Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yellowwood blossoms (Cladrastis kentukea)

This was very small when I planted it. You plant them small because they hate having their roots disturbed once they're larger. Since it has made this year's growth it is looking quite satisfyingly substantial. The yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) even put out a few blossoms. It doesn't bloom when young and not every year even when mature so I was delighted to see them. They look like creamy white pea blossoms.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hagen's Woods - Still working on the big project from 2006

On one side of the backyard I have planted a collection of flowering trees and shrubs, all eastern US natives. Trees went in first, a disease-resistant Valley Forge elm, a redbud, two American hollies, a Carolina silverbell and a Yellowwood, the tree shown in the center of the photo.
Several of the new disease resistant flowering dogwoods released by the U. Tennessee dogwood researchers. Appalachian Spring is resistant to anthracnose, the others are resistant to powdery mildew.

Each year I've added shrubs: Serviceberry, scarlet elder, Viburnums trilobum, dentatum and nudum, Spicebush, and Rhododendron atlanticum, arborescens, canescens, periclymenoides, and some hybrids of the native azaleas. I'm about to move some redtwig dogwoods from the front yard where I decided they're too big and straggly for the space.

This gave me a miserable job of mowing in, around and between these individual plants. This year I'm tying them all together into one mulched island. I'm using a year's worth of newspaper and making weekly trips to the liquor store for cardboard. A thick layer of paper goes down first to smother the sod, then mulch over top. It's not quite done but already looking good.
My efforts to attract wildlife have, in fact, attracted wildlife, mostly in the form of rabbits. Lots of hungry rabbits. I spent a couple of weeks this winter making small chicken wire fences to go around each young tree and shrub since last winter they mostly were eaten to the ground. 12 to 18 inch high rings seems to do the job.

More viburnums

One of several cultivars of Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood viburnum. Fuzzy white flowers now should produce dark blue berries later. Said to be very popular bird food.

Viburnums in Hagen's Woods

Viburnum trilobum, American cranberrybush

This one has white flowers that look like lacecap hydrangeas. I saw the other day that they have set small green fruit that should ripen and look like hanging cranberries. They're said to be most palatable to birds after they've frozen so are useful for late winter and early spring food.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wildflower meadow - Big project for 2007

Winter of 2005 - 2006 I winter-sowed a lot of forb seeds in flats and got a good germination rate. Some the transplants died during the summer heat but I have quite a few in pots to plant out this spring. I did a lot more this past winter and have about 80 flats of seedlings. I'm not sure when the optimal time to plant will be. Here's the shelter I set up for the seedlings. It's made from the supports that used to be part of raised beds, 1/2 inch pvc pipe form the hoops. It was covered with plastic sheeting this winter and I've replaced that with shade cloth. I've got to work on the design. It is somewhat flattened on the top and that let snow and water accumulate and squash it. I left the plastic on too long and I think some seedlings fried. Either that or the cats squashed them since they decided it made a great place for naps.

For grasses I plan to start with three that are native to this area and supposed to be suitable for the soil and moisture. I don't want the very tallest ones so I have chosen Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis) and Bottlebrush (Elymus hystrix/Hystrix patula).

In 2006 I laid out a teardrop shaped area that covers approximately 1000 square feet on the left side of the backyard. This is zone 6, full sun, mesic in spring to dry in summer. It's Virginia clay soil and a neighbor enlightened me to why I was hitting a near impenetrable layer about 8 inches down in places – an old railway bed ran through there years back. I killed the grass with glyphosate herbicide and have repeated applications every month or so. Used a broadfork to break up the soil to about 12 inches.

It has received most of last year's compost and fresh yard waste. By happy chance our town changed trash pickup rules and my neighbors brought me grass clippings all season. It looks like I have a good 4 or 5 inches of compost now that it has wintered over. I will need to do a couple of applications of herbicide this spring before I plant. I have some awful perennial weeds to get under control.

I'll plant out all the potted plants and seedling plugs, probably in June. In the fall I will direct sow more grass and wildflower seeds and see what comes up in the spring. I understand it takes about 3 years for it to look like much.
Here are the seedlings in the nursery, aka The Pot Ghetto

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Last evening I spent a couple of hours sitting in the front planting bed and weeding out a gazillion maple seedlings from around the shrubs, a mix of mountain laurels and summer blooming native azaleas. I found that the native ground covers I planted last fall made it through the winter and are coming up nicely. There are plenty of wild gingers and goldenseals and I'm pretty sure there are three of the Virginia snakeroots up.

Snakeroot (Aristolochia virginiana)


Wild Ginger (Asarum canadensis)

Mountain Laurel 'Snowdrift'

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Spring ephemerals in the front yard

These are planted in a bed in front of some oakleaf hydrangeas. Last year I added some ferns that will persist after the ephemerals disappear for the summer.

Fringed Bleedingheart (Dicentra eximia)

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Wood Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum)