Thursday, May 19, 2022
Sunday, May 08, 2022
Following the carnage of the Civil War, and before Anna Jarvis entered the scene, there had been efforts to celebrate mothers as a force in the world for peaceful settlement of differences, but none of the events had evolved into a tradition.
The death of Anna Jarvis's mother on the second Sunday in May, 1905, spurred Anna into action. Nine years of advocacy ultimately led to Woodrow Wilson's signature proclaiming an official Mother's Day in 1914, just in time for the outbreak of WWI several months later. Note the placement of the apostrophe. Rather than a celebration of mothers in general, Anna's vision was a very personal affair, in which people would give handwritten notes expressing gratitude for all that their own mothers had done for them. Anna distributed white carnations at the first formal Mother's Day event in 1908, but ultimately would spend the rest of her life fighting the commercialization of the day by the florist, card, and candy industries.
To honor the brave founder of the holiday, therefore, it looks like the best course of action would be to write a note of personal gratitude on something other than a Mother's Day gift card, perhaps accompanied by some flowers cut from the backyard. Lilacs, anyone? That could be followed by a stroll past some gardens with flowers in bloom.
Below are a random assortment of flowers that you might encounter, though the reader is to be discouraged from picking unless they are growing in your own yard.
Thursday, May 05, 2022
First step, photograph them and write about them, on the chance that others might too find themselves wading through a backyard full of weeds and wonder what they all are. Click on a photo to make it larger.
This one, the most ridiculously successful, is purple deadnettle. It's in the mint family, which you can tell by its square stem, but unlike many other mints, it relies on seeds to spread, rather than underground rhizomes.mock strawberry.
Friday, April 15, 2022
Blooming in many people’s yards right now is a small yellow flower that, upon closer inspection, proves not to be a dandelion. Variously called lesser celandine or fig buttercup, its radical invasiveness triggers a predictable progression of emotions in the homeowner. Delight at its pretty flower soon turns to alarm as year by year it takes over the yard, spreading through flower beds, across lawns and into neighboring properties. What may start as a few scattered, harmless-seeming clumps quickly becomes the equivalent of a rash upon the landscape. Unlike the dandelion, lesser celandine also spreads into nature preserves. Poisonous to wildlife, it forms thick stands reminiscent of pavement. Over time, our nature preserves become less and less edible to the wildlife they were meant to support. Native diversity shifts towards non-native monoculture.
Below are some photos to help with identification, and here is a link that includes suggested means of stopping it from taking over your yard. Though the link says only to spray through early April, I'd suggest that spraying is helpful for as long as its leaves are green. Lesser celandine is a spring ephemeral, meaning that it comes up early, then dies back in June, going dormant until the next spring. Gardeners who like to dig up plants of this or that to give to friends should be aware that, if their yards have been invaded by lesser celandine, some of it may hitchhike in whatever plants they dig up later in the season to give away. They may unwittingly be giving a fellow gardener the beginnings of a major headache.
Lesser celandine is poisonous, and yet some websites declare it edible and offer recipes. Why the contradiction? Apparently, lesser celandine accumulates toxins later in the spring. The toxins break down during cooking or after drying. Still, one takes one's chances trying to eat it, and, alas, wildlife don't cook.
I've seen bees collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers, which is all fine and good, but this doesn't compensate for the inedibility of the leaves. The invasion of our lands by nonnative plants that wildlife don't eat essentially shrinks the acreage of functional habitat in Princeton, even though a great deal of open space has been preserved. Thus the need for management.
Given that some areas of Princeton have been overrun by lesser celandine, it's important to defend those areas that have not, by closely monitoring and spot spraying where the plant is just starting to move in. Invasions begin with just a few plants here and there. An absolute minimum of herbicide is needed to easily defend these areas. Lesser celandine can easily be distinguished from dandelion. Walk the grounds before the grass gets mowed in the spring and while the plant is blooming. For lawns, a product like Weed B Gone works. For other areas, a 2% solution of glyphosate does the trick. Since glyphosate can take a week to show visible effect on the plant, it's best to spray early in the spring so that there's time to see results and spray any areas missed. For those near wetlands, wetland-safe formulations of glyphosate are available, so Roundup is not the only option.
In terms of aesthetics, lesser celandine's dense, exclusionary growth does to the landscape what people badly afflicted with narcissism do to social situations. A woodland that once hosted a diversity of native wildflowers becomes, when overwhelmed by lesser celandine, one species' declaration of Me! Me! Me!
Friday, April 01, 2022
For those who need deadlines, the last cold days of spring are a prompt for action by a wild gardener. It's the last chance to get some work done in a nature preserve without having to worry about doing tick-checks. It's also a time when leaves have yet to dampen the light pouring into the forest, and the invasive shrubs are still in their less intimidating winter dormancy.