More Art in the Landscape

While I’ve already proven my failure as an Art Critic, I still enjoy the end of the term, when outside art projects start appearing overnight, and I feel like I should share them with you. Very rarely do we in the department ever find anything out about the works-we don’t even know the class or professor. Many have to do with trees, so sometimes I worry. Like last year, when I took a close look at a yellowwood tree on the south side of Coffrin, and found tiny bits of yarn left on many, many twigs. The yarn must have been nylon, for while it appeared old and weathered, it was still quite strong, and not starting to rot and fall off. All of this had to be removed, before the yarn started choking the branches and killing them. The term isn’t over, but here our some that have appeared.

This was a fun one, on a Japanese Maple tree outside of Johnson. I was over by Battell, and it drew my eye from that far away. Those are little bits of paper scotch taped to the branches, right around when the Magnolias were blooming. It was gone by the next day, with only a couple of errant tape pieces left to remove.

This piece caught my eye. I meant to forward this picture to Matt Biette, asking him for a reward on dishware retrieval. Notice the bottle at the top of the hill, like the plates are cascading down around the spectacular Red Oak tree.

My favorite, though, goes to one I actually know more about, thanks to Carrie Macfarlane of Armstrong Library fame (thanks Carrie!). Jue Yang, ‘11.5, made this spectacular sculpture for the Spring Symposium, based on her work in the “Art on the Land” Winter term class with Eric Nelson. You, dear reader, must see this in person to appreciate it-the size and layout preclude great photography, at least by me (any volunteers? I’ll post them) Walk on the Bicentennial Hall side of Freeman International Center, past the patio, and down around the back. The beginning (?) of the sculpture starts low, almost like a fallen tangle of branches, and builds as it wends through brush and trees. All the wood was local to the immediate area, so the piece grows almost organically like the landscape around it, working in a tree, and playing off the topography. Meet me at our Arbor Day celebration on Friday the 7th and I’ll point you in the right direction. (click on the picture to download a larger-one is now my desktop background on my laptop)

Overall View

Close Up

Close Up

Details

Details

It’s Snowing, and it’s almost May

April 27th, and there is a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Enough so I’m wondering if the Montery School needs any landscaping help. It’s not the snow that’s disconcerting, it’s the 3-7 ” additional forecast for tonight. The temperatures yesterday were in the 60’s, and now it’s about 36.

Here’s a slideshow of some pictures of the snow. Click on them for a larger, colder, and slightly more depressing view.

Spring Ephemerals

I had dreams of guest posting on the great Middlebury Trailrunner, inspired by his post on Snake Mountain (the wildflower in his post is a Hepatica, by the way) . I was going to go for a run up the back side of Snake Mountain, the side where our house is located, taking pictures the whole way of plant life.

Well, I’m not that much of a runner.  My reason for running is simply running away from middle age, and besides, the plant life is too distracting, and I’m not sure I want to share the less popular trail up Snake Mountain with everyone. So, the run I was thinking about turned into a much needed and great hike with Nancy and Molly the stillhyperpuppyeventhoughshe’salmostayearold. While not on campus, I still feel like I should share what we saw, though, as this is one of my favorite times of year in the plant world, the quick flash in the pan of the spring ephemerals.

Spring Ephemerals are plants that complete an entire life cycle early in the spring, before the upper tree canopy leafs out. An unknown Wikipedia author writes about “excess light” in the early spring, but after a long Vermont winter we know better. Light can be held in dearth, but the glorious spring rays are to be cherished, not called out as vain and excessive. Imagine the evolutionary trick-sprouting, flowering, reproducing, and storing of energy for the next year all within the light and cold of early spring. What a strategy.

springbeauty This is Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica -an apt way to start some pictures. Grows from an underground tuber like a potato, and was used as a food source by native Americans and early settlers.

wildoatsWild Oats, or Sessile-leaved Bellwort, Uvularia sessilifolia . A common bellwort, and maybe not technically ephemeral, but pretty nonetheless.

lrgflwbellwortAnother Bellwort, the Large Flowered, Uvularia grandiflora .

hepaticaHepatica, Hepatica americana , named for the supposed resemblance of the leaves to the shape of the liver. Can be seen in blue, white, or pink flowers.

lrgtrilliumOne of the grand queens in the spring ephemeral world, the Large Flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum .

wakerobin

Personal favorite here, Wake Robin, or Purple Trillium, Trillium erectum. Probably the most common trillium in the northeast, and known for it’s foul scent, which it uses to attract carrion flies for pollination. The smell is such that early herbalists used the plant to treat gangrene, since plants were used to cure the ailments they resembled.

troutlilyTrout Lily, Erythronium americanum. Very common in the woods lately, and named for the leaf pattern resembling the fish.

dutchmansbreechesDutchman’s Breeches (best name ever), Dicentra cucullaria. Perennial gardeners will quickly see the resemblance to Bleeding Heart, another Dicentra. Flowers are pollinated by early bumblebees, as honeybees don’t have a long enough proboscis to gather nectar.

bloodrootBloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. So early blooming, the flowers are self pollinating, just to be on the safe side. The name comes from a dye that can be made from the roots, and was probably the ink used for the Scarlet “A” on the forehead of adulterers. There are some great patches of this in Ridgeline. The plant is myrmecochorous, ant-dependent, as it’s seeds attract the insect which then moves them around and buries them.

earlymeadowrueEarly Meadow Rue, Thalictrum dioicum.

wildgingerSome Wild Ginger I found in a tree stump, Asarum canadense. Strange and kinda ugly brown flowers thankfully hidden beneath the foliage-ant pollinated.

mouseearchickweed

Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium vulgatum. This was on the top of the mountain by the concrete platform, which makes sense seeing as it is an escaped European plant. Now a lawn weed, but reportedly edible leaves once boiled like other greens.

amflyhoneysuckleAmerican Fly Honeysuckle, Lonicera canadensis. Not an ephemeral, but a woody plant along the trail edge.

bluetsBluets, Houstonia caerulea. Another plant found up by the concrete platform, native to fields and open woods.

earlysaxifrageEarly Saxifrage, Saxifraga virginiensis. Feel free to let me know if I’ve mis-identifed this one-I hadn’t brought the wildflower book with me on the hike, and have been identifying from pictures. violarotundifoliaThis was a great find, and a bear to identify. Round Leafed Yellow Violet, Viola rotundifolia. the only stemless yellow violet, with flowers and leaves on separate stalks.

 

Daffodils are Blooming

daffodil`

The blue Nymph, Liriope, gave birth to a son, destined to become a mighty hero. His fate was sealed after being granted his good looks by the very gods themselves, and given immortality. Like all gifts from the gods, however, immortality came with a catch. He could remain immortal, as long as he didn’t know his own reflection.

Echo was a nubile Oread, a mountain nymph. Zeus liked the mountain nymphs, in a ballroom dancing in the old movies sort of way, and Echo would distract Zeus’ wife Hera during the indiscretions. Beware a spurned goddess, especially the wife of the almighty Zeus, who, catching wind of the plan, punished the lovely Echo by taking her voice, only allowing her to echo others.

Our hero in this story grew tall, handsome, and vain. Ironic, given that he was not allowed to view himself. Surronding yourself with admirers does present difficulties, however. One day, while hunting in the woods, the lovely Echo fell in love with our young hero, and followed from a distance. Hearing this, our boy shouts “Who’s there?”-only to hear “Who’s there?”, quieter, and a little further away. This goes on longer than you can imagine, until the hero gets angry, and leaves, spurning the unrequited love.

Echo and Narcissus, Oil Painting, 1903-John William Waterhouse

Echo pines away, weeping and wailing, consumed by her love for the boy. Finally, all that was left was her voice, which childern can still hear deep in the woods, or boorish tourists in the canyons. As she dies, she offers a prayer to Venus, the goddess of love, for punishment to the vain youth.

Nemesis, “she who ruins the proud”, hears and intercepts the prayer. She lures our hero into the woods, and takes him to a still pool of water. He gazes below his feet, and seeing his reflection, the divine penalty takes effect. He promptly falls in love, and stares into the water until he fades away. As he fades, a flower arises from the ground from where he sat entranced. The Narcissus, or Daffodil, bears his name to this day.

More Early Spring Blooms

Early Tulips and Grape Hyacinth by Pearsons

Early Tulips and Grape Hyacinth by Pearsons

I wish I could claim credit for this combination, the pale yellow early tulips go great with the intense blue of the grape hyacinth, but, while horticulture has a grand tradition of theft, I’ll state for the record someone else planted this years ago.

Azalea in Bloom by Ross Dining

Azalea in Bloom by Ross Dining

Somewhere in my files I have the name of this cultivar of early deciduous azalea, but I’m at home. I’m normally not much for pink flowers, but in the early spring I’ll even let that go.  Azaleas are a great understory planting-they bloom before the leaves appear, and then sit and gladly suffer the shade all summer.

Forsythia by Stewart Hall

Forsythia by Stewart Hall

One of the better clumps of Forsythia at Middlebury, this one is a pretty reliable bloomer. Unknown cultivar, but being in a protected spot such as this certainly helps.

Cherry Tree in Main Quad

Cherry Tree in Main Quad

The main quad has two cherry trees, probably Prunus sargentti , but I am not totally sure. I wrote above I wasn’t much for pink flowers, but pale pink doesn’t count. Ornamental cherry trees are rare in Vermont, so I suggest a short walk at lunch hour to go check them out would be in order. Look at the pretty bark while you are admiring the blooms.

Easter Blooms

Drove through campus this afternoon on my way grocery shopping, and couldn’t help but take some pictures of a couple of things in bloom. It’s 70 degrees as I write, low 80’s yesterday, so that certainly sped some flower buds up I thought were going to hold on for while.

Star Magnolia-Carr Hall

Star Magnolia-Carr Hall

This is a Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, in between Forest and Carr Hall on Route 125. Like many of the other magnolias on campus, this one is planted right on top of one of the steam lines that run from the service building to the rest of campus. It’s easy to see the steam lines, they melt snow all winter, and the grass is the first to green in the spring. Someone believed that the heat from the lines would protect what they thought was a marginally hardy plant from the harsh Vermont winters. Perfectly hardy, now the magnolias are in the way for construction. One was moved a couple of years ago from the Axinn Center up to near the tire sculpture near Hillcrest. It’s doing fine, although thinner than the others. The best Star Magnolia is out in the main quad, right behind Voter Hall, but the blooms on that one weren’t quite as open.

Star Magnolias are native to Japan. Other magnolias mimic their distribution like many conifers-some are native in southeast Asia, others native in the southeastern US and central America. Fossil Magnolias (one of the first angiosperms in the flowering fossil record) have been recorded in Europe and Greenland, suggesting that that they were widespread until the continents drifted apart, dying out in the middle of their range.

Corneliancherry Dogwood

Corneliancherry Dogwood

I’m cheating here-this is a picture from my house, although there is some near the Garden of the Seasons. Great yellow flowers right now, a week or so ahead of the forsythia (except for the one below). Large red fruit in the fall, edible but nasty sour. Very lustrous rich green leaves, nice and clean all season with no leaf spot. Not the first shrub I planted at my house, but I am glad I have one.

Crocus at Forest
Crocus at Forest
Crocus in Lawn
Crocus in Lawn

Some Crocus in random locations.

 
vtsun
This is Vermont Sun Forsythia- Forsythia mandschurica ‘Vermont Sun’. I wrote about this last year, and it was in bloom April 13. I took this picture on Friday while getting into my car to go home, so that makes it 11 days earlier this year than last.
 
 

Peepers!!!!

The talk in our landscape department this morning was the peeper emergence lasts night. Being outdoor types, most of us sleep with the windows open, even with the woodstove blaring. It paid off last night, as the sound of peepers from my pond filled my bedroom.

Proving once again biologists have a sense of language, Spring Peepers are a variety of “chorus frog”. I always reach for the latin names, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Pseudacris crucifer crucifer is the Northern Spring Peeper. Pseudes (false) and akris (locust) for the sound, similar to a real locust insect. Crucifer meaning cross bearer, named for the cross like markings on the underside.

Peepers hibernate near ponds, and the males start making noise early in the spring seeking mates. Smaller than one inch, they are nocturnal, so hard to find, and although equipped with large toe pads for tree climbing, are more comfortable on the ground, hiding in the grass. I’ve learned they can tolerate freezing of some of their body fluids, so that explains their ability to have such an early life cycle in the spring.