Sunday, May 25, 2014

More patience!

Palouse purple geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), blooming at last, today in the prairie!

Another story of native plant patience...There was a single mature Purple geranium in a copse of native rose and snowberry in the Northeast corner of the property when I moved here in 1991, but a neighbor's burning some weeds got out of control and burned the copse in about 1993.  Everything else came back except the geranium. 

It is a tricky plant to get a seed from.  They aren't ready, they aren't ready...and then these little seed catapults on the bloom come out of nowhere and send seeds flying.  I have found that seedlings don't like to be transplanted.  One year I had five plants sprout from seed I'd collected, I transplanted them out to the prairie and watched them die a slow death over the next two years.  I've had better luck over the last few years, seeding them directly, and now there are a bunch coming up all over the prairie, but I had never had a bloom until today. 

Around 1990 or so, the young daughter of my farmer neighbor Mark apparently got some seeds for geranium down by the Palouse River, and she planted them by her mom's vegetable garden.  When I was telling them my tales of woe about trying to grow geraniums in 2007, they took me to the side of their house, where they had several large bushes of geranium, and I came back when they went to seed, and planted maybe fifteen little spots of them in the prairie.  Three lived!  The other two look like they'll bloom next year, but this one clump has finally bloomed, just today. 

Monday, May 5, 2014


Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), blooming in the prairie this afternoon

In 1995 or 1996 (not exactly sure...), in the aftermath of a fire that went through half of my property, I made my first effort at planting native plants on a large scale.  One thing I did was plant a few plugs of Arrowleaf balsamroot, a common native plant in Eastern Washington.  Planting them is a delicate operation.  They have a long taproot that cannot be disturbed and so these little two-leaf sprouts would have a nine-inch conical plastic tube out the bottom that I had to cut away and gently fluff the hairy roots around the taproot and lay it gently in the hole.  Of the first five I tried, two lived, and both of those were chomped by the deer.  That's it--they were Spring of 2004, one of them--the one in the image above--put up a tiny leaf, or maybe one of the hundreds of seeds I spread around sprouted, or who knows.  For the next several years, two or three leaves would come up in this spot in the Spring, and then in the last few years there were quite a few leaves, but no blooms.  Suddenly this year, it bloomed!

So, twenty years from a sprout to flowers.  I now realize that the automobile-sized clumps you can see in the last remaining bits of prairie in Eastern Washington must be 200 years old!