’re getting this weekend will finish off the display all too quickly.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth' -- 50 feet of spectacular!

Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ — 50 feet of spectacular!

In the last few days, my three Serviceberry trees have begun opening abundant pure white flower clusters. I think last summer’s rains were good for them. They’ve never been more covered in flowers. Maybe this will be the year they produce enough fruits for both the birds and me.

Apple Serviceberry blossoms. Pollinators adore them.

Apple Serviceberry blossoms. Pollinators adore them.

Over the years, I have no idea how many different kinds of daffodils I’ve added to our five acres, nor do I remember most of their names. But I do know that I made a point of planting varieties that would bloom from late winter through late spring. This succession of increasingly abundant blossoms every spring never seems too adversely affected by whimsical weather patterns. In fact, whenever spring cool spells and/or rainy weather is predicted this time of year, I routinely cut a quick bouquet of beauteous blooms to keep me company indoors until the sun returns. These varieties started blooming about the middle of last week:

The pink centers get bleached out a bit by sunlight, but they are lovely.

The pink centers get bleached out a bit by sunlight, but they are lovely.

These pure white, ruffled blossoms are especially elegant.

These pure white, ruffled blossoms are especially elegant.

These bloom in tight clusters for an instant bouquet effect, and their fragrance is super sweet.

These bloom in tight clusters for an instant bouquet effect, and their fragrance is super sweet.

The previous owner had planted forsythia, a ubiquitous southeastern spring landscape shrub. I relocated the bushes from my front door to an area near my road. Their abundant blooms seem to indicate they had no objections.

It isn't spring in the southeast without sunny forsythia flowers.

It isn’t spring in the southeast without sunny forsythia flowers.

The Golden Ragwort is just starting its own parade of yellow blossoms:

Golden ragwort is an easy wildflower to add to southeastern landscapes.

Golden Ragwort is an easy wildflower to add to southeastern landscapes.

The earliest blooming native deciduous azalea on the north side of my yard is about to burst into bloom. The other species/varieties are full of swelling flower bud clusters.

Pinxterbloom Azalea will be the first native azalea to bloom, as usual.

Pinxterbloom Azalea will be the first native azalea to bloom, as usual.

The spring ephemeral wildflowers I showed you in my previous post are zooming through their life cycles as promised.

Bloodroots now sport point seed capsules, their lovely white flowers gone with the wind.

Bloodroots now sport pointy seed capsules, their lovely white flowers gone with the wind.

See the swelling round flower bud between the two Mayapple leaves? It will be open any second now.

See the swelling round flower bud between the two Mayapple leaves? It will be open any second now.

In short, my five acres of green chaos is busting out all over. Alas, it’s not just the invited plants reproducing so enthusiastically right now.  I am walking like a bent-over granny on evenings preceded by a day of weeding. The winter weeds got light years ahead of me in the vegetable garden area this year. Before I can plant, they must go, and that work isn’t nearly as much fun as it once was (hah!)

But the spring veggies are looking good, despite mini heat waves, heavy rains, and occasional frosts. And the summer vegetables, herbs, and flowers are growing tall and eager safely tucked in the greenhouse, waiting for more stable weather and weed-free beds.

Aye, there’s the rub — weed-free beds. I see many pollen-filled, sweaty days of joint-punishing work in front of me. But all the hard work pays off times ten when we dine on fresh-picked salads, juicy tomato-and-basil sandwiches, and green beans the likes of which you’ll never taste unless you grow them yourself.

And when I need a break from the veggie garden, I renew my resolve with a flower-filled walk around the landscape. Nothing puts a fresh spring in my step better than Spring!

Even my "lawn" is adorned with many wildflowers, including gazillions of violets.

Even my “lawn” is adorned with many wildflowers, including gazillions of violets.

 

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Golden Ragwort: A Wildflower Worthy of Your Piedmont Landscape

I have long admired the great sweeps of blooming Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea, formerly Senecio aureus) that adorn part of the woodland garden at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill every spring. The bright yellow daisy-like flowers on 1-3-foot stems add a lively glow to the early spring landscape. The NC Botanical Garden has mixed these flowers with other early-blooming natives like blue Woodland Phlox, producing a wildflower meadow beloved by pollinators and people alike.

Bloom time in my part of the Piedmont of North Carolina usually occurs in March and April. The picture above was taken when my stand was about to reach peak bloom on March 17. It still displays some blooms even now, although many of the flowers have finished, replaced with a white tuft of seeds.

I suspect that’s how this flower got its common name. Someone thought the white fluffy seed heads looked like rags, and wort is just an old English word for plant, hence, ragwort.

I like what Golden Ragwort offers my landscape: early bright color in a moist area at the bottom of a hill in a shady area that grows shadier as the canopy above leafs out, a low basal rosette of heart-shaped evergreen leaves that are deep green on top and deep purple underneath, and a spreading habit that makes this wildflower an excellent groundcover for moist areas. The flower buds are deep purple too, as are the bloom stalks. It’s just a lovely little plant.

You can find this wildflower fairly easily at speciality nurseries. Mine were passalong plants. The landscaper we hired to erect our deer fencing decided our yard needed Golden Ragwort, so he dug up some from his yard and brought it to us. It’s been three or four years now, and the basal rosettes are spreading nicely. Thanks, Matthew!

After the plants finish blooming, I cut off the old stalks, making it easy to mow over any plants that are migrating into the “lawn” without hurting them.

Golden Ragwort is listed as a toxic plant. However, the toxicity is considered low, meaning that touching the plant doesn’t usually present a problem, and you or your animals would need to eat a pound or two of leaves to ingest enough poison to do serious damage. But if you keep pasture animals, you probably don’t want this flower growing where your animals can graze on it.

There’s a widely repeated myth in England that a related species can kill horses when the horses inhale a single seed of the English species of Golden Ragwort. Not true, impossible really. But such is the power of these myths that when an English friend of mine visited my garden and asked about the lovely yellow flowers, she visibly recoiled in horror when I told her their name.

Many plants — native and non-native — are toxic, some much more than others. Hellebores, for example, are more toxic than Golden Ragwort. Unless your garden is visited often by small children or pets with a fondness for dining on vegetation, most of these plants can be safely integrated into your landscape. Of course, err on the side of caution if you are worried.

But if you have a moist area — say a drainage or a low spot at the bottom of a hill — consider adding Golden Ragwort to your landscape. As long as this plant remains in at least somewhat moist soil, it can tolerate light levels from full sun to dense shade.

And in the springtime, it will awaken your early spring landscape with sunshine.

In my yard, the plants are spreading from side shoots more than by seeds.

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