Trillium Season

Posted on by
Giant Purple Wakerobin

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for Trilliums. They’ve been among my favorite wildflowers for more than 50 years. According to the USDA PLANTS database, there are more than 35 species of Trillium in North America (plus a bunch of subspecies and varieties).

In our garden and woods we only have two species of Trillium. The one at the top of this post is Giant Purple Wakerobin, Trillium kurabayashii, which is native to southern Oregon and northern California. We’ve been growing a small clump of these for a few years and they’re looking particularly good this spring. Continue reading

Morning and Evening

Posted on by
Fog in early spring perennial garden

The edges of the day — around sunrise and sunset — are the most interesting. Yes, we all enjoy warm sunny blue-sky days, but frankly, mid-day sunshine is visually boring.

A couple of weeks ago I looked out out kitchen window about 7:30 as I was finishing my breakfast and noticed the low morning sun shining through a little fog in the garden. It was about 30 minutes after official sunrise. I figured this little light show wouldn’t last long, so I grabbed the camera I keep in the house and rushed out to the garden to capture this bit of atmospheric light show. Continue reading

Coming Soon: Maple Sex

Posted on by
Bigleaf Maple flower buds

Get ready boys and girls, the Bigleaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), are getting ready for their once-a-year sexual escapades. It’s going to be a few days before we get into full-fledged maple sex season, but keep your eyes peeled for the first blossoms to open.

Right now the flower buds are just starting to peek out from their enclosing bud scales on the trees at the edge of our yard. I first noticed the expanding buds a few days ago and yesterday evening I aimed my macro lens at a few of them. Continue reading

This Bud’s For Me

Posted on by
Western Trilliums

Yesterday evening I walked down our woodland path to check on our small patch of Western Trilliums, Trillium ovatum. We have them in three or four places along the paths in our woods and I’d seen the first two stems, with their leaves just beginning to unfurl, among the Bleeding Heart a few days earlier. Those were a bit further along and I spied a third stem a couple of feet away.

What I hadn’t seen a few days ago was this little clump of four stems among the moss on the other side of the path. But here they were, leaves unfurled and tiny white dots suggesting flowers would be coming along soon. Why didn’t I see them before? Probably because they were a couple of feet further back from the path than I’d remembered. Continue reading


Osoberry blossoms

One of the first shrubs to bloom in our woods is Osoberry, Oemleria cerasiformis. We usually see the first signs of blossoms opening in late February. Some plants are still showing flowers this week, although they’re starting to look a little aged by now. The photo above was made on March 23, showing flowers on one of the plants that bloomed a little later than others. Continue reading

On My Knees for Bleeding Heart

Pacific Bleeding Heart emerging flower buds

Our woods are blessed in many places with a large carpet of our native Pacific bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa. I’ve been seeing the foliage emerging from the ground for at least a couple of weeks now, but this was the first week that I’ve noticed any flower buds. It’s hard to see them unless you get down on your knees and look closely. The clusters of flower buds are less than 1/2 inch across, but growing bigger by the day. We’re still many days from the flowering opening. In 2019 I first photographed our bleeding heart on April 25, but I don’t recall when I saw the first precocious flower. Continue reading

Giant Purple Wakerobin

Giant Purple Wakerobin

I’ve been a sucker for trilliums as long as I can remember, going back to seeing them on the hillside as we drove from Glenville to my grandparents’ home in Spencer, West Virginia as a small child. The species we have in the Pacific Northwest are different from those in Appalachia, but no less beautiful.

Giant Purple Wakerobin, Trillium kurabayashii, is among the first of our trilliums to bloom. It’s native to southern Oregon and northern California but grows quite happily in our woodland-edge garden here in Bellingham. This is a plant that appreciates rich humus in woodland soil and a mix of sun and shade. In the wild I usually see it on forest edges. Continue reading

On the Cusp

Early spring native shrub garden

Our front yard native shrub and perennial garden doesn’t look like much this week. The shrubs are just starting to leaf out, we haven’t cut back all of last year’s penstemon stems, and there are weeds everywhere. That’s pretty much the nature of gardens in early spring. We gardeners know what’s coming and get out in the sunshine to clean up the mess so we can enjoy the blooms that will soon start appearing.

We began this part of our garden in earnest in 2017 when we had a big truckload of soil delivered. We spread it out to a depth of one or two feet to improve the drainage. Who would have thought that a gentle slope would be waterlogged most of the winter and into the spring?

In the photo above you can see some of the native shrubs we’ve planted — red-flowering, golden, swamp, and prickly currants; serviceberry; Douglas’s hawthorn; red-twig dogwood; birchleaf spiraea; and ninebark. Native perennials fill in the gaps. Continue reading