Thursday, April 07, 2011

Suddenly Spring

By the time I started actively searching for signs of spring this year, it was well on its way!

I should have checked for Easter daisies (Townsendia cf. hookeri) on St. Paddy's Day (March 17th). I didn't get to my favorite patch until April Fool's Day, but they were chugging along just fine, and right where I expected them to be. You can see them, right?

How about now?

Some of our earliest spring wildflowers are well hidden—if you didn't know exactly where they are, you'd be hard pressed to spot them! Hidden in plain sight, right along one of our most popular trails in full range of unscooped dog poop, this patch of Easter daisies was still unobserved by 99% of passersby. Those who saw me with camera and dog weren't even curious about what I was trying to photograph.

How's this for an Easter bouquet?

The stemless Easter daisy can't help but look like an old-fashioned "posy" or nosegay, with all the flowers clustered at the base, obscuring a rosette of leaves that are, by themselves, easy to overlook. Without the burst of white color to draw the eye, these little guys don't suggest any dramatic display at all!

The early bees are having no trouble finding them, however.

Equally cryptic are those who will bloom a bit later, now mere hints of beauty to come. Here, a feathery rosette of Lambert's loco cozies up to the glaucous blue basal leaves of one-sided Penstemon. Only by watching through the season would we know what they're going to be capable of producing!

The name of this bulb I planted long ago in the backyard popped back into my head this morning as I went out to take an updated photo. Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, naturalizes even here in the rugged and challenging West apparently.

I stand corrected, thanks to Nina at Nature Remains and depending on whether you're a "lumper" or a "splitter." This is, per the criteria at Wikipedia, Chionodoxa rather than Scilla. Hmmm... "Glory-of-the-snow." Think I like that better than "Siberian squill."

The few that I planted, probably 25 years ago now, before I knew better and when I still had gardening illusions, have now escaped the rock garden and carpeted even gravel waste areas in my none-too-well-tended yard. Blooming before the daffodils, they hint of things to come; however dry the season, they manage well enough on the residual soil moisture of previous snows and just ignore the hot dry season in dormancy.

Thankfully, they've not escaped the confines of the limited backyard area, as the grape hyacinths used to do before the chickens and deer ate them all. Although it may be fine in controlled shady lawn sites, the thought of deliberately planting it in wooded areas back East, as the garden websites seem to suggest, raises concern. I'm sure it'd be well able to outcompete native spring wildflowers, and I wonder whether it's ever considered invasive.

Also naturalizing, but more welcome, is this Yellow Prairie Violet, Viola nuttallii, happily blooming nearby in the same gravel area. Like the perennial bulbs, these natives thrive on the neglect provided by the absent-minded gardener, as well as the indifference of the season, which keeps forgetting to add moisture.

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