Friday, June 23, 2006

Epimedium, barrenworth

We had a tiny epimedium (barrenwort) for several years until we moved and I missed that tiny plant with white flowers in spring. We bought it at a much beloved nursery but now closed when the owner died. He had many unique plants sold very cheaply because they were small, in tiny 1" pots, majority of the plants for $.99 to $4.99 for 4" pots you don't find in the run of the mill nurseries or big box stores. He grew many of the plants from seed in his extensive greenhouses. We were always so excited to go there in Spring to look at the vast selection of plants so much so that a couple of years we arrived too early only to be turned back by a CLOSED not open until ... sign. Anyway, I missed the epimedium so much, I looked for it on the internet and purchased three varieties: Epimedium pubigerum 'Orange King', Epimedium x rubrum, Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'. Apparently epimedium is also used as a herb to improve libido and is sold as horny goat weed! Imagine that! These herbal purveyors are getting carried away with descriptions as the horticultural books don't describe epimedium as "horny goat weed". I think it these plants would go well with the other wild shade plants listed above although some of the varieties are considered be ground cover. To my disappointment I was not able to buy the one that seemed to be the one we had previously which is the Epimedium diphyllum. Perhaps at a later date. Actually after further investigation I think it's the Epimedium x youngianum 'White Star' not the diphyllum.
While looking for epimediums I found a site that sold lovely Chinese and Japanese epimediums but the prices were beyond what I was willing to pay $20 and up. Good to know what's out there to drool over.

Here's a photo of the newly planted Epimedium x rubrum.

Here are some websites:

and nurseries:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


These are photos of some mushrooms popping up in our yard this spring.
This bright yellow mushroom was growing next to a phalaenopsis orchid. It's poisonous - a Lemon-yellow Lepiota.
Pink Mycena or coprinus is the one that looks like a gray umbrella (I'm guessing).
Fairy ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades) or lawn mower's mushroom (Psathyrella foenisecii) Both edible with the fairy ring listed as good but may be confused with two other poisonous mushrooms.

I'm not a mycologist so these are just guesses. The yellow one had an especially beautiful bright color the only one that was easily identifiable.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Death tableau, birds, spider & wasp

I found a spider which looked like a giant wolf spider,the biggest of its type I've ever seen except for the giant brown spider that would occasionally come into houses in Hawaii - I mean they had a leg span of a small tarantula but much smaller body the size of a penny but still not cool to an arachnophobe. Anyway this wolf spider was lying on it's back and not 4" away was a yellow jacket also lying on it's back with the stinger part of it's abdomen gone. Apparently their game of eat and sting/paralyze to lay eggs turned deadly for both! Unfortunately by the time I remembered to take the photo of the two combatants, the wind had come up and blew the yellow jacket away so the picture is of the spider only. Later the ants were swarming the spider trying to make a meal of it. Nothing is wasted.

We must have a predator of birds in the neighborhood. We've seen a sharp shinned hawk occasionally but we've found 5 or 6 birds with heads partially eaten around our bird feeders and if the hawk caught a bird it would usually take it away. It may be the wild cat which frequents our cat bowl left for the neighbor's outside cat but this has never happened before in such a wholesale slaughter. Quite a grisly scene to come upon. I guess these birds will not pass on their incautious genes.

The photo is of a blackbird my wife found lying on a rock close to the serviceberries. I see that the camera has caught the beautiful iridescence around the neck area. This one had no injuries that I could detect so one wonders what killed it? Could it be West Nile disease? And also a photo of a weird dried up bird with very long legs. The skeletal remains are only 4" long and it looks like a baby but what kind of bird is it? The long legs are a mystery.

Then of course the cats bring the yearly offerings of deer mice, shrews, voles and worst of all baby rabbits. Nice to step on a dead mouse walking out of the house. They mean well but I wish they would keep their gifts and not share. Oh well enough of death and dying. Think of all the mini dramas happening around you. Mostly unseen.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jack-in-the-pulpits, Arisaema triphyllum, aka "Indian turnip"

The jacks which were given to me free of charge by one of the sellers as a bonus because some of the other plants sent were not of the best quality, have sprouted and bloomed all in about 3 weeks time! I believe these are the native A. triphyllum. Although they vary in color - some are a very delicate light green with lighter color veining and others colored purple brown - they are apparently the same species. The corms are edible after cooking thus the name "Indian turnip"

We had one at the tiny old townhouse garden which was transplanted to the new home but it didn't survive the move so getting this bonus was a great serendipity. The trouble is, this has sparked a new interest in obtaining the more exotic Arisaemas, especially A.sikokianum with the large round flattened white spadix and reddish purple spathe sometimes known as the Japanese rice cake plant. Unfortunately that's my problem with plants, once I am introduced to a genus I want to collect all of the species. A bad addiction in terms of my wallet.

Friday, June 09, 2006


The poppies I planted from seed two years ago bloomed this spring. The plants are fairly scrawny in the first year and you don't think they will survive the winter but the second year's growth was quite impressive as were the flowers. They bloom fairly early and only a few stragglers remain now. Unfortunately the flowers don't last a long time but they surely command attention with their brilliant color and very large flower on a tall stem.

These are the Oriental poppies, Papaver orientale. As you can see of the photo of my hand, the size of the bloom must be about 10 inches across. The forming seed pod and the stamens and pistil are interesting in itself. The seed pod can probably be dried and used in a dry arrangement adding a uncommon element. The pod looks just like the opium poppy pods. In fact I do believe that the poppy seeds we eat come from the opium poppy. Opium poppies, P. somniferum are grown as an ornamental, the flowers are quite striking with blossoms having a yellow center rather than the dark purple of the oriental. I guess it's not illegal to grow them just don't try to scar them and collect the sap!

The only problem we've had with P. orientale is that they occupy a large amount of space so you have to allow about three feet free space around each plant which we don't have so they're crammed in with other plants and don't seem to mind. We've also grown the P. atlanticum which freely self seeds and the P. nudicaule or Iceland poppy which you often see for sale with delicate pastel orange and pink flowers and P. commutatum which came in a wildflower seed mix and sort of took over the planting bed and looks like the red poppies that the veterans give you when you make a donation.

Being a curious sort I will someday try to plant the poppy seed used for baking. Will let you know how that experiment turns out.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Calochortus, Mariposa lily, Mariposa tulip, fairy lantern, blooming now!

During the Fall we were looking through several bulb catalogs and decided to try some of the more unusual selections. We settled on Calochortus which looked dainty and very pretty in the catalog pictures. Sometimes the pictures are enhanced in catalogs so we weren't expecting something spectacular but the photos were dead on and the flowers are quite beautiful.

There are several varieties of Calochortus, albus, amoenus, clavatus, superbus and venustus. I believe we got the superbus and so far we've had three colors, a white, pale violet and bright yellow. More are in the bud stage and the little peeks we get when the petals are breaking indicate that there may be more variations of the colors already mentioned. They all have a dark blood red spot on the inside base of the petals and the flowers are quite striking. The leaves are very skinny and threadlike and the flower stem rises between a foot and slightly more than 2 feet tall.

We are very pleased that we bought these bulbs but I'm sorry I can't remember where we bought them. A google search could probably bring up several vendors who carry these bulbs. They are considered a difficult plant to grow so I was afraid that they wouldn't come up in zone 6 because they are a California - western US native and require special growing conditions - cool temperate climate, well drained gritty soil, good drainage a must. But we've had no problem in growing them so far. They require a dry summer so we'll see how they fair with our variable rainfall.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Early stages of a wild shade garden

I was so taken by the sudden appearance of the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) after two years in the ground that I was tempted to look for more wild plants. It is strange how some plants can affect you... There were several vendors on Ebay selling bloodroot and other interesting looking plants cheaply so I bought some. I just hope they are propagating these and not collecting from the wild. Some say they are doing just that but who knows? We have an ideal woodland environment under several redbud trees which needed some shade plants so I went a little overboard and bought several.

We also planted trout lillies (Erythronium americanum) (dog tooth lillies) two years ago at the same time we bought the bloodroot but they didn't come up so I bought more. I also bought bird's-foot violets aka crowfoot violets (Viola pedata), more bloodroot, round leafed hepatica also known as round lobed liverleaf (Hepatica americana) the shape and color of the leaves look like liver - actually more like kidney to my mind (looking at the photo it seems I got the sharp-lobed hepatica instead H. acutiloba, I guess you can't go by the description of the Ebay vendors, oh well) , twin leaf aka rheumatism root (Jeffersonia diphylla) named after Thomas Jefferson, and spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) a little evergreen plant with white striped leaves, not spotted despite it's common name. I was given some jack in the pulpits by one of the sellers because they didn't think the birds foot violets were up to their standards. The rhizomes of the violets were tiny but it was already sprouting leaves so the jacks were a bonus. There are some kind and generous people out there not always after the buck.

The hepatica, violets, twin leaf and jacks are already in ground. The hepatica, several already leafed out, are trying to become upright after the travel and transplant shock. The others were either in bulb, corm or rhizome form and have yet to sprout out of the ground.

I look forward to seeing this new woodland garden. These plants will join the already existing Canadian ginger Asarum canadense, some Japanese painted ferns Athyrium 'Silver Falls', Solomon's seal Polygonatum x hybridum, volunteer Labrador violet Viola labradorica and a bunch of anemones.

Photos are of Lab. violet, Solomon's seal, Canadian ginger and sharp-lobed Hepatica.
My Photo
Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Carnival-small Blogroll Me!

Listed on Blogwise

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Gardening  Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory