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A couple of days ago I was returning from running errands, and spotted a family of turkeys in our yard. They were strolling through a group of trees along the driveway that I hope one day will resemble a woods. As they slipped into the tangle of vegetation, it reminded me how much progress I’ve made over the years replacing lwangrass with more wildlife-friendly plantings. This woodsy area is still far from beautiful, but it does now host a variety of native trees and shrubs that I have planted over the years. In the interest of full disclosure, it is also the site of one of my major wineberry battles earlier this summer.

I keep a list of birds I have spotted on the property, and this isn’t the first time I have seen turkeys here. (In addition to being a gardener, I am a birder, so I am usually always looking.) Still, it has been fun to follow this family all summer and plan what else I can add to the landscape that will make it friendlier to an even wider variety of creatures.

Yellow-billed-Cukoo

Above: Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, one of the many species spotted at Hackberry Point.

Come September, I will certainly add more natives for birds and other wildlife, and I hope many other Eastern Shore Gardeners will do the same. To help get you planning and planting, I wanted to share a link to 10 Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Landscape, a blog post I wrote for the University of North Carolina Press in support of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it!

Despite the fact that we have been living here since 2004, I am happy to report that there are still botanical surprises at Hackberry Point. Over the weekend David Arnold, who is helping me in the garden this year, left a cutting and a brief note on my doorstep. “Barbara, What is it? David.” I could tell right away that the plant was a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, but beyond that, it wasn’t familiar. Furthermore, I was astounded that I hadn’t seen it first, and I had to call him back to find out where the plant was growing.

It turns out it was along the edge of the creek, just next to where our dock extends out over the water. After taking some pictures, I delved into my native plant books. I finally found a cool on-line key to pea family plants that helped me identify it. I determined that my new native plant was Apios americana, commonly called groundnut or potato bean.

 

Apios-americana

Above: Groundnut (Apios americana)

The pinkish maroon flowers resemble miniature wisteria blooms. They look like tiny reddish replicas of the native America wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), which has more rounded bloom clusters than the non-native oriental species.  Groundnut flower clusters are 1 to 2 inches long and wide. Sources say the flowers are fragrant, although I couldn’t detect any scent. (I’ll keep trying on this point.)

The plants prefer sites with wet soil, which explains their location along the creek. Since I walk by the site frequently to go out onto the dock, I can’t imagine how I missed them in previous years, especially since they produce flowers in August. I wonder if tubers or seeds floated in from somewhere else and this year for the first time the vines conquered the tangle of grapes, phragmites, and shrubs at the water’s edge.

Apios-americana-and-phragmi

Above: Groundnut climbing phragmites.

Groundnut grows from edible tubers, and were an important source of food for native Americans and early settlers. Since tubers form slowly, they haven’t become a popular cultivated crop. For more information on ground nuts, Orion Magazine posted an excellent article by Tamara Dean. For a more detailed botanical description, see the page on this species in Climbers.

Groundnuts also aren’t popular garden plants because they are too rampant for most garden situations. Mine seem to be happy competing side-by-side with thugs like phragmites. I’ll continue to look for more spots in the wild garden where I could plant them. While I doubt I’ll be able to find tubers because of the density of the plantings along the creek,  I do plan to save seed this fall. E-mail me privately if you are interested in getting seed to start your own patch.

Weeds in the garden have pulled me away from the computer this summer. After a wet April, a dry May, and a very wet June, I continue to do battle. Fortunately, I have help this summer in the form of David Arnold of The Esoteric Gardener, so by the close of this season the garden will look far better than it has in the past couple of years.

In addition to the regular culprits, I am making a special effort to eliminate wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius), which are threatening to take over major portions of our property. I expect this to be a multi-year battle, and I don’t think I will ever be able to let my guard down completely.

 

Wineberry

Above: Wineberries with multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora), another common non-native invasive weed.

In the past, I’ve tried digging and discarding wineberry plants. I’ve also routinely cut off and placed the fruit in the trash to try to reduce the number of seed-grown plants. Despite previous efforts, this year they have taken over more space than ever, indicating my past efforts haven’t been effective. In response, I am resorting to using herbicide and a sprayer, something that I hate to do.

Wineberries are a serious non-native invasive that are worth fighting. Not only do they spread by suckers and come up from seed sown by birds, they also root wherever the stem tips touch the soil and produce canes that arch over and shade out nearby plants. The end result is an interconnected mass of thorny stems that form thickets that are really difficult and unpleasant to negotiate. The fruit is edible, but is not enough of a reason to let the plants live. Native black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) are thorny and can get out of control, but they are a far better choice and a great homegrown fruit.

Wineberry-stems

Above: Wineberries have arching stems covered with bristly reddish hairs and plentiful thorns. On the left is another non-native invasive, oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Black-rasbperry-stems

Above: Black raspberry stems are whitish in color. While they have thorns, they  lack the red hairs that characterize wineberry stems.

Spraying wineberries is not a once-and-done operation. Established plants form dense tiers, and I have found that spraying twice or three times at about 10-day intervals works best to eliminate the plants. The first spraying generally takes care of the main canes, which reveals lower branches along with smaller plants closer to the ground. I am using Roundup mixed according to label directions. (I buy the concentrate, mix it myself, and add a squirt or two of dish-washing liquid as a spreader sticker.) When spraying, I try to isolate the canes to prevent drips from getting on any plants below. This isn’t always possible, and I have  damaged some plant growing underneath the wineberries. I hope they will rebound once the blanket of dense foliage dies away. I am also leaving the canes in place so I can see where they were located and spray again if necessary. I’ll probably cut them back late this fall, then start year two of my elimination program next spring.

Just a quick post to let Eastern Shore Gardeners (and ones from the Western Shore, too!) know that I’ll be signing copies of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping at this year’s Kent Island Day.  That’s today from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I’ve never been before, but it looks like a fun event! Hope to see some of you there.

I was honored to be asked to do a video interview about Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping, for The Chestertown Spy. Here it is for readers who don’t get the Spy. Below, I’ve added a photo that illustrates one my other overwhelming interests!

Barbara-and-Dogs

Above: Front row: Bienn and Bonnie. Back row: Bing, Casey, Me, and puppy Charlie.

Spring was late this year, to be sure, but in recent weeks the pace has picked up considerably in my garden. This morning, I am sharing a few spring plant combinations. For the most part, my spring combinations depend on self-sowing perennials such as wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginiana). I am also seeing self-sown plants of great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora) that are just getting large enough to bloom. My division of this early blooming wildflower originally came from my mother’s garden.

Later today, I hope to see some Eastern Shore Gardeners at Twigs & Teacups in Chestertown, Maryland, for First Friday. I’ll be at the store from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. signing books, answering questions, and talking about gardens. Also, don’t forget to come to the plant sales next Friday at Fountain Park in Chestertown and Saturday in Rock Hall! Both sales begin at 9:00 a.m., and you will find a number of the plants pictured here among the offerings!

Uvularia-grandiflora,Sangui

Above: Favorite spring flowers, taken April 17. Great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), double bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Flore Pleno’), and Dutchmen’s breeches (Dicentra cucularia)

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I hope some readers of Eastern Shore Gardener will join me at Adkins Arboretum this Friday or Saturday. Adkins is celebrating the opening day for their native plant nursery, and I’ll be there to sign copies of Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping. There’s little doubt I’ll be buying some plants as well.

I will be signing books on both Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Bring questions, too, and I will do my best to answer them!

Dodecatheon.jpg

Adkins Arboretum is located at 12610 Eve Road, Ridgely, MD 21660
Phone: 410-634-2847

For more on the event see Native Plant Nursery Opening.

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