Friday, May 7, 2010

Backyard Beauty Bounty

I just learned that company's coming this weekend. Yikes! I haven't cleaned my house since Christmas! Obviously, I don't have time to run to the woods right now, but I did run around my back yard this afternoon, greeting my resident wildflowers. Real gardening is just not my cup of tea; I love it about as much as I love housework. No, I'd rather go to the woods or the river and cherish the beauty there -- none of which requires me to lift a finger to create. But I did plant a few native flowers and shrubs in my yard, mostly of species I never find around here in the wild, and most of which grow without tending. My hope is to create a wildlife friendly habitat, with native plants (and some long-naturalized resident aliens) that evolved with native mammals and birds and bugs, providing them food and shelter. The Shadblow, Flowering Dogwood, and Crabapple trees are now fading, but here's a partial exhibit of what's blooming now. In alphabetical order.

Bird's-eye Speedwell. Actually, this particular speedwell is not a native, but it's just so darn pretty and grows like a weed and crowds out the grass (which is what I am aiming for) that I welcomed it into my yard. The bees seem to love it, too.

Birdfoot Violet. Here's a violet I have never found in the wild, so I planted it here in order to include it on my life list of wildflower finds. Is that cheating?

Creeping Buttercup. Again, not a native. But it lived here before I did, and it covers the ground in the deepest shade, and its leaves are the prettiest mottled deep green, and so it lives on in my yard. Who could resist its sunny shiny blooms?

Celandine Poppy. This plant is native to areas more to the south and west of New York, but it seems to thrive here, spreading the seeds that grow in that prickly pod. I love it because it brightens the deepest shade with its sun-colored blooms.

Foamflower. This is actually a cultivar of our native Tiarella species, but it was the closest I could find without digging some up from the wild. Which I would never do. That Blue Violet growing next to it is a sport that showed up without being invited, but who could refuse it a home?

Jacob's Ladder. My Newcomb's Wildflower Guide tell me that this plant grows in the swamps and mountain groves of Vermont and New York and south. And now it grows in a Saratoga Springs backyard, beneath a Flowering Dogwood tree. What a lovely sight!

Mountain Laurel. I've found its Kalmia cousins Sheep Laurel and Great Laurel and Bog Laurel growing wild, but I've never encountered this species in Saratoga County. Except in my own yard. These bright-pink pleated buds will open to paler pink blooms, but in some ways I like the buds even better than the open flowers.

Red Chokeberry. I find Black Chokeberry growing in lots of places all over the county, but never the red-berried kind. Until I planted one at home. It's finally blooming this year, after spending last summer recovering from being sheared off at the roots by a rabbit.

Solomon's Seal. My garden variety plant has the variegated leaves of a cultivar, but otherwise it looks exactly like those I find in the wild. I also planted Star Solomon's Seal, but that one is now past blooming.

Spring Beauty. This is the Virginia Spring Beauty species, with narrow grass-like leaves. The Carolina Spring Beauty, which blooms profusely in woods near here, has larger, oval-shaped leaves. These were growing wild in my daughter's Westchester County lawn, so I rescued them before the mowers could reach them and planted them here in my garden.

Thyme-leaved Speedwell. This speedwell IS a native, although lawn obsessives call it a common weed and wipe it out with weed killers. It's so dainty and tiny and spangles the grass like stars. Why would anyone prefer plain old grass when this sweet little flower could decorate it so beautifully? You don't even have to plant it; it just shows up.

Trumpet Honeysuckle. I have found this native honeysuckle in the wild, but not for many years. I can hardly wait for those long buds to open and reveal the trumpets' bright yellow lining. I missed them last summer because its vine was part of a rabbit's dinner, and it spent this past year regrowing.

Virginia Bluebells. These bluebells have almost finished their bloom, but one brave duo persists. My Newcomb's says they should grow around here, but I've never found them, except in the Yaddo shade garden. Before they bloom, their buds are the prettiest pink.

White Blue Violet. So which is it -- a white violet or a blue one? It's actually the Common Blue Violet, but a white variety. Years ago, when I first transplanted wild violets from the alley to my yard, all the flowers were blue. But over time, the white variety has supplanted the blue as the default variety in my lawn.

Wild Bleeding Heart. This relative of Dutchman's Breeches and Squirrel Corn is not usually found in the wild this far north. But it seems quite happy to make its home in my garden, and I'm very happy to have it here, both for its bright pink flowers and its lacy green foliage.

Wild Geranium of some species unknown to me. The gardener at Yaddo was pulling these up and gave them to me. I don't know if they are a native species or not, but they sure grow wild out at Yaddo. And are doing the same in my yard.

Lots more to come as the season progresses. Spiderwort, Oswego Tea, Giant Purple Hyssop, Canada Anemone, Sunflowers, Monkshood, Asters and more. Stay tuned for the next installment. Now I'd better go tackle my dusty house.


Ellen Rathbone said...

I've seen how small your yard is, so it is amazing how much you have growing there! I'm glad to see that some of your plantings have recovered from their unscheduled pruning a year or two ago!

Kenton and Rebecca said...

Amazing! This is such a wonderful idea, and we must admit that we enjoy 'replacing' the grass as well. It's so lovely to plant creatures who have such lovely flowers, and to focus on natives whenever possible. We're actually on the same quest, though we haven't done nearly so much as you. Keep it up!

troutbirder said...

I think we have similar ideas and somewhat similar native wildflower (zone 4 here). Converting my lawns to woodlands with wildflowers is taking some work though. But I am retired so.....

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for stopping to say hello, Ellen and Kenton and Rebecca and troutbirder. As Ellen expressed, my yard is really, really small: maybe 40X12 feet, encircled by a thick Virginia Creeper-covered fence and shaded by tall Black Locusts and ancient lilacs. Most of what I have planted are shade-loving perennials that basically take care of themselves. All I have to do to maintain them is pull up the encroaching Bishop's Weed that creeps in from a neighbor's yard. Most other weeds are welcome. Asters, goldenrods, fleabanes, strawberries, violets, Thimbleweed, and White Avens have showed up uninvited and made themselves at home.