Wild geraniums

In late April I noticed that the wild geranium section had multiplied since last year. This transplanted wildflower was a solid mass of green leaves.

wild geranium leaves filling the frame

I couldn’t wait for them to start blooming because I imagined a crowded sea of pinkish-purple flowers.

about three dozen flowers, viewed from above

A month later, that proved true. One afternoon, I couldn’t seem to stop taking photos.

a stem with three open flowers viewed from the side, two of the styles visible

three flowers tightly clustered so their petals push against each other

two open flowers and a bud about to open

four blooming on one stem in the foreground, only one pointed toward the camera, with lots blurred in the background

a bee curved around the style

an ant walking near the edge of a flower

four flowers in the foreground, viewed from the side, with many flowers blurred in the background

the entire cluster of flowers, viewed from the top

Plant source: Transplant from my mom’s garden.

More about wild geraniums

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And baby (trillium) makes three!

I added two sessile trilliums to the woodland garden late in 2014. They have done well for two years, and this year I was watching as they came up again.

a large flower on the left, a medium-sized flower in the middle, and a small flower with only the stem and one of three leaves visible, viewed from a standing position

But apparently I wasn’t watching very closely because it took me awhile to notice a third flower popping up, too, this one hiding under the leaf of one of the original flowers. It looked like a baby hiding behind a parent.

same flowers but viewed from the side, so the smallest one on the right is more visible as it's unfolding

I went back to look at earlier photos, and sure enough, there’s a hint of a third growing; I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to notice.

two emerging folded leaves, the right one with a smaller stem right next to it

Soon after, the stem of one of the older flowers broke (or was chewed or otherwise disturbed)…

same three flowers, but the left stem is broken and curved, with the flower's leaves now flat on the ground, purple flower blooming

…and two days later, the same thing happened the other old one.

similar photo as previous, but with two open flowers on the ground and one closed flower standing

The “baby” stayed upright and flourished…

a single flower with a long stem, three green-and-purple leaves, and a purple flower partially opened

…and even the two broken flowers did okay from their new positions on the ground.

all three flowers blooming, the left two on the ground

Sessile trillium (common name: toadshade) is a native plant, though it’s not native in Minnesota; its range is south and east of the Midwest. Apparently it does not smell good, though I haven’t noticed this. I wish I could remember where I bought it.

More about sessile trillium

It’s monarch season already

This year the monarch migration from Mexico was earlier than normal. Butterflies started reaching the Twin Cities about two weeks ago, so I have been checking the milkweed every few days but not finding any eggs. Then this evening Bill saw a monarch fluttering in the front yard. I raced out with my camera.

monarch butterfly resting on common milkweed

She landed on common milkweed, in a cluster of plants that’s growing outside of the garden in the lawn. While I watched, she paused in the egg-laying pose and then fluttered away, circled the yard, and came back to another plant nearby to repeat the process.

monarch butterfly with her abdomen curved to lay eggs on common milkweed

Then, in my excitement to see this process up close, I scared her away. (Next time, I will be more cool.) I started checking the plants and found two eggs right away, where I had seen her. Then I moved on throughout the garden.

closeup of a striped, football-shaped, ivory-colored egg on a green leaf

We have more than 100 milkweeds, so it took awhile, but there were plenty of eggs to be found. Each was on its own plant. Some were on full plants about a foot tall…

egg on the underside of a large leaf

some on really small plants with only one or two leaves so far…

egg on a leaf that's still unfolding

one curious location near several insects…

egg on the edge of a leaf with several green aphids and white, cotton-like insects

some on plants growing in a community…

a milkweed with many leaves, with two more plants in the background

one on an island in the grass.

egg on the underside of a vertical leaf, only grass in the background

12 eggs in all! So maybe she was done laying eggs, anyway, and wasn’t bothered by me observing…?

Last year, it wasn’t until July 15 that I saw my first monarch in the garden and September 22 when I saw the first caterpillar. While May 26 feels really early, now that they’re here and the cycle is continuing, it’s pretty exciting.

At this point, I’m not planning to bring any of the eggs inside to raise them. It’s only May, and I’m not sure I’m up for an entire summer of cleaning out cages. But once I start seeing caterpillars in the garden, it won’t be surprising if I cave.

Five is false, ten is true

a patch of white flowers in the sun

Rue anemone or false rue anemone?

another patch of white flowers in the sun

The previous two pictures look really similar. (There’s even a log in each!) They’re white flowers, approximately the same size, with very similar leaves. But they’re different: all of the flowers in the first photo have five petals, but only some of the flowers in the second photo have five petals, and most have more than five.

I can always remember that there is a distinction in the petal numbers, but I haven’t been able to remember which is which without looking it up. Thank goodness for minnesotawildflowers.info.

yet another patch of white flowers, each with five petals

Color might help: if it’s pink, it’s rue anemone. But with such similar common names, what are the chances I’ll remember that? Slim.

closeup of four pinkish flowers, one with seven petals, two with six, and one with five

In addition, both can be white, so it’s not safe to rely on color. So it’s back to counting the petals. False rue anemone always has five petals; true rue anemone has between five and ten.

closeup of a white flower with eight petals and several smaller flowers drooping away

However, that rule has never stuck with me. I have to keep learning it and re-learning it. Even in my own garden — where I have one of these flowers but not the other…

six white flowers, two with five petals, one with six, one unknown, and two missing several petals

… the only way I know for sure is to look at the tag.

an out-of-focus white flower next to a plant tag that says rue anemone

This year, I posted this problem on Instagram and asked if anyone has a mnemonic to help. Within a couple hours, a new Instagram friend, Jenny Stratton, responded with this spur-of-the-moment suggestion:

Five is false, ten is true?

Let’s give it a try:

sunny shot that focuses on a couple flowers in the foreground, with many more blurred in the background

All of these flowers have five petals, so it’s false rue anemone

 

focus on one pinkish flower, with many more around it

All of these flowers have [up to] ten petals, so it’s [true] rue anemone

It works! And I’ve managed to remember this saying for two weeks.

closeup of one pinkish flower with seven petals

One problem is that five petals could mean either flower. But a patch of true rue anemone, as far as I have seen, never has all five-petal flowers. In fact, I usually don’t see any with five; it’s usually six or eight. As long as I am not in a hurry and look at the entire patch of flowers instead of just one individual, I’ll get it.

closeup of one white flower with five petals, with half a dozen more in the background

Learn more about these flowers

Butterflies and suddenly so many flowers

The first thing I noticed in the garden this afternoon was a butterfly flitting around the pearly everlasting.

blurry photo of a black-and-orange butterfly resting on a small, light green plant

When I got closer, I noticed that there was another one nearby – and then another and yet another. I managed to get a photo with two of them in one frame.

two of those butterflies close together among seedlings

Altogether, four American lady butterflies, possibly already laying eggs! I couldn’t wait to get inside and write a post about this.

But then I started seeing other new discoveries in the garden. I’m way behind on the phenology report and need to get recording!

Irises are showing purple.

about a dozen iris buds, some with dark purple tips

I hope these are first-year cup plant seedlings (because there are close to a dozen of these, so it would be nice if they’re a good plant).

plant with red, rhubarb-like stems and large but relatively narrow, toothed leaves

Peonies are already covered in ants.

one round bud in the foreground, two in the background, all covered in small ants

Ferns (not my favorite) are already huge.

at least six nearly fully-grown ferns

The invasive creeping bellflower is already out of control.

the entire frame covered in dozens of green, elongated heart-shaped leaves

The creeping charlie is everywhere, too, although that is at least somewhat manageable. Tonight I pulled this by hand for 30 minutes and actually made a large dent in the strawberry / vegetable garden.

the entire frame covered in short plants with lots of purple flowers

Back to the wanted plants: Canada violet, joining the wood violets that have been blooming for a couple weeks.

white violets in the foreground, light-purple violets in the background

Baby wild ginger leaves, next to the fading flowers.

two dark purple triangle-shaped flowers, to the left of one small, green, rounded leaf

With any luck, this will be the first time we’ve had more than one jack-in-the-pulpit! I spotted three shoots.

And the large-flowered trilliums are finally open.

a drooping three-petaled flower that is starting to open

I can’t decide if that was my favorite find, or if this is instead: common milkweed making an appearance. Monarch butterflies will be here any day now, looking for places to lay their eggs. Grow quickly, milkweed!

six or so tightly packed, short milkweed stems with new leaves standing straight up

Territorial robin

The robins are back! One decided to set up shop in our front yard.

robin perched on a pine branch facing left

Last year, a pair of robins built a nest on the downspout and raised several babies, so I was excited that we might be able to observe that process again this year. But I haven’t seen that yet; instead, he has spent his time fighting an intruder in his territory. (I am assuming this robin is a male.)

robin in midair with its feet straight up and claws extended

Except the other robin is just his own reflection in our front windows.

silhouette with its head turned to the left and wings outstretched

For several days in a row, rain or shine, for hours on end beginning at 6 am, he would watch the reflection from his spot in the tree, then move in closer and perch on a stick close to the window, then go in for the attack.

Each incident lasted from 2 to 5 seconds, and then he’d fly back to the pine tree and pause for a minute or two, then look both ways, then look straight at the window and start again.

The tree shows evidence of his presence.

pine branch with many bird droppings

This wasn’t just playful; this was feet-up, claws-out wrestling — at least, as much as he can wrestle with a window.

silhouette with wings outstretched, tail down, feet up

Nothing we did to dissuade him worked for the long term. Not putting up more anti-bird-strike stickers, not putting up shiny metal tape, not hanging a screen, not shooing him away from the inside or outside.

silhouette from the side, mouth open, right wing up, left wing down

He just kept coming back and fighting and fighting

silhouette from the left side, wings back, right leg and claws visible

and buzzing by repeatedly.

flying to the right, wings down

flying to the left, wings down

Finally, one day the constant attacks stopped. I imagined he must have admitted to his rival, “You are a worthy opponent.” He’s still around, and every now and then he’ll attack the window-robin once, but that’s it. And on Sunday we saw (and heard) a real skirmish: a robin flew super-fast into the tree and apparently dislodged another bird; they wrestled and screeched in midair, and one flew away.

hovering in front of the window, wings back, feet down

But mostly now he just watches his territory without incident. So far, I haven’t seen a nest; maybe he hasn’t had time to find a mate, what with him being so busy patrolling and all.

back on the branch, facing right, looking left

Learn more about this behavior

Springing up all over

After the warm spell in February, it returned to more seasonal weather and even snowed a bit. The snow didn’t last long, and then we were in a long stretch of the awkward time period when it was still cold but not quite winter and not yet spring. I was pretty jealous of all of my Instagram friends’ posts of early-spring blooms, when everything was still completely brown in my yard.

tall stem of blazingstar from last year, brown stem on a brown background

Then one night it rained, and suddenly there was a small patch of pearly everlasting and what I assume to be Canada goldenrods.

a few purplish-green plants and a few light green plants

(In the two weeks since, these have multiplied.)

many skinny green plants and many other stout green plants, much more similar in color this time

I traveled to the backyard and when brushing away the leaf layer, I found spring beauty leaves that were growing unnoticed.

several skinny grasslike leaves, some with bunches of tightly closed buds

And lots and lots of violets, which are taking over the woodland garden — proving once again that just because a flower is native, it doesn’t mean that it’s desired everywhere.

10 clumps of violet leaves growing close together with no other flowers visible

Since I’m still waiting on blooms in my own garden, I headed to Eloise Butler’s garden on April 8 to see some. Things seemed to be a week behind where they were last year. First, hepatica:

six-petal white leaves on skinny stems with no visible leaves

then snow trillium…

seven small trillium flowers and many leaves without flowers

…and skunk cabbage.

three purple skunk cabbages close together

When I got home, when I was still in the car in the driveway, I saw my first butterfly of the season, a red admiral. (But I scared it off before I could get close enough for a photo.) Later that evening, in the woodland garden, I saw one ant, three worms, and unfortunately, two mosquitoes. A full, 70-degree day.

Just three days later, it snowed, showing how fickle spring can be. Of course, it all melted within hours.

pointy iris leaves with water drops at the tips, poking out of wet snow

The plants that were emerging in February seem to be okay now, if not quite normal. They’re growing around last year’s stems, which are still in place. I won’t remove them until it gets a little warmer, just in case insects are still hibernating.

Here’s sedum; I think the smaller, purply leaves are the February ones that have been stunted, while the bigger ones are new. And the middle of this plant seems to be digging itself up.

two big green sedum leaves at the left, with a dozen smaller purplish leaves to the right, roots visible in a hole

The pink turtlehead is fine…

more than a dozen green, tall, skinny stems with purplish leaves standing straight up

and the white one is finally growing after taking awhile to get started, almost as if it were nervous to start growing in case the temperatures plummeted again.

a dozen very skinny two-inch stems with tightly bound leaves, and many more stems that are less than an inch

And the cup plant looks really good.

two dozen plants, each with several unfurling leaves

One night I saw a bat fluttering around in the twilight, swooping back-and-forth and up-and-down in front of my window for about 10 minutes until it got too dark for me to see it anymore. Birds have showed up, too, such as goldfinches and robins.

With all the rain this week and warm temperatures forecast for the weekend, we’re about to see an explosion of plant growth. Looks like hepatica might be the first one to bloom — and I’m thrilled to finally see so many of these buds, since in past years there were only one or two. (Spring beauty is getting close to opening, too.)

nine drooping white nearly-open buds on hairy stems but no leaves

I’ve wanted to create a list of all the plants in my garden for several years, and the time is now. I’m recording them as they appear this season.