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.
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.
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.)