Archive for the ‘Nature Trails’ Category

They’re Here!

My Mama is not very ephemeral. She just turned 91. On her birthday I'm always reminded to search for the first trillium.

I do love the spring ephemerals.  These wildflowers emerge from underground roots and stems.  They flower, make fruit and die within a month or two in late winter and early spring.

Most of the ephemerals grow beneath large old trees.  Their precipitous life cycle enables them to flower and set seed as the winter sun slants through the leafless canopy.  By the time the trees are in full leaf, the ephemerals are done!

Since they are above ground for such a short time, I have adopted  mnemonic devices so I can remember when to look for them.

Trillium, I learned, always seems to emerge within a day or two of my Mama’s birthday.  We celebrated her birthday on Friday and Saturday.  On Sunday I walked the trails in search of trillium.  Lo & behold – there it was – recently emerged and already sporting flower buds.

I spied the first trillium of the year yesterday. It was already budded as it emerged but will not bloom for another month.

Trillium is one of the first ephemerals to show up.  Most of the others emerge in March.

One of my plant mentors, Towhee Tisdale, taught me that bloodroot will flower for a week or ten days after the first full week in March.

Soon after my husband’s birthday on March 8, I start looking for bloodroot flowers.   A few days later I find the first curious emerging May apples.

Those dates really only work in my neck of the woods. As you move north or south the flowering season will vary.   It’s a localized personal kind of thing.

So every year when I sing “Happy Birthday” to Mama, I visualize a cluster of mottled trillium.  And I know that I’ll soon be seeking it in the woods.


Snow Day!

It’s been a few years since we had snow in my part of Mississippi.

Today about 3 inches accumulated and, of course, everything closed except a few convenience stores.

Down here very few people are equipped to or know how to drive on ice.  So even if you are prepared and are a great driver, it is likely that someone will crash into you without warning.

Instead of lamenting the prospect of being house-bound, I embraced it.

We had a righteous breakfast mid-morning and later I took the dogs and my camera out for a walk on my land.


The view from my back window enticed me to go play in the snow.

My two old dogs, Woodrow and Ursaluna acted like puppies in the snow.

The view was great but I could not bring myself to lounge on the creek deck today.

The cold tub wasn't very inviting either!

This is probably the only snow we’ll see this year.

It’s been a lovely day but tomorrow I’m sure my Spring Fever will be back with a vengeance!

Orange you glad it’s Fall?

Our giant white oak has yet to change color or drop leaves but the hickory behind is golden orange.

Here in the South, we never know what kind of fall foliage to expect.  Some years the leaves simply turn brown and slough off.   Other time like this year we have a radiant Autumn with intense leaf color that continues for weeks.

In celebration we have spent a lot of time on the woodland trails and on the back deck admiring the display.

In late afternoon, we can be found gazing to the west toward the mockernut hickory next door which is back-lit by the setting sun.

The hickory is framed by the giant white oak that inspired me to buy this place.

In the fall color department, the white oak is a bit of a slacker.  The hickory, however, has been dependably golden every autumn.

The landscape plants make a nice transition to the orange dogwoods in the edge of the woods.

I have lived here for almost 30 years and have watched the mockernut grow up.  When it was still fairly young, a limb from the white oak topped the hick.  It looked kind of rough and I considered taking it out.  I am so grateful that my better judgement prevailed because the tree outgrew the injury and now the only sign is a slightly kinky leader.

Mockernut hickory is known in the plant world as a sort of prankster.   Its nuts are large and almost round but after the husk falls off, only a tiny nut and even tinier kernel are left.  I think my mockernut was planted by a squirrel who forgot to come back and nibble the tiny kernel.

On the other side of white oak central, I planted a bed – full of Japanese maples, native azaleas, bigleaf magnolia and sweetshrub.

A study in textural extremes - a golden cowcumber leaf has settled in with a threadleaf Japanese maple.

I selected a coral bark maple a.k.a ‘Sango-kaku’ for its intense red winter twigs.  I was disappointed the first fall when the leaves turned yellow instead of red.  I soon learned that after golden yellow, the leaves would morph into a beautiful shade of apricot and stay on the trees for a very long time.

I compensated by planting a threadleaf Japanese maple that does turn red in the fall.  I believe the variety is called ‘Garnet’.  It is quite striking in combination with all the yellow, gold and orange in the area.

I chose three bigleaf magnolias for their  fragrant spring blooms and striking coarse textured leaves.  The leaves of this cowcumber (as they call it in the country) can be up to a yard long.

As I walked through the back garden the other day, one of those enormous cowcumber leaves had drifted down and settled on top of the Garnet threadleaf maple.  It was quite a study in contrast – one of the most coarse textured leaves ever nestled in with one of the finest textured.

Proving once more that Autumn is a season of surprises.


Arrow-wood Viburnums Hit The Mark

I've been enjoying the arrow-wood flowers for about a month now.

I’m enjoying the arrow-wood viburnums that are blooming now around my place.

I have one indigenous stand on my land and have purchased all sorts of forms from my nursery friends.  Due to the genetic diversity, some bloom early and are already finished.  Others are just beginning to flower.

I love the arrow-woods for their showy white flowers.  They have nice foliage and a crop of blueberry like fruit for the birds.

My friend Rick Webb, owner of Louisiana Growers in Amite, loves the arrow-woods too.  He amuses himself after a hard day at the nursery by exploring the gravel roads around his his nursery.  He has selected at least 6 forms of arrow-woods from the area and introduced them in his nursery.

I can see this arrow-wood from my bedroom window.

Mostly they area named after their location of origin.

The large leaf arrow-wood is Viburnum dentatum.  Rick lists a selection called ‘Squirrel Creek’ and another called ‘Ben’s Creek’.  This species has larger leaves and flowers.   I am particularly fond of ‘Ben’s Creek’ due to its huge leaves and striking fall color.  The large leaved arrow-woods seem to bloom later.   ‘Ben’s Creek’ and my own indigenous form are in full bloom now.

Birds love the blue fruit.

The Southern arrow-woods (Viburnum dentatum var. scabrellum a.k.a V. dentatum var. dentatum) are sometimes called little leaf arrow-woods or southern arrow-wood.

Rick lists four forms including ‘Chemekete’, ‘Greensburg’, ‘Lee’s Landing’, and ‘Osceola’.   These generally have smaller more dainty flowers and leaves.  When I see these from my golf cart on our evening excursions, I always think about Rick riding the back roads of Louisiana.

There are several selections of arrow-wood viburnum in the nursery trade.

Hopefully, like me, you can find one for your garden that originates close to home.

Old Paint

I often sang verses of the old Woodie Guthrie song ” I ride an old paint….” when I was perched atop my geriatric Craftsman riding mower.

I bought Old Paint as a used mower and she served me well for at least eight more years.

Old Paint and I are working on a trail beside the timber bamboo.

Most people use a riding mower to cut lawn grass.  Old Paint was more like a mini-bushhog.   Together we forged new trails all over this disturbed 6 acres. With Old Paint I could attack a privet thicket or horse my way through a briar patch that left me looking as if I had tangled with a mean cat.  It was almost magical!

My technique involved cowboy-ing over small Chinese privet.   Then when I had some work space, I could come back and remove the large ones with my trusty Japanese pruning saw.

Once established I would mow the trails two or three times a year to maintain.

Late one night I was listening to a gardening podcast from the West Coast.  The host was one of the Garden Rant ladies and Billy Goodnick was the guest.  They were quite entertaining as they bashed the lawn and all that it stood for.  I agreed with most of their comments.  The consensus was, however, that anyone who would own a riding mower was ecologically irresponsible and should perhaps be put in the stocks.

I would love to give the Ranting Ladies and Billy Goodnick a tour of my land.  We could wander past the bee meadow that was planted after Old Paint chewed up the resident privet.  We could walk the woodland trails that were formerly choked with privet and Chinese wisteria and observe the native vegetation creeping back in.

We could admire the “Bottom” – a wetland formed by city drainage.  The Bottom has reached a state of balance where the native vegetation dominates and mowing is no longer necessary.  It is a beautiful place but it was here that Old Paint made a fatal encounter with a cypress knee.

Old Paint still has a good engine but her deck was compromised and she will no longer mow.  She is heading out to pasture and will now pull a small garden wagon around the place

So I just got a new mower last week.  It is a Zero Turn shiny red thing.  It has a heavy duty deck that will hopefully survive encounters with a few cypress knees.  It rides smoothly and can cut close to desirable plants.  This is a bonus because I do not have enough upper body strength to use a weed-eater.

I like the newbie but it seems way too fancy.

And what song will I sing while I mow now?


Queens for a Day

I spent half of my Earth Day doing computer stuff on the couch.

I did finish the blog post on baptisia that has been lingering in my “Half Finished” Box for over a week.

But… sitting on the couch is not what one should be doing on Earth Day so off I went to explore the land with Richard and our pack of dogs.

We rambled on the nature trails.

I photographed some flowers.

But mostly we sat and went snake-eyed – just gazing with no comment.

Queens Maria, Elizabeth and Latifa manage the hives in the foreground. Cleopatra can be seen in the background.

As we drove past the bee hives, I was inspired to write a blog post even though there was already one for the day.

I started thinking about how the honey I harvest from my bees allows my palette to have a taste of the land.

My honey is flavored by red maple, henbit, redbud, buckwheat titi and Japanese apricot.

It tastes of willow, native hawthorn, spring beauty, blackberry, vetch and clover.

At times there is a tinge of wild plum, huckleberry, wild cherry, black locust and black gum.

Then the essence of tulip poplar, native holly, persimmon, palmetto, rattan vine and milkweed comes to the table.

Woodrow strolls toward Queen Kelly Mitchell's hive.

And… the savory nectars of sumac, cyrilla, sourwood, clethra, goldenrod, boneset, Spanish needles, asters and eastern baccharis are added to the medley.

I tend to think that the honey is tainted by the less desirable plants on my land like Chinese privet, Chinese wisteria and popcorn tree.  But these invaders are part of my land and so it is only fitting that they put their own peculiar spin on the final product.

I guess it was inevitable that a flower freak like me would become a beekeeper.  A spoonful of my honey is a distillation of the flora of my land.

This melange of nectars results in a spicy honey different than any I have tasted before.

It melts on my tongue and I know that I am tasting a unique representation of my land.

So tonight I will pour a glass of home-made mead and drink a toast to my queens – Latifah, Elizabeth, Maria, Cleopatra and Kelly Mitchell.  This Earth Day post is in honor of them.  They have changed my perception of the land.


Bee Balm, Bumblebees and Burns

Bee balm is the most exciting flower in the Bee Meadow right now.

Despite the heat and drought, the wild bergamot or native bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) is blooming now in my Bee Meadow and in the wild.

This weekend I visited a prairie in Scott County that was full of bee balm blooming in harmony with butterfly milkweed, black eyed Susan, prairie clover and narrowleaf mountain mint.  It looked like a wonderful flower garden but the presence of charred wood indicated that the prairie was probably burned in March.

I enjoyed the prairie outing but am also glad to have bee balm close to home.  The flower heads are a beautiful frothy cluster of many individual florets.  In late evening as we approach the Bee Meadow, the fragrance of bee balm is delightful and reminiscent of the bergamot orange peel used to flavor Early Grey tea.

The bee balm blooms seem to glow in the late afternoon sun.

The scent attracts foraging bumble bees and other long-tongued bees, many other solitary bees like carpenter bees, butterflies, hummingbird moths and even ruby throated hummingbirds.

The foliage is aromatic as well.  A few moth caterpillars feed on the leaves but it is unpalatable to the ever encroaching deer.

On our late afternoon nature jaunts, we have particularly enjoyed watching the bumblebees and carpenter bees forage on the bee balm.

Bumblebees are very hairy and usually black with some sort of yellow striping.  They are closely related to honeybees but live in much smaller colonies.  They nest in holes in the ground or in cavities in rotting wood.

This carpenter bee is foraging on narrowleaf mountain mint. Note the smooth rear of the abdomen. A bumblebee would be uniformly hairy.

Bumblebees are especially efficient at pollinating flowers that are tubular shaped with pollen held on anthers deep inside.

They release the pollen by grasping the flower and vibrating their flight muscles.  This technique is called “buzz pollination” or sonication.

In addition to wildflowers, bumblebees are important pollinators of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, blueberries and cranberries.

Bumblebees are even released into greenhouses to pollinate tomatoes and strawberries .  Honeybees are very inefficient at pollinating all these crops so buzz pollination results in more and larger fruit.

Carpenter bees are solitary. They have the annoying habit of tunneling into wood to make their nests.  They are working on my front porch railings this summer.  Male carpenter bees are unable to sting but the females can inflict a painful stab.

In this Scott County Mississippi prairie, wild bergamot and butterfly milkweed are enticing the pollinators all day long.

Like bumblebees, carpenter bees practice buzz pollination.  Sometimes, however, they steal nectar without pollinating.  They bypass the pollen and go directly to the nectar by making a slit in the side of the flower.

At first I was calling all the large bees in the bee meadow bumble bees.  I finally learned that a bumblebee’s entire abdomen is hairy while a carpenter bee is smooth on the rear.

Just as I expected, the bee balms, mountain mints and other wildflowers in the Bee Meadow are attracting some interesting critters and bringing them in close so I can learn.

Bee balm and the other wildflowers mentioned here have a delicate appearance when in bloom.  But they are tough. They will grow in full Mississippi sun without irrigation in 100 degree plus temperatures.

And… they even thrive in areas that are regularly burned.




An Eclectic Azalea Collection

This is how my indigenous wild honeysuckle azalea stand greets me in spring. I regret that there is no "scratch and sniff" option for this photo!

I have been m. i. a. from the blog pretty much since spring hit.   I’m busy in spring and like to be outdoors.  Also a WordPress upgrade went bad and I lost all my subscribers and could not blog for over a week.  So if you were a subscriber, please sign up again.

During that week I lost the blogging habit.

The good news though is that I continued to take photographs.

And so… even though the flowers have waned, I must blog about azaleas.  They are gone but not forgotten and I have the pictures to prove they were here!

First I must mention my favorite of all – the native wild honeysuckle azalea a.k.a Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens).    This is the native azalea in my neck of the woods.  It is found in large stands mostly along creeks and rivers.  The flowers are in rounded clusters with individual florets looking somewhat like a pink to white honeysuckle flower.  The scent is a heavenly honeysuckle like fragrance.

I have planted many nursery grown specimens in my shaded back garden but the showing I love the most is an indigenous stand near my old nursery.  These beauties came to us along with our first land purchase.  They are in bloom usually in mid-March for barely two weeks.  If I am busy and fail to give them the proper amount of admiration, I grieve for weeks after they are gone.

About nine of them live on the top of a hill – a remnant of the pre-existing woods.  I can barely see them through the trees from my back deck.  In full bloom they seem to cluster together like a bevy of teenage girls – all dressed up to go to the mall and claiming their space with a bit too much perfume.  Ahhhhhh!

Doreen rambles through the Florida flame azalea bed along our creek.

The Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) is a similar native azalea with yellow to orange blooms.  I have not see this one in the wild in my county.  I have collected nursery plants from several locations and am establishing a bed that blooms yellow, orange and white near the creek.  The white comes from a few fledgling Alabama azaleas (Rhododendron alabamense) by the way.

During bloom season these golden beauties reveal themselves from a great distance and beckon me nearer.  They are loud for sure but I relish our time together.

My current favorite exotic azalea is an Asian hybrid with uncertain origins.  It is a lavender spider flowered azalea called ‘Koromo Shikibu’.   The unusual flowers sport narrow drooping petals that are marked with deep violet blotches.

The unusual 'Koromo Shikibu' azalea blooms in spring and fall.

‘Koromo Shikibu’ is very fragrant and has attractive velvety evergreen leaves.  Plants tend to bloom in fall as well as spring.  They also produce scattered red autumn leaves.

I am possibly enamored of ‘Koromo Shikibu’ simply because I look forward to sticking a few blooming stems in my autumn flower arrangements.

But… I do love the unique flower form and I must admit, that I just like saying ‘Koromo Shikibu’.

I do not have an azalea garden by any means.  Still these gems are an important part of my spring garden.

Each year I smile when the first blossoms of these azaleas appear.  I am happy to see my old friends decked out in their spring finery once more.



Garden Gifts

This beefy larkspur rosette will burst into bloom when spring rolls around.

Today my friend Rebecca had the day off.  She decided to come spend some time with me here at the place.

We rambled around and discovered some wonderful things in the garden.

Honeybees started buzzing after the sun warmed the hives.  I’m thinking that they were foraging for water and bolting broccoli raab flowers.  We assembled a feeder and concocted bee food to help them make it through the winter.

We spotted an Eastern phoebe.  This is a new bird that I have never seen before.  Rebecca noticed some tail wagging and that confirmed the id.

The cherubic pink daphne buds were quite stunning

A handsome larkspur rosette and plump budded daffodil reminded us that spring was in the wings.

We picked designer garden salads from the veg beds.

I think it’s safe to say that we had a grand time.

I think it’s safer to say that the dogs had a grander time!


December in Mississippi

This is the site of my latest privet eradication efforts.

Oh yeah – today was one of those lovely sunny December days that we enjoy here in the Magnolia state.

I worked for a while this morning on my latest privet clearing project.

It is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

Now that most of the privet clutter is gone, I can see the lay of the land again.

It is a low drainage area or “Bottom” full of sweetbay magnolias and ironwoods.  The native plants should really thrive if they don’t have to compete with privet.

Woody relaxes with the catch of the day, his prized deer antler.

Richard and I went out on a golf cart ride this afternoon.  I wanted him to inspect my work and to be amazed at the space.

He was.

We sat in the golf cart and just gazed as if we were at at drive in movie.

The sun was shining and we stayed out until the shadows became long and the temperature began to drop.

The dogs had a grand time.  Especially Woodrow who headed out toward the deep woods and came back with a deer antler in tow!

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.