Wildflowers in spring

Wildflowers in spring are found blooming everywhere just as our home gardens are trying to adapt to change. Woodlands are full of new shoots struggling to find the sun, petals and buds forming and finally many blooms open and share their glorious colour. In fact, in the cooler days of May, as my seedlings are adapting in the sun porch  the meadows and woodlands of Mother Nature are full of growth and blooms galore!

 

Trillium and poison Ivy

 

As we gradually condition our seedlings to the changes in temperature and light etc, nature has a communication system we are not directly connected to. Certainly when cooler weather hits, the seedlings in nature are already adapted somehow, as if by unspoken communication. Seldom do we see dandelions wither if a colder snap hits at night.

 

happy Dandelion

 

In fact, after centuries of adaptation, even wildflowers that return each year from seed propagation seem to be adapted in ways commercially sold seeds seldom do. Certainly the pampered conditions we give them to promote optimal growth in some way baby’s them, but  with the exception of some heartier seeds and ones that need cold to begin growth, commercial seeds seem to be less hardy.

Whether you are in warmer climates where your new plants are blooming and adapting well, or in cooler areas still waiting for warmer weather, a walk in the wild certainly  shows that wildflowers in spring are an array of amazing plants!

 

Unfurling Fron

 

With the arrival of new plants comes the fungal world as well. One such specimen was growing in plain sight, as if its brain like appearance was waving at me to take notice. In fact, it lead me to one of my previous posts from Oct 15/12 entitled Plant Family Classification. I was then reminded that Fungi is one of 5 Kingdoms that all living things are classified in to. Further investigation led me to a book called Mushrooms of Eastern Canada where I determined the odd living thing was a Yellow Morel.

Yellow Morel

Yellow Morel

 

Springtime in the woods certainly contains lots of other yellow, especially Dandelions ! Despite a dry spring this year, the Dandelion blooms were almost 2 4 cm or 1.5 inches across and the plants were several shoe lengths tall.

 

Dandelion face

 

 

bobbing Dandeions

 

Everywhere I looked they bobbed in the wind and new buds were forming. In fact, they begin their life cycle so early in the spring that many Dandelions had gone to seed stage, just awaiting the wind to carry those seeds.

 

Dandelion ...Wishes

Dandelion …Wishes

 

The woods held many plants I have yet to learn about as shown below. There are single spikey yellow blooms, shrubs with multiple white blooms and more.

 

Mysterious Wildflower     Multiple budded shrub

 

Plants were also discovered along wetland areas and one I had the joy to discover was the Jack-in-the -Pulpit. Hiding in the shadier areas along streams and riverbanks, this stately bloom is wonderful despite the rather sedate colouring.

 

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

 

Perhaps one of the loveliest wildflowers in spring , found in forest across Canada,are those of the lovely Trillium. Of course many people recognize the white Trillium as Ontario’s official flower emblem, but the smaller Red Trillium flowers are still lovely to discover.

 

Trillium Ontario's Flower Emblem

Trillium Ontario’s Flower Emblem

 

 

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

 

One such discovery I made gave me several surprises. First, while I was busy photographing a patch below some tall trees, I  had not noticed the plants were happily growing in a large spread of Poison Ivy!

 

Trillium and Poison Ivy

 

Then I thought I had discovered a mutant pink Trillium only to find out later that white blooms turn pinkish -purple when they are close to dying. This would explain the mixture of colours seen in the patch. What a treat to discover!

Thankfully the Poison Ivy did not contact my skin so no oils were transferred and no rashes appeared. Of course springtime in the woods does include Poison Ivy and other toxic and dangerous plants. Further discoveries of the roots were found weaving through the undergrowth as well as high over head in Pine trees.

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

 

Despite the toxic nature of many plants, they do exist and sometimes even are a sight to behold…whether their colour, shade, tenacity or other characteristics fascinate us, wildflowers in the spring are never disappointing and always reminds us of the awe inspiring   universe around us!

 

ben and stuff 368

 

 

 

Germination of seeds

Germination of seeds is certainly a topic in most gardeners’ minds at this time of the year.  In fact, while I was cleaning out my old pots and collecting seeds to plant, my mind wandered to wonder…wondering how the tiny, hard seeds can indeed produce shoots to become wonderful and inspiring plants from something that almost seems dead.

group pf germinating seeds

group of germinating seeds

A seed surely looks lifeless as it displays no obvious signs of life rolling around in its package.  According to several articles in fact even biochemical tests for metabolic processes such as respiration, show very little to indicate whether the seed is alive. Of course for us the seed collectors, we hope the seeds have been stored correctly so they are not dead, but merely dormant.

 

Dormancy

 

While all living seeds are inactive, awaiting hydration, some require specific environmental conditions which generally mean a longer time before germinating.  In the case of home germination of seeds, gardeners need to know what those conditions are, as generally stated on seed packages or by checking out good sources of planting information.

Common vegetable garden seeds generally lack any kind of dormancy and are ready to sprout with some moisture and warm enough temperature for their biochemistry to begin. Many flower seeds and those from wild plants in particular may have deeper forms of dormancy that require further conditions before their growth is triggered.

While we may be familiar with scarifying and stratifying, both terms that describe external treatments   of a seeds outer membrane that some seeds require to leave their dormant state, temperature, and light also play a role before hydration can begin.  There are also physiological factors that signal the end of dormancy, such as plant hormones of Gibberellins which activate plant growth.  Other seeds may have a naturally found coating of Abscisic Acid which prevents germination until environmental conditions have worn this layer off and provided the conditions for germination of those seeds.

Germination

 

Germination can be explained simply with a few brief diagrams, or in great detail with many technical terms. When I bought seeds recently and began to collect pots and planting materials, the gardener and biochemist in me wondered how a few molecules of water and some sun could cause the tiny speck of a seed to ultimately form a large, beautiful plant.

Regardless of its size, each seed contains an embryo and in most cases, a store of food to help that seedling begin its formation.

Avocado seed diagram

Avocado seed diagram

 

A “typical” seed   has fundamental parts:

  • a seed coat
  • a storage area (in this case the endosperm which houses food and genetic material)
  • a dormant embryo

 

The embryo has three parts:

  • the cotyledon (or seed leaf)
  • the epicotyl (becomes the shoot)
  • the radicle (becomes the root)

 

456px-Salix_scouleriana_seed

 

 

 

Physiology of Germination

 

When water penetrates through the seed coat and begins to soften up the hard tissues inside, causing the seed to swell up and then split.  Then water enters even faster and begins to activate the biochemistry of the dormant embryo.   Once such substance activated there is Gibberelli Acid (GA), which is a plant hormone similar to steroids.

Then the GA is carried with the water through out the seed tissues and in to the endosperm until it activates genes inside the seed and a complex DNA/RNA reaction takes place. Basically this “blue print” allows the genetic characteristics of the parent plant to be passed on through the seed. Also as this is going on, the embryo feeds on the starch and sugar found in the endosperm as well.

Under proper conditions, the seed begins to germinate and the embryonic tissues begin to protrude from the seed’s casing in the form of what is called the Radicle. This primary root anchors the seedling in to the ground as well as absorbing more moisture.  From here other growth takes place, but the components vary.

In most plants another shoot emerges, many of which have three parts:

– the embryonic stem called the hypocotyls

– the cotyledons ( first leaves)

– the epicotyls

 

 The hypocotyls

The hypocotyls grows out and lifts the growing seedling up as it becomes the stem of the seedling and carries the cotyledons (embryonic leaves)   clear of the ground.  At this point growth components change depending on the classification .Flowering plants are classified in to two groups, depending on whether they have one or two cotyledons.

The cotyledons

Monocots have only one single shoot or cotyledon after the seed breaks out of the ground. In these plants the roots develop from the stem instead of from the base of the embryo. Included in this group are flowers such as orchids and lilies as well as wheat, onions and corn, asparagus and many other plants and grasses.

 

 

Monocot diagram

Monocot diagram

 

Dicots have two initial leaves or cotyledons that grow from the embryo.  Then the the epicotyls forms the initial stem which holds up the true leaves, while the radicle grows and forms the plant’s the root-system. Most flowering plants found in the garden belong to this classification. Beans are also a dicot.

 

 

Dicots

 

The epicotyls

The epicotyls, which are above the cotyledons and below the plants real leaves, are not found in every plant. Where they are present, they become the plants stem, which rises up and gives way to the plant’ s further  leaf and stem development. The growth of plants is another matter that requires far more complex physiological terminology than this author/gardener can explain.

 

Germination of seeds

 

In addition to Monocot and , Dicot germination there are other forms including but not restricted to Epigeous, Hypogenous and Precocious germination. There are many names, classifications, conditions the seed requires and other complexities that my brain can barely contain!

Despite that, germinating seeds each spring is part of my celebratory ritual and I am glad to have some basic understanding of what really is going on inside each seed.  Based on several definitions, seed germination is said to have occurred when growth of the radicle bursts the seed coat and protrudes as a young root… but to us gardeners the no names matter as the excitement builds when the green shoots poke their heads above the ground and inspire us to bury more seeds for germination!

 

-_Seedling_-001

 

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn is a wonderfully colourful time of year that is enjoyed by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. From the tall stands of drying grasses, to the late blooming perennials, there are subtle earth tones to the bright and bold shades. Certainly in Ontario, Canada where I call home, even the trees shout out their presence.  Each limb is full of coloured leaves that put on quite a show before they drop to the ground, hence the term fall.

Recently, watching the neighbours piling theirs along the curb to be sucked up and taken away, I was wondering about the countless others who were doing the same, or merely admiring the colours of fall. Either way we all know that colder weather is coming. For gardeners the temperature change also means it is time to put the gardens to rest with winter protection of some sort.

 

 

What to do with all those leaves?

Speaking for myself, I leave my leaves alone.  Of course with seven tall evergreens on my property, only the wind delivers them from the gardens around me. In fact if I rake at all, it is to put a layer on my garden with evergreen boughs on top to hold the leaves in place for additional protection. Despite this being my ritual, gardening sources present two different viewpoints about using leaves for winter garden protection.

 

Some believe any disease on the leaves will transfer to the soil and plants that will grow there in the spring, while others believe they will help provide a more even temperature throughout the winter and keep   strong winter winds from drying out the soil. The one thing both schools of thought share is that oak leaves break down very slowly and are best left off gardens and out of any compost pile.

 

Compost

 

 

Speaking of mulch, I think it is very nice of my neighbours to rake up their leaves nicely, for me to mulch. I do not compost them but neatly transfer those soggy leaves in to green garbage bags and put them on my back patio in a sunny spot. Quite by accident (or should I say laziness) I left several bags over the winter until early summer and discovered they had mulched quite nicely. The sun’s rays and the dark plastic helped the damp leaves form lovely rich compost.

 

What a gorgeous view!

Putting all uses aside, today seeing trees full of coloured leaves, the yellows through to red shades, mixed with each other, certainly made me wonder why and how they change to such magnificent shades. Again, I resorted to my gardening books and the internet to find the facts I probably learned many years ago in school and have since forgotten. Fall splendor is nothing more than good, old fashioned chemistry, whether here or on the other side of the world. Yes, the Northern Hemisphere worldwide gets to share in the lovely Fall or Autumn leaf colour changes from September through to late November.

 

 

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a term most of us learned in school, from the Greek words  “photo” or light and “synthesis “which means putting together. This process, describes how most plants and trees make food for themselves. Like many other scientific processes, it is complicated when studied in depth, but has quite a simple explanation. Water in by the roots,  plus Carbon Dioxide from our air are the basics need for sunlight  and the green chlorophyll in leaves , to form two major compounds.

 

The first is oxygen which is given off and purifies the air around us, and the second is Glucose. Yes my dear, leaves produce glucose for immediate use as energy and some is stored for later use. Of course unlike in humans, the storage is beneficial and does not increase pants size or cause health issues.

 

Instead the stores are used once the September equinox arrives and the weather changes. While temperature is a factor in slowing photosynthesis, the decreased amount of UV in the suns rays shuts off the green chlorophylls food making ability. Then the stored glucose which is trapped in the leaves begins to turn red. Also now visible are orange carotenes and yellow xanthophylls which were hidden by the green.

 

Colour guide

Certainly leaf colour cannot by itself be a guide to trees but if you are looking for a tree that produces a specific colour palette in the fall, here is a general guideline. Of course checking with a local nursery would certainly help or finding a good sourcebook or on line.

Red Leaf colour

Red Maple trees are known to produce the brightest red leaves, as does the shrub called the Burning Bush.  Additionally a few other maples  including Japanese,  turn a lovely shade of red, as do some oaks such as Red, Pin and Scarlet, Dogwood, Sassafras and Sweetgum to name a few. Let’s not forget the Japanese maple!

 

Sumac changing colour

Yellow and orange Leaf colour

Some of the trees known for yellow and orange leaves are Hickory, Ash, and some Maples, Poplar, Tulip Tree, White Oak, a number of Japanese Maples and Chestnut. Also some Sassafras, Sweetgum, Beech, Birch and Sycamore foliage changes to lovely golden hues tones between the yellow and orange shades.

 

Maple in Transition

 

Season Science

Gardeners always find something to do each season and as we are not weather persons, I will not try and be one now. However, not until the digging bug better known as curiosity, picked at my brain again, did I really think  how Geography of about Equinox, Hemispheres and latitude.

Equinox

Equinox from Latin “aequus” or equal and “nox” which is night is the day in September when the Northern Hemisphere, or half of the Earth, has equal hours of day and night. As the planet we call home, shifts while it spins, we in the northern side get tilted back from the sun’s rays while the south moves forward for more. This means the Southern Hemisphere is planning and planting their vegetable gardens while we are putting ours to sleep.

 

Equinox

 

 

Hemispheres

Hemisphere comes from two very long Ancient Greek words that translate to mean “half of a sphere. Here on the earth using latitude or longitude (north to south division) there are four map based hemispheres.  The North-South the division is the equator and East-West the dividing line is the prime meridian

 

Northern Hemisphere

 

 

Latitude Travels

Combining fall experiences from across the world would be interesting but staggering by volume. Instead, I remembered my globe and decided to follow the approximate latitude of Ontario, Canada to find out what Fall looks like around the world. Latitude is the system of parallel lines that are used to mark a position on the planet, from east to west with the Equator being Zero degrees and the North or South Pole being Ninety degrees.

 

Latitude

 

WWF- World Wide Fall

Fall comes to most of the world but not all at once. In the Northern Hemisphere, September, October and November are considered fall, which is the hottest time for the Southern Hemisphere.  Then during March, April and May when the northern half of the planet is beginning its growing season, people in the south experience Fall.While there is some variation across the globe, East to West and closest to the Equator, almost every continent experiences seasonal foliage colour changes, as the temperature drops and sunlight diminishes.

Using my finger as a pointer, I traced my way through countries from west to east, writing their names on a list as I circled the earth. Then I began digging through my photographs and the wonderful world of Wikepedia , leaving you with the inspirational colours of to leave  you  with an inspirational tour of Autumn around the world!

 

 

Mt Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

country lane Great Britain

autumn in La Rioja Spain

Cacak Serbia

Great Wall of China

Kyoto Japan

Alberta’s Larch trees in Fall

Garden Slugs and Snails- Pests in our gardens

Garden slugs and snails are only two of the many pests in our gardens.Pesky things drive us crazy, whether they are in our daily work and family lives or even in the garden. As I have written recently, the bald lawn was driving me crazy…then the weeds that were co-habiting with them…so much for lifting my spirits! Or at least that is how it seemed to me…that my enthusiasm was damped and muddied by discouragement as well as lousy soil.

The soil in my yard as well as my garden really is poor and lacking in nutrients…so what am I going to do about it you ask? Well I think it is time for me to look at the garden with new eyes of wonder and realize, like any kid does, that there are lots of really cool plants and bugs out there just waiting to be noticed.

Okay, so snails and beetles chewing their way through my lovely garden plant leaves may not be waving so I would take notice, but they certainly are making themselves known by the lacy pattern they have eaten. So not only are the weeds/wildflowers sharing in the undesigned landscape around my house, but now the crawling pests have arrived to picnic on my plants.

Of course I find the slimy garden slugs and snails to be the yuckiest…such a highly scientific term! All I know about them is the slimy trail as well as the holes they leave when done snacking. I do know that cold, damper areas as well as the underside of leaves is where they are commonly found and that I single handily use my trusty trowel of death to fling them on to the road. Of course, for the purpose of providing real information on this slimy garden pests, a little bit of research made me fear them even more.

In most Ontario gardens, the grey garden slug (pictured) Deroceras reticulatum is most common and in the fields have the grey field slug Deroceras laeve. What the difference is I am not certain. While some grub like pests live and eat in the soil, the grey field slug is, as it’s name suggests, are more active above ground than the others. Breeding data states one can produce many juveniles despite having a short life cycle, making it a particularly dangerous pest. Further reading revealed that slugs, which are a mollusk, are hermaphrodites! Yes they are male and female in one body…no wonder they have no trouble finding a mate.

I think that finding out about their sex life was more than I bargained for. To make things even worse, once they mate they can each lay up to 300 eggs that look whitish jelly filled, ‘BB’ sized balls. In less than two weeks they hatch and become a lean, mean, eating machine that produces mucous from a foot, which prevents them from falling down off the plants they are eating. No wonder there is such a lacy pattern on tall plants I thought would normally be beyond their reach. Okay, despite my repulsion, I found reading about their life cycle interesting and have provided two of many links, for you to check out.

AdTech Ad

grey-field-slug

Slug grey field variety

www.uoguelph.ca/pdc/Factsheets/Other/SlugsSnails.htm
http://idtools.org/id/mollusc/factsheet

Look for Deroceras agresteor

Of course on this slimy topic, I had been following the much cuter mollusk, the banded wood snail, Cepaea nemoralis, is most common species of snail. This one too has the same basic anatomy but carries its house along for protection and can seal the end of the shell when it pulls itself in for protection. Wow that would be handy when predators want to lunch on them!

Speaking of lunch, both grubs and snails are tasty meals for some beetle, birds, garden shakes and mostly eaten by toads. Most wild toads will eat worms, ants slugs, snails,spiders, butterflies, crickets and centipedes, so having one or two around should keep the pest population down. Then the veggies and lettuce you are growing in your garden might make it to a bowl for your lunch.

Certainly most pests, especially thegarden slugs and snail I have mentioned love tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and other veggies such as beans. Of course not to be left out are the blooms and leaves of petunias, zinnia, lily of the valley just to name a few. I found a snail recently suspended from an the bloom of an anonymous summer bulb, which it was sharing with a ladybug!

Common Garden Pests

Common Garden      Pests

 

As I do not plan on sharing any more plants with snails or slugs, there are a few steps of preventative nature I can take. Removing dead and decaying plant debris, clearing up standing water, prune low tree and shrub branches cuts down on damp shady areas. Then there is having a sharp stabbing tool handy for organic termination, or throwing the snails out on the road for crushing!

Other organic means include shallow trays of stale beer, that must be emptied regularly. crushed egg shells around plants have some measure of success as does diatomaceous earth (crushed sea creatures), both of which give jagged texture which repels anything slimy trying to crawl over them. Newer suggestions include salt and sea weed as a small scale repellent, but the salt from both sources leaches in to the ground.

There are two main chemical repellants which are toxic to birds, cats and dogs as well as children. Of course i do not fall in to any of these groups, but still find anything toxic to them, harmful to the environment and my self. Methaldehyde and methiocarb are used in pellets and on tree tapes, with killing in mind on a larger scale such as in field and fruit tree farming where financial and business production can be dramatically affected . Then the lacey pattern and the often stripped bare stems would be a problem on a scale I cannot even imagine.

www.msu.edu/~gillilla/cepaeanemoralis.html

From one little garden where there have been about fifty snails and ten slugs found on my afternoon hunt, I have learned a great deal about mollusks There is also a great deal left to learn, should I choose to . One thing I did learn that I kept silent about earlier was that snails do some good in many countries even the ones in our garden, are cooked for food. Of course most of us have heard that in France cooked snails are referred to as escargot and served as a gourmet appetizer

Eating snails has been a culinary custom for thousands of years and is a delicacy in many Asian countries, in African countries and are catching on in th U.K. and other European countries. From article on line, even north Americans and Aussies are eating them. In fact now they are even raised for such purposesand may be the key to nutrition in developing countries.

Snails are supposedly nutritious, being high in protein and low in saturated fat, provided of course they do not have butter added. According to several articles they are also a good source of essential fatty acids, vitamins E, A, B12 and vitamin K, magnesium, iron, and selenium.Snails and slugs can have be infected with a parasite known as A. Cantonensis which can cause a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis if ingested. Don’t let this unfortunate experience happen to you. If eating snails appeals to you, at least make sure they’re well cooked.

http://voices.yahoo.com/eating-snails-answer-malnutrititon-4940788.html

On that note I think it is best to move back to salad free of pesticides and garden pests alike. As for my gourmet palate, well I think it is safe to say I do not plan on eating any snails in the near future. Whether pest or food product, I hope this blog has been of interest to you and helpful for a greener, lusher garden.