I associate cool, rainy, cloudy weather with Memorial Day weekend, but that's not what we got this year. It's 7 p.m. on May 28 and it's still 85 degrees and sunny. The thunderstorm last night delivered .10 of an inch of rain, not much.
The native plants in my yard are well adapted to the curve balls that the climate throws here in Burnett County, but I'm sure they'd love a little rain. In spite of the dry weather, things have greened up and started flowering. The east yard looks much better than it did a month ago. The green is provided mostly by the oak sedge (see my previous posts) and wild strawberry plants, which are an amazing ground cover plant for this area. There are plenty of other plants in this shady part of my yard, but the sedge and the strawberries are the most prominent and the most durable.
Here's a closer look at the wild strawberries. Best things about the strawberry plants: the deer don't bother with them, they produce fruit you can eat, and they're cute!
When I first planned the yard, I figured bushes would look best against the foundation, so that's what we planted -- snowberry and dwarf bush honeysuckle, both native to this area. Unfortunately, the bushes haven't done that well and I'm not sure why. This growing season, my main goal is to transplant bracken ferns (Pteridium) from our woods and then buy a few more ferns to fill in the big gaps left by the pathetic bushes. Below is a photo of some the ferns I've planted so far; the bracken is the one with the bare stem and the fronds toward the top (it's the fern you see all over the woods here) and the fern in the foreground is so far unidentified but it seems happy!
And below are a few more photos of the flowers blooming right now. The first is birdfoot violet (Viola pedata); the second is wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), a plant that spreads readily by seed, but not by transplanting. And the last is a protected plant in the state of Wisconsin, the lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule). I photographed this pink lady's slipper in a nearby secret location. Someday I hope this beautiful native will bloom in my yard, but it needs just the right ingredients, and that's a story for another blog post.
Happy Memorial Day!
Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere!
When we arrived at the cabin a few days ago, I was looking forward to seeing which plants were flowering in the yard. And I found a few. This white flower is bloodroot. My bloodroot must have tagged along with a clump of wild ginger that I transplanted a few years ago from my brother-in-law's yard.
And below is the wild ginger, which is also flowering right now. The pink flowers are low to the ground and easy to miss.
But I was most eager to see whether the oak sedge (Carex pensylvanica) was flowering. And it definitely is. This time of year, it’s easiest to distinguish the sedge from the grasses I usually yank (like fescue and crab grass) because of the way it flowers.
Those wispy yellow tops (a highly technical botanical term) are actually the flower. I rarely think of grasses and sedges as flowering plants, but they are. And these flowering tops are pretty distinctive. I've become a sedge fan and I'm starting to see them everywhere. It's like when you buy a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere.
Five years ago, I learned about oak sedge from Cheryl Clemens, who once served as a native plants consultant for Burnett County (not sure if she still does). Cheryl visited us – free of charge – after we had torn down our old cabin and built new. Our yard was a great big sand pit after all the excavation work. The sight of it was a little daunting. We worried that one thunderstorm would send our real estate downhill into our neighbor’s yard. They were probably worried too.
Cheryl advised us how to start our native plants experiment. She first told us about oak sedge, which is becoming a no-mow lawn substitute around the country.
She pointed it out to me in the woods and I was pretty embarrassed that I’d never paid much attention to this little native grass growing everywhere. In Burnett County, it grows mostly in the woods, but it can tolerate full sun as well.
This is what an oak sedge lawn is capable of looking like (the photo is from the Minnesota Wildflowers website):
That's what I'm shooting for -- we're a long way from that.
Oh, well. But every year, it spreads, and it’s tough as nails. The deer don’t eat it and the harsh conditions here – cold winters and droughty, sandy, nutrient-poor soil – don’t faze it. But one thing I’ve learned about planting natives: the mix of plants changes a little bit every year. And if our wild-strawberry patches outcompete the oak sedge, I’m good with that!
Here’s more info on oak sedge:
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