Mega thermopsis update

It’s that time of year. The thermopsis (Thermopsis villosa, aka Blue Ridge Buckbean, Carolina lupine, Aaron’s Rod) are nearing the end of their bloom, and (hopefully) the pods will follow.

This is a thermopsis summer! This has been their most prolific year. I mulched a few with compost, hoping it will encourage them to set many seeds.

Previously, I posted a photo of the thermopsis just as the raceme is emerging from the apical meristem.

In the beginning…

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May 17.
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May 17. The blooms are peeping out of the lowest buds, nearly ready to see the light of day. (I’m not sure why this photo and others are so washed out)
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May 20.
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May 21. What a difference a day makes. A heath or some other aster (Symphyotrichum spp.) has snuck into this photo (right).
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May 21.
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May 21. Three-year chestnut hybrid (Castanea dentata x) in the foreground, flowering sorrel (Rumex acetosa) in the back left.

The following photos were taken about five days later.

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May 27. It may be evident that the lower blooms are fading away, while the top-most buds have not yet bloomed.

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May flats

That is to say, flats that I started a while back, and how they look now, in May.



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Tomatoes. I’m trying a couple of different varieties: Abraham Lincoln, Eva Purple Ball, and Green Zebra Stripe. I’ve also started some German Johnsons, but I may not ever plant them. Sadly, I did not start any Cherokee Purples.


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Some I’m experimenting with. Clockwise from top left: natives not yet germinated; nasturtium + partridge pea; thermopsis/baptisia + amorpha + partridge pea; partridge pea; natives not yet germinated; baptisia/thermopsis; marigold + Jewels of Opar; Matchbox pepper (from seed I saved + Eritrean basil + Jewels of Opar. 

Season of color

In this season, when late Spring begins to transition over to early Summer, color abounds. The eyes find delight in the recently-arrived goldfinches. The fledgling cardinals. The blue jays and bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds soaring above the reservoir. The muted dusky blue of the great blue heron. Irises in antique pastel yellows and purples, and bold violet and mustard. The whites, ecrus, and faded yellows of the daffodils, honeysuckles, and blackberry blooms give way to the purples and pinks of spiderwort and rosa multiflora. Even so, there are still the Queen Anne’s lace and plate-sized elderberry blooms to to tone down the living rainbow.

Color for the ear too, in the singing of the bullfrogs, tree frogs, and spring peepers. And in the joyful cacophony of dozens of songbirds, singing to call to their neighbor, or to mark their territory, or simply for the joy of living. The heifer as she lows to her adolescent calf.

Color, even, for the olfactory senses. Honeysuckle and rose in the morning, as intoxicating to people as they are to their pollinators. The sweet earth as the tomato beds are prepared. Even the pollen itself, wind-born from the privet, assaults the nostrils as it seeks out the stigma of the female flower.

So, don’t hold back. Take all the color in, drink it with your eyes and ears and nostrils. Save it for a rainy or snowy gray day.


Late Spring almanac and ephemera:

  • I’ve read some folklore that, if the sun shines while it rains, it will rain at the same time tomorrow. We shall test that. Today, while it was raining at 6:30 pm, the sun continued to shine defiantly (but only in the southern sky – that may cancel it out).
  • The scorzonera has just about finished blooming, as has the white rambling rose. The pink rambling rose is at the peak of its bloom. The honeysuckle continues to pour out flowers, after saving so hard all winter.
  • The partridge pea, which I have worked hard to naturalize on the site, is in various stages of germination in all three sections of the garden. Some plants are three inches, but most don’t yet even have their true leaves.
  • The Amorpha fruticosa finished flowering a week ago. I am hoping it produces seed in quantity. The Thermopsis villosa is nearing the end of its flowering season. The Astragalus canadensis is in its expansive stage. It may flower in a month, more or less.
  • Still in the waxing moon. We will have a full moon on Wednesday, May 29.
  • The ripe early blueberries are trickling in.
  • Tomorrow I will plant at least 10 tomatoes and 10 peppers of various varieties. I will also set out the nasturtium that I started from seed. I may up-pot some of the peppers.

Legumes in flower

You will notice that the Astragalus canadensis (Canadian milkvetch) is conspicuously absent from this post on native legumes. Fear not, I am gearing up for a post all of their own, hopefully soon. Some did not make the winter, but most braved the brutal cold and lived to tell the tale. But that’s a story for another day.

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Thermopsis villosa. Blue Ridge buckbean, Carolina lupine, Aaron’s rod. Looking closely, the bud can be seen emerging from the tip of the stalk. This two-year old plant had at last ten budding stalks. Note the three-fingered leaf-hand to the left (and the smaller one to the right, alternate), extended as though to welcome the flower bud into the light of day.  May 8, 2018
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Amorpha fruticosa. False indigo bush. The leaves of this legume are less clover-like (or trifoliate), and more like the black locust (odd-pinnately compound). May 8, 2018
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Amorpha fruticosa. Flowers from the growing tip of the woody stalk. May 8, 2018.
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Just a few days later, Amorpha fruticosa in flower. Appreciated by some species of bumble bee. the pollen-bearing stamens, yellow, emerge from deep violet flowers, giving each inflorescence an iridescent sheen. May 11, 2018.

Nature in April

These photos were taken on April 17. I couldn’t tell you how the weather was, I don’t remember. It was probably fairly cool (we didn’t have our last frost until April 21 or so), hot towards noon. It was probably right before we had our final Spring rain, after which Summer settled in. All rains from here on out will be thunderstorms and scattered showers.

Summer’s first lightning bugs (fireflies) first showed up around Monday of this week. I will never get over the sheer improbability of a bug that glows, like stars that have descended to fly among us.

Future posts will feature what’s flowering. This is a visual almanac.

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I have to admit to being clueless about the gymnosperms. But I believe this is one in flower. The pines in our forest biome tend to be yellow pines, Virginia pines, and loblolly pines. 
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Liquidambar styraciflua, sweetgum. My fascination with the cork-like “wings” of the year-old branches is ongoing and unquenchable.

Amorpha fruticosa

April 22. Indigo bush. A native legume that grows taller every year. Note the last inch or so of the growing tip (apical meristem) died, and so a new growing tip has emerged. We have about 25 of this species growing in the garden, and all have exhibited the same response. I suspect it is due to the cold winter and the false spring in February.

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Note the Amorpha to the left, has not produced leaf buds yet. This may be a survival trait of the species – some emerge early from dormancy, and others emerge later, in case a final late frost hits.

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I will aim to post more photos of this amazing plant later. I’ve top-dressed with a compost to stimulate abundant seed production. We shall see.