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garden 2006 ~ Alaska blog archives ~ Nature & Literature Blog


garden 2005

Today's Blooms (5/3/05) (2005-05-03 22:10:41)

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla)

May 3rd is pretty early for blooms in our . Even though the elevation is only about 450 feet, we're close to the south slopes of the Talkeetna Mountains, some might say the start of the 'foothills.' Flowers bloom here later than just a few miles south of Palmer, where the elevation is lower and the micro-climate is moderated by a number of lakes and Cook Inlet...

Mountain Buttercup (Ranunculus Eschscholtzii)


Fast Emerging Perennials (2005-05-02 23:47:09)

It's only been about a week since the lawn greened up and now the first flowers in the perennial are blooming....

Our early bloomers here (southcentral Alaska) are pasque flower (Pulsatilla) and mountain buttercup (Ranunculus Eschscholtzii). Two years ago I rescued a small clump of pasque flower because the wind had eroded a lot of soil away from the top of its roots. I divided it into several plants and this year about 5 of these are blooming beneath the honeysuckle on the more protected west side of the house. This honeysuckle was probably planted in the 1960s or earlier and last winter a heavy icy snowfall broke off the biggest trunk, although it looks like the rest of it survived. I had divided one clump of mountain buttercups about three years ago and now have four pretty good clumps blooming. There are scatterings of tulips and some daffodils but, since none are near a south facing wall they bloom late, and so none are in bloom yet. The other disturbing perennial plants making themselves known are some of the gardener's nemeses: clover, dandelions and quack grass, all of which quickly invade a perennial garden... I only just finished post-winter garden cleanup last weekend and now the weeding begins in earnest. Luckily we have lots and lots of daylight...

Hedge Pruning (2005-05-06 00:03:33)

ARTHUR: Well, what is it you want?
HEAD KNIGHT: We want... a shrubbery!
From: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when they meet Knights Who Say... Ni!

Clearly the Knights Who Say ... Ni! didn't have a Caragana hedge! One of the battles is controlling the Caragana hedge that we planted in 1984 with the intention of creating a clear separation between the driveway and the lawn. (This hedge usually is visible at the left side of the web cam image.)

Started from seed and transplanted as nothing more than small twigs into the hard-packed, gravel at the edge of the driveway, this dense packed, spine covered hedge has thrived. It takes whatever the weather and conditions dish out--extreme winter cold and wind and no snow cover -- no problem -- dry summer conditions -- no problem -- ravenous, foraging moose -- no problem. The hedge provides cover for birds and the thick spines discourage moose, which ravage ornamental shrubs, especially nice expensive ones. One winter day I watched a momma moose showing her calf which woody plants to eat. They nibbled the cotoneaster and the mountain ash. They tasted the crab apples and then she led her calf over to the Caragana and broke off twigs and began to chew. Her expression was like someone who had just bit into a bunch of slivers, she spit the twigs out, wiggled her lips around and stalked off, her calf following. Not only is the Caragana hardy in most conditions and distasteful to moose, but it also has small yellow flowers in the spring and thin seed pods in late summer. The seed pods add to the garden's soundscape. As they reach a critical level of desiccation they audibly pop open, flinging the seeds away from the hedge, imagine little tiny drumsópop pop, pop pop pop. This is no particular problem as long as the hedge is surrounded by driveway and lawn, however, if it is near cultivated soil then there will be a battle to remove young (and spiny) Caragana sprouts before they become a randomly arranged, next generation.

Garden - May 9, 2005 (2005-05-10 23:11:06)

These flowers are currently blooming in our garden.

Forget-me-not (Myosotis) is the Alaska state flower. This year it started blooming about May 8th. It reseeds readily and the seedlings can be transplanted to better locations, if necessary. Other forget-me-nots.

Buds are coming out o≠n the False Solomon's Seal. These spread by underground roots and grow well in the shade. False Solomon's Seal is sometimes confused with Lily of the Valley.

Arabis is a low growing rock garden type plant. It spreads easily, seems to be short lived, and needs trimming to keep it looking neat after it's finished blooming. However, being an early bloomer in this cold climate makes up for any other negatives. (In 2001 the Arabis bloomed on May 19.)

Bergenia and Bumblebee (2005-05-11 23:19:34)

Very slow moving bumblebee, probably a queen, feeding on bright pink Bergenia flowers. [The wikipedia bumblebee page is very informative.]

Chinese Golden apple blooming (5/14/05) (2005-05-14 14:53:37)

Few apple trees are hardy in this , but the Chinese Golden is one of them. This tree, at the far left edge of the usual web cam image (I moved the camera a little to get this picture), grows against a south facing wall....

Every year this tree is the first of the various apple trees we have that blooms. Every year, except this year, we've been able to clip a 'bouquet' of crabapple blooms from a location about 8 miles south of here with lower elevation and a milder microclimate to use for pollination. This year, possibly due to a mild winter combined with some very warm days towards the end of April, the Chinese Golden is blooming before our usual source of crabapple pollination blossoms--so it's unlikely many apples will set.

Afternoon May 15, 2005 (2005-05-15 22:36:36)

Today is cool and overcast with intermittent mist, temperature in the low 50ís. The mosquitoes are still big and slow...

So it actually is possible to walk through the woods without bug spray, just swatting a mosquito every once in a while. This wonít last though. The first big hatching will probably happen within the next week or two. Today the woods were calm, some birds, a junco and one I couldnít identify, singing and the ubiquitous road noises.

The fern is still slowly unfolding, its overall structure beginning to appear although there is still a less developed mass near the center. I started observing this fern on May 8, so this is day 8 of the fern watch. How many days does it take a fern to reach its full growth?

The watermelonberry has an unusual, almost pipe like structure with the stem seemingly attached onto the leaves.

Photo shows leaf and stem structure, also first blossom of this watermelonberry plant.

Watermelonberry leaf tips with a combination of spider silk and rain drops.

Primrose (2005-05-16 23:32:17)

The primrose is hardy and durable. This one spent three years in a pot, one year it wintered in the garage and the rest outdoors, before I transplanted it into the ground. Itís a small plant but blooms early, in fact itís blooming at the same time as the tulips and daffodils.

New perennials blooming (5/21/05) (2005-05-21 22:54:11)

Trollius (began blooming May 19th in 2005). Photo of Trollius with Cranesbill taken in 2001.

Shooting Star (began blooming May 20th in 2005). In 2001 the shooting star began blooming June 1st.

Solstice Light garden map.

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (6/15/05) (2005-06-15 09:46:01)

Butterflies, Swallowtails. I don't know whether this has anything to do with Polar Warming, but for the last few days we have been inundated by these large, palm sized, yellow and black butterflies. The timing corresponds precisely with the blooming of the Lilac.

The lilacs are more like small trees than refined little bushes and they are full of aromatic blossoms. As the day warms the Swallowtails appear, fluttering between lilac blossoms, cantankerously fending off interloping Swallowtails. Each lilac bush seems alive and moving, as the Swallowtails, not much more than a pair of fluttering yellow and black wings, rise off a blossom only to descend onto another or flutter off in the direction of the woods, but another tarries to take its place. Is this the result of another warm winter and an excessively early Spring? According to the Wikipedia entry, predominant food plants of the Wester Tiger Swallowtail include Cottonwood, Willow and Quaking Aspen, all of which occur here. I wonder whether this enormous hatch is the result of eggs laid last fall that successfully over wintered with a lower than normal mortality rate or whether these butterflies have completed an entire and successful life cycle just since the end of April Ė the Wikipedia entry says that the caterpillars emerge (in the spring) four days after the eggs are laid, they feed and molt five times, then pupate and the butterfly emerges 15 days after the caterpillar pupates. Since we had record warm temperatures the last few days of April and not much in the way of cold since then it seems that the Swallowtail has had sufficient time to complete one life cycle. So, unless there is a migrating flock of butterflies, this is the likely scenario which has also happened elsewhere in the Valley. We noticed on Memorial Day weekend, eight miles south of here, that the lilacs were blooming there (but not yet here) and that the Tiger Swallowtail was abundantly present and feeding on those lilac blossoms.

October Flowers (10/3/2005) (2005-10-03 22:35:22)

Remember, this is Alaska. We have flowers blooming on October 3, 2005. We had one light frost in early September that only hit the lowest garden and a very very light frost last night. The forecast low for tonight is 30 degrees F. This is very unusual. These photos are from this afternoon.

Dill flowers and seed pods. Dill turns black after even a light frost.

Sunflower seeds that actually ripened. Pretty unusual.


White Rose

Climbing Rose


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