Posts Tagged Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’
Posted by piedmontgardener in piedmont gardening on February 19, 2023
It has been much too warm here in the Southeast Piedmont – except when it is too cold. Rains have been generous – except when the clouds are nowhere to be seen. As a gardener, I track weather forecasts closely, but that is not doing me much good these days. I have watched hourly forecasts change within the forecasted hour. It seems no one is quite certain what to expect from Mother Nature anymore.
We humans are the cause, of course. So thoroughly have we disrupted patterns of ocean and air that the planet oscillates more wildly with each passing month. Flora and fauna work hard to adapt and survive. Insects have wakened at least six weeks ahead of schedule here. Waters of creek and wetland have warmed. Spring peepers and chorus frogs sing lustily day and night, and the American toads joined the chorus weeks ago – at least six weeks ahead of their “normal” time.
It seems to me that birds are also pushing up their schedules. Plumage is brightening, territorial displays abound. Procreative dances are well underway.
Landscape flowers, especially the ornamental non-natives that adorn most yards, are in full, glorious bloom. Daffodils nod their yellow heads in strong south winds. Snowdrops and crocuses have nearly finished their bloom times. The non-native deciduous magnolias in my yard are either blooming or about to bloom – again, at least a month ahead of previous years.
All seem to have thrown caution aside, embracing the warm air as a sign that spring has arrived. Humans, too, are giddy in the warm air – donning shorts and t-shirts, picnicking in parks, working on early tans beneath the strengthening light of the sun.
Those paying close attention may notice that winter has not ushered us reliably into spring just yet. About once a week here, night-time temperatures still dip into the mid-twenties – before they surge back into the fifties and sixties for five or six days – before they dip again. No matter what your local big box garden center may be trying to sell you, I beg you, do not try to plant summer vegetables or flowers in your gardens or planter boxes yet. They may not die outright, but they will never thrive.
Long-range weather forecasts are hinting at a major disruption of polar air that will send it all downhill into the continental United States. Some models believe this surge of arctic air may be quite dramatic – and prolonged.
I worry that the reckless abandonment of respect for winter cold will result in freeze-killed tender vegetation, disappearance of insects currently feeding frogs and birds, and frozen/starved chicks in nests built too soon. I pray I’ll be proven wrong.
For now, I walk our five acres, admiring precocious blooms while urging leaf buds to remain tightly shut at least until mid-March. I caution birds and frogs to delay egg-laying until air remains consistently warm.
But reckless abandon has killed caution. No one is listening to a plant-obsessed white-haired woman muttering to trees and birds.
Before Winter Finally Arrived
Posted by piedmontgardener in Favorite Plants, Native Wildlife, piedmont gardening on January 22, 2020
Winter cold finally arrived in my area about three days ago — highs in the upper 30s-low 40s, lows in the low 20s, and a wind chill that hurt skin accustomed to the weather of the previous four weeks, when nighttime temperatures rarely dropped into the upper 30s, and daytime temperatures stayed in the upper 60s and low 70s. During the 60+ years I’ve lived in North Carolina, an occasional winter warm weather interlude has not been unusual, but I can’t recall an entire month of such weather from mid-December to mid-January.
Such a prolonged warm spell caused many plants in my yard to break dormancy far earlier than normal — by at least six weeks. Many birds began displaying signs of territorial behavior as mating instincts awakened. Bluebirds burbled to each other as they discussed the merits of nesting box options. Insects were everywhere, as were the frogs, snakes, and lizards that eat them. It all felt very wrong.
The day before winter cold finally arrived here, I walked around the yard and took a few photos. Now that ice covers the abundant shallow water in channels on the floodplain, I suspect my late winter bloomers that opened four weeks early are probably now brown. I haven’t looked yet; that wind chill is mean. To remind myself of their loveliness, I include a few shots here, along with photos more typical of winter vegetation.
January jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) usually starts blooming in February, a few blooms at a time until March approaches. Many folks confuse them with forsythia, but a close examination makes the differences abundantly clear.
A native late winter bloomer, Hamamelis vernalis, is usually only showing a few petals by now. But the warmth caused the cultivar I grow to open more fully, scenting the air with a light, clean perfume that I always associate with spring cleaning.
An array of winter buds, remnant leaves, and bright moss lush from winter rains also caught my eye.
Late on the afternoon I took these shots, I was on my back deck when I noticed an insect on a window. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized it was a Green Lacewing adult, much smaller than the ones I routinely see in my garden during the growing season. It saddened me to know that this delicate-looking beneficial insect would certainly perish soon. If the freeze didn’t kill it, the absence of food certainly would.
Posted by piedmontgardener in horticultural therapy on March 4, 2016
Most serious gardeners have long recognized the therapeutic effects of gardening — to their bodies, minds, and yes, their souls. These effects are well-recognized, and embodied in the discipline known as horticultural therapy. Where I live in central North Carolina, horticultural therapists work with an array of clients — from teenagers with eating disorders to folks recovering from brain damage to children enduring long-term hospitalizations, those suffering from mental illness, and those afflicted with memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
I don’t think this discipline gets enough recognition, so I’ve decided to feature articles about its therapeutic effects from time to time in this blog. Today’s entry features a description of a an upcoming two-day (March 18-19) conference led by several horticultural therapists working in Greensboro, NC. They are welcoming all horticultural therapists — and gardeners interested in learning more about this discipline and in visiting some of the beautiful gardens of their city — to attend this event. The conference is free, but they ask that you e-mail them a completed registration form, or call the organizer, by next Friday, March 11.
Here are all the details from Sally Cobb, the horticultural therapist organizing this event:
Hello Horticultural Therapy Enthusiasts!
Fountains, statues, bridges, wandering pathways, fresh air, and plants of all descriptions: let’s spend time outdoors and honor the foundation of our profession’s source of power – NATURE!
Greensboro has four public gardens, eager to rejuvenate us through exploration and contemplation. Come join us Friday and/or Saturday to hear about the programs of the three Horticultural Therapists living in Greensboro and lose yourselves in the beauty of the Greensboro gardens!
Friday: March 18, 2016
3:30-4:00 — Meet at Gateway Gardens, at the Book Stage, East Gate City Boulevard, Greensboro, for welcome and immersion in Greensboro’s newest public garden which integrates elements of history, movement, discovery and community into its landscape. Socialize between 3:30 and 4 and we will get started at 4:00.
6:00 — Reservations at Southern Lights Bistro and Bar, 2415 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27408
Saturday: March 19, 2016
8:30-9:00 — Gather at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro, 2500 Summit Avenue, Greensboro 27405, for a light breakfast. Socialize between 8:30 and 9 and we will start at 9:00, hearing about the happenings of Greensboro’s three HT’s: Jennifer Manning, Catherine Crowder, and Sally Cobb.
11:00 — Meet at Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, 1105 Hobbs Road, Greensboro 27410 to explore this popular and relaxing garden. Wander to the Bog Garden, directly across the street, to experience its elevated boardwalks and massive, recirculating waterfall feature.
12:30 — Lunch at one of the many offerings at Friendly Shopping Center, within walking distance, less than a quarter of a mile from these two gardens!
1:45 — Meet at the Greensboro Arboretum, 401 Ashland Drive, at the entrance. Then we will go to the outdoor circular seating area for sharing experiences and reflections. Afterwards, spend as much time as you like walking the paved and woodland paths of the Arboretum with its ten woody plants collections and fabulous structural features.
Information on one of Greensboro’s reasonable and centrally located hotels, the Battleground Inn:
- Double — $79.00 ( $89.56 with tax)
- King — $76.00 ($86.18 with tax)
- Queen — $68.00 ( $77.16 with tax)
Continental Breakfast: No hot food. (Cereal, muffins,pastries etc coffee, tea, juice)
They have a total of 48 rooms. The website is www.battlegroundinngso.com. The phone number is 336-272-4737.
Please return the form below, if you will be joining us, by March 11, 2016.
Hope to see each of you here in March!!!
Sally, Catherine and Jennifer
Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro
Carolinas Horticultural Therapy Network
There is no fee to register for this networking meeting; however, please complete the form below so we can make dinner reservations and other preparations as necessary.
I will be attending the following session(s):
Friday afternoon at Gateway Gardens
2924 E Lee Street, Greensboro, NC 27406
Friday dinner at Southern Lights
2415 A Lawndale Dr. Greensboro, NC 27408
Saturday morning, Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro
2500 Summit Ave, Greensboro, NC 27405
Please help us by identifying your area of work in HT
|Work in HT|
|If yes where|
|Volunteer in HT|
|If yes where|
Please return the completed form to Sally Cobb at:
email@example.com or call 336-314-0931.
Accommodations: Battleground Inn www.battlegroundinngso.com 336-272-4737
I’m going to try to attend at least some of the meeting. I hope some of you gardeners — especially all you master gardeners out there — who live nearby will consider attending this event. You’ll never meet nicer people than those who practice horticultural therapy, be it formally or informally. And those of us who interact with the public regarding gardening will almost certainly pick up some useful tips from these experts.
I can’t think of a better way to usher in the spring season. Can you?
Late Winter Pluses and Minuses
Posted by piedmontgardener in Favorite Plants, Greenhouse growing, Native Wildlife, piedmont gardening, Vegetable Gardening on February 22, 2016
It’s been too long since I posted here. My apologies. Late winter in my corner of North Carolina has been a mostly soggy mess. And as I type this, yet more rain is pouring down upon my mushy landscape. I have been posting small items regularly on the Piedmont Gardener Facebook page; if you use that social media tool, you may want to check out the photos and announcements of relevant events that I post there.
As I’ve noted on the PG Facebook page, beavers have once again moved into the wetland adjacent to my creek. They have built a dam downstream and off my property, which has raised the water level in the creek so that every rain event involving more than a half-inch is causing the creek to overflow in numerous places along my property, even cutting channels into what has been a stable, flat floodplain for over 25 years. It’s a real mess, and we’re not sure what, if anything, we can do about it.
The beavers are actively foraging all up and down the creek. In addition to harvesting a few saplings, they even “tasted” two of the Leyland Cypresses still standing beside the creek. To discourage them from returning, I sprayed the entire lower trunks of all the Leylands with a deer repellant spray in the hopes that it would make them taste bad enough for the beavers to ignore. So far <knock wood>, it’s working, but all this rain probably means I need to reapply the repellant.
But not all my landscape surprises are less than wonderful. Case in point: a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers appear to have chosen a sycamore just across the creek to raise this year’s brood. Until the forest leafs out, I can see this spot from my living room window and back deck. That’s a good thing, because when I try to walk near this tree, the woodpeckers make it clear that I am not the least bit welcome.
Another pair of late-winter nesters has settled in, as usual, in the wetland forest — Red-shouldered Hawks. They often lurk in the trees near our backyard bird feeders, but I haven’t seen them catch any songbirds. Frogs, salamanders, and earthworms, on the other hand, seem to be dietary staples. Wonder Spouse took that spectacular hawk photo two days ago when it decided to hunt from a tree in our backyard. He actually took the shot from inside our house. He is a wizard with his camera — and his post-processing software.
When we’ve gotten a few back-to-back days of sunshine, we’ve been hard at work preparing the vegetable garden for another season. All my seeds have arrived, and last Wednesday (2-16), I sowed my first batch of greens in my germination chamber. The ones in the above photo germinated in two days! I’ll enumerate the spring garden veggie varieties I’m trying in a new post soon. All the lettuces germinated instantly, along with baby kale and radicchio. The spinaches and parsley are only just now showing signs of germinating, which is entirely normal. When they are all well up and moved out of the germination chamber, I’ll sow another batch of spring veggies.
The two varieties of onion plants I ordered arrived mid-week, and I managed to get them all planted in their garden bed yesterday. I know they don’t look like much now, but if the voles will leave them alone, we have big hopes for these.
It’s always amazing how these stubby little onion starts that arrive with shriveled roots plump up in just a few weeks. I was delighted to get them planted the same week they arrived. Usually I’m not this organized and they wait a week or more. I’m hoping my efficiency will pay off in bigger bulbs. Stay tuned.
We’ve had a few bouts of deep cold and some ice — mostly freezing rain — which damaged my Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ flowers. They opened too early, thanks to the absurdly warm December we had here. Fortunately, not all the buds opened before the cold, so I’m able to enjoy a round of new blooms during our current milder spell of weather.
In addition to the witch hazel ‘Amethyst’ blooming well in the first photo of this post, my Cornus mas ‘Spring Glow’ trees are bursting with bright golden flowers. I’m hoping they will cross-pollinate each other this year and produce some of the red berries that give them their common name: Cornelian Cherry. I was thus heartened to see a pollinator on these flowers yesterday.
Of course, spring bulbs are well up. My crocuses were eaten by deer before I remembered to spray them with repellent. Snow drops and myriad daffodils are all loaded with buds and will soon be glowing in the landscape as it wakens from its winter slumber. Meanwhile, the lushest, greenest parts of my yard are the lichens, soft and fluffy from abundant rains.
Fast forwarding into Spring
Posted by piedmontgardener in Favorite Plants, Greenhouse growing, Native Wildlife, piedmont gardening on February 24, 2014
OK, there’s still a pile of snow in my back yard. Really. It was a huge pile from cleaning our back deck, and it’s still not quite gone. But don’t tell that to the Spring Peepers or the Red-shouldered Hawks nesting on the floodplain, or the Red Maples throughout my yard. They all seem to be persuaded that Spring has arrived. It hasn’t, of course — not quite yet. But it seems as if the plants and animals in my yard have been biding their time, waiting for the frigid air to exit so they could explode into Spring Mode.
Most of the early-flowering plants had impressed me with their patience, not showing a hint of bud break as the arctic air ruled my region. The flowering apricots were hit pretty hard, of course. Many just-opening buds were browned by freezing temperatures. But the unopened ones still tightly shut have now opened with enthusiasm. The air around my front yard is fragrant with their perfume. I am delighted, and so are the honeybees finally making their appearance during recent warm afternoons.
The Cornus mas trees burst into spectacular bloom, yellow spotlights in a mostly brown landscape.
The Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ had been exhibiting unprecedented patience with the weather, but recent 70-degree days have caused its flowers to begin opening.
The snow drops survived being buried by six inches of snow and ice and are in full bloom.
And the Witch Hazel ‘Amethyst’ is scenting the breezes with the fragrance of gorgeous purple flowers.
The warmer temperatures have all the early-nesting birds displaying territorial behavior as they pair off and claim nesting sites. Woodpecker drumming punctuates the air from dawn to dusk.
And the salamanders somehow managed to complete their late winter mating activities despite the cold and ice, as evidenced by this glob of eggs in our tiny pond.
Of course, my gardening fingers got itchy the minute the weather warmed and the frogs began chorusing 24/7. I got out the seeds that I’d ordered and contemplated my strategy.
Because I can’t expect the spring-like temperatures to last just yet (They’re on their way out as I type this), I can only start as many containers as will fit at one time in the germination chamber in my greenhouse. I settled on starting a few of all of the greens I’m trying this year (4 lettuces, 2 spinaches, and an arugula) plus the four flower varieties that require the greatest amount of time to reach blooming size. I sowed the seeds last Thursday, and here’s what they looked like this morning:
The nonpelleted lettuce seeds are well up. The coated lettuce seeds are still meditating on the merits of germination. One Tyee spinach has emerged; spinach is always slower than lettuce. All the arugulas are up and growing. And the dahlia seeds I sowed have begun to emerge — the first of the flowers, and a bit of an early surprise.
Now that I’ve got seeds going, it was time during our first warm weekend in forever to return to the vegetable garden and begin to prepare the early spring garden beds. I’ve got one weeded and ready to go for the greens. I’ll do more as weather and my aging joints permit.
Greeting me with enthusiasm were the chives I grew from seed two years ago. I was a bit worried that our prolonged freezing winter temperatures might have killed them. I worried for naught. These beautiful, delicious herbs are well on their way to growing tall enough to once again season salads, eggs, and whatever else can use a light taste of oniony goodness.
This week’s return to winter temperatures will be harder on me than the plants and animals, I imagine. It felt so wonderful to be back in the dirt, pulling weeds, cleaning up old flower stalks, discovering sudden flowers tucked into various parts of the yard.
On the other hand, my creaky joints could use a day or two — OK, maybe three or four — to recover from my pent-up gardening enthusiasm. Perhaps I’ll even feel a bit nostalgic toward this latest round of wintry temperatures. Because now I’m sure — Spring really is almost here!
Posted by piedmontgardener in Favorite Plants, piedmont gardening on December 26, 2013
One of the advantages of living in the Piedmont region of NC — most years, at least — is that it is possible to have blooming plants in your landscape every month of the year. To do it, you have to sneak in some well-behaved non-native beauties, but I think it’s worth it for year-round blooms.
Granted, most gardeners aren’t too fond of that little weed above. But I’ve always liked dandelions. These non-native naturalized weeds were brought to North America by early colonists. It was considered an essential medicinal plant, and is still consumed in tonics, wines, and salads by many people. In fact, you can find horticulturally improved dandelion seeds in the greens section of many seed catalogs.
In my yard, the dandelions seem to prefer our gravel driveway. I know most folks would eradicate them, but I love their cheerful yellow faces on gloomy winter days. And if it’s warm enough for the honeybees to fly, you’ll find them swarming every yellow lion they see.
Most of the flowers blooming today are non-native trees and shrubs, all but one of which I added to our landscape. I apologize for the less-than-stellar photos. My camera objected to the limited light offered by today’s mostly cloudy skies.
As has been the case in recent years, the pink-flowering ornamental apricot (Prunus mume) variety has begun to bloom before Peggy Clarke. For better pictures of this variety, try here.
Right on schedule, the January Jasmine began blooming last week. Judging by the number of still-unopened flower buds, it should be brightening the landscape through January.
The January Jasmine usually blooms several months before forsythias start, but not this year. Our November was deeply cold, but our December was visited by several very warm bouts of weather. I think this may have prompted the forsythia thicket that grows along my road front to open a few flowers ahead of schedule.
Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clark’ isn’t quite open yet, but many of the buds on both my trees are showing hints of rose pink.
And finally, one named variety of a native tree species that I recently added to my landscape is just beginning to bloom. Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’ has partially opened a set of flower buds closest to the ground, where I suspect temperatures are just slightly warmer. I added this variety of witch hazel specifically for its winter blooms. The strappy purple flowers should be dangling in clusters from all the branches very soon.
One other native currently has two sets of flower buds that may manage to open before the next round of deeply cold weather. The coral honeysuckle vine growing on the trellis along my front walk, though mostly devoid of leaves, is sporting crimson flower buds.
Such floral enthusiasm is welcome in my mostly drab winter landscape. Every bloom reminds me of life’s persistent resilience, promising Spring’s imminent return.
Bewitched by Witch Hazels
Posted by piedmontgardener in Favorite Plants, piedmont gardening on November 19, 2012
Up until last year, my yard lacked Witch Hazels (Hamamelis spp.). They weren’t here when we moved onto our five acres 23+ years ago, and somehow I just hadn’t gotten around to filling that void.
Adding this genus finally rose to the top of my garden must-plant list when I was wandering around the Meadowbrook Nursery Web site. I’ve purchased lovely, healthy native perennials from them before, but I had not noticed that they offer an entire plant category devoted to a gorgeous array of Witch Hazels.
I’ve known about the native Witch Hazels of my region since I was a teenager. Late autumn strolls through nearby woodlands often included a surprise find of a so-called Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in fragrant bloom. In its native habitat, H. virginiana can be easy to overlook. Its leaves tend to cling to the plant through early winter, masking the strappy yellow crumpled petals of this understory species. Most of the ones I stumbled on were a bit misshapen from bending to find sunlight through the canopy trees.
But horticulturalists have long appreciated the aesthetic potential of this genus, and have created a diverse array of colorful forms with varying blooming times that can adorn Piedmont gardens from October through February. Yes, that’s right, you can have blooming shrubs and trees in your Piedmont garden through our winter months if you pick the right plant and put it in the right place.
Last year, we planted a hybrid between a Chinese and a Japanese species of Witch Hazel. These hybrids are called Hamamelis x intermedia. The cultivar we chose is Aurora. Our little shrub arrived loaded with fat flower buds that opened to reveal vivid yellow-orange flowers in late winter. It is loaded again this year, and its fall leaf color includes a dazzling array of warm reds, oranges, and yellows. We have every expectation that this thriving specimen will eventually be a breathtaking shrub at least eight feet tall. Imagine a stark February morning woodland landscape warmed by sunny blooms on such a big specimen. It will be magnificent.
But that will be a few years. In the meantime, we still get a surprising number of flowers from our small plant. Here’s a recent photo of it that gives you an idea of its flower bud abundance.
I’ve been so pleased with Aurora that it was easy to talk myself into another Witch Hazel when I needed to add a second plant to my order to meet the minimum cost required for shipping from Meadowbrook Nursery. I had ordered a second Corneliancherry Dogwood (Cornus mas), because the one I planted last year is thriving and I needed a second one to get fruit production via cross pollination.
When I realized I needed a second plant, I instantly turned to the Witch Hazel options. The myriad choices made it tough to decide, but I finally settled on a cultivar of the other North American native species, H. vernalis. This species is native to the Ozark Plateau in central North America, but it happily grows elsewhere when provided good growing conditions. I decided to go with H. vernalis ‘Amethyst,” a beauty with mildly fragrant purple strap-petaled flowers.
The plant I received was already in bloom and is still holding on to green leaves, and I can tell I’m going to very much like this more subtle addition to our landscape. Here it is just after planting.
In this photo, the flowers look more maroon than purple, but in life they do look more purple. Note the abundant healthy green leaves. Theoretically, this plant will bloom a bit later in future years when it is settled, which will make it more likely that the leaves will be gone, thereby allowing the flowers to stand out more. Even now, though, I think the contrast between flower and leaf color is enough to draw attention to the blooms.
Here’s a final shot of the new arrival with a nice layer of mulch surrounding it.
See the plant label? I confess our five acres looks a bit like an arboretum, because many of the plants are labeled. About Year Two into our time here, Wonder Spouse noticed that I was losing track of the names of the cultivars we were adding. And since I’m not a great record keeper (at least not until I started this blog), he insisted that a permanent marker accompany every new plant. This has turned out to be very helpful.
On the front of the metal marker, I write the species and cultivar of the plant. On the back side, I write where I got the plant and when I planted it. The permanent marking pens we use keep the labels legible for at least ten years, depending on the amount of sunlight they receive. If the plant comes with a plastic label looped around it, I usually attach it to the permanent marker. It helps me avoid running over the little newbies when I’m riding around on the lawn tractor.
Coincidentally, the latest edition (November/December) of The American Gardener magazine features a great piece on Witch Hazels. The photographs that accompany the article wonderfully illustrate the visual impact a mature blooming specimen can have in a winter-bare landscape. I highly recommend that you find this article; it’s worth it just for the pictures.
Witch Hazels grow best where soils remain relatively moist. I planted mine at the base of the hill on the north-facing side of my yard. Judging by the health of Aurora, I think I’ve sited my Witch Hazels well. As they grow into mature specimens, I’m expecting that they will light up my winter landscape with color and gentle fragrance. What better way to lead us into the abundance of spring?