Better than average

Crocus in the BosquetI’ve done a lot of grousing about March lately. And it’s almost as if she heard me and said “Oh yeah? You think I’m a drag? I’ll show you how awesome I can be!” Over the last couple of days, the weather has been beyond gorgeous. Quite a few visitors have taken advantage of bright beautiful days to wander the grounds. — But not all of the visitors, at least yesterday, were human. I’ve seen turkeys on the property before but never actual birds with feathers, wattles and all. A skittish trio strutted and lurched across the front lawn right in front of my camera. It looked like a female and 2 males – would that be a happy family or a hot chick with suitors? (My clearest shots only captured a pair – I think it was the female who stayed out of the frame.)

Turkeys out for a stollJust passing through

I’m usually on vacation in early March so I can’t tell from my stack of calendars/garden journals, but I have a memory – some vivid memories actually – of really awful weather right about now in recent years. (I know for sure that it was cold and rainy on the 8th two years ago. — Rain makes the knot tighter.) If I go by pictures, last year I took my first shots of skunk cabbage on the 13th. Either I was late spotting them or the skunk cabbage and crocus are early this year. By the looks of some of the skunk cabbage blooms, they may have been up for a while already. Anyone else keeping better track?

a honeybee working out how to get into the skunk cabbage flowerskunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) eye test

Symplocarpus foetidus - skunk cabbage Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is probably not my romantic ideal of a native wildflower but it is a fascinating creature. I didn’t know (before looking it up on the internet) that the flower, which is a spadix inside a spathe hood, produces heat. It’s one way of attracting pollinators – the other way being a foul odor (I did know about that). The heat they produce is also useful for busting through frozen ground earlier than almost anything else.  Today’s pollinators were honeybees – I’m not sure I’d just love the taste of skunk cabbage honey but the bees will take what they can get this time of year and skunk cabbage knows it. Another fascinating thing is that the roots grow and then contract like muscles pulling the plant ever deeper into the ground. The older the plant the more deeply embedded. The pointy bud that shows alongside the bloom spathe, and should have been showing actually since the fall (though I never noticed it), is a spiral of leaves that will unfurl as the flowers wilt. To see skunk cabbage in action, look around swampy areas – most of ours are down by the water garden. It’s an eye test – all but the most solidly burgundy-colored are well camouflaged right now in the dapple and leaf debris.

Have these last few days been better than average in your garden too?

5 thoughts on “Better than average

  1. How awesome, indeed! We had the roughest winter in Virginia history, but March saved us from going to the crazy place. I put together our first cold frame this past weekend.

    Tracey, I’m envious of your cold frame! And I’m so glad that your crazy winter has morphed into spring – even up here we felt sorry for you guys. -kris

  2. SO much better than average. Got my crabapple pruning done, seeing species tulips poking their heads out. And now we plunge back into the 40’s, the temp range I dislike the most — not warm, but just cold enough to be cold.

    You’re right, though, moving to New England taught me March is solidly in the winter month category. Down South it would’ve been high spring right about now.

    Andrew, I don’t think March has decided what season it’s in. I thought it might be choosing spring this time around. And I’m with you – I think the 40’s can feel more bitter cold than even the teens sometimes. Why is that? -kris

  3. Kris, stop it! I looked up that same info this week, thermomorphogenesis, and thought it quite interesting along with those contracting roots. I love the look of the hoods of the skunk cabbage. It has been glorious hasn’t it?

    Too funny. I wonder if we’ll be wearing the same color today too. And rain boots. I’m pretty sad to see the sun go away again. -kris

  4. I guess I need to gripe louder. March hasn’t heard my complaints yet and just dumped another foot or more of snow in the last couple of days. Phooey on March!

    Christine in Alaska

    Christine, I find it helpful to stamp my feet, rattle my fists and heave full body sighs – all along with audible whining. Good luck. (and if it makes you feel any better, buckets of rain are just about to pour on us for days on end.) ugh. -kris

  5. I adore skunk cabbage!

    Man, I’m such a weirdo.

    Me too! Though I think of myself as almost normal. -kris

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