Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bottle brush buckeye

 Not too many plants blossom in the middle of summer.  But the bottle brush buckeye is reliable shade tolerating plant.  Not only that but once established it manages with minimal watering.  If you have enough room this is a great plant.  Our gardens have two clusters of this shrub and it looks wonderful.

Once you see the brushy white spikes of flowers you'll understand where the common name bottle brush  buckeye comes from.  Aesculus parviflora is one of several buckeye species including red buckeye and Ohio buckeye in our gardens. 

Relief - Late, June rain makes Friday Fabulous Flowers bloom

 The weather pattern seems to have changed to a hotter, wetter July.  At least for now the almost 3" of rain has spelled recovery for most of our gardens.  About the only plant that did not suffer was the native prickly pear cactus.  It produced a hundred or so bright glossy yellow flowers, a good candidate for the Friday Fabulous flower, although today is the 4th of July, a Tuesday.  There are some sand prairies over by the Rivers, and this cactus can be quite abundant in many of those.  

dry, dry, dry, and more dry

 Any way you want to slice it our gardens are suffering through a drought.  Areas that would be called "lawn" are brown and crispy, and they would burn should anyone drop a match. Our lily/fish pond is down some 6-10 inches.  Some trees must be watered or else they would die.  A Kousa dogwood is struggling, but not much else is newly planted. So TPP is dragging hoses around to give the most sensitive plants water.  And you can hardly blame bun-buns for eating plants that are best at keeping themselves alive.  The bird bath and garden fountain are very popular with our avian residents.   The native Prickly pear did flower very nicely.

Friday Fabulous flower

 As many of TPP's reader know Magnolia's and nagnoliid flowers are a great favorite.  The collection  includes two species of big-leafed magnolia, M. tripetala and M. megaphylla (var. aschii).  Both have leaves that are routinely more than 20 inches long.  The Asche magnolia also has really big flowers 9-10 inches across and it flowers when quite small and young if polar vortexes stay away.  

Here's the flower some 9" across and it was about 4' above the ground.  This one gets some protection by growing fairly close to our house.  It is the Ashe variety (native to the FL pan handle) which should not get so big, although we saw a full-sized one at an arboretum in Kansas City.  Enjoy.

Firday Fabulous Flower - It's a beauty "bush"!


A very large, very old shrub blooms every year about this time no matter what the winter weather has been like. It's covered by pinkish flowers and is quite striking!  However the bush is rather course when not in flower.  As you can see it has flowers rather like honeysuckles and it is in the Carifoliaceae.  TPP thinks it's more of a specimen plant that is pretty in flower, easy to grow, and reliable.  Kolkwitzia amabilis, the beauty bush, introduced around 1900 from central China belongs in most largish gardens, but is a rather old-fashioned plant.  Our gardens came with this plant and it is clearly decades old, decades  ago.  

Friday Fabulous Flower- woodland peony


Here is a woodland spring ephemeral that you probably have not seen before.  It is not a native, but since our gardens are so shady this quiet addition seemed logical.  It is about the size of and grows rather like a Trillium.  Several ivory-colored perianth parts surround numerous stamens and a small number of pistils.  This is Peonia japonica.  In general it does not like being moved or crowded. Several plants are scattered around our wilder gardens.  The seeds take two years to germinate, and several years to flower, so it is not at all common. Except among us (rare) peony enthusiasts.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Yellow Ginger

 OK but first a shout out to Earth Day.  TTP remembers the first Earth Day, but mostly because of all the other struff that was going on, mostly anti war things and the Kent State shootings, deciding to try out grad school to study botany, and other things.  Sorry, Earth.

This is called yellow ginger and it is not real ginger but a member of the Aristolochia or birthwort family. Our wild Ginger is almost a weed in our shade lawns and TPP first saw this plant at Brooklyn botanical garden back when it was still a botanical garden.  It is a smallish herbaceous perennial witth upright stems.  Our native wild ginger is Asarum canadense, a creeping plant with purple flowers along the prostrate stem often hidden from view by the heart shaped leaves.  This plant has 3-parted flowers although a dicot, and is quite fuzzy.  And it is the genus Saruma, and if you are quick with word games, you'll notice that Saruma is Asarum spelled backwards with the a moved to the end.  A botanical joke?   Enjoy.  

peak blue

 Sometime every spring right around the first of April, our garden's "lawn" turns blue.  This is caused by several thousand Scilla siberica bulbs.  It's a pretty remarkable sight.  It just takes a few decades to multiple. You can't walk with out stepping on them.  New neighbors are quite surprised at how blue the "lawn" becomes.

early flowering -Snow Trillium

 It's the first week of March and a few things do flower this early, but not very many native plants.  One of the cutest is the snow Trillium, T. nivale.  Flowering early is  quite usual, and so it pokes up through the leaf litter.  This is also the smallest Trillium at about 3 inches tall and each whorl about as wide. it is easy to overlook, which TTP did for years until an early scouting trip surprised this botanist.  Now it grows in our native plant gardens so its easy to watch for.  This is one plant with 3 aerial shoots, a whorl of three leaves and a flower on each, and it took several years to get this big.  OK this should have been a Friday Fabulous Flower, but I'm a couple of days early.

What happened to winter?

 It's the third week of February, the high temperature will be in the 40s and the weather is presently a thunder storm.  Very much unlike usual winter weather, so no surprise that snowdrops and winter aconite are in flower, along with early crocus and witch hazel. Never even touched our little snow thrower and that's good because Mrs. Phactor has her new electric vehicle plugged in there now.  Snowdrops usually  flower near the end Feb or the first week of March. The whole yard turns Scillla blue by the second week of March. But except for a couple of artic blasts, the winter of 2022-23 has been quite mild. But the Artic blasts may have killed a couple of TPP's plants.  A dwarf Tsuga is clearly dead (TPP has had great trouble trying to grow this plant over the years).  Too hot, too dry, and maybe too cold in the wrong time of year.  So even though the winter has almost been a no-show, lingering drought and brief sudden cold can be a bad combination.