Posts Tagged Pinxterbloom Azalea
At my house during the hours just before sunrise today, the temperature dropped to around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately for the myriad tender plants on my five acres, a north wind was blowing in cold air all night. The tender leaves of my canopy trees, the delicate flowers on shrubs and perennials are all as lovely today as they were before the one-inch rainfall of yesterday. However, tonight — we may not be as lucky.
Tonight, temperatures are predicted to be as low as last night’s, but tonight the winds are predicted to be much lighter. If they stop entirely, cold air will tumble down my hill to the floodplain beside the creek, then fill up the lower areas with freezing air, like water filling a basin.
One dark spring about a decade ago, temperatures dropped into the low to mid-twenties just as the canopy giants that tower over my land were pushing out fresh perfect tiny leaves, as they are now. Every leaf was killed. The trees remained winter-bare until June, when they finally managed to summon enough energy to produce another flush of greenery.
So this morning, just in case, tomorrow dawn’s colder than predicted and destroys the spring beauty surrounding me, I went out and took a few photographs. Not every plant is peaking just yet, but this may be all we get this year. The whims of weather are not for mere gardeners to understand, I suppose.
The trilliums I planted last year are all up and showing flower buds. I am hoping the cold will not harm them.
The native deciduous gingers Asarum canadense) I added last year have expanded their numbers considerably. I am worried that this potential food for the Pipevine Swallowtail may be too tender to withstand tonight’s chill.
The Pinxterbloom Azalea is in almost full bloom, its flower clusters bobbing prettily in today’s north wind.
There’s more, but the strong wind prevented me from getting decent photographs of them.
As I wandered the floodplain, I discovered that the frogs and toads have reproduced with spectacular abundance this year. Because of the wonderfully generous rains all winter and, so far, this spring, my floodplain is still covered with a number of channels full of water — long, narrow puddles, basically. Today I discovered all of these puddles are brimming with tadpoles!
These puddles are not very deep — a few inches at most. And now that the great canopy trees are awakening and pulling up water to create leaves, past experience tells me these puddles will be vanishing quickly — barring unusually heavy and regular spring rains. The tadpoles are in a race with evaporation and thirsty trees. Can they metamorphose into frogs and toads before their puddle homes vanish? I confess I’ve spent more than one hour over the years scooping up beached tadpoles and ferrying them to deeper waters. As the water vanishes, the beached tadpoles become food for crows if I don’t intervene. I know it’s all part of Mother Nature’s master plan, but still I can’t seem to stop myself from interfering, at least a bit.
Tonight’s cold is unlikely to be severe enough to hurt the tadpoles. Warm ground will prevent the water from freezing. It’s times like this that I wish I could drop a giant glass dome over my five acres, protecting all the tender vegetation from unseasonable cold spells.
The vegetable garden will be fine. I’ve covered all exposed plants, and the cold won’t last long enough to exceed the protective capacity of those covers. Summer plants in the greenhouse continue to thrive. The tomatoes are becoming quite large. They need the weather to stabilize soon, so that I can transplant them to their summer beds.
The summer birds that have returned should be fine. The cold won’t be deep enough to kill their insect food supply, and I’ll be sure all the feeders are well stocked. The hummingbirds could be adversely impacted, if their favorite food flowers are killed by cold. Sugar water in feeders helps, but they need their native foods too.
So, my fellow gardening friends, keep all fingers and toes crossed for all of us who are facing a freeze warning tonight. Strawberry farmers will be encasing their crop in ice to protect blossoms and fruits. Alas, I’d need a sprinkler system capable of coating the leaves of 90-foot trees to protect my tender vegetation. Not exactly practical.
Here’s hoping these photos are the first of many I’ll be able to share this spring.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Golden Ragwort is just starting its own parade of yellow blossoms:
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.
The spring ephemeral wildflowers I showed you in my previous post are zooming through their life cycles as promised.
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!
The vernal equinox occurred during the wee hours this morning. Astronomically speaking, that makes spring officially here. As is true for much of the United States this year, the news is entirely anticlimactic.
My early spring bloomers have not only been blooming for weeks, many of them finished almost as soon as they started, thanks to the record heat and drought that continues to plague my corner of the Piedmont in North Carolina.
Case in point: my lovely Magnolia ‘Butterflies.’ Two days after it began blooming, petal drop started. The above photo was taken three days ago. Now almost all the petals have dropped.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ didn’t wait her usual week after Butterflies to commence her floral display. Instead, she peaked the same day the photo above of Butterflies was taken. Here’s a shot of the whole tree. Elizabeth is a knock-out — visually and aromatically — when she is at her peak like this:
Wonder Spouse took all these photos, by the way. You may well want to click on them to enlarge them, so you can fully appreciate their quality. Here’s a close-up of Elizabeth’s flowers taken the same day as the above photo:
The Bloodroots growing on my north-east-facing slope above the creek began blooming about the same time that Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ got started. Here’s one that’s been open for a couple of days:
And here’s what most of them looked like that day:
Not to be outdone by these precocious bloomers, the first flowers of my native Pinxterbloom Azalea were nearly open the same day that the above photos were taken (March 17). That’s three weeks ahead of last year.
For the first time that I can remember, my oak trees are racing the Loblolly Pines to see which will release their pollen first. I think it may well be a tie. I cannot remember that happening before. Not ever in all the 5+ decades I’ve lived in North Carolina.
So, Vernal Equinox — welcome, I guess. The party started well before your arrival this year. And it’s already well on its way to its conclusion. I just hope that by the time the Summer Solstice arrives, my landscape doesn’t look too much like the Sahara Desert.
Today I offer you more evidence of my obsession with native deciduous azaleas. Another time, I’ll give you background on their habits and growth requirements. Today, I’m just going to share with you how gosh darn pretty they all are.
I am not a species purist. I’ll grow crosses and cultivars derived from natives if they sound sufficiently interesting. Such is the case with ‘Purple’ above. It’s a named cultivar of our regional Piedmont azalea, commonly called Pinxterbloom Azalea (R. periclymenoides). Although, I don’t think I would have gone so far as to call this flower purple, compared to the species, it is more purple-toned.
For comparison, here’s a shot of the species version of Pinxterbloom Azalea:
It is much pinker, I think you’ll agree. I planted the above azalea about twenty years ago, and it is now fifteen feet tall and ten feet wide. Magnificent doesn’t adequately describe it.
‘Purple’ is a more recent addition, but it’s already about five feet tall and equally wide. Give them the conditions they like, wait a few years, and enjoy the show for many years to follow.
But wait, one more azalea is peaking right now in my north-facing garden (protected by deer fencing). It’s still small, but remarkably floriferous. Here’s a shot of the entire plant:
I say it’s probably Pastel #20, because I seem to have misplaced the label. But by perusing the listings of the nursery from which I purchased it, I don’t think it can be anything else. Now here’s a close-up so you can appreciate the gorgeousness of this one:
See the delicate dusting of yellow-orange inside the petal? Click on this photo to see it more clearly. The nursery I bought this beauty from believes it to be a spontaneous hybrid involving R. alabamensis, R. canescens, and R. flammeum. I don’t really care about its origins; I’m just delighted that it’s growing so beautifully.
I spent a lot of time researching the site requirements of every native deciduous azalea I planted. Some occupy sharp slopes above streams, others like dry hilltops, and some prefer downright swampy conditions. By paying careful attention to their needs, I’m now reaping the rewards of my research. Every year, the plants grow larger and their blooms become more spectacular.
The best part, as far as I’m concerned, is that two-thirds of my deciduous azaleas haven’t yet bloomed, although many are close. This rapid succession of blooms marks the peak of Piedmont springtime. As the last bloom fades and falls, my attention will likely turn to tomatoes.