Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Fungus Among Us

This is the time of year when we can't wait to get into the woods and begin hunting for the morel mushroom. Though we've had a favorite spot for the two decades we've lived here, it seems to be about "hunted out". Every year we find fewer even though we're careful to leave a few stand (that's one of the the hardest things in the world to do). A few weeks ago we found four "snakeheads", a dark miniature version of the true sponge. These were fried with eggs and served on a sandwich. The mushroom shown below is a true morel and it's the only one I found this year. That's right: one! Here I am holding it (and it's not even very large) before it went into a pot with green peas. I'm afraid I couldn't even taste it that way.

Another flower we eagerly await every year is the wisteria. The plants shown is in my aunt and uncle's front yard in Miamisburg and it's a cascade of delicate purple clusters right now. From a distance they look like grapes. We have a wisteria here, too, but we've transplanted it often enough that it's never bloomed. One of these days I'll leave it alone long enough for it to get established and I hope we're surprised by the likes of what's shown below.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cercis canadensis

OK, it's no more than the Eastern Redbud but it sure sounds fancier with its Latin name. What a show it's putting on just now. We call the tree (below) "Dad's Tree" since the redbud is my father's favorite. We had none on our property until I found some seedlings growing wild a few years ago and transplanted one to a spot north of the henhouse. In those ten or so years, the tree has grown to 15' or more and this is the first year it's fully in bloom: every branch seems to burst alive with purple.

Close-up, the pink/purple flowers are other-worldy. They don't look as though the color could be real. And yet these grow wild around here and show themselves in the deepest woods. What other tree has this same color?

I pruned branches of an oak (also transplanted nearby) to make room for this tree which seemed to be getting crowded out. It repaid the favor with tons of flowers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Everything's in Bloom

When the grape hyacinths are in bloom, you can be sure it's spring. Our front flower bed has quite a display of the purple flowers, looking like upside-down clusters of grapes. The flowers won't last long but the green leaves will soak up the sun for a month or more. What a lot of work for such a short display.

Beside the kitchen is a maple tree which is now in full flower. In the late evening sunlight, they shine like golden silk. Soon the winged seeds will form and the dark green leaves will offer us shade throughout the summer.

Upon a closer look, the flowers hang in clusters on long, slender tendrils. With the sun shining, the tree looks awash in shimmering gold.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's DEFINITELY Spring now!

What's a surer sign of spring in these parts than pussy willows?

This plant, which I placed on our south lawn 15 or more years ago, is in a wet area where it can soak up all the water it needs. And each year it responds with catkins in late March and then slowly the buds open and mature and we're left with the tiny flowers (and copiuos amounts of pollen) on warm spring days in April.
Today is one of those days. I just came in from a walk of the neighbor's lane and the pussy willow was covered in powdered yellow. What a pretty sight in the sunshine. Of course my eyes know the pollen level has risen; they're red and I'm wiping them regularly.
This year we took cuttings from this willow before the catkins matured, right when they were at their fuzziest white. And we've dried them - froze them in time, really - and we'll enjoy them throughout the year. It's one of the few plants which can be held at a certain point in their bloom cycle.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Daffodils Mean Spring!

Is it possible that the "Great Blizzard" was less than one month ago? That foot of snow is long ago melted and replaced by warm, golden sunshine. And the daffodil bulbs I planted in the meadow - which I thought had been eaten by the squirrels in the winter - have pushed themselves through the soil and burst into glorious bloom. Talk about liquid sunshine!

I actually planted these clumps of bulbs several years ago and had no more than green leaves to show for it each of the past few springs. This year, finally, they bloomed ... and profusely, too. Some have blooms of yellow and a few are white with golden throats.

Even driving by, the flowers quickly grab your eye. Buried in the weeds and grasses of the meadow, they are the only color for acre upon acre. Each flower seems perfect.