Cornus mas flowers April 24 2018

Cornus mas flowers- Cornelian cherry dogwood flowers in April before leaves appear

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

This spring has arrived at a plodding, glacial pace. Several snows in April and chilly, gray days which far outnumber the anticipated sunny, warmer ones seem to have put nature into a low gear. Birds that normally would have arrived in early April, like chipping sparrows, were late arrivals. Forsythia bloomed later than it did the past few springs, and soils have remained cold enough to hold back lawn grass growth. But the cold weather can’t last, and we finally have seen a few sunny days this week.

colletes at hole 4-14-2018 Pamm Cooper photo for Facebook

Native Colletes inaequalis ground nesting bee at entrance to her nesting tunnel- one of the earliest spring flying bees

Tree swallows arrived a couple of weeks ago, and barn swallows followed a week later. I always check out a nice swampy area along a road every spring when false hellebore is about a foot tall. This is when many migrating warblers start to come through on their way north. Two of the earlier arrivals are the yellow-rumped warblers and the palm warblers, which can often be seen together in good numbers as they catch insects on the fly. The loud drumming of pileated woodpeckers can be heard and barred and great horned owls should have nestlings by now. Canada geese should be sitting on eggs, with young hatching out in a week or so.

Pileated woodpecker pamm Cooper photo

Pileated woodpeckers

Bloodroot is now blooming, and before it is done, red trillium should also be blooming. Trout lily leaves are up, and its flowers should appear in a week or so. The early flowering azalea, Rhodendron mucronulatum, is flowering now with its welcome pink flowers. Bees were all over several plantings of this shrub on the UConn campus this past sunny Tuesday. Pieris japonica, or Japanese andromeda, Cornus mas and star magnolias are also in full bloom. Ornamental cherries are just beginning to bloom now and as the native black cherries begin to leaf out, look for tents made in the forks of branches by the Eastern tent caterpillars. Native bluets began blooming this week, and many native and honey bees, as well as early flying butterflies avail themselves of the nectar these tiny blue flowers provide.

purple trillium Pamm Cooper photo

Purple trillium blooms shortly after bloodroot

Rhododendron mucronulatum. Azalea Pamm Cooper photo (2)

Rhododendron mucronulatum azalea in bloom in late April. Note that this azalea does not retain its leaves through the winter

Spring peepers have been singing like a glee club, and are a welcome white noise in early spring for those of you who live near ponds. In vernal pools, egg masses of wood frogs, spotted salamanders and American toads can be found now. Diving beetles and water striders are also active now. Our vernal pools support life stages of many kinds of insects and amphibians, and provide water sources for many animals and birds as well.

spotted salamander nymph among frog eggs April vernal pool

Gilled larva of the spotted salamander swims among wood frog eggs in a vernal pool

Red, or swamp, maples are already dropping flowers, while spicebush are just starting to bloom.  Snowball viburnums are leafing out and new leaves seen curling are probably signs of snowball aphid feeding. Look inside the curled leaves for these aphids. While not a cause of alarm for the health of the plant, it is a cosmetic issue. Redbuds are showing deep pink flower buds as are the larger ornamental cherry varieties like Prunus subhirtella, the weeping Higan cherry. When these bloom, crabapples are not far behind.

Japanese Andromeda flowering in early April 2018 Pamm Cooper photo

Japanese Andromeda, Pieris japonica, can bloom in March. This year it has remained in bloom through late April. Many bees visit its flowers.

More insects are becoming active now with the warmer weather. Look for the striking six- spotted tiger beetle along open woodland trails. Cabbage white butterflies are also arriving, and will lay eggs on native mustards and the invasive garlic mustards. The second generation may end up on your brassica later in the year. Mourning cloak and comma butterflies are out now, and look for swallowtails and the spring azure butterflies. Migrating red admirals and painted ladies usually arrive around the time of crabapple and invasive honeysuckle bloom. I can hardly (but must!) wait to see a swallowtail butterfly. To me this is a certain harbinger of steady, warm weather.

6-spotted tiger beetle

The 6-spotted tiger beetle is hard to miss

Mourning cloak early spring

The mourning cloak butterfly survives winters here in the north as an adult. Often it is seen imbibing at sap flows or on animal dung

tiger swallowtail butterfly on bluets Pamm Cooper photo

Tiger swallowtail on native bluets

As you venture out this spring, listen for the songs of newly arriving birds, observe  insects as they go about their daily activities and enjoy the flowers that join together to make spring a poetic response to winter. Definitely a more charming repertoire in answer to winter doldrums than my own seemingly useless “ hurry up spring” song and dance…

Pamm Cooper

 

 

 

 

We New Englanders have been fortunate to have had a long and lovely fall season. The frost was late, warm temperatures rebounded, leaves were spectacular and late season mums are still going strong – good for pollinators. Even more tender plants continue to bloom in sheltered areas.

Pale champagne pink mums provide late nourishment for native pollinators

Pale champagne pink mums provide late nourishment for native pollinators

While there is much admiration for the brilliant yellows, fluorescent oranges and flaming reds covering many trees and shrubs this season, I am more partial to the pinks, burgundies and maroons. The fall reminds me of that aging bottle of red wine – once the bottle is uncorked, the rich, expressive elixir is savored but gone all too soon.

The pink blush on the panicled hydrangea reminds me of a pink moscato. Notice how the delicate pink and cream flower heads soften the hard, grey stone wall. This is a good placement for this plant that often is planted as a lonely specimen but adds more charm when it is worked into a planting or the landscape.

Delicate pink and creams of panicled hydrangea in fall

Delicate pink and creams of panicled hydrangea in fall

Sparkling pink champagne brings to mind the flower heads of miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. The pale pink, effervescent plumes dance in the wind and are positively radiant when the morning sun drenches them in light.

The whispy miscanthus plumes dance in the wind.

The whispy miscanthus plumes dance in the wind.

Recently fallen red maple leaves cover the walkways in merlot and burgundy. They crunch underfoot and get piled mischievously by the wind in between the branches of shrubs, in newly raked corners and in low-lying areas. Oak leaf hydrangeas take on a reddish hue the color of shiraz.

Maple leaves in shades of maroon and silver

Maple leaves in shades of maroon and silver.

Oak leaf hydrangea in splendid fall colors.

Oak leaf hydrangea in splendid fall colors.

Many azalea species lose their leaves as cold weather approaches. The evergreen ones take on hues of maroon, bronze and rose. I like to use their branches in holiday window boxes and arrangements. Bergenia leaves hang on all winter tinged with cranberry.

Azalea leaves can be used for winter arrangements.

Azalea leaves can be used for winter arrangements.

Wine tinged bergenia leaves.

Wine tinged bergenia leaves.

And then, there is the occasional rose. While the rest of the plant kingdom is turning its thoughts to dormancy and the long, cold winter ahead, it is not uncommon to find a softly scented, unfurling rose bud in a more protected area, undaunted by the darkening days and serving as a reminder of the warmer days we’ve left behind.

Last rose of summer!

Last rose of summer!

Dawn P.