Squirrel Fodder

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When I lecture on critter proofing, some of my audience will inevitably describe squirrels as “rats with tails.” That’s not at all accurate, but it’s not surprising either. Squirrels can be amazingly destructive little critters in the garden.

Despite the damage that they do, I have always admired them. (For that matter, I admire rats as well, so long as they are not in my house. They are even more clever than squirrels. But I digress).

The above two photos are what’s left of immature black pine cones. For some reason, this year, the squirrels are decimating them, both on and off the tree.

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This is what the cone looks like before it is ripped off and chewed up. Sometimes it’s left in place on the tree and chewed up right there. This black pine is 30 years old and I have never seen the squirrels do this before.

We are having a dry late spring/early summer. I can’t think that these immature cones help provide moisture in the diet, but I am not sure what else to think. I do know that I have pulled an extraordinary number of dead wildlife from my pond despite 2 birdbaths on the edge to help them.

So, clearly the squirrels know more than I do. I just hope they are enjoying the harvest because they are making a mess of my pond!

You’re Not Allergic to Goldenrod

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Remember this photo from Friday of the oak leaves and flowers? You may wonder what this has to do with goldenrod.

Spring and fall are primarily the two times that folks have allergies here (at least to plants–there are other allergies to pets, dust, etc that I am not going to discuss in a gardening blog).

Those with fall allergies quite often think they are allergic to goldenrod because that’s what’s in bloom when they are symptomatic. But the real culprit is an unassuming plant called ragweed that has dull buff colored flowers and tons of pollen.

I have spring allergies. And for years, I thought that I was allergic to flowering trees, meaning dogwood, magnolias, flowering cherries and things like that. But no!

The true spring allergens are caused by things like oaks, maples, birches, junipers–things where if you were not looking closely you might never see a flower!

So it suddenly dawned on me that if I was confused for years, maybe others were too.

And no wonder goldenrod gets unfairly blamed in the fall.

Little Mouse’s Ears

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This rather unappealing photo is a cluster of small oak leaves and flowers. Why is it important?

Every year I post some sort of similar photo with the same caption. The saying is an old farmer’s saying an it goes “when the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, you have had the last frost.”

This year will be quite the test because the forecast for this evening is for rain, changing to snow before it ends.

Interestingly enough, the last time we got snow, the temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit (which is why we weren’t buried in it, thank goodness!). So perhaps the oaks are correct. They have never steered me wrong yet.

A Sea of Yellow

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Sometimes in gardening the best results are happy accidents. Both these plants–the golden creeping Jenny and the viola odorata ‘Freckles’ were not planted here. The creeping Jenny came from a container that I had here years ago and the violet has been naturalized all over my yard, most likely by ants, which like the eliaosome that violets have. Since I like the combination, I leave it.

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A few warm days have finally coaxed my ‘Elizabeth’ magnolia into bloom.

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And my kerria japonica is also blooming. It’s a little late this year. It often blooms about the same time as the forsythia.

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This is the close-up of the flowers. For some reason, the single flowered variety is less popular than the double flowered variety. But as I always say, we can’t all like the same thing.

A Tree Popular with Wildlife

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You might remember this photo from Wednesday. It’s a Japanese maple tree leafing out. It’s an unnamed variety that I bought on closeout at a box store in 1995. I had originally planned to turn it into a bonsai because it was so stunted and misshapen.

Fast forward a year or two and my best intentions never happened and it turned out to be an okay tree. So I planted it–I was trying to replace a cornus florida that was dying.

Once again, nature has a way of saying “oh really?” when you least expect it. The dogwood is still hanging on–who knows? Perhaps the Japanese maple protects it from prevailing winds?

And each of them is sitting on rock ledge in only about 4″of soil so the fact that either grows–and stands up at all–is amazing.

But as the maple is leafing out, I am seeing all sorts of bumblebees and small birds–goldfinch, pine siskins and other small finches and sparrows–in it, plucking at the flowers.

I don’t recall noticing this before. Of course, I have rarely had this much time to look out my windows!

Suspended Animation

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This is my later blooming magnolia, Elizabeth. I got it from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in a one quart pot in the year 2000. It’s done quite nicely for me, despite being topped in 2011 by an ice storm.

This year, however, it’s in a state of suspension. Its beautiful yellow buds are swelling but they refuse to open. Here’s why.

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This was a week ago. Despite this, the following day, it was 60 degrees.

And then, 2 days later, there was thunder, lightning and hail.

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The rest of the week has been in the low 40s. We should be in the 60s at least. Ah well. This is why I always say we only have winter and July in this state!