"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
 

Japanese Maples Preparing for Spring

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (Vol. 1) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

“The maples are hardy ornamental trees or shrubs, with handsome large foliage which, in some species, shows a remarkable tendency to vary in shape and coloring. Numerous garden forms are in cultivation.

“Though the flowers are small, they are quite attractive in the early-flowering species…. [In] some species the young fruits assume a bright red color…. Nearly all assume & splendid color in autumn, especially the species of North America and Eastern Asia, which surpass by far the European maples…. The Japanese maples… are among the most striking and showy exotic small trees, and are adapted for fine grounds and for growing in pots.”

From Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“North American maples were brought to Europe during the 18th century. Maximovich was responsible for many introductions from the Russian Far East, Japan, and China. Plant hunting in southern and eastern China continued to bring in introductions, until virtually all species had been discovered and introduced by the early 20th century. The larger maples have proved popular as landscape trees, with the numerous smaller species proving to be successful garden plants. The diversity of the Asian species has led to much connoisseur interest in the West.

“East Asian
Acer palmatum shows particularly high diversity. In Japan the first literary mentions were in the Nara period; it was certainly cultivated in the Heian, when the nobles would hold leaf-hunting competitions in the woods. Over 100 selections were made during the Edo period, with yellow leaves the most highly rated — a Chinese influence, as yellow was seen as the highest-status colour (and traditionally reserved for the emperor); 40 were specifically grown as bonsai. So central are maples to the Japanese autumn aesthetic that the word momichi, originally used to describe all autumn colour, came to be a synonym for kaede, the original word for maple.”


Hello!

The photos below show two different varieties of Japanese Maple as they produce new leaves and get ready for spring. Both are large weeping shrubs that cascade over stone walls at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The last three photos are my favorites of this series: I caught them at just the right time to display some of their unusual shapes and intense colors, which will last only a day or two as the leaves unfold.

Thanks for taking a look!







Snowflakes of the Southern Kind

From “Town and Country” in Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively:

“My own life in the garden has been a particular, and special, aspect of life in general: the activity, the preoccupation, to which I have retreated both in practice and in the mind when everything else permitted. Get out there and dig, weed, prune, plant…. Escape winter by swinging forward into spring, summer: maybe try those climbing French beans this year, what about a new rose, divide the irises, the leucojums are crowded — put some under the quince tree….

“The gardening self becomes a separate persona, waiting to be indulged when possible, and never entirely subdued — always noticing, appreciating, recording…. [Gardening] has this embracing quality in that it colors the way you look at the world: everything that grows, and the way in which it grows, now catches your attention; the gardening eye assesses, queries, is sometimes judgmental…. The physical world has a new eloquence.”

From “Snowdrops” in My Garden in Spring by E. A. Bowles:

“My favourite form is that known to science as Leucojum vernum, var. Vagneri, but which lies hidden in catalogues and nurseries as carpathicum. Both are larger, more robust forms than ordinary vernum, and strong bulbs give two flowers on each stem, but whereas carpathicum has yellow spots on the tips of the segments, Vagneri has inherited the family emeralds….

“It is an earlier flowering form than
vernum, and a delightful plant to grow in bold clumps on the middle slopes of the flatter portions of the rock garden. Plant it deeply and leave it alone, and learn to recognise the shining narrow leaves of its babes, and to respect them until your colony is too large for your own pleasure, and you can give it away to please others.”


Hello!

It’s been a couple of years since I stumbled across batches of snowflakes to photograph; the last time I caught them in their bloomers was in March 2021 — where they were mixed in with some snowdrops, causing The Photographer a lot of confusion over the differences between snowflakes and snowdrops. I sorted that out in a post at the time — see Snowdrops and Snowflakes, Daffodils and Tulip Leaves — so this year I didn’t have to worry about that, though I did have to remind myself. This year, too, I never saw any snowdrops (only snowflakes) though I may have just missed them.

I did freshly learn that snowflakes come in a spring version (Leucojum vernum) and a summer version (Leucojum aestivum), which grows a good bit taller just to one-up the spring varieties. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them during the summer, and I’m assuming my photos are the spring version since these typically start blooming as we head out of winter. It’s a bit tricky here in the Southeast, though, to think in terms of “blooming season” when identifying plants: in February and March the temperatures swing freely from wintery 30 degrees to summery 70s or 80s in alternating weeks, so there are often surprises that don’t quite align with “this plant blooms in spring” characterizations.

Regarding the second quotation above, you may remember E. A. Bowles as the proprietor of a lunatic asylum for wayward plants (see Winter Shapes: Corkscrew Hazel), but he was equally well-known for his garden writing. His book My Garden in Spring has an entire chapter on snowdrops, where he does what we all do: mixes them in with snowflakes both in his gardens and in his writing about them. I like his writing style — I mean, referring to young plants as “babes” is awesome! — and I thought it was interesting that in a twenty-page chapter devoted to snowdrops, he digressed into a discussion of his favorite varieties not of snowdrops, but snowflakes.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!









Bridal Wreath Spirea

From 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:

“Spireas grow worldwide and were imported to Europe from America, Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. The Chinese reputedly used the flexible branches to make whips. Alice Coats observes that one Chinese name for spirea means ‘driving horse whip.’ They were well known in ancient Greece, where their whippy branches were used to make wreaths and garlands. The name ‘spirea’ comes from the Greek speiraia, which was a plant used in garlands, presumably named from the Greek word speira (a spiral).

“The Greeks had a pleasant interest in garlands and used them on sad, happy, and triumphant occasions. Dionysus is supposed to have made the first wreath out of ivy, and the use of wreaths spread to sacrificial animals, to priests, and to the people. In spring Athenians garlanded children who had passed the perilous period of infancy and reached their third year. Brides and grooms wore wreaths of flowers and heroes were crowned with them. Different flowers and evergreens were used for different occasions, depending on convention and availability.

“Spireas may have been used particularly for weddings as many are covered with small white flowers that seem appropriate to brides. [It] was called ‘bridewort’ early on in Britain and is called ‘bridal wreath’ today.”


Hello!

The little white flowers on this bridal wreath spirea are no larger than a typical shirt button. The gallery below progresses through a series of photos starting with images of one fully opened flower, then two, then three, ending with some larger clusters that include the soft white shapes of other flowers in the background. From these photos you can see that the plant is early in its blooming life: there were hundreds of unopened flowers so I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to photograph the plant again in full bloom soon.

Thanks for taking a look!







Winter Shapes: White Quince

From “Not Everyone Wants to Go Whole Hog into Gardening” in On Gardening by Henry Mitchell:

“[However] common the flowering quinces may be, they are still first-rate shrubs. They come in pink, white, orange, and scarlet, and in time form globular plants six or seven feet high, but are easily pruned to lower heights if you prefer. The large occasional fruits can be made into preserves. I did that once but never ate the stuff; possibly you could send them for Christmas presents.”

From 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:

Japonica blossoms burst out of bare branches in earliest spring before there are green leaves anywhere. They are sometimes white, but more usually red or brilliant coral, and they seem more like an implausible statement against the darkness of winter than real flowers….

“The naming of the japonica itself is complicated. The first japonica was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg, a pupil of Linnaeus…. After this, the japonica played for a while a kind of nomenclatural musical chairs….

“Finally japonicas came to rest botanically by being classed as
Chaenomeles, from the Greek chainein (to gape) and melon (apple), referring to a perception that the fruit was split. Thunberg’s original plant and its descendants became Chaenomeles japonica, and the plant from China and its descendants became Chaenomeles speciosa. Both are more often called ‘japonicas’ or ‘flowering quince.’ Both produce brilliant blossoms in early spring, followed by a hard pear or quince-like fruit that can be made into jelly.”


Hello!

The white quinces are flowering! Normally that’s not notable, since it’s common here to see scattered quince blooms throughout the winter then busting out all over toward the end of January or in February. But after our late-December deep-freeze (see Plant Entanglements (1 of 2), where I wrote about the damage to flora and fauna around town), the quinces were pretty stagnant: most of the leaves had been burned off by the cold weather and there were only a few small, crumpled flowers remaining. But after a nice warmup recently and some scattered rain, they’re on their way back.

What may not be so evident from the photos, though, is this: the flowers are coming back faster than the leaves — something unusual that I see happening in my own garden where several large fringe flower bushes have produced flowers but have not yet replaced the leaves destroyed by the cold weather. They look so weird: imagine long, thin branches similar to those in the quince photos below, with no leaves but just a tiny pink tassel hanging off the end. I was going to take some photos of them in that stripped-down condition… but I didn’t want to embarrass them….

🙂

Thanks for taking a look!





Winter Shapes: Jasmine Blooms and Rose Leaves

From “Lalla Rookh” by Thomas Moore in The RHS Book of Flower Poetry and Prose by the Royal Horticultural Society:

Plants that wake when others sleep —
Timid jasmine buds that keep
Their fragrance to themselves all day,
But when the sunlight dies away
Let the delicious secret out
To every breeze that roams about.

From “My Neighbor’s Roses” by Abraham L. Gruber in The RHS Book of Garden Verse by the Royal Horticultural Society:

The roses red upon my neighbor’s vine
Are owned by him, but they are also mine.
His was the cost, and his the labor, too,
But mine as well as his the joy, their loveliness to view.

They bloom for me and are for me as fair
As for the man who gives them all his care.
Thus I am rich, because a good man grew
A rose-clad vine for all his neighbors’ view.

I know from this that others plant for me,
And what they own, my joy may also be.
So why be selfish, when so much that’s fine
Is grown for you, upon your neighbor’s vine.


Hello!

It’s always fun to uncover splashes of color among the winterized branches and bushes. Below are a few photos of tiny jasmine blooms, the first I’ve seen so far as we try to wrap up winter. The blooms — even the fully opened ones — are barely half an inch long, but still glow with some very bright yellows.

Below the jasmine photos are some early rosebush and rose vine leaves. They have quite a few large and thorny thorns, mostly, I believe, to protect them from photographers who like to stick their faces and lenses into the bushes — but also to ward off plant-eating predators.

Thanks for taking a look!








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