Vulture Visitors

There is a roost of black vultures in the park next to me, and a few times a year they venture into my yard. They just made one of their infrequent appearances, around thirty birds resting and sunning near the creek. As the day warmed, they slowly took off in small groups to fly in… Continue reading Vulture Visitors

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Ironweed

The first time I remember seeing ironweed was on a walk with my dad in the Adirondacks. We were walking near what was locally known as the Old Iron Bridge and since he liked to joke he mentioned something about the plant liking to eat iron. I was very young, and for years after whenever… Continue reading Ironweed

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Garden Night Life

I most often visit my garden by day, but night can be magical too. There are quite a few pollinators out and about, but what I enjoy most in summer are the sounds. For part of my academic research I recorded primate vocalizations, and for years after leaving academia I traveled the world recording nature… Continue reading Garden Night Life

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Jewelweed

As the name suggests, many people consider jewelweed to be a weed. I consider it a beautiful wildflower, prized by pollinators. Over the years I have encouraged them in my yard. Right now, I have two species in flower. The spotted jewelweed shown in this photo with a fly visitor is more common. The pale… Continue reading Jewelweed

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Oxblood Lily

When I bought my first house, in central North Carolina, my gardening instinct immediately kicked in. My dad and aunt nurtured my love of plants, and after more than a decade of dorm and apartment living, I was thrilled to have room for a garden. With six acres, my interest rapidly turned to obsession, and… Continue reading Oxblood Lily

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Fried Egg Flower

In my first garden in central North Carolina I grew both Franklinia alatamaha and Gordonia lasianthus. One winter a major ice storm coated the Gordonia leaves which persist through winter. The tree started to bend from the weight, and I was afraid branches might break off. In dedication bordering on obsession, I ran an extension… Continue reading Fried Egg Flower

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Box Turtle Feast

I have always been fascinated by animals. It took longer for my interest in plants to develop, though my dad and his sister were both very focused on flora. As a kid, they would convince me to join their nature walks with the promise we might see a turtle. Inevitably we only saw flowers, and… Continue reading Box Turtle Feast

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Joe Pye Weed

On summer hikes in the forests of upstate New York, my dad and I would frequently encounter a beautiful billowing pink cloud of blooms. He introduced me to Joe Pye Weed, pausing between each word, and pronouncing it in a deliberate way. It reminded me of how he introduced a friend, formally including the middle… Continue reading Joe Pye Weed

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Cranefly Orchid

Though most people think of orchids as denizens of tropical forests and grocery stores, they are quite common in my yard. The cranefly orchid first makes its presence known in autumn and winter with two toned leaves that are green above and purple below. Each plant has just one leaf, which persists through the coldest… Continue reading Cranefly Orchid

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Fuel For Monarchs

When I first moved here over a decade ago, there was a patch of swamp milkweed growing wild along the driveway, at the edge of the creek. As a park was developed upstream, plans included shifting the flow of the creek and since then this patch has died out. Fortunately, I still have fourleaf milkweed… Continue reading Fuel For Monarchs

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Ghost Flower

I have been fascinated by these ethereal flowers for a long time. On hikes in the Adirondacks, I would often find large clusters of them growing deep in the north woods. I’ve also seen them in nearby parks, but this year is the first time I’ve seen them in my yard. The cluster in my… Continue reading Ghost Flower

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Major Wheeler Honeysuckle

Growing up, before knowing how they were taking over the country, I loved honeysuckles. As a child, I enjoyed sipping the flowers, a tiny taste of honeyed sweetness. In middle and high school they always flowered around the time I was taking my final exams, and after hours of study I would step out into… Continue reading Major Wheeler Honeysuckle

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Diving Into Summer

Although most of my garden is either native with plants growing wild here, or introductions I have made with plants that would grow here if it was a less disturbed forest, occasionally I add plants that have value either to pollinators or to my preferences, or both. Growing up I remember fondly a small stand… Continue reading Diving Into Summer

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Pretty But Poisonous

My garden is designed to create a welcoming habitat for a variety of wildlife, so I was pleased this week to have an amphibian visitor, this pickerel frog. My love of frogs goes back to early childhood. My father, aunt and I would make an annual pilgrimage to the swamps of upstate New York in… Continue reading Pretty But Poisonous

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Fairy Candle

Black cohosh is flowering now in my forest, apparently enjoying the string of 90-degree days and high humidity as summer approaches. It has an assortment of colorful names. My favorite is fairy candle, because when the last light hits them in the forest they seem lit up like fanciful candles. My first memory of this… Continue reading Fairy Candle

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Wandflower

The first time I remember seeing wandflower was at Duke Gardens. I was visiting there with my aunt and uncle, who retired to Durham while I was living nearby. I would go on walks and hikes with them every weekend for the four years we overlapped, except in summer when they escaped the North Carolina… Continue reading Wandflower

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Gregory Bald Azaleas

The meadows at the tops of some higher peaks in the southern Appalachians, locally known as balds, have spawned many theories. Possibly no one explanation fits them all, ranging from lightning fires to soil conditions. One of the more intriguing ideas is cold weather during the Ice Age prevented trees from growing on some summits,… Continue reading Gregory Bald Azaleas

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True Purpose of False Flowers

Last week I mentioned my fondness for true Solomon’s seal. My dad’s early explanation of the names for the true and false Solomon’s seal, suggesting the true was a better plant than the false, imprinted a prejudice that still lingers. This week I worked hard to overcome my bias as the false Solomon’s seal started… Continue reading True Purpose of False Flowers

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True or False?

My dad would always bring along his trusty flower field guides when we headed north for the summer. Upstate New York is full of amazing flora, and we found everything from carnivorous plants in lonely bogs to alpine flowers on the highest Adirondack peaks. There were also many flowers we saw each year in the… Continue reading True or False?

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Montrose Memories

Every year around this time, the native dwarf crested iris bloom in my woods. They are most prolific on my steep rocky hill, though also flowering in a few other spots scattered through the forest. In my garden, I am enjoying the flowers of Iris cristata ‘Montrose White’, a domestic variety. It is an elegantly… Continue reading Montrose Memories

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Memorial Flower

This week is the culmination of a long wait. Finally, a pinkshell azalea is flowering in my garden. I grew a couple in my first garden in the early 1990s. They grew but never flowered in the five years I was there. I hadn’t tried again in my assorted gardens until last spring. When my… Continue reading Memorial Flower

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Dogwood Winter

When I was growing up in suburban New York, my dad seemed especially fond of dogwoods. Though we didn’t have any growing wild on our small lot, he added two of the white native trees and a pink cultivar. This dominated the view out my bedroom window, and their profusion of flowers in spring always… Continue reading Dogwood Winter

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Foamflowers

I first became familiar with foamflowers as part of a nature trail my dad maintained in Lake Placid. My mom played in the Sinfonietta there every summer for over 50 years, and when I was a teenager, they bought an old house with a couple acres of mostly woods. As a professor, my dad had… Continue reading Foamflowers

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The Cutest Trillium

Trilliums are among the gaudiest flowers in Tennessee forests. With around 50 species ranging from the western US to Asia, the highest diversity is in the southern Appalachians. One of the most recent discoveries was Trillium tennesseense right here in east Tennessee. It was found less than 10 years ago, in a park I hiked… Continue reading The Cutest Trillium

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Goldilocks Flower

This week is the height of bloom for bloodroot both in the woods and in my garden. As the plant emerges, the new leaf wraps around the flower bud, then the flower rises on its own stem, leaving the sheltering leaf behind. They are the Goldilocks of flowers, only opening if the day is not… Continue reading Goldilocks Flower

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The Other Pachysandra

Last week my town had a record high of 79. At the start of this week, the low tied the record of 14 and dropped even lower in my yard. This extreme fluctuation is tough on plants, both wild and in the garden. There was 4” of snow which helped protect the shorter plants, but… Continue reading The Other Pachysandra

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Enchanted by Shortia

I imagine most gardeners have a favorite flower. For me it is the unassuming Shortia, also known as Oconee Bells. I have grown it in all my gardens, and this week one of my plants here flowered. For me this is always the high point of every gardening year. My photo shows the flower backlit… Continue reading Enchanted by Shortia

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Trout Lily Lessons

The first trout lilies have started to flower, just a hint of the thousands that will bloom in the coming month. They are part of the reason I named my garden Trout Cove. I was inspired both by the trout stream running through my property with its tiny coves, and these beautiful blankets of wildflowers… Continue reading Trout Lily Lessons

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Sunny Daffodils

Though I have planted a variety of daffodils since moving here, the first to flower are always the ones that came with the house. They are the classic showy bright yellow blooms, and either the previous owners were wildly ambitious, or they have seeded themselves into many new clumps. The first blossoms opened this week,… Continue reading Sunny Daffodils

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Hardy Hellebores

Hellebores come from Eurasia but have happily settled into gardens across the world. Mine came with the house, several plants flanking the sidewalk and largely shaded except for a few hours of angled sun. Though showing buds for nearly a month, the first flowers just opened this week. Their blossoms are highly specialized, and not… Continue reading Hardy Hellebores

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Eye-Catching Dwarf Iris

In winter I am always impatient for spring. No garden can equal the tide of new life provided annually by nature, but I try to offer flowers when nothing is available in the forests or fields. One of my garden goals is to have something blooming every day of the year. Already I have seen… Continue reading Eye-Catching Dwarf Iris

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Great Blue Heron

My property is bisected by Sinking Creek, a 10-mile tributary of the Watauga River. The Watauga River originates from a spring at Linville Gap in North Carolina. It starts from the western side of the Continental Divide and ultimately its waters flow to the Gulf of Mexico, while the Linville River on the opposite side… Continue reading Great Blue Heron

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Seeds of Friendship

I visited Cuba in 2016 on a botanical trip, visiting beautiful gardens and searching for endangered plants. One of our destinations, Viñales, is known for amazing geological formations. Limestone hills called mogotes rise steeply from the valley. With their isolation, they have many endemic species. A week into our trip, I arranged with our local… Continue reading Seeds of Friendship

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