A Hike Back to Spring

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Massed Corn Lilies

Saturday Brian and I hiked back in time. No, we haven’t invented some marvelous time machine. We just picked a trail that started higher than where we live and hiked uphill. While it was early summer down in Bellingham, we found early spring on the Hannegan Pass trail some 40 miles up the road and 3000 feet higher in elevation. There were no other cars in the parking lot and we didn’t see anyone else along the trail, though there were a few footprints in the mud that told us others had passed this way in recent days.

Green corn lilies (Veratrum viride), just getting started, complemented masses of slide alder (Alnus viridis) in this recently-melted avalanche track. We marveled at acres and acres of this lush foliage on both sides of the trail. Later in the season these plants will be over four feet tall. Continue reading

Finding Solace Among the Salmonberries

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Woodland with decaying stumps

We’re living in turbulent times. We face uncertainty about our health with a global pandemic circulating among us. People are getting killed and protests are raging in many of our cities. Our so-called leaders at the national level are failing to lead, choosing to incite anger rather than seeking to instill calm and rationality. Frankly, I’m stressed about the state of the nation right now.

I find solace in our woods. You’ve probably heard of shinrin-yoku, or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness. In English, we call it forest bathing. There are several books on the subject, including the one on my bedside table, Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki. Continue reading

May Lilies

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May Lilies beneath Salmonberries

May lily is an apt name for this little woodland groundcover, as the flowers reliably open in early May here in the lowlands of western Washington. It’s also called false lily-of-the-valley because of its resemblance to that common garden plant. In technical terms, it’s known as Maianthemum dilatatum.

Whatever you call them, May lilies are one of those plants I look forward to seeing in bloom each spring. Continue reading

Slugs and Snails and Ferns and Flowers

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Spreading Wood Ferns

Yesterday evening Brian and I meandered slowly through our woods along what we variously call the new trail, the short trail, or the creek trail. Maybe we’ll nail down a name for it one of these days. But the trail name doesn’t matter so much. It’s the woodland path closest to the house, but we don’t walk it as frequently as some of our other trails. We walked less than 100 yards as we found much to observe and enjoy in the hour we spent.

These spreading wood ferns (Dryopteris expansa) are right beside the trail at the base of an old and decaying stump. True to their name, this fern seems happiest growing on rotting wood. People often confuse it with lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), another common fern that grows in our woods. Continue reading

Last Light in the Garden

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Thimbleberries, Snowberries at base of Paper Birch trunks

With long days this time of year we don’t often get in from working in the garden until 7:30 or so and then we’ll have dinner as we watch the late afternoon night move and shift on the woodland border at the back of the garden. Last night was no exception, and as soon as dinner was finished I headed back out to capture a bit of the magic.

This cluster of paper birches (Betula papyrifera) is at the edge of our woods. It’s a favorite place, and a favorite photo subject nearly year-around. Now that the thimbleberries have leafed out it’s at peak. Continue reading

A Sparkling Morning

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Fringecup lines woodland path

I was out early this morning. Well, not so early that the sun wasn’t up, but early enough that it was still low in the sky and the dew lay undisturbed upon the garden and our woods. I embraced the cool, still air and ambled down the path from our lawn and into the woods with my camera on my shoulder. It’s a nice way to start the day, but something that has yet to become a habit. Continue reading

Fringecup and Piggy-back Plant

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Fringecup

Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) and Piggy-back Plant (Tolmiea menziesii) are two common woodland wildflowers that have just come into bloom at our place in the last few days. That’s Fringecup in the photo above, along with some foliage from Enchanter’s Nightshade, some May Lilies on the left, and a bit of Bugleweed in the background.

Both of these common plants are in the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae) and people often confuse them, particularly when they’re not in flower. Now that they’re blooming it’s easy to tell them apart by their blossoms. Continue reading