Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrating Earth Day

Ruben, Chris, Debbi and Hudson.
Earth Day 2012 wasn't much of a day for selling plants here at the garden center, but what the heck – Groundworks always considers it a good day for picking up trash. Four of us plucked 15 bags of litter from the byway and enjoyed doing it.

Christ found the toy gun, making for
the perfect still-life-with weapon
photo opportunity.
Hudson Knights was proud of the Federal Bureau of Prisons staff shirt that he pulled, wet and filthy, from the ditch. His brother, Ruben, scored some golf balls the Willowood Country Club aces so ably stroke across the Greenbrier River.

Debbi McNeer was taken with the vast quantity of beverage containers that populate the roadside. And Chris Chanlett led a chorus of acclaim that McDonald's won the sweepstakes for the most massive contribution to highway litter.

Does this corporation make any effort to offset the labor donated by volunteers to clean up after its way of doing business? In eight hours this morning along two miles of highway we picked up hundreds of pieces of junk with McD emblazoned on them. Thanks, Mickey, for the exercise!

Two hours later, the crew poses with their pick-up-stick weapons and bags of bounty.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ephemeral – Lasting for just a short time

We seem to want it all, all the time, but there is something to be said for the
ephemeral, reminding us of the moment – the beauty of now and the promise
it will all be coming back to us next spring.
Spring is full of the ephemeral, as nature rushes to get itself established in the growing season. All kinds of early-blooming plants, trees, shrubs and perennials are forming their seeds and restoring their carbohydrates for the upcoming dormant season. That’s why there are so few long-blooming plants at this time of year. And that’s why there is no such thing as a plant that blooms all season and comes up the next year.

Some plants, like the old-fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) have another strategy: They bloom while the weather is relatively cool and then go completely dormant in the summer, hiding from the heat. You will never see a full-blooming bleeding heart in August. But isn’t it grand to have plants that scream April!

Bleeding heart
Another old-fashioned plant, the snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephelum), is all about April and May.  It has an abundance of bloom and so easy to take care of.

Snowball bush

Monday, April 9, 2012

So far, so good

The inevitability of frost in April caught up this week with the delusions of a record-hot March. Most flowering plants have been blooming two to three weeks earlier than usual. This gives rise to a vernal headiness, excitement shot through with anxiety. Everyone wonders: Will we lose all the fruit?  

The short answer from our observation around here is so far, so good. A great deal of stone fruit like cherries is already beading up. A lot of apples were just passing pollination, when the insects cease working the trees and the seed forms. Every day it makes a little more sugar and gains a bit more frost resistance.

A real freeze in the 20s could still wreak havoc, but frost is a surface condition rather than a thermal fact. We don’t understand how, but frost seems to develop at dawn or in the wee hour,s even when the temperature is above 32 degrees. Can somebody explain this brush with loss we often see in the late spring?

Two apple trees in Hinton show their endurance after two nights of frost. 
On the right a ‘Wolf River’ already has tiny pinheads of green seed. If it 
turns brown, the fruit has been lost. The left tree is still being actively worked 
by thousands of insects, proving its pollination is proceeding.