This spring, so many garden surprises have entertained me. Almost every day something reveals itself. Something unexpected, curious, even unusual.
It helps that I spend a crazy amount of time poking around outside. (The more time one spends with any activity, the more accessible and intimate the parts of that activity become.) Each inch of soil surrounding our home is habitat for fungi, bacteria, insects, tiny burrowing creatures and organisms. Healthy soil supports plant growth by anchoring and insulating roots, filtering water, holding oxygen, and supplying nutrients. While soil provides life, it certainly enhances mine.
Our garden has been especially magical this year. Or, maybe I’ve simply fallen under its spell.
Dragons in the Garden
We’ve owned the cottage where my mother lives since 2012. In nine years, I’ve been wondering about this plant. It grows in lush mounds around the front porch but has never produced blooms or berries or anything.
I let it be.
I thought it was a type of mayapple. Or a variety of Solomon’s Seal.
Finally, this spring, it grew large enough that my plant ID apps identified it as dracunculus vulgaris (aka dragon lily, snake lily, voodoo lily).
Lo and behold, a couple of days after identifying it, the plant put out humongous conical bracts with maroon, scalloped edges. Each is over a foot tall. It was as though the plants practically announced, “Now that you dull-witted human finally figured us out, we shall bloom for you.”
A few days later…the first bloom!
Umm, here’s the thing. Dragon’s have fiery breath. Everyone knows this, right? The dragon lily is no exception. The bloom is stinky the first day. Then, the smell dissipates.
We have at least seven more blooms to come!
The Enchanted Peony
A couple of days ago, I set out to re-stake the heavy stems of my peony plant hoping to give it better support before the next inevitable rain shower. My peony looks beautiful for about ten minutes in spring. A storm always ravishes it just at the wrong time.
After deadheading spent blooms, I noticed what I thought was a tiny leaf in the center of the prettiest blossom. But when I went to pick it off, I realized it wasn’t a leaf at all.
The leaf was a tiny tree frog!
If I were a tree frog, I would nap inside the plush fragrant petals of a peony. Wouldn’t you?
I’m pretty sure I found a tree frog princess.
I’ve been checking on her periodically. Sometimes she leaves her bed; later she is back.
The Little Pipevine That Could…Did!
If you’ve been a regular reader, you probably remember my story last year of The Little Pipevine That Could. (If not, read about it HERE.)
After what I can only imagine was a tumultuous journey from Florida to Arkansas, my little pipevine grew all summer yet never bloomed.
John overwintered it in the garage.
This spring it surprised us with an explosion of unique, pipe-like blossoms.
Turns out I bought a different variety of pipevine than I intended to purchase. (I wanted to buy Aristolochia macrophylla but purchased Aristolochia trilobata instead. Scientific names are important.) Even though ours is tropical, it survived last year’s -20 degree winter while tucked away in the garage.
This quirky specimen is host plant for both the pipevine swallowtail and polydama swallowtail.
Will we see pipevine caterpillars this summer? Time will tell.
Butterflies represent change and metamorphosis in many cultures and religions. Important pollinators, they are a vital link in our food chain.
We began trying to attract butterflies a couple of years ago, planting more natives and host plants. This spring, our milkweed is already loaded with monarch caterpillars. It’s the earliest I’ve seen them in our garden.
I saw this caterpillar yesterday. She had wandered away from the milkweed and into a sea of black-eyed Susans. I bet by now she has found a quiet place to pupate.
I saw my first monarch butterfly a few days ago too.
The eggs hiding in the finch nest inside our asparagus fern may not be golden eggs, but I feel honored to know they are there, to be able to check on them from time to time.
Even though I shared my surprise over this finch nest (plus the cowbird egg) in last week’s Sunday Letter, I think it deserves to be included in this garden surprises story.
It’s my first time to see a cowbird egg.
Toil yet Trouble
Not all garden surprises are welcome. We work hard yet can’t wish away garden pests, especially during an extra rainy spring.
We have our share of slugs and snails. No magic wand will eliminate sawflies from my roses. It’s all part of the process.
To quote Thoreau, I live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign myself to the influence of the earth.
And, I look for magic where I can find it.
Where there is none, I aspire to create it.
Secret Pocket Garden
See this empty space in our dry-stack wall? That’s a pocket garden waiting to happen.
It’s a pocket garden fit for a tree frog princess.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.