Rhododendron Fireworks

It was 39° in the garden this morning and I could see my breath in the air as I walked around the yard. Yet, cold,wet spring or not, we are on the verge of a HOT explosion of color. Rhododendrons are finally ready to burst into spectacular blooms. We are eager for the pizzazz and punch of color that the rhody brings. It will be glorious!

Here is a timeline of the last 10 days of bloom development in our yard.

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Pause to Remember

Today Exeter paused to remember and honor those who lost their lives while serving in the United States Military in all wars. Hundreds lined the parade route and followed along for several wreath ceremonies.

Click photos to enlarge.

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

The United States Department of Agriculture and the governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, have declared May 18-24 Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in New Hampshire. Citizens are encouraged to learn the signs of infected trees, learn more about the insect, and ways to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), a destructive insect introduced from Southeast Asia.

One telltale sign on the ash tree is bark ‘blonding’ where woodpeckers remove the top layer of bark exposing a lighter color of the cambium. Now is a good time to spot affected trees before the leaves fully emerge.

Tens of millions of ash trees have already been lost in the midwest, eleven of them at my son’s home in Ohio. He sent the photos below of tunnels left by larvae beneath the bark, tunnels that disrupt the transport of nutrients and water and eventually cause the demise of the tree.

Emerald Ash Borer on Ashemerald ash borer signsThe camping season will be getting underway on Memorial Day weekend. We all need to be aware that the larvae can be spread by transporting infested firewood. Campers can do their part by using firewood that is close to your campsite.

To learn more about the emerald ash borer, click HERE.

I love a rainy night…

6 a.m. Dear gentle, rejuvenating, cleansing overnight rain. You sure freshened things up and washed away a lot of yellow pollen. Many thanks….

Click to enlarge photos:

Love is in the air

Spring is upon us and suddenly the woods are alive with avian romance. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos that have kept us company throughout the winter have have migrated north and we welcome back songbirds that spend half their lives elsewhere. Seeds and suet, rich in protein, were ready for their arrival to provide the energy they need.

Two mated pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks recently arrived from their winter in Panama and northern South America and are being well-fed at separate feeders.

Two male ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a week ago and each claimed a different feeder as his own. They fuss across the branches but no fights yet… and, sigh, no lady loves either. It may take a week or two before the females arrive. Instead of hovering and guarding their food, they spend time staking out the best territory for breeding and sit high in the treetops as if scouting for the arrival of the first female. Then the fights may begin.

One male is very approachable and will hover inches from me each time I drag out the hose to water the baby grass or fill the birdbath. All he wants is a nice mist shower. I follow him to a branch where he flaps his wings and washes every feather for at least 5 minutes.

Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdOne of my favorite bird species, the gray catbird, is now frequenting the feeding area, flitting here and there, in a shrub, on a limb, running across the ground, on the suet, and then the feeder. The pair is vocal, mewing and repeating the calls of a number of other birds, as they forage for insects and enjoy sunflower seeds. I added a ground water bath that they especially love.

gray catbird in the ground bathFour varieties of woodpeckers, all paired off, visit the suet along with pairs of nuthatches, titmouse, bluejays, and chickadees.

Whether watching plump mourning doves, two by two, pad quietly beneath the feeders looking for spilled seeds or the sweet affection of a male cardinal feeding his mate, we both agree that birdwatching is an amazing experience in the spring.

 

I’m buggy about bugs

I’ve always been a little nuts about insects. The earliest memories of lying across our front walkway under a hot Virginia sun, sharing my lunch with a multitude of ants that lived between the bricks may have launched the budding citizen scientist in me. Observing ants of all colors, shapes, sizes and behaviors intrigued me and led me to a multitude of other insects.

That inquisitive little girl has aged into an inquisitive old girl who is still intrigued by insects. Here’s an early spring insect resting on my dwarf spiraea japonica. I’ve seen them a few times on cold spring days in New England as they are the first of this family to emerge from hibernation, often in freezing temperatures.

If this fella reminds you of a lightning bug (locals say ‘firefly’), you are right. It’s in the same family, yet it doesn’t look exactly like those we see on summer nights dancing and flickering their lights over lawns and the edges of woods. Although the middle sections are outlined with bright orange bands, the difference is in these wings, which are a dull black.

The Winter Firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) is related to our familiar lightning bugs. It glows as a larva, but lacks the light organs as an adult. And it is active during the daytime instead of night.

Maple syrup producers are familiar with this gentle pest. It dines on the fluid of maples and what better meal than a bucket of sap on the side of a maple tree…. where they often perish in the liquid.

Click HERE to visit a virtual habitat to learn about three groups of flashing lightning bugs in New England.

Spring: Act I

It’s been a long time coming but the vernal season is finally upon us. Leaves are unfurling, catkins are hanging, birds have returned, pink crab apple buds, closed tight, are ready to take center stage along the side of the house.

We’ve had a handful of temperatures close to 80° but also our fair share of rain, cool days and brisk nights. Daytime temperatures in the 50°s seems the norm. What do we have in the garden that loves this weather? Violas, a gift from a new friend in my garden club gives us our only bloom in the front gardens today.

The rest of the yard is showing clear signs of new life. Blooms are lined up like soldiers in two rows along the branches of our doublefile viburnum. When this shrub fills out with showy lacy white blooms and large leaves, it will probably be the site of a robin’s nest.

doublefile viburnumOur other viburnum, arrowood (Viburnum dentatum), may need a little more time to bloom but when it does, it should be covered in lovely white flat flowers at the ends of the branches.

Chicago LustreCandles on our white pines have a long way to go before they begin to spew pollen and cover the deck and furniture yellow. I wonder if the pine pollen is blowing around my Tidewater Virginia hometown yet.

white pine candlesOne of my favorite shrubs is starting to leaf out. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), a native, will bloom in sweet fragrant white blooms that attract the bees and butterflies and me!

clethraThe first blooms of bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) hang like jewels on a necklace. Not sure that I wanted this plant, I removed it from the border and covered it haphazardly with pine needles last fall. It survived and I’m glad. It’s lovely beneath the white pines.

bleeding heartThe bleeding heart plants will go beautifully with several varieties of hosta that I also covered with pine needles beneath the white pines. I am shocked that they survived but I am glad.

hosta