Field of Science

Peak Blueness is Late

If you search on "blue lawn", you will find a series of TPP posts on our blue spring lawn, which  is pretty spectacular and locally known.  This year is easily a week later than usual and as the temperature is predicted to get quite low tomorrow night it might be a bit short-lived too.  Many decades ago, someone planted Scilla siberica and they multiplied and prospered. Now there are thousands that have taken over portions of our lawn, as the image demonstrates, and it you don't mind waiting until they die down before mowing to avoid transforming the leaves into green slime, they are a great spring feature. How cheerful is that. Watch where you walk please.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Dendrobium

Spring is slowly coming along outside and most of our houseplant orchids are in flower.  After being outside until the cool fall, the combination of day length and temperature just prompts them all to flower.  This is a Dendrobium, a bamboo orchid, probably D. anosmum, but when a genus has more than 1000 species, and many are in cultivation, not to mention hybrids, a plant of uncertain parentage just gets an educated guess.  Flowering occurs along the old stems that sort of cascade from their hanging basket, so the floral display is pretty large, the flowers are large, 3" across, and a couple of dozen flowers is not unusual.  Unfortunately these won't last as long as some orchid flowers.  You can sort of see that they are rather thin and delicate, almost membranous, so a real annual treat.   

Friday Fabulous Flower - out of sync spring weather & hellebores

Somehow Friday, Sat. & Sunday got away from TPP.  Friday was pretty springy and TPP even planted some parsley seedlings, and luckily put them under some protection.  Saturday was a horrible weather day, starting with sleety rain, that turned to snow, heavy wet snow, and then finally to some substantially heavy snow.  Oh, TPP has seen & experienced much worse, but for this area this was impressive and thankfully brief, but still the storm put a good 6 inches on the ground.  TPP's first thought was swell, this cleanup job can wait a couple of days and warmer weather will remove the snow, but people were coming to din-dins, so sidewalks and drive needed some clearing.  An overwhelmed little snow thrower actually helped move most of the lighter snow that was sitting atop the base of icy slush, that froze once exposed.  Fortunately TPP had some experienced help, a French Canadian guest, who while now living outside the reach of the snow gods, still remembered how to shovel.  Some of the things in bloom will probably have gotten crushed by the heavy precip.  but fully expect the extremely tough hellebores to take this in stride. Although they may be a bit more noddy than usual. One problem with the common hybrid hellebores is that they tend to hold their flowers in a nodding or pendent position and the heavy slush may push them down further.  So here's what hellebores looked like before getting smushed under slush. The cold & snow won't bother them.

Pollinator Conservation Reference Guide

Clearly us flower people under stand that pollinators are important and need conservation measures addressed at them.  Here you go, a pollinator conservation reference guide to download free of charge, published by the US Air Force.  Here's your tax dollars at work doing something good for the world.  

Ents are real!

TPP has sort of always known this.  But Ents can't stand still for too long or they root into place. Here's the article where the image is from. If you don't know Ents, well you aren't well enough read.

Easy Gardening Advice - Say What?

TPP fell for some click bait the other day, i.e., 25 tips to make Gardening Easier.  No question about it gardening can be real work, digging holes for planting trees.  So you know it was some of the same-old, same-old: use mulch, don't mow your lawn (grass) so often, etc.  But then probably to get to 25, the "easy gardening tip" was get rid of lawn and install Astroturf!  Now in what sense of the word is installing astroturf "gardening"?  Hey, come and see my lovely Astroturf, it's doing so well this year.  It must be the Astro-fert that was applied this spring. And you know you can color coordinate if you use Astro-turf.  And the image is even from "Good as Grass".  Bottom left is "called Boise Blue" for some goofy reason.  
Now least you think TPP is close-minded about innovation, a garden trial was done using rubber mulch made from old tires and dyed brown.  It actually looks like wood mulch, and it doesn't decompose producing a weed growing medium, and it lasts for years.  Rubber mulch would actually work well in a play ground area, or for a fairly high traffic path.  Astroturf was the deal-breaker, and the clicking stopped.  As good as grass, tell that to an Astro-cow. And where are the Astro-chickweeds and the Astro-dandelions?  It may be as good as grass, but as good as lawn, never.

St. Patrick's Day Style - Celebrating the Green

Lots of places have St. Patrick's Day (Yes, it was yesterday, but TPP was busy.) celebrations, but this one almost has to be seen to be believed.  No photoshopping here.  This is a view along the Chicago river in the center of downtown Chicago just  a bit upstream from where the river enters Lake Michigan.  Yes, the river is actually that green.  Do they grind up Irishmen, who have been drinking green beer, and then slosh them around to get the color?  TPP actually watched them dye the river one year and met the short-straw fireman who was standing ready in his yellow wet suit should they have to rescue anyone from the green depths, anyone who might have had to much to drink.  Also saw a toy poodle who had fallen in, and then been pulled back out, no worse for wear, but definitely a tad greenish, and more than a little bit cold.  So if you think you celebrate the Irish, top this.

Student protests - You go guys!

TPP is actually rather impressed by these Millenial high school students protesting gun violence in schools.  This is the best student protest effort since the Kent State killings by National Guardsmen (armed but not protectors) resulted in anti-war protests that closed down most of the nation's colleges and universities (TPP's senior year).  At that time students got called a lot of nasty names (dirty hippy was the funniest) for protesting the Vietnam War, and TPP remembers getting tear gased, and crossing picket lines to finish some needed classes to graduate.  So none of the negative reactions to today's students surprises TPP.  Pundits who don't think students who were shot at should have an opinion about guns, or are even citizens (the moronic Tucker Carlson); or people who think they need semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves.  Really?  Some student protestors will be subjected to punishment including in one remarkably primitive area corporal punishment (seriously getting paddled for protesting killings?).  Protest anyways and take their punishments knowing how wrong they are. History will be on your side. And you will have learned how not to act.  

Friday Fabulous Flower

It was a bit warmer yesterday, back to brisk today, but enough to give a few more of these terribly cute Iris (I. reticulata) a chance to flower.  Their flower is pretty large in comparison to the size of the plants, although the leaves will get longer and taller.  This is a species that would like being in a sunny rock garden, which TPP does not have, but in one bed this bulb-forming Iris has been happy. This is a very cheerful spring flower if you can make it happy.  In 3 or 4 other places in our gardens it has just faded away.  This species has been a FFF before, but not too many other choices right now, and if enjoyable each spring, then no problem featuring it again.

Depressing in general

The general color outside remains brown.  After a Feb. thaw, early March has been cool so everything is just stalled.  Hellebores look the same as they did 2 weeks ago.  Bulbs are also on hold, and it's probably a good thing to keep flowering shrubs on hold for awhile, but in general it's sort of depressing.  And the campus and campus town are nearly deserted because of spring break, and that is sort of depressing as well.  And everything about how the country and our state is being run is sort of depressing too. The death of Steven Hawking is also depressing, not that his work could be understood by botanists, but he was such an exceptional person, such an exceptional intellect.  So TPP thinks reading a gardening column might be cheery, and among their advice for making gardening easier is to install Astroturf!  In what way is Astroturf gardening?  Way too depressing of an idea.  Neighbor who took out all of the shrubbery in their yard and planted grass has moved on, and that is sort of cheery news; new neighbors might be better.  So if you decide to comment on this, do be upbeat.  And forgot Pi Day, which is more sad than depressing.  But NCAA basketball playoffs have begun, and that is so depressing.  What is it people like about that game?  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Crocus

Crocus just sort of appear in our gardens.  Two types, the very early little snow crocus, and it has invaded our lawns and garden beds in many locations.  Cute.  A larger variety of crocus lives in a couple of different garden beds and flowers a bit later.  No idea how they get around. But they are very cheerful.  Here you can see the three anthers spaced around the three-lobed stigma (a bit oranger), and the two whorls of perianth.  By the time the lawn needs cutting, they will have died back for the year, so they can easily naturalize should you desire it.  

Sudden spike in blog traffic

Every so often TPP notices a sudden spike in blog activity, usually several hours when the tracking software records a week's worth of traffic, yet no particular blogs are showing unusually elevated traffic.  What's going on?  Does anyone understand this?  Can anyone explain?  TPP is basically a dummy about such things, so do clue him in.

Friday Fabulous Flower - snow drops

And second place goes to snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) just two days later than the witch hazels.  The fairly long snow cover of this winter always gets snow drops off to a fairly early start.  These little bulbs are not very flashy, but they sure are cheerful after a long winter.  If you have a garden you should stick in clumps of these bulbs just every where.  Clumps sometimes surprise us arising in places where they planted themselves.  This clump only started as one or two stalks, and now it consists of a couple of dozen bulbs.