Stumped by Spring II

Whyizzit that every spring presents us with so many whatizzit's?

When it's April but winter just won't quit you can come here to dip into spring. Be prepared: It's like the real thing, full of questions as well as surprises.

1: Blue facing up...

1: Blue facing up...

2: ...vs. blue hanging down. Which is squill, which is glory of the snow?

2: ...vs. blue hanging down. Which is squill, which is glory of the snow?

3: Name the 4-inch cutie with baby blue stripes and light sweet fragrance.

3: Name the 4-inch cutie with baby blue stripes and light sweet fragrance.

4: Which purple, blue or white flowers face up, on stems worth cutting 'though just two inches tall?

4: Which purple, blue or white flowers face up, on stems worth cutting 'though just two inches tall?

Click for answers to 1, 2, 3 and 4.

 

5a: False sweet flag (Acorus calamus variegatus) is so healthy at the water's edge, it's beautiful from day one in spring to day 230 in fall. There, new and pink...

5a: False sweet flag (Acorus calamus variegatus) is so healthy at the water's edge, it's beautiful from day one in spring to day 230 in fall. There, new and pink...

5b: ...with eyes?!

5b: ...with eyes?!

5c: Oh! Is this what they call a peeper?

5c: Oh! Is this what they call a peeper?

Click for the answer to 5.

 

6a: It's the earliest golden flower in a wetland. It may be underfoot along the edge...

6a: It's the earliest golden flower in a wetland. It may be underfoot along the edge...

Click for the identity of 6a.

 

6b: ... as you watch this guy build a nest, snapping and carrying off sticks and stems.

6b: ... as you watch this guy build a nest, snapping and carrying off sticks and stems.

7: If you miss the first few days of spring you'll probably miss this plant's opening, but the show continues. The endearingly protective leaves open into durable bear paws, longer lasting than most spring wildflower foliage.

7: If you miss the first few days of spring you'll probably miss this plant's opening, but the show continues. The endearingly protective leaves open into durable bear paws, longer lasting than most spring wildflower foliage.

Click for more about #7.

8a: Everyone gushes over this big shrub's flower color and scent. We think the emerging new growth deserves acclaim.

8a: Everyone gushes over this big shrub's flower color and scent. We think the emerging new growth deserves acclaim.

8b: Isn't it lovely?

8b: Isn't it lovely?

Learn the identity of the shrub shown in 8a-b.

 

9: Grrrrr. Even now before it's tall, it's recognizable, and despicable.

9: Grrrrr. Even now before it's tall, it's recognizable, and despicable.

Want to know what it is?

10: Awwww, no, they've eaten our tulips!! Which pesty animal's been at work here?

10: Awwww, no, they've eaten our tulips!! Which pesty animal's been at work here?

Who?! 'Fess up!

11: A Cedrus... which should be green. What's a good first response to unexpected brown in spring?

11: A Cedrus... which should be green. What's a good first response to unexpected brown in spring?

Click for an effective response to 11.

12a: If you live alongside a wetland you can do it and al of us a favor by scattering this fluff over exposed muddy banks.

12a: If you live alongside a wetland you can do it and al of us a favor by scattering this fluff over exposed muddy banks.

12b: If a mudflat is full of seedlings of this plant, that may deny opportunity to much more troublesome weeds such as purple loosestrife and giant reed (Phragmites australis) in its non-native, highly invasive genotype.

12b: If a mudflat is full of seedlings of this plant, that may deny opportunity to much more troublesome weeds such as purple loosestrife and giant reed (Phragmites australis) in its non-native, highly invasive genotype.

13: Even a "junk tree" has beauty in spring, and merit in Nature in its native place. There are few trees so high in wildlife value as this one. It's a stand-out even in its valuable clan, the maples. (Yup, it's a type of maple without any "maple" in its common name.)

13: Even a "junk tree" has beauty in spring, and merit in Nature in its native place. There are few trees so high in wildlife value as this one. It's a stand-out even in its valuable clan, the maples. (Yup, it's a type of maple without any "maple" in its common name.)

Click for the name of tree 13.

14a: Funny thick twig?

14a: Funny thick twig?

14b: Consistency like styrofoam...

14b: Consistency like styrofoam...

14b: Gall on the wood?

14b: Gall on the wood?

Click for the identity of 14.

15: Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow'.

15: Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow'.

Click for what's probably most important to watch for right now, if you grow this plant.

16: Many people enjoy the sweet scent of these flowers outdoors but are sorry after bringing them indoors as cut flowers.

16: Many people enjoy the sweet scent of these flowers outdoors but are sorry after bringing them indoors as cut flowers.

Click to learn why.

17: Not bad now but it's a big "ouch" in the bare feet season.

17: Not bad now but it's a big "ouch" in the bare feet season.

Click for the identity.

18a: Pretty in winter...

18a: Pretty in winter...

18b: ...trouble if the seed's viable.

18b: ...trouble if the seed's viable.

Click to learn if it's likely to be trouble in your landscape.

19: Part of its scientific name means "of the roof" because colonies of this plant once served as natural shingle on earthern- and thatched roofs.

19: Part of its scientific name means "of the roof" because colonies of this plant once served as natural shingle on earthern- and thatched roofs.

Click for more about plant 19.

20: It's a fool-you flower. That purple petal's a fake!

20: It's a fool-you flower. That purple petal's a fake!

Click for the identity of 20.

21. It's blooming yellow now in earliest spring, sure . But it's a dogwood, not a forsythia!

21. It's blooming yellow now in earliest spring, sure . But it's a dogwood, not a forsythia!

Click for the identity of 21.

22. Searching for gold? This one hints and hints.

22. Searching for gold? This one hints and hints.

Click for the identity of 22.

23. Kids love this evergreen perennial for the name.

23. Kids love this evergreen perennial for the name.

What is it? Go see!

24. This tree's pointy buds are quite distinctive.

24. This tree's pointy buds are quite distinctive.

And the tree is...

25. Don't reach for the chemicals, just wait!

25. Don't reach for the chemicals, just wait!

Click to learn why.

26. Water reservoir for a thirsty bird or small animal, but no flower for you? Why do tulips so often disappoint?

26. Water reservoir for a thirsty bird or small animal, but no flower for you? Why do tulips so often disappoint?

Click for the answer to leaf-only tulips.

27. We first met this plant in an English garden, where it went by the name "boys and girls."

27. We first met this plant in an English garden, where it went by the name "boys and girls."

Click for more about #27.

That's all folks!

Is it warm enough to go out, yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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27: Pulmonaria species (P. saccharata, P. longifolia, P. angustifolia, P. rubra and their hybrids) are colorful creatures, many with flowers that are blue in bud but more pink when open. The combination of blue buds and pink flowers accounts for the name boys and girls.

The scientific name Pulmonaria and another common name, lungwort (literally, lung plant) recognize one of the plant's ancient uses. It dates to when the Doctrine of Signatures assured medieval herbalists that a plant's resemblance to a body part meant it was a useful cure for related ills. So the spotted-leaf species of this clan that seemed to resemble a diseased lung were used in whooping cough medicines.

26: Tulips must rest warm and dry in summer and have at least 9 weeks below 40F in winter to go through all the chemical and physical changes necessary to produce and mature a flower bud. Some tulip varieties are not good perennials in a given locale because they're programmed at the genetic level to require more heat than a northern garden can provide in summer, or more cold than they'll receive in a southern garden's winter. We've seen that the ability to keep producing flowers year after year in our zone 5 garden is directly related to height and bloom season. Our rule of thumb is to treat tulips as annuals if they are very tall, very frilly or very late to bloom.

Other factors that can affect tulip bloom are within our control. If a given tulip perennializes for one gardener in a neighborhood but not another, chances are the non-bloomer is not planted deep enough (we set tulips 12" deep), is in an area that's too wet in summer, or has both strikes against it.

 

25: In the spring a pond goes through a natural turning over as the surface thaws and warms. For a brief time the surface layer loses the buoyancy of iciness yet is still colder than the depths. It sinks and we see water from below rise, carrying its organic debris. This is a good thing for the life of a pond, as it means oxygen from the surface is being mixed into the depths. For the sake of the fish, frogs and aquatic life in general, let the spring turnover proceed!

(This Missouri Department of Conservation guide does a great job of explaining spring turnover.)

 

24: Beech trees (Fagus species) bear these distinctive pointy buds.

 

23: It's known as pigsqueak for the leathery texture of the leaf, which might be seen as shaped like a pig's ear and is said to produce an "oink" if rubbed between the fingers. We've worn out many a Bergenia cordifolia leaf trying to find that sound... Did you know: This leaf and many plant parts develop maroon or red color in cold weather as a defense against the cold. The pigment anthocyanin is a pretty red-purple, and a pretty effective cellular antifreeze.

 

 

 

22: Daffodil buds can tease a body for weeks with just a hint of yellow. If your daffs "come up blind" -- seem to have a bud but never open a flower -- it may be that there was a very dry spell as the plant began to grow in late winter, or that the ground in that place is not cool for a long enough period in winter so the plant doesn't grow enough root to support its flower. That's why most daffodil species won't bloom if planted in the warmest zones in North America. We've also seen them fail to bloom some years in a northern garden if they are planted very close to the warmth of an old, uninsulated foundation or a heavily used septic tank.

 


 

21: Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is a cousin of the flowering dogwood. This small tree blooms yellow before the forsythia flowers. The red fruit is favored by songbirds and can be made into jam. Be sure to use lots of sugar, as one taste of this sour fruit will give you an idea just how hard life once was, that our desperate forebears would preserve just about any fruit they could. High in vitamin C, cornelian cherry preserves could provide calories in winter and help a body stave off scurvy.

 

20. The true flower of lenten rose or hellebore (Helleborus hybrids) has green petals. Look for them surrounding the fertile parts -- the frill of pollen producing, antenna-like stamens and the central, seed-producing pistils. What we take to be the flower and what makes this plant's show so long lasting, are the colorful flower bud covers or "sepals" -- purple in this example. Even after the seed's set and well along to ripening, the sepals are still there, providing color. 

 

19: Hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum, literally, "always living" and "of the roof” varieties). Some varieties with greater amounts of silvery hairs go by the name cobweb hens and chicks.

 

 

18: Maiden grasses (Miscanthus species, which stand tall and sturdy in winter) do not usually produce viable seed when grown in cold northern areas. It's likely that the growing season simply ends too soon so these fall bloomers don't have time to ripen seed. That's a good thing. You know how tough it is to dig these big clumps to divide them, so you can imagine the effort required to dig out a proliferation of volunteer seedlings, or clear a wild area of a mature infestation!

Trouble is, some varieties have proven themselves capable of setting viable seed. That's why Miscanthus earned itself a place on some State- and Province noxious weed lists, and they're banned from sale. The earlier they bloom, the more likely they are to have time to set seed. So if you grow this plant without trouble and it's still legally sold in your State, avoid the lure of summer-blooming varieties. Stick with those that have no plumes until way late in fall.

 

 

 

17: "Gum ball" seed pod of the sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua).

 

16: Dutch hyacinth flowers have a very strong sweet fragrance... when they first open. As each individual floret ages the chemical composition of the nectar changes and becomes offensive. When people complain about a sudden, mysterious headache, we look around for hyacinth flowers in the room.

 

15: Watch for and grub out reversions to all-green. Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow' is not a stable variety and all-green shoots with their higher concentration of chlorophyll more energy!) will out-grow and crowd out the colorful-leaf sections.

 

14: That's a preying mantis egg case.

 

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13: Box elder (Acer negundo) is full cousin to sugar-, silver- and red maple. It's important for its ability to grow even in wet places, hold seeds through winter for birds and small mammals to eat, and provide homes for those same animals in the cavities and snags that come with constantly breaking and regrowing limbs.

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12: Cattail fluff and a maple seed. Don't want to populate your wet shore with cattails? Okay, but Mother Nature abhors a vacuum and will populate it for you, and very likely with taller, more aggressive species.

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11: When evergreen needles lose their color, and a look back along the branch does not turn up any break or tear, look a bit deeper for green. There's hope if you find moist green when you scratch the bark or slice open one of the tiny tip buds.

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10: Deer and rabbits can both do this damage by nipping off the still-furled spear of foliage as it first breaks ground. Deer tend to bite with an upward slant, however. So this tulip probably lost it to a rabbit. Droppings can tell the tale but it's a comparative thing, between deer and rabbits. More at the topic on our Forum and in What's Coming Up 211.

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9: Canada thistle is no Canadian. It's a Eurasian species that moved so far and developed into extensive colonies with such speed that early European botanists exploring North America figured it to be a native.

In spring it's low, small and not even very spiny but don't be fooled. That little sprout is fueling prodigious root growth. Put a garden fork into the area NOW and remove all the root emanating from it!

 

 

8a & 8b: That's common lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

 

7: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). The flower may last a week or two if the spring is long and cool, but open and fade in a day when it's warm and hungry pollinators flock to it.

 

6a: That's marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), which translates to goblet of the marsh. In early spring the flowers are shiny gold over big, deep green leaves. By summer, the space is bare, but maybe your foot or another vector of erosion cracked off some of the plant's buoyant crown, and it floated away to lodge against a different bit of muddy bank. Next spring when its new roots form, it'll settle in. So the color multiplies.

 

5: Those eyes belong to American toads (Bufo americanus), and that male called the female in with a long high trill. Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are smaller, smoother, and call with a peep-peep. If you know to listen for that modulation you can hear it even in the big sound made now by a gathering of dozens or hundreds of peepers.

Learn more about peepers from the National Wildlife Federation:

https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Amphibians-Reptiles-and-Fish/Spring-Peeper.aspx

and be sure to listen from that article's link to the Audubon Reptiles and Amphibians Guide:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwVEI5M-948

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

1-2: They often bloom together and either one can spread out to blanket the ground, but glory of the snow (Chionodoxa lucilliae) flowers face up while squill (Scilla sibirica) flowers hang down.

3: Puschkinia scillioides. Common name puschkinia. (Come on, if you can manage to say Forsythia, why not Puschkinia?)

4: Woods anemone (A. blanda and A. nemerosa)

We think it's an unfair marketing ploy, when flowers such as squill are shown like this in a catalog, even though they are naturally pendant. They cannot be seen facing up except in a photo.

We think it's an unfair marketing ploy, when flowers such as squill are shown like this in a catalog, even though they are naturally pendant. They cannot be seen facing up except in a photo.

 

 

 

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