Let us whir with the golden spoke-wheels
Of the sun.
For tomorrow Winter drops into the waste-basket,
And the calendar calls it March.
– Amy Lowell (Lot # 3401 Bellwort Path)
The scientific definition of the beginning of spring occurs with the vernal equinox (March 20). But, locally, we have experienced snowfall on the running of five Boston Marathons (1907, 1908, 1925, 1961, and 1967) and two Boston Red Sox games in Fenway Park were snowed out on April 8th and 10th in 1996. Boston had a half-inch of snow on May 10, 1977. This year, we place great hope in Lowell’s poetic weather prognostication. For many of us, the lovely sights of the first flowers opening from bulbs are our own “signs of spring”. Flowering bulbs, corms, and tubers, which are modified perennial, herbaceous plants, are currently, or soon will be, offering spring delights for many visitors, in numerous locations, throughout our landscape. (more…)
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night
under the pines…
Within Mount Auburn there are approximately 450 pine trees, representing two-dozen distinct species, out of the 125 Pinus species extant worldwide. Herein we look at the Jeffrey pine, Pinus jeffreyi, native to southwestern Oregon, California and into some mountains of northern Baja California. Most often growing at elevations between 5000 and 9500-feet, in the northern coast ranges it also occurs almost at sea level.
Its common and Latin names commemorate the man who introduced it, John Jeffrey (1826-1854?), Scottish plant collector/explorer, sent to the Pacific Northwest and California in 1850, by British gentlemen subscribers interested in new plants. Initially signed to a three-year contract, representing the Oregon Association of Edinburgh, four of his eventual ten shipments of boxes of specimens and seeds never arrived back to Edinburgh. Nonetheless 119 species of seeds (including P. jeffreyi) and over 400 plant specimens of new and unusual flora were his documented success. After early 1854 he mysteriously disappeared, never to be heard from again. Author Frank A. Long states, “John Jeffrey was like a shooting star, a quick twinkle soon extinguished.” (more…)
If you look around the cemetery you will see numerous trees with a distinct scar or swelling around the bottom of the trunk. Have you ever wondered what that was? More than likely, this is a grafted tree. Grafting is the widespread practice of joining two or more plants together to improve or preserve desirable characteristics. Sometimes trees and shrubs express a natural occurring characteristic that is attractive or unusual which growers would like to reproduce. The easiest way to do this is to take a cutting of the desired trait, a scion, and join it with another tree of the same species known as an understock or rootstock. (more…)
…And thy lithe boughs hang murmuring and weeping
Above her, as she steals the mystery from thy keeping…
-James Russell Lowell
This year as the calendar turns to February our media is full of mention of athletic gold medals, past and near future. Some, perhaps many, may be unaware that there are also gold medals for plants. In the United States, consensus for the preeminent arbiter on this topic is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). Organized in Philadelphia in 1827, this is the nation’s oldest extant society of its kind. In 1828 they organized their first flower show and 190-years later, with a $25-million annual budget, the scope of their accomplishments is far beyond this discussion. Nonetheless in 1988, the PHS Gold Medal Plant Program which “highlights exceptional trees, shrubs, vines and perennials…evaluated and chosen for their superb eye-appeal, performance and hardiness…of zone 5-7…” commenced their highly regarded awards. (more…)