Bog Candle, Swamp Lantern, Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus — whatever you call it, this northwest native wetland plant is one of the first to brighten our spring. It seems to light up the wet places in our woods and wet meadows at this time of year. Continue reading
Our garden has lots of early-season weeds, just waiting to be pulled. One that’s important to get out quickly is Shotweed, aka Hairy Bittercress or Cardamine hirsuta. This winter annual is in full bloom right now and getting ready to shoot its seeds all over the place. In the photo above it’s the plant with the white flowers, growing mixed up with Henbit, Creeping Buttercups, and Common Groundsel. Continue reading
Henbit, also known as Purple Dead-nettle or Red Dead-nettle and in Latin as Lamium purpureum, is a unibiquitous garden weed in much of North America. It’s one of the first plants I learned as a child in my dad’s garden in West Virginia. Dead-nettle refers to the foliage vaguely resembling stinging nettle leaves, but dead-nettle doesn’t have any stiff stinging hairs. In fact, the foliage is soft and fuzzy to the touch.
It’s an easy plant to identify and a rather pretty weed. Look for the somewhat velvety, triangular shaped leaves surrounding the square stem (characteristic of members of the mint family). Small pinkish flowers are nestled among the foliage at the tip of the stem. The upper leaves are usually reddish-purple while the lower leaves tend to be more green. Continue reading
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
I was walking around the edge of our lawn a couple of days ago and noticed that the buds on our vine maples, Acer circinatum, are beginning to swell. It’s going to be a while before we see actual foliage but it’s encouraging to see that they’ve made it through the winter and we’ll soon be enjoying the brilliant green of new growth.
You’ll notice that the twigs are in pairs. That’s something that had escaped my notice in previous years. I knew that vine maple blossoms are always in pairs, as are their samaras (the helicopter-like seeds). I’ll have to look closely at the leaves as they emerge to see if they’re also mostly in pairs. Continue reading
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
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
April hikes in the North Cascades have to be at lower elevations unless you want to break out your snowshoes or skis. On a rainy Sunday it made sense for my friend Brian and me to choose the East Bank Baker Lake Trail and head to Noisy Creek. Neither of us had hiked this section of trail before.
At only 800 feet elevation, spring was in full swing along the trail. We inhaled deeply as we entered the woods, sucking in the sweet scent of moist humus and conifers. Much of the forest is old growth, the usual mix of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar, the understory a tangle of mossy logs and thickets of vine maples, salmonberries, and huckleberries. Without a trail it would be tough bushwhacking. Continue reading
It may not have felt much like spring on Thursday, February 23 as I drove to Seattle for the 2017 Northwest Flower & Garden Show. There was a bit of fresh snow on the ground as I drove down I-5 for my annual fix of gardening inspiration. I’ve been going to the NWFGS for 20 years, sometimes as a speaker but more often just to enjoy the display gardens.
A few days ago my friend Annie called to say her red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) was about to burst into full bloom, inviting me to swing by and photograph it. She has a couple of nice shrubs against the fence in her backyard and when I visited on March 16 one of the two was in full bloom. Continue reading