Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April, part two

 Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum) in bloom

Grassland saxifrage (Saxifraga integrifolia), also in bloom

I transplanted several clumps of these two plants from a threatened spot last year.  I wasn't sure if they would survive, but I put them in exactly the same sort of habitat they were in, and I was happy to see that not only were they blooming this year, but they had spread.

Meanwhile, in the north part of the prairie, Nine-leaf lomatiums (Lomatium triternatum) that have taken 4-5 years to get mature are at last putting out some nice blooms this year.  Many camas are coming up in this area, so I'm hoping that I really get to see a camas bloom this year...

Friday, April 15, 2016


Today is my wife Dona's birthday, and on every birthday since we've been married, I've gone out and cut a Grass widow (see a couple of posts before this one) for her.  Over the last few years, they have finished blooming earlier and earlier, and this year they were done blooming a week ago, so today I went out to see what flower would become the new Dona birthday flower.  Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) won the contest.   It came from this patch, which took nearly 20 years to produce a flower (there was a post from...last year? which I told the tale of this patch...)--

Yes, there is a disturbing climate-change angle here...Is this just a few warm Springs or is this the new reality?  One beautiful summer flower here is the biennial Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), but an area that has had them in profusion for, I don't know, eight years or something, suddenly has none of them.  They are showing up elsewhere and hopefully all the seeds that were dropped last fall there will bring some back, but you've got to wonder...

Still there are many exciting things to see in this next phase of Spring.  Here a Upland larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) showed up where I had planted nothing.  It's mature, so it appears as though it must have been there for a year or two, but I never saw it before...

Also, another favorite, Prairie star (Lithophragma glabrum) is blooming in the prairie for the first time.  I have planted probably ten clumps of these, a couple from the same drainage ditch I got the larkspur from last week, and these from a clump that showed up by a tree in the front yard years ago--I divide it every year, leave half of it by the tree and plant the other half in the prairie.  They do pretty well, but this is the first year they've bloomed...

Another tiny flower that is doing spectacularly well is Blue-eyed mary (Collinsia parviflora).  There had been quite a bit of it here, but it bloomed at almost the exact same time as a very aggressive weed called storksbill, and in eradicating the latter, I took out a lot of the former, but I've collected seed and re-establishing it has been surprisingly easy here.  It is very small, but the bloom is beautiful.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Drainage Ditch Free Nursery

Nothing for months, and then two posts in a week, but it's Spring!

I was checking on how things were coming back to life in the prairie and discovered the results of an experiment over the last two years.  I had noticed that beside a gravel road near here there were a few large drifts of Upland larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) that had apparently shed their seeds into the gravel and created a blanket of larkspur seedlings.  They are the 5- to 7-bladed gray-green leaves you see here.

Every year around May 1, the county comes through and sprays the drainage ditch with herbicide, so these will be toast, thus justifying my effort to rescue them, but I wasn't sure it would even work.  Some plants do very well, but a lot of natives hate to be moved, so it really only makes sense to do it if they're gong to be killed anyway.  So, two years ago, and again last year, I showed up with a trowel and bucket and dug 2-3 small clumps, transplanted them to similar habitat in my prairie.  The discovery this year was that I had healthy larkspur coming back in 2 out of 3 plantings.  That makes it worth the effort.  So this year I moved twelve shovel-sized clumps out of the free nursery in the drainage ditch.   We shall see...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring on the Palouse

Grass widows (Olsynium douglasii) in bloom.

I fell into a lot of playing music over the last few months, and have felt less inclined to write.  I have several ongoing projects that have demanded a lot of disciplined practice, and there isn't much to say except that I'm working hard and doing my best.  I actually have more to say than that, but I want to save it until I finally finish one of these projects.

But it's Spring on the prairie, and that catches your attention.  Above and below are images showing the third year of growth in this part of the property.  Clumps of delphinium, prairie star, and buttercups that I moved in the last couple of years from gravelly drainage ditches by the side of the gravel roads around here (where they would be sprayed if I didn't move them) have survived.  I have not found other sources for these plants, although I have been successful with delphinium seed that I've collected around here.  I wish I could get a ton of buttercup seed though.  What is especially pleasing for me to see in the image below is all the little annual plants that are vigorously filling in here, along with these grass widows spreading everywhere.  These are all descendants from the few clumps I rescued years ago from a spot down the road, where a new house was being built and they dumped soil on a bit of pristine prairie.  Every year, I select a few large clumps here and divide them into 3-4 bits and replant.  Now they're taking mostly care of the project themselves.  In this image, if you look below the furthest-left grass widow flower in the clump in the foreground, you can see a wider-blade leaf of a plant.  I think that's a Yellow bell (fritillaria pudica), a descendant from an earlier population that was entirely eaten up years ago by a plague of voles here (I did a post on this years ago when it happened).  When that kind of stuff comes back, you know you're doing something right...