Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wild Flower, or Wildflower or Native Species?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Past evening news time here on the mountain. Four snowmobiles just went racing by the lower drive in careless formation as if chased by the unknown from an H.P. Lovecraft novel. The road is mostly ice all the way to the pond but it did not seem to slow the riders. Normally there would be a slice of moonlight tonight but it is absent as clouds cover the moon and a light snow falls. At 27 degrees, it is one of the warmest nights in weeks.

For some reason I began to think of spring flowers even though it is a long time until spring. Back in the 50s as a young gardener, new to my parents gardening endeavors and new-to-me Vermont, I recalled the eagerness with which the farmers next door approached spring. Town Meeting Day was a spring event when folks spent the day at their town hall or a local church meeting room or school and discussed important issues like potholes in the roads and nuclear bombs, a new road grader, erecting street lamps, electing the first and second constables, the cemetery sexton, fence viewers, inspector of lumber, shingles and wood, and the weigher of coal. Town Meeting Day was "the" day everyone traditionally started their tomatoes and peppers from seed in the house on windowsills. It was always too early as the plants became too leggy before first possible planting in June. Just the same, if you lived here, you started plants the first Tuesday of March and that was the way it was.

Wild flowers in my youth seemed always to be written as one word but it was rarely spoken as most people called each flower by name. I have never heard anyone explain how or why we went from one word "wildflower" to two words "wild flower" but do know how the
New England Wild Flower Society prefers it. I also know that wildflowers rarely come into bloom around here until just before Memorial Day towards the end of May. Gail's favorite wildflowers are the hepaticas but I can enjoy all of them.

By mid June the False Solomon Seal are beginning to bloom and of all the flowers in our garden, they probably represent the native flower the fewest people can identify. When you explain the name there often seems to be a disbelief as the correlation between the hybridized Solomon Seal and the native are quite different. As we made gardens at our Peacham Pond Road property in

the old days we left the False Solomon Seal wherever it resprouted. The foliage is nice, the flowers are like sparks of creamy white and when the flowers begin to form seeds, they provide a silvery-gold accent to early autumn gardens. Their height is sufficient to intersect lines of hosta plantings and contrast with a sharpness that enhances the garden.

Some folks call wild flowers "natives" or native species and what are native species to some are trouble to others. An iris that is found all over New England is Iris pseudocarpus, a +3 foot tall yellow iris that seems native to me because it has been here long before the 50's when I was transplanted from New York. It has an affinity for bountiful seed production and as a result it can often be found along stream beds, in swamps or growing on little hummocks. Most always there are large clumps keeping company with other nearby clumps.

Spring has beautiful wild flowers and I'll spotlight several as we get closer to spring. For today I was just thinking about how nice it is to see the snow melt and the ground begin to change color. It's still a ways off. Unless you have a greenhouse, don't plant anything yet. As the length of the days increases, there will be plenty of time for soil to warm and seeds to grow.

Writing from the mountain where it's quiet tonight. The Vermont Gardener is tired but the picture of a yellow iris or a lavender hepatica brings a peacefulness that all gardeners can understand. As you're skimming through catalogs or gardening books, think about adding some wildflowers to your gardens this spring. You will be happy you did!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Now on Facebook as George Africa and as a fan page, Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens.
And yes, George uses Twitter as vtflowerfarm with great gardeners from just about everywhere!


Teza said...

Hepatica nobilis and transylvanica as well as Mainthenum racemosa are some of my favourite woodlanders as well. I think mine is a dwarf of the 'false Solomon's Seal' as it might rise five inches above the soil if that! I love the brilliant canary yellow Iris that you post as well! Hope all is well with you!

Jean said...

George - your photography is still among the best of the garden blogging community. Thank you.

George Africa said...

Hello Jean;

Thanks for enjoying my photography. Just finished tax time so I can get outside. I want to take some conifers and also apple trees in winter snow.

I looked at your site re: greenhouses.

We are thinking of installing a greenhouse but not until late fall or next spring. As I travel around Vermont I see many, many greenhouses that are laying on the ground. It bothers me that many are sold with one of two things apparently absent: either the manufacturer is not aware of the climate here or the buyer doesn't know what his responsibility is if living in an area where snow accumulates. Peaked roofs are better as they get the snow moving off sooner. Just the same snow building up along the ground pushes inward and can cave in the entire wall.

I buy my shade houses from Rimol and like the heavy gauge of their pipe. You can get a cheaper product but one snow storm, one ice storm and you can be out of business.


Jean said...

A couple of summers ago I was at Red's Eats in Wiscasset ME. They had a photo on the wall of Red's in wintertime. There was nothing visible except a tiny bit of the tip of the roof poking through the snow - so I know what you mean.
I find that some of the greenhouses manufactured in Canada are more attuned to the needs of gardeners who live in areas with heavy snow.