Still Waiting

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

In northwest Ohio we get teased in April and early May with a few warm days when we can wear t-shirts without jackets, and then get unceremoniously pushed back into our coats and warm socks for yet another week. This pattern quite often seesaws us back and forth until late May when we can finally pack those cold-weather clothes away for a while. We’ve just emerged into another warm period, and I think we might be done with the cold. But I wrote this a couple days ago during a cold spell, and I was indoors wearing socks and sweater and using the furnace one last time to take the damp chill out of the air. So, let’s take a virtual stroll around the garden to see what’s going on in this early part of our growing season.

Just look at those blooms of Prairie Smoke (above) — little red fireworks! I planted five of these in 2021 and this is the first time they’re blooming. And there are more than five plants now, and I confirmed with a quick web search that it spreads by rhizomes underground. So I guess that’s how it can spread before it has ever bloomed and set seed? There’s so much I don’t know about plants! This plant isn’t native to Ohio, but it IS native to a few counties in southwest Michigan, so I’m allowing it as an “almost native.” I think it’s a worthy goal to have mostly natives, but I’ve learned to allow myself to have some plants that I love, even if they’re not native. The deal breaker is if something is aggressively invasive though; I try to remove those plants that can cause damage to our native ecosystems.

Golden Alexander (Zizea aurea)

The Golden Alexander is one of the earliest natives to bloom in my garden, and it looks stunning beside the cobalt turtle, don’t you think? And my plentiful rabbits have never nibbled on it, so that’s a bonus.

My small patch of columbines seem to like their spot beside the fence where they’re protected by lots of leaf litter and the shade of the fence. The first blooms of this year will open fully soon.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

As I was writing this, I glanced out the window and saw that a tiny baby bunny was napping in my front border. I’d been sitting right beside it for 15 minutes and hadn’t noticed. The little thing looked like it could fit in the palm of my hand. I watched it for a few minutes, and saw one of the adult rabbits feeding nearby in my front lawn. I left the window for a while to attend to some chores and when I came back it was gone. But about an hour later I saw my cat Sophie assume her stalking mode at the window. Sure enough, the tiny bunny was back and munching on some plants, seemingly looking right at me and the cat without reacting. I wonder if it doesn’t have very good eyesight yet? I know that prey animals often freeze in the presence of a predator, but this one continued to eat as we watched.

And speaking of cats, my pussytoes patch is blooming. This plant is such a great groundcover, and the flower stalks really do evoke kitty toes. And you’ll recall that an American Lady butterfly has already laid eggs here this year, so I expect to again get the enjoy watching her caterpillars munching away at those nutritious leaves. One of the thrills of native gardening for me has been learning about which plants support which insects, and watching and hoping to see their life cycles play out before my eyes, right here at home.

Field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta)

Most of my garden is too sunny for hostas, but there are a few little pockets where they do well. I don’t often pay much attention to them because they just sit there quietly, not causing any trouble or requiring any effort on my part to keep them looking nice. They only have flowers for a few weeks in mid-summer, so that’s when I enjoy watching the bees and other insects that are attracted by those tubular blooms. I noticed the pretty ruffled edges on these fresh leaves and thought I’d turn it into a black-and-white photo to highlight the wavy lines. I like it.

I enjoy discovering things that I’ve overlooked here at home, and as I’m spending more time focused on the garden this year, I’m already finding more to enjoy even as I anticipate the rush of blooms that will come in June when my native garden really kicks into high gear. Take these ferns, for example. Along with the hostas, I’ve mostly regarded my ferns as botanical wallpaper, blending into the background behind “more interesting” plants. This year I’m finally paying more attention to the small portion of my yard that lies outside of my fence, and I discovered a little wonderland of newly-opening ferns out there under the cedar tree. It’s not hard to imagine them as unfurling tentacles of octopuses — or octopi if you prefer. This makes me smile.

One more benefit I’m reaping from staying closer to home this year is that I’m less distracted from an important project I’ve been trying to work on for more than a year: my book about bugs! If I can stay focused, I may be looking at a publication date early in 2024. I’ll tell you more about the book soon, and may ask for your feedback on some ideas.

Thanks for reading!

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), with my new dragonfly mosaic


I love your comments -- talk to me here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s