Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garden Disasters, Woodland Consolations

What my Flowering Dogwood should have looked like, if only . . .
Okay.  That's it.  No more gardening for me.  A squirrel just ate the last bud on my Flowering Dogwood tree, just as it started to open.  I paid good money for that tree last spring and I was so excited to see it just filled with buds this spring.  But one by one:  snip! snip! snip!  And now they are all gone.  I planted that dogwood plus two Red Chokeberries, two Highbush Cranberries, and one Sweet Pepperbush last year, hoping to create a wildlife refuge in my back yard.  My yard was even certified as such by the National Wildlife Federation.  I was thinking in terms of butterflies and birds when I planted those shrubs as wildlife food.  But the mammalian wildlife got there first.  A rabbit sheared the chokeberries and pepperbush right down to the ground this winter, then a squirrel did in the dogwood buds (as well as all of my lilies and a rhubarb plant).  The cranberries got a good pruning, but at least there are still a few flower clusters yet to bloom.  So far.

I am trying not to feel murderous about all this.  Why get all upset about one snipped dogwood tree?  Despite the  50 bucks I paid, dogwoods are a dime a dozen.  Big deal.  I can go to the woods and see one any time.  So that's what I did.  Not to look for a dogwood, but to seek out a plant that is certainly not a dime a dozen, but actually quite rare: Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).  And find it I did, just come into bloom today, in a spot I visit each year.  

Goldenseal blooms as its leaves are still unfolding.

This plant, too, has its attackers: herbalists who dig it up to sell for big money, and Garlic Mustard, an aggressive alien plant whose roots poison the soil for all other plants around it.  So I keep the whereabouts of this Goldenseal patch a deep, dark secret, and each spring when I visit it I pull all the Garlic Mustard that tries to encroach.  I noticed that the Goldenseal has significantly expanded its territory since I started pulling the mustard.

Masses of Wild Columbine brighten a country roadside.

The woods were full of consolations for me today.  A roadside bank was ablaze with Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), dozens and dozens of plants, their scarlet lanterns swinging in the breeze.  I parked my car to take a photo and nearly stepped on a patch of Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis).  This plant has another name -- Lousewort -- but I think Wood Betony sounds better for such a pretty plant.  This is only the second place in Saratoga County I've ever seen it.

Wood Betony's ruffled leaves are as pretty as its flowers.

Encouraged by these two finds, I ambled down the road a bit, and lo and behold, a third surprise awaited me:  a beautiful profusion of Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides).  Its flower resembles the Wood Anemone's and its leaves the Meadow Rue's, but this plant is far less common than either of those.

The pristine white of Rue Anemone stands out against its soft green leaves.

So all in all, my feelings about one mangled dogwood were soothed by encountering one lovely wildflower after another today.  Who needs a flower garden when the woods and waters and roadways abound with beauty?  And oh yes . . . I did find a Flowering Dogwood, too.  (That's its photo at the top of the post.)


Kristine said...

that is the problem/joy of using more native plants, the native mongrels who come along and eat it! scrolling down, i love your pictures, and descriptions. i like to hang out at either the Pine Bush or Five Rivers
thanks for your post!

Jennifer Schlick said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. And you are right! We share sensibilities... we are kindred spirits. I've added you to my Blogroll!

Kenton and Rebecca said...

Greetings Jackie! We saw your comment on Jennifer's blog (http://winterwoman.wordpress.com/) and really appreciated your words. You also led us to your beautiful blog! We loved the Birdsnest fungus in your sidebar, and the Dead Man's Fingers was creepy =) We also loved that giant grub a few posts back. Wow! Thanks for leading us to your site!

Ellen Rathbone said...

OH, look at all the lovely columbine! Such a delightful flower!

Squirrel: the other white meat.

You may need to tether the cat outside for a while - a little furry discouragement for the squirrels.

Seriously, though, if your plants actually survive, you might want to try this: mix cayenne pepper with baby powder and put the whole mixture into a sock and knot the end. Then go up to your plants and whack the side of the sock with a stick. The contents will puff out and leave a coating on the plants. This is one of the recommendations for detering rabbits, and I know cayenne is used in birdseed to discourage squirrels. Maybe it will help.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear people, I thank you for stopping by and for leaving such generous and helpful comments.

Kristine: I have heard wonderful reports about Albany's Pine Bush and must visit it soon.

Jennifer: Thanks for adding my blog to your blogroll. I have become a "Follower" of yours so I won't miss a post.

Kenton and Rebecca: Your comment led me to your blog (the cycle continues) and I was delighted with what I found there. You too are now on the list of blogs I follow. I'm looking forward to visiting again soon.

Nature Girl: Believe my, the thought of squirrel stew has crossed my mind. Thanks for the red pepper suggestion. I'd heard that it may work, but your delivery system sounds like just the ticket. Thanks!