Fresh Strawberries and Flowering Viburnum

I’m happy to report that the first Ozark Beauty strawberries were eaten this week. We started with six plants last summer and since they had to adjust to their new surroundings they didn’t put out runners, so we still have six plants. Flowering started four weeks ago. The nice thing about this variety is that they’re an everlasting type, meaning that they will bloom and produce fruit two or three times in a growing season, not just once.

You can’t get a fresher taste of strawberries than picking them fresh!

This time of year is very pretty in the woodlands. Violets have been flowering for a month and now the blackberry shrubs are in full color. Ok, they’re not exactly colorful as the blossoms are all white, but they do give a splash of color in the otherwise green and brown landscape.

The Solomon’s Seal and False Solomon’s Seal are blooming all over the woods. Perhaps the wet, cool weather has been the best weather for the forest flowers. I haven’t seen this many blooming forest-dwellers in previous years. The ones putting on the biggest show are the Maple-leaved Viburnum. Everywhere you turn the fuzzy-looking flower clusters are shining white. Stamens project up and out so the clusters of flowers look fuzzy from a distance.

Maple-leaved viburnum flowering in the woodlands.

Maple-leaved viburnum flowering in the woodlands.

White stamens project above the white petals of viburnum.

White stamens project above the white petals of viburnum. Unopened flowers have a tinge of pink.

Also blooming now are deerberry, bastard toadflax, dame’s rocket, common violets, and a host of planted flowers in the garden, like pansies, dahlias, marigolds, johnny jump-ups, false blue indigo and irises.

White Raspberries, An Everlasting Variety

Early this afternoon we dug up several white raspberries from a neighbor’s patch. The plants were going to be mowed down and we were lucky enough to know about this ahead of time. Since we’d been having lots of rain for the past week or so, the digging went fairly easy. Plants that we pulled out of the ground were placed in plastic grocery bags for easy handling and containment of loose dirt.

We planted the raspberries in three different places. The first area was a spot on the southwest side of the farmer’s lane in a partially open spot in the woods where the plants will get sun at mid-day and filtered sun for the rest of the day. This spot has several wild blackberries and elderberries so it seemed a likely place to dig in some raspberry canes. The second place was at the edge of the woods in the back yard and these plants will get late morning to early afternoon sun. The third spot was at the edge of the woods on the east side of the backyard and these plants will get sunlight from about noon to late afternoon. By planting in several locations we’re ensuring that at least some of the plants will grow to provide fruit.

Each raspberry plant had stiff canes from last year and some even had their flower buds developing on new growth. It will be interesting to note whether the flowers will continue to develop. Since they were dug up and re-planted within a few hours, perhaps they were not stressed too badly. It’s supposed to rain again tonight so the raspberries will be watered well.

The everlasting varieties of raspberry will bloom and set fruit more than once a year. In the fall all the canes will be cut down and fruit will arise the next year on the new year’s growth.

Now that we have about two dozen new raspberry plants, it will be interesting to see how they develop…and, eventually, how they taste!

Redbuds in Bloom and Birds Singing Loudly

Rainy days of spring – we’ve had a few in a row and the grass is getting too tall too fast. Even though it makes my last last mowing session seem like a waste of time, I do like seeing the garden lettuce getting bigger.

Trees are really growing their leaves quickly now. Scanning across the mountain ridges you can see shades of green replacing the drab and lifeless grays and browns. It’s like a wave of color change going up the mountain. The dark evergreens contrast nicely with the light greens of the new deciduous leaves.

Yesterday, we took a drive west into the heart of the Pennsylvania mountains, south of State College. All along Route 22 were beautiful redbud trees in full bloom. The lavender, lilac and light purple flowers were magnificent. In a few places these small trees lined both sides of the highway to provide a burst of colorful energy on that cool Spring day. Perhaps the redbud blossoms will last a week, but when the leaves start expanding the blooms will die back.

Dogwood trees are blooming near the edges of the forests. Even though they started blooming about a week ago, the white and ornamental pink flowers still look bright.

All the blueberry bushes are blooming now and the gaywings are smiling pinkly on the forest floor.

With all this Spring activity of growth we can’t forget our feathered friends as they have been quite active, too. A pair of bluebirds are nesting in the bluebird box – they’ve been busy for a couple weeks inspecting and cleaning house, and making a new nest.

This morning I heard an unusual bird song coming from the tree tops, so I ran to get the binoculars and then ran upstairs to get a better view. At the top of a tall oak tree was a male Scarlet Tanager singing loudly. I got to see him for only a few minutes before he flitted out of sight. Peterson tells us these birds are common, but you rarely see them unless you look up to the canopy. It’s pretty amazing how the bright, scarlet red color disappears in the shade of the leaves.

This afternoon I was treated to another bird song. This time the sounds came from a different direction, but also from the top of an oak tree. The binoculars verified that a Baltimore Oriole, or Northern Oriole, was looking for his mate. The bird’s head was distinctly all black and his chest and back shined a bright orange.

The oak leaves are probably 50% developed on average. The white oaks are a little behind the red oaks and chestnut oaks in their development.

The gypsy moths should be hatching very soon, so I hope the tanager and oriole will stick around for many free meals. I’ve heard that these two birds will eat the gypsy moth caterpillars, but can anyone verify that? I’ve also heard that no native bird here in the U.S. will eat the nasty little defoliators, so I’m crossing my fingers that the former is true.