Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse. You can see all the photos Don Hunter took of today's Ramble here.
Today twelve Ramblers met by the arbor. As we were gathering it started to rain but the brief shower ended by 8AM when Bob Ambrose recited his poem “After The Next Rain.” You can access his poem here http://bobambrosejr-private.blogspot.com/2015/05/after-next-rain.html. If you do not have access yet to this site, e-mail Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will add you to the list of people who can access it.
We were free of rain the rest of the morning, in fact there was hardly a cloud in the blue sky when we finished.
Our route for today was the hummingbird trail in the formal garden areas because the storms on Tuesday had caused severe damage to trails with many downed trees. The idea was to see nature in the formal Garden area. Some do not think of a formal garden as being part of nature, but it is. We left the arbor and headed down towards the Flower Bridge, passing by the American South garden. Before reaching the Flower Bridge we took the left path through the Spanish America Garden, the Mediterranean and Middle East Garden to the Physic Garden. From there to the Heritage Garden. Spent some time in the Heritage Garden and the Berckman Orchard down the slope below the Heritage Garden. Walked through the Flower Garden stopping at hummingbird markers. Went behind the stage, climbed up the stairway to the Rose Terraces, detoured along the Ellipse to the Day Chapel. Walked back through the Heritage Garden, stopping briefly at the Herb Garden before finishing at the Conservatory.
In the American South we observed wild bergamot, crimson bee balm, and Virginia spiderwort. As we turned left before the Flower Bridge we spied bottlebrush buckeye in full bloom. Its flowers (inflorescence) are in a panicle. We talked about the difference between a raceme, spike, and panicle. A spike is a elongate unbranched indeterminate inflorescence with sessile flowers. A raceme is an elongate, unbranched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers. A panicle is an indeterminate branching raceme; the branches of the primary axis are raceme like and the flowers are on pedicels. Over the last two weeks we have noticed that there are few perfect (both male and female parts) flowers in each panicle. There may not even be any. This would lead to very few buckeyes (fruit of this plant). To see this we back tracked over the Flower Bridge to the bottlebrush buckeye that we have been looking at for several weeks. It was now in fruit and we could see how few there were on each panicle. Some had none, a few had one to three, and only a few had four or more buckeyes developing.
Returning across the Flower Bridge we stopped to view the hummingbird nest seen over the last several weeks. The babies had fledged, and it was empty, but we could still see the very interesting, small, lichen covered nest with the naked eye.
The first plant noted in the Spanish American Garden was a Peruvian lily, Alstroemeria sp. I could not remember the name at the time, but did remember that our oldest daughter’s father-in-law, a horticulture professor at the University of Minnesota, had chosen this flower for the bouquets for her wedding with his son. He had developed cultivars of this lily for the nursery trade. Next was one of the many spiderwort cultivars. We also passed by the Arizona cedar. We were drawn over to the Great Lawn to see a silvery checkerspot butterfly that Ronnie had found.
In the Mediterranean and Mideast Garden we noted the chaste tree with five palmate leaflets and a blue purple raceme of flowers. It attracts many bees, but it was still too early for them to be active.
Walking through the hop-covered arbor into the Physic Garden we paid special attention to the Native American Meadow with wild quinine, rattlesnake master, culver’s root, and an unidentified mint. From here we could see damage done by storm. A really tall tree by the big granite outcrop beside the Physic Garden had probably been struck by lightening and was broken off about twenty feet high. Wilf Nichols told us earlier that there had been a wasp nest in that tree and one of the workers clearing the damage was stung. Before leaving the Physic Garden we noted the dwarf yaupon hollies outlining the sections of the knot garden, with marigolds in the middle.
Taking the path through an arbor to the Heritage Garden we found blackberry lilies. Some were in flower, others just closing up. This native of China has become naturalized here in the U.S; there are several out at Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area. It is called blackberry lily because the fruit looks like a blackberry. As we approached the bridge into the Heritage Garden, we were looking for hummingbirds, but still saw none. The American beautyberry was in bloom, and we talked about the striking purple berries that will come later. Beside it was a red buckeye tree, with buckeyes.
In the Heritage Garden we talked about how it is arranged with Heirloom perennials on the left and heirloom roses on the right. Straight ahead was the Bittern Fountain in the middle of a parterre. There was some discussion of what ‘parterre’ means. (“An ornamental garden area in which the flower beds and path form a pattern”, Webster’s New World College Dictionary). Tadpoles with legs were swimming In the fountain. We wondered if they could get out of the pool which seemed to have steep sides. One answer was that there was a disc from which they could get out, and we did see some toads (frogs?) on the ground around the pool. On the other side of the parterre were two more sections of the Garden. On the left was the Fruitland Nursery Plants which included the Hardy Orange. This plant is not native, but I have seen it in the natural areas at the new Tallassee Tract. The fruit is bitter and not edible. Here was the first spot we found pollinators this morning: a bumble bee. The scientific name of hardy orange has recently been changed from Poncirus trifoliata to Citrus trifoliata. Botany of the Day had this to say about the plant:
Whether you think trifoliate orange is a Citrus or not, this species is undeniably important to the lemons and oranges that we love to eat. Citrus trifoliata (pdf) makes an excellent rootstock for other Citrus species. It is very cold hardy (withstanding temperatures well below freezing), so other Citrus species grafted onto the rootstock can produce trees with tasty fruit that survive in cold climates. Arguably, the most significant advantage of a Citrus trifoliata rootstock is that it confers resistance to the citrus tristeza virus, the most economically-damaging Citrus disease. Trifoliate orange also hybridizes freely with other citrus, and has been used to make numerous crosses including: citremons (with lemons), citranges (with sweet oranges) , and citrumquats (with kumquats).
Also on the right side of the Garden here is a bed of heirloom annuals. Through the arch into the Trustees Terrace are row crops with pecan trees on one side. This represents the first agricultural experimental station in Georgia, the trial garden for the early Savannah settlers.
Next we went down the path with trees sold at the historic Berckman’s Orchard on the left. Here we looked at the solitary bee condos. These are made up of many tubes enclosed in a box or cylinder. A bee lays an egg in one of the tubes, adds nectar for food and walls it in. She then adds more eggs, one after the other and finally seals the tube with mud. When the eggs have developed into bees and are ready to emerge they come out in reverse order. The males are laid closer to the end and come out first so there will be plenty of males when the females emerge.
By now it was getting warmer and the bees were at work. Following the hummingbird trail in reverse at this point, we passed into the Flower Garden below the Orchard. Here was a slope of crepe myrtles, some yarrow, and a blue sage. The carpenter bees were busy robbing the nectar from the blue sage without pollinating it by biting a hole in the end of the flower and not going through the tube of the flower where the anthers are. The next stop was the wildflower meadow, which included yarrow, partridge pea, Mexican hat, Carolina desert chicory, wild bergamot, spotted beebalm, purple coneflower, blanket flower, black-eyed Susan, and brown-eyed Susan.
The all American Selections Display Garden was blooming profusely, and the bees were all over it. There seemed to be honey bees and smaller ones. Down the walk we came to the second of the three wildflower meadows. This second one has been changed to an aster garden, but was not really blooming yet. The third one has been made into a grass meadow containing mostly cultivars of native grasses, such as panicums.
Walking behind the stage in the Flower Garden we saw many species of hibiscus. There were also cannas beside the stage. From here we started up the steps through the terraces. First we stopped at the Fragrance Garden which included a lot of thyme. The pollinators we saw busily working the thyme were both honey bees and bumble bees. Here we also saw a female eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly and a silvery checkerspot butterfly. We also began to see hummingbirds above us. At our feet in the grass was Virginia buttonweed.
Going up the grand staircase from the Sunflower Gate made by Andrew Crawford we passed lantanas, and white muhly grass that will look fantastic in the fall. In the Rose Garden we noted that a lot of cleome had been planted. One reason we are seeing so much of it in the Garden this year is that it has a smell that drives away deer. It seems to be working. Other flowers have also been planted among the roses, including marigolds. In the wood chip mulch we found some interesting mushrooms with black or gray tops and white stems. Ronnie picked up an oak apple (gall) here. We also saw several hummingbirds at this point.
Reaching the ellipse we walked toward the Chapel where Ronnie and his mother found more tadpoles in the fountain. In fact there was one sitting on a water lily leaf; he still had a tail. Sue Wilde found a label on a woody shrub with velvety leaves that we could not identify earlier near the stage. The name was Hibiscus grandiflora. She also noted with surprise several long leaf pines in their grass stage.
On our way back to the Conservatory we stopped again by the Heritage Garden to look the many lichens on an old wooden bench. Behind the bench small flowered anise was blooming. Also by the Heritage Garden is a wonderful live oak tree. A fairly young tree, it just doesn’t have the majesty of the grand old live oaks on the coastal plain or barrier islands. Those trees were very important in shipbuilding, providing dense strong wood for the main keels of the early colonial ships.
Lastly, we stopped in the Herb Garden to see if the pollinators were active there yet. They were. I think we mostly saw bumblebees and honey bees, especially around the cock’s comb.
From here it was only a step into the Conservatory for conversation and snacks at Donderos.