Reflections on Labyrinths

Labyrinths come in many shapes and sizes. This spring and summer we’ve been busy re-designing and re-naming the 1080 Labyrinth.  Now the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth, it is five circuits and is honored in its center with a Bur Oak.  Phoenix because we burn the labyrinth every year to promote the prairie plants and Phoenix because from the ashes we re-designed a dual entry Harmony labyrinth in the Lisa Gidlow Moriarty tradition.

Also, I’ve hosted walks with the most recent being in Duluth, MN, at the Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conference.

Enjoy the photo albums and reflections.

A Tale of Free Trees

This is a tale of free trees. Our friend, Marilynn Keller, learned how to plant the best tree species in her yard at no cost and with little work.

She simply didn’t mow a tiny area of lawn where she wanted a tree to grow. As if by magic, a White Oak, Sugar Maple, and Shagbark Hickory sprouted there this spring. Although the spot is too small for three trees Marilynn can simply decide which one she wants and mow the others off.

Small Oak

Likely a squirrel buried a nut that has sprouted.

Last fall an industrious squirrel gathered acorns and hickory nuts and buried them in her yard. The squirrel might have forgotten his hidden cache or perhaps died. Either way the unrecovered nuts sprouted.

Although squirrels often eat maple seeds, it’s most likely that Marilynn’s baby maple sprouted because a gust of wind pulled the ripe seed off a nearby tree and it helicoptered to her yard.

While Maples are usually easy to transplant, and are widely sold by nurseries, not so Hickories. Although any of the many Hickory species make outstanding shade trees, as soon as a nut sprouts it sends an enormous taproot deep into the ground. Moving a hickory is difficult and often unsuccessful. Commercial nurseries avoid them.

The same goes for white oaks, one of our favorite trees. It’s difficult to buy one to plant in the yard. Because they are slow growing and challenging to transplant, few nurseries bother with them.  Fortunately, they readily sprout on their own.

Maples along drive

In autumn Maples glow with color.

Anyone living where there are mature Hickory, Oak, or Maple trees nearby can use Marilynn’s tree planting method.  Simply don’t mow a patch of lawn where a tree is desired. Odds are one will appear on its own next spring. If more sprout than the spot can support just mow the others off and put wire screening around the new tree to protect it from hungry cottontails and deer.

If a tree sprouts in the wrong place it can be easily transplanted with just one shovel of dirt. Move it before the tiny tree has grown a long taproot.

Spring Inspirations by Readers

We invited readers of Winding Pathways blogs to submit a photo and short description of a favorite spring scene. The response spanned from the Pacific Northwest to Canada and from the Desert Southwest to New England. Enjoy readers’ reflections on our emerging spring. The essays appear as they came in to Winding Pathways.  Thank you all for your charming observations. Happy Spring! And soon, welcome summer.

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Moon over Sargentina crab apple trees.

“Every year I wait for our Sargentina crab apple trees to bloom.”

As much as I love our native prairie plants and various garden inhabitants, every year I wait for our Sargentina crab apple trees to bloom. Not too long ago, in the company of one of our barn cats, I sat out on the patio and watched the full moon rise with the sweet smell of the flowers drifting over. Bees lay full claim to the blossoms during the day, from the little sweat bees to the bumbles, so I try to give them some space and wait until evening before diving nose-first into the branches myself.
Emily Groom Hemmerling, Kansas

 

 

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Here in NH, spring is slowly unfolding. The barred owls are getting amorous and I’ve heard, although not seen, “our” hawks. There’s a barn swallow that’s building a nest under the eaves, and the bear visited the other night. The weather seems to be lacking any nuance. We are alternating between two or three days of cold, windy, rainy (tell the truth–nasty) days and occasional beautiful sunny days in the ’70s.

Waiting is hard after a long winter, but change should accelerate very soon. The hummingbirds return on average on May 11th, and by then many flowers should be in bloom and the trees that are barely budding today will be fully green. This time of year Carly Simon is often on my mind–“Anticipation”. Sue Fehsinger, New Hampshire

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Bloodroot in bloom

Dazzling white petal surround deep yellow centers.

These Bloodroots are found at the western end of our road.  We have now lived on this road for 17 years and have watched the progression of growth and expansion each year of more and more desirable plants.  The area has become a huge carpet of white under all the trees.  The blossoms on the north side of the road show their faces first and a few days later the blossoms on the south side of the road appear.  Since we have been here, each year it has been the same blooming schedule.  We also have Bloodroots in our yard which don’t appear until the ones on the road seem to be in full bloom. They are only 1/4 mile apart.

I photographed this forsythia at the edge of our neighbor’s property.  I do not have any on our property.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the yellow of the blossoms was brilliant.  I was also trying to get a different angle on the blossoms, rather than the whole bush.
My purple hyacinths are still producing blooms in my small north facing garden.  This year they seemed to have a deeper purple color and more blossoms on the stock.
The Virginia bluebells are now blossoming.  I counted 16 clumps of them in a small area at the top of our dry kettle.  I am even finding small self-seeded plants.
We are privileged to see wood ducks in our channel in the early spring.  They are very skittish and it is difficult to sneak up on them to get a photo.  We see them for a short time and then they disappear until next year. Sue Hrobar, Wisconsin
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Chestnut Hill Tree Trunk

The ancient tree sprouted leaves and flowers all over.

I walked this Chestnut Hill neighborhood in Boston often while living and working in the area.  My first fall a few heavily gnarled trunks of a handful of trees planted in the boulevard strips particularly captivated me.  These trunks reminded me of Italian grandmothers; stout, sturdy, not particularly tall, deeply wrinkled and absolutely beautiful.  When spring arrived I was amazed to see how blossoms not only appeared in their canopies but also sprang from their very bark.   I loved these elderly trees all the more and saw them as clothed from head to toe in spring attire.  May all of us exhibit such beauty and grace as we mature.   Adria J, Illinois and Maine

 

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Cactus Bloom

The desert Southwest alive with color.

Here is my first cactus bloom of the season!  Soon my yard will be bursting with color, from all of the different cacti!

 Coming from the Midwest, this is such a different sort of pretty.  Most of the year it is dry and barren up here in the high desert.  These little bursts of color that pop up in the spring are such a delight!  I love to walk in my neighborhood and see all of the different blooms.  We have a very mild winter and sometimes it’s hard to tell that spring is here, at least for this Midwestern gal.  The flowers alert me that spring has indeed arrived!  Such a contrast to these prickly little fellows.  Add to that the brilliant green of the trees, looking almost iridescent, and the scent of the roses that pop up everywhere, I would say that spring is my
favorite season here. Deb Karpek, Arizona
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Rhododendron

A close up of a western Rhododendron.

After the daffodils and the flowering trees fade is time in the Pacific Northwest for our native rhododendron to flower.   They grow wild on the coast, but also are prized in yards because their large leaves are green all winter. Found growing wild  near Port Discovery on the Washington coast in 1792 by Archibald Menzies who was with George Vancouver, it has been a favorite ever since. Officially it has been the Washington state flower since 1995, but women in 1893 designated it as such for a Worlds Fair that year. The rhododendron pictured is the Washington Centennial rhododendron from 1989. I love the way the blooms start out bright pink and fade to a pale pink as they open.
Jocelyn Berriochoa, Washington state

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Lilac Bloom

Raindrops on lilacs.

I opened the door this morning and looked out to see our lilacs blooming; pretty as could be.  I thought, “Thank you, Grandma, for planting them over seventy plus years ago.”  What a special way to start the day and welcome some of the beauty of spring. Claire Patterson, New Jersey

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 Spring came early to Bedford, Virginia, this year by about three weeks which means farmers, orchardists and gardeners began planting and hoping for early crops. Then to their surprise, we had two serious freezes back-to-back in March. The orchardists were especially chagrined because peaches, pears and apples took a hit. Watch for rising fruit prices.

As a gardener, it was thrilling to clean out the flowers and raised vegetable beds early on. As I began checking the asparagus patch, I noticed two silvery milkweed spears  poking their heads through the soil next to the asparagus. They had begun their quiet vigil for the returning Monarch butterflies. I know the Monarchs have reached their most northern breeding grounds. However, I’ve not seen one returning Monarch here at the Ridge House.

Milkweed buds

Milkweed is an important plant for Monarchs and other pollinators.

How did the milkweed come to be in my asparagus bed? There are a number of possibilities. Perhaps the birds deposited the seeds long ago. Or, the wind may have blown these wispy silky pinwheels into the patch. Another thought occurred to me that the seeds may have been tangled in the straw I scattered in the patch to help hold moisture through the dry summer months. However the seeds arrived, they are a God send as unthinking highway department mowers clear the roadsides, or a farmer applies toxic weed killer, or a home owner wanting a pristine lawn shears them off. The end result is far fewer pollinators like Monarchs and other butterflies, bees, and even birds. Where am I going with this you ask? This sage says, “All my weeds are wildflowers.” Peace.  Jackie Hull, Virginia

 

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Spring in New York City.  Dan Patterson, New York

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Snow is melting gradually this spring. And, despite the string of rainy days lately, at the end of April we still had mounds of it around the house and in the woods.

The slow melt has meant that I’ve kept up with yard cleanup and, while trimming around the edge of the yard, I have come across early gems, like the bright purple crocuses with their eye-popping yellow-orange stamen, nestled among moss covered rocks near the path into the woods.

Elsewhere, along the edge of the woods, the early Spring ground cover, known as ‘William & Mary’, is starting to show its pink and blue blossoms. (I think of my patch as ‘Will & Kate’.)

And, I uncovered the little pile of beach stones that granddaughter Cadence assembled one summer.

Every Spring is different and every day brings different discoveries and possibilities in the garden.

Now, I’m headed out and about to see what new stuff is uncovered before the heavy rains come. I’m thankful we live outside the flood zone, but Fredericton will see another 100 year flood this weekend I fear. Lucy Fellows, New Brunswick, Canada

Call for Photo and Write-ups

Mayapple blossom

Beautiful blossoms hide under the umbrella-like leaves.

First submission in! Hey all, on Facebook Winding Pathways invited folks to submit a favorite spring photo – tree, scene, flower, animal – with a short write-up of why you like that picture. And, Kansas readers Emily and Zach Hemmerling have already replied! Way to Go!

Now, I’d love to have about a dozen more so send them in to our email and I’ll continue processing and then post.  These samples of spring pictures.  Join in the fun and share your descriptions!

 

 

 

 

Lightning Strike Addendum

Years ago a tremendous lightning bolt struck a white pine at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The powerful blast tore a vertical strip of bark from nearly the tree’s top to the ground. It was at least 25 feet long and about four inches wide. Fearing that the hit was fatal I called then Cedar Rapids City Forester Eric Faaborg who came out and examined the pine.

I was certain it had suffered the kiss of death, but Eric reassured me. “I don’t think the hit was fatal.   Give it a few years and see what happens,” he remarked.

He was correct. By the next year the pine had partially healed. Now about 20 years later it is healthy and has grown considerably. The scar from the lightning wound is still visible but has faded.

The massive white oak that was struck by lightning near our home at Winding Pathways isn’t as lucky.   Unlike the pine, the oak suffered extreme damage that extended all around the circumference of the tree.  Four vertical strips of bark were torn off, and where bark remained it had been blown away from the tree’s wood. Essentially the oak has been girdled. We expect it to slowly die.

According to Cedar Rapids arborist, Todd Fagan, lightning damage often stresses a tree, causing it to go into decline and eventually die. It also opens the tree up to insects and diseases. However lightning damage isn’t always fatal. If in doubt he suggests contacting a certified arborist to evaluate the tree. Or you can simply leave it in place and remove if it dies.

Fagan added that it is possible to prevent lightning damage to special trees. “Often trees on golf courses are fitted with a copper wire that channels lightning harmlessly down into the ground. It’s expensive but can prevent the loss of an especially valuable tree,” he remarked.

To locate a certified arborist in your area access the website of the International Society of Aboriculture at and click on the appropriate link.