My six offerings for this Saturday include five blooming perennials and shrubs and one sad story. I’ll save the unhappy offering for last.
1. Bearded Irises (Iris germanica) just began blooming. There are several varieties about to open but the one in the featured image and below is first every season. These stunning chocolate and maroon blooms are great candidates for cut flowers.
2. Columbine (Aquilegia) is noted for attracting hummingbirds and bees. Unfortunately, I find that in Alabama the blooms disappear long before the hummingbirds appear. The bees, though, are certainly in attendance as can be seen in the second two photos below. These bees, however, are carpenter bees, and they are also drilling their way into the woodwork around the outside of the house.
3. Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus) goes by several common names including Carolina allspice, spicebush, and strawberry bush. I find its most charming name the one I first learned, sweet bubby bush–so called reportedly because woman once gathered the sweet smelling blooms and placed them in with their undergarments to give them a pleasant scent. Pictured below is the ‘Athens’ cultivar that has a yellow flower rather than the typical deep maroon bloom, which I find more attractive and aromatic. Some late season frosts unfortunately burned the ends of the petals of early buds this year.
4. Snowball Bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) is a shortened version of the common name for this viburnum, Chinese snowball bush. But to me, the wonderful bush in the corner of my grandmother’s yard was just the snowball bush. A week ago this plant’s blooms were bright lime green. Happily, yesterday they were recognizable “snowballs.” I am pleased that this shrub is finally coming into its own after a decade of growing in not quite enough sun.
5. Azaleas, conversely, have flourished throughout the garden in full sun and partial shade. Alabama natives have bloomed in Birmingham already, but in Blount County a little northeast of Birmingham, they are just budding. The non-natives are full of color, though.
6. And now for the sad story. My Curly-leaf Eastern White Pine was one of my prized trees for 20 or more years, but this post is essentially its obituary. It will be taken down in the next week or so because of an insidious insect, the pine bark adelgid (Pineus strobi). Adelgids are covered with a white wax and suck sap from the tree. Once an infestation has set in, there is apparently nothing much that can be done other than to, as the local horticulture agent advised me, “cut it and burn it” to keep the insect from moving on to some tasty new pine. As seen below, what was a year ago a thick, shapely tree with silvery green twisted pine needles is little more than a skeleton now. The white patches visible on the length of the trunk are evidence of the adelgids. The size, thanks to the appearance of a ladybug when I took this photo, and coverage of the infestation can be seen in the second photo. It is all along the trunk and making its way out to the branches.
I sincerely hope that none of my fellow gardeners elsewhere in the US or in other areas of the world will fall victim to adelgids.
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