Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's Violet Season!

The violets are blooming so quickly now, I can hardly keep up with them.  I was glad for a rainy day today so I could stay home and go over the photos I took this week of violets from several sites around Saratoga.  We sure do have a wonderful variety, all growing within a few miles of each other.

The first stop on my violet hunt was the North Woods at Skidmore College here in Saratoga Springs.  It's violet heaven out there, starting with the tiny fragrant English Violets, both purple and white varieties, that bloom as early as March, vying  with the hepaticas to be the first flower of spring.  Then follow the Long-spurred Violets, Dog Violets, Downy and Smooth Yellow Violets, the Common Blue, and at last come the lovely Canada Violets with their snowy white flowers that open from purple buds.  The backs of the petals retain a trace of the purple that colored their buds.  The Canada Violet is a real lime lover, so it won't be found anywhere except in lime-rich woods like those at Skidmore College.

The Skidmore woods is also home to another remarkable lime-loving violet, the Green Violet, which doesn't look anything like any other violet I know of.   The plant grows about a foot and a half high, with tiny green flowers dangling from the leaf axils. As far as I know, the Skidmore woods is the only place these flowers can be found in Saratoga County.

The flowers were still in bud when I visited them yesterday, but as the following photo of a fully open flower shows,  the buds look pretty much the same as the blooms.

My next stop was Yaddo, the artists' retreat at the eastern edge of Saratoga Springs, with formal rose gardens that draw visitors from miles around.  Yes, the roses are pretty, but what could compare with these masses of Common Blue Violets that ornament the bank beneath the pergola?

 Another violet that grows in the grass at Yaddo is the really uncommon Cream Violet (Viola striata), and I could only wish that it would grow as abundantly as the Common Blues.  Several years ago, I first found the Cream Violet growing in the grass near a patch of Lily of the Valleys, where I almost overlooked the single plant blooming there.  This spring I was delighted to see that this lovely violet is extending its reach, with four plants peeking out from the unmown grass.

While I was kneeling down to admire the Cream Violet, one of the volunteer gardeners happened by, so I was able to point these unusual flowers out to her and engage her interest in protecting the plants from the mowers until the blooming period is past.  While looking up information about this particular violet, I discovered that there is no record of its presence here in Saratoga County, nor in any county near here.   I suppose it's possible that it escaped from Yaddo's wildflower garden, although I never have seen it growing there, but only in a naturalized state in the grass.

Nearby in the Yaddo lawn I was struck by the unusual color of this violet, which is probably just a variant of the abundant Common Blue.  But it certainly did stand out from all others with its vivid magenta hue.

In addition to the sunny rose gardens, Yaddo does contain a shade garden planted with many native wildflowers, among them these pretty Labrador Violets, whose dark-green leaves look as if they were dipped in purple dye.

On my way out of the Yaddo grounds, I stopped by the site where American Bladdernut shrubs had been cut to the ground to make way for security lighting.  The pile of dead trunks and limbs still lay nearby,  but all around the stumps new growth was shooting up from the underground roots.  Now I will have to enlist the groundskeeper's assistance in nurturing these young shrubs to maturity and preventing their future destruction.  American Bladdernut is a lovely and interesting shrub that is native to this part of the northeast, although it is seldom found as far north as Saratoga Springs.  So please think good thoughts about these baby bladdernuts in the hopes that they will thrive.

The Yaddo estate is also home to some majestic old Shagbark Hickories, as well as much smaller offshoots from the big trees.  These little hickories may be small, but their opening buds were as big and beautiful as the ones opening unseen far above my head in the canopy of the old trees.   What a treat to get such a close-up view of this green-velvet bud emerging from its pink satin bud scales.

Last stop of the day was Orra Phelps Nature Preserve in Wilton, but I didn't go there to look for violets.  Masses of pretty Dog Violets line the path there, but I was making a beeline for a patch of Star Chickweed that has such a brief period of bloom I often miss catching it. But this was my lucky day.  There they were, like a firmament on the forest floor. 

This is undoubtedly our showiest chickweed, and although it's a native wildflower, it is rarely found around Saratoga.  I wonder if Orra Phelps herself planted it.  If she did, it has certainly naturalized beautifully here, spreading for many yards either side of the path, and when you can catch it in bloom, it puts on quite a show.

 I would have loved to show you this little Red Eft,  but he skedaddled as soon as I poked my camera lens at him.  What a cutie!


"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

I never thought of Yaddo, for viewing Violets! Thank you, for teaching this long-time resident, many new things.

Oh those masses of Common Blue Violets, which ornament the bank beneath the pergola.

Must go! Must see! Must enjoy!

And of course, must take photos. :-)

"A fine bunch of water lilies you turned out to be.
I'd like to see anybody make me wash,
if I didn't wanna."


Caroline said...

Beautiful! I love the retreating red eft bum.

Woodswalker said...

Yes, Auntie, Yaddo is great for violets, both ones that have been planted by the gardeners in the woodland garden, and those that grow wild in the grass, including two I didn't mention here, Dog Violet and Sweet White Violet. I will be looking for your photos of them in your delightful blog, which my readers can access by clicking on your name.

Thanks, Caroline. I was going to toss that photo because I didn't get the whole critter, but then I thought again, how perfectly it represented what we most often see. And he has a really cute little bum, doesn't he? Or she?

hikeagiant2 said...

The chickweed has such a beautiful crown! Glad you left the eft!