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Posts Tagged ‘Wisteria’

On May 17, 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and indeed that is exactly what it is doing now. Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) is in the rhododendron family and is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada. Both Its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. It was brought from Canada to Paris in March 1756 and was introduced to England in 1791. It is said to have been a big hit, but it must have been difficult to grow in English gardens since it likes wet roots and needs cold winters.

Rhodora flowers appear on short (3 feet or less) upright shrubs that like to live in wet places. I’ve even seen them growing in standing water in full sun but they usually grow just on shore. The flowers appear before the leaves and light up the edges of swamps and bogs for a short time in spring. By mid-June they will be only a memory here.

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) is our third and final trillium to come into bloom, and in my opinion is the prettiest of the three. Unlike its two cousins its flowers don’t point down towards the ground but usually face straight out, 90 degrees to the stem. This one was different however; its flower pointed directly at the sky.

Each bright white petal has a reddish “V” at its base that looks painted on, and that’s where the common name comes from. According to the USDA, painted trilliums grow as far west as western Tennessee and south to Georgia.

Native starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are everywhere in the woods right now and grow in either dry or moist soil. Starflowers are a plant based on sevens; seven leaves, seven petals, and seven sepals, but I’ve seen them with fewer or greater than seven.

If nature was to have a rule it would be that no rule in nature is hard and fast and the starflower with 8 petals in the above photo proves that. It does however still have seven anthers. Starflower leaves turn yellow and fade away in mid-summer, leaving behind a leafless stalk bearing a tiny round seed capsule.

Native blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) blossoms are decorating our roadsides right now but I doubt you’ll ever see them while driving. This beautiful little aspirin size flower is in the iris family and is said to have some of the same features. The leaves look like grass but are the grayish color of German iris leaves. All of the iris family is usually thought of as very poisonous but Native Americans had many medicinal uses for this plant. I still think I would have called it yellow eyed grass.

Common chokecherry trees (Prunus virginiana) are blossoming everywhere along our roadsides and they’re very easy to see. Chokecherries are small trees that sometimes can resemble shrubs when they grow in a group as these did.

If pollinated each chokecherry flower will become a dark purple one seeded berry (drupe) which, though edible but can be bitter or sour. Many Native American tribes used the fruit as food and used other parts of the tree such as the inner bark medicinally. They also used the bark in their smoking mixtures to improve the flavor. The flowers are very fragrant and resemble those of black cherries which bloom a bit later, but black cherry leaves don’t have fine teeth around the outer perimeter like choke cherry leaves.

This wisteria vine has been trying hard to make it all the way to the top of a cherry tree for years now and though I usually forget it’s there on this day I remembered and I was glad I did, because it was beautiful.

Big, beautiful, fragrant flowers dangle from a wisteria and they’re beautiful but you have to watch where you plant them because they can be aggressive. A lady I once worked for made the mistake of planting one on a pergola that was attached to the back side of her house. Each year I had to lean out of a second story window with a pole pruner to cut it away from the eaves because it had once again reached the roof. She wouldn’t hear of removing it though, and these flowers explain why.

In spite of a few faults I can’t think of many flowers more beautiful than a wisteria. They always remind me of lupine flowers.

The round white flower heads of wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) hide beneath its leaves and quite often you can’t see them from above.  Compared to the ping pong ball size flower heads the leaves are huge and act like an umbrella, which might keep rain from washing away their pollen.

Each sarsaparilla flower is tiny enough to hide behind a pencil eraser but as a group they’re easy to see. Dark purple berries will replace the flowers if pollination is successful, and it’s usually very successful. Sarsaparilla roots were once used to make root beer but the drink that was called sarsaparilla contained no part of the plant. It was made from birch oil and sassafras root.

Thyme leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia) has started showing up in lawns. The blossoms are about 1/8th of an inch across and aren’t very easy to get a photo of. Thyme leaved speedwell is considered a noxious lawn weed, but I like it. Speedwell blossoms have one petal that is smaller than the others and though it’s hard to see here the lower petal is indeed smaller than the others.

This little garden speedwell has plagued me for years now because, though I’ve tried to tell you what it is I can never be sure. From what I’ve seen online it is called spreading speedwell or creeping speedwell (Veronica filiformis.)

The flowers cover the plant and though small they’re very pretty.

Witch alder (Fothergilla major) is a native shrub related to witch hazel. Though native to the southeast it does well here in the northeast, but it is usually seen in gardens rather than in the wild. They flower profusely and are said to make an excellent hedge.

The fragrant flower heads of witch alder are bottlebrush shaped and made up of many flowers that have no petals. Their color comes from the stamens, which have tiny yellow anthers at the ends of long white filaments.

The pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is the New Hampshire state wildflower and they have just come into full bloom. Once collected nearly into oblivion by people who didn’t know any better this native orchid is making a good comeback. The plant interacts with a Rhizoctonia fungus in the soil and this fungus must be present for it to reproduce.  If plants are dug up and placed in private gardens they will die if the fungus isn’t present so please, look at them, take a couple of photos, and let them be. They’re one of our most beautiful native orchids and everyone should have a chance to see them.

Bees pollinate pink lady’s slippers and they start by entering the flower through the center slit in the pouch. Once inside they discover that they’re trapped and can’t get out the way they came in but luckily guide hairs inside the flower point the way to the top of the pouch or slipper, and once the bee reaches the top it finds two holes big enough to fit through. Just above each hole the flower has positioned a pollen packet so once the bee crawls through the hole it is dusted with pollen. The flower’s stigma is also located above the exit holes and if the bee carries pollen from another lady’s slipper it will be deposited on the sticky stigma as it escapes the pouch, and fertilization will have been successful. The seeds of this orchid are as fine as dust and will for in a single seedpod.

When you find a large colony of early azaleas (Rhododendron prinophyllum) in the forest you understand the true meaning of the word “breathtaking.” They’re doing better this year than I’ve ever seen. They’re also called roseshell azalea.

The flowers of the early azalea aren’t as showy as some other azaleas but I wish you could smell their heavenly scent. Another common name, wooly azalea, comes from the many hairs on the outside of the flowers. It is these hairs that emit the fragrance, and that fragrance is said to induce creative imagination. It’s just such a beautiful thing and I’m so glad to have found them scattered here and there throughout the countryside. For a while I knew of only one but now I’ve found several.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. ~Luther Burbank.

Thanks for coming by.

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I thought I’d get out of the forest and back into the garden again for this post. Flowers are beautiful no matter where they grow, so you’ll find a little of everything from everywhere here.

Pheasant Eye Daffodil-also called Narcissus poeticus. This is supposed to have been one of the first daffodils cultivated in ancient times, and this is the latest and most fragrant one to flower here. I’ve seen more and more of these in fields and along roadsides so they are naturalizing. The yellow center cup with a red fringe and the late blooming period are good ways to identify this flower. Azaleas are blooming heavily this year, with bushes so full of flowers that you would think they would topple over under the sheer weight of it all. This deep pink one is in my yard and is a dwarf evergreen azalea. All azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron, and evergreen azaleas are in the subgenus Tsutsusi.This is a deciduous azalea that is much larger than the previous one shown and very fragrant. It grows in a local park. Deciduous azaleas are in the subgenus Pentanthera. I’m eagerly anticipating the native azaleas that will bloom soon. This deep purple Beaded Iris (Iris germanica) was in the same park and looked almost black. I don’t know the name of the cultivar. I’m sorry about the harsh lighting in some of these photos, but with a full time job and home renovations on-going, I just don’t have the luxury of waiting for an overcast day to take pictures.I thought this white bearded iris (Iris germanica) was especially beautiful.  Too much shade will cause weak blooming in bearded irises and these that I found in a park were being shaded by trees and shrubs. If they were moved to a sunnier spot they would do better. This is a Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) that blooms before all other irises in my gardens. This native to northern Asia and Europe is such a tough plant that I usually use an axe to divide it into smaller plants. Partial shade doesn’t bother this iris. In fact, nothing bothers this iris. This yellow daylily (Hemerocallis) is very early, blooming just after the Siberian irises bloom. This plant was given to me many years ago by a friend who has since passed on and I have divided it many times for family and friends. Two things make this plant special: the early bloom time and the heavenly fragrance that smells of citrus and spices. I have a feeling this is a Lemon daylily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) which is a very old species brought to America in colonial days and originally from China and Europe.  The Greek Hemerocallis means “beautiful for a day,” and that’s how long each flower lasts. It’s a shame that many of today’s daylilies, bred for larger and more colorful flowers, have lost their ancient fragrance. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is a beautiful plant in the pea family. This is a native plant that is sold in nurseries because it is so popular. Its flowers resemble those of the lupine, which is also in the pea family. Native Americans used this plant to make blue dye. True indigo (Indigofera) comes from the tropics.The pink flowers on this horse chestnut tree were really beautiful. I found it in a park so I don’t know what cultivar it is, but I’d like to have it in my yard. Believe it or not this is a columbine-a double flowered variety. Interesting, but I think I like the ordinary, single flowered columbines more.

Ornamental perennial salvia is blooming already. The culinary form of salvia is the herb known as sage. I’m wondering what fall will be like this year. Everything is blooming so early; I wonder if there will be anything left to bloom in September. Dogwood used to be a tree that you saw only occasionally, but now you see them everywhere-even at fast food restaurants. That doesn’t mean they are any less beautiful though. The sepals on this one were beyond white-I think the whitest I’ve seen on a plant. In a post I did recently called Under Cultivation I showed a photo of this flower and said I thought it might be a button bush, but I couldn’t be sure. Now I’m sure; it’s a native shrub related to witch hazel and is called Witch alder (Fothergilla major.) I’ve never seen this before this year, but I like it because it is so unusual. Witch alder (Fothergilla major.) 

Seed head of the pasque flower (Anemone patens,) which is almost as beautiful as the flower itself. One is just coming into bloom in the upper part of the photo. I saw a flash of color in the corner of my eye as I was driving and what I discovered, after I backed up and jumped out, was a wisteria vine trying hard to make it all the way to the top of a cherry tree.  The problem is I don’t know if it is a Chinese or Japanese wisteria. It’s doubtful that it is the American species because that one isn’t supposed to be hardy in New Hampshire. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful, and I want to go back later and try to identify it. Wisteria can grow under siding and shingles and actually tear them off, so they should never be planted near a house. Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), though beautiful, can overrun a garden. These flowers grow from a bulb and are native to southern Europe and Africa. The bulbs contain toxic alkaloids and have killed livestock, so they are now listed as an invasive species.


The common purple Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is the state flower of New Hampshire so I guess I’d better include it here.  Their scent, along with the honeysuckle and autumn olive, makes doing anything outside so much more enjoyable. Lilacs were first imported into New Hampshire from England in 1750 and grown at the Portsmouth home of Governor Benning Wentworth. The original plants are still blooming today in that garden and are believed to be the oldest lilacs in America.

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.  ~Walt Whitman

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what is blooming here in New Hampshire, and this day I hope you’ll forgive my forgetfulness! Thank you for stopping by.

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