Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday's Woodland Walk - Violets

 Viola pubescens

This week, most of the violets are blooming along our woodland path. Violets have always enchanted me since I was a little girl. I remember collecting all the beautiful purple/blue flowers into little bouquets before the lawn would be cut! They were so delicate! As I spent more and more time in the woods hiking, I happily discovered that there were many different colored violets!

Viola sororia (the white form)

When my husband and I moved into our home and created our woodland path, one of my goals was to start collecting a variety of violets. Right now I probably have 6-8 different varieties that I slowly gathered from friends yards and native wildflower sales.

Common Blue Violet- Viola sororia

 Although there are so many different flowers in bloom this week, I thought I would concentrate on these little beauties! Many people take violets for granted and don't really stop and enjoy these delicate flowers. The common blue or white violet can become a nuisance, popping up in little colonies in your lawn, but the next time you see them, stop and take another look. Better yet, make yourself a little bouquet! They are so charming in a little vase! You'll be amazed at their beauty!

I like to make little bouquets with some of my violets. My yellow violets haven't spread enough for me to want to steal a flower or two, but I'm sure next year I will be enjoying them in my little vases too!

Hairy Violet -Viola hirta

Hairy Violet -Viola hirta

 The violet is New Jersey's State Flower! It is also the state flower for Wisconson, Illinois, and Rhode Island.

I'm not sure what the name of this was, but it is a beautiful reddish purple color, very striking when its mixed with the other violets.

Sweet White Violet - Viola blanda

These small violets are very fragrant. They grow to a height of 3-5". Their shiny dark green leaves and flowers are on separate stems.


'Freckles' Violet - Viola sororia 'Freckles'

Did you know that violet leaves are rich in vitamins A & C? Believe it or not, you can add them to your salads, cook them as greens (like spinach) or garnish cold soups. Their flowers are also edible, and can be made into candies and jellies!! I believe Martha Stewart explains how to sugar them and add them to cakes for edible decorations. They can also be used to decorate pastries, and fruit desserts. Just remember to only eat plants that were not sprayed with pesticides. If you chemically treat your lawn, you may not want to go grazing on it!!

Their fragrance can be extracted by steeping their flowers and leaves in water until it smells fragrant. This Violet Water, can then be used in teas, scent bedding or clothing (if rinsed or sprayed with it), and scent or flavor many other wonderful products.

Violets have also been used for medicinal purposes such as treating headaches, colds, coughs, sore throats and constipation.

Small grouping of violets along the path.

PS  Through the years I have lost many of the exact names of these flowers, so a few may be misnamed by me. Hopefully with a little more research I will be able to verify that these are accurately named!

Have you done anything special with violets? I'd love to hear from you!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday.s Woodland Walk

Creeping Woodland Phlox

 Woodland wildflowers have their own beautiful charm! After years of being an avid hiker, I am so happy to be able to enjoy many of these flowers in my own backyard!
The spring is my favorite season in the woods when everything is sprouting and the native flowers are blooming in a carpet of color. This week the creeping woodland phlox are beginning to bloom in pretty shades of purple and pink.

This week I thought I would give you little snap shots of pretty areas along my path.
White Foamflowers, Purple Violets, Pink Bleeding Hearts

Yellow Celandine Poppies along the path.

These cheerful bright yellow flowers line my woodland path.  I started with one little plant that originally died. Two years later I was surprised to see another little plant in bloom! I guess it had reseeded it self before it met its sad demise. Now, years later, I have celandine poppies scattered throughout the woods! They grow approximately 10-15", have nice deeply cut leaves and bloom throughout the summer.

Celandine Poppy - Stylophorum diphyllum

A little sitting area along the path. Mayapples are in the foreground (bottom left)
White Trilliums, Pink Bleeding Hearts, Celandine Poppies, and Virginia Blue bells.

 Virginia Blue Bells-  Mertensia virginica

Foamflower - Tirella cordifolia

I hope you enjoyed browsing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday's Woodland Walk

                                    Wild Columbine - Aqueliga canadensis

Its hard to believe that it is mid April already! The weather has been perfect for planting and doing yard work.  The leaves are beginning to unfurl and the plants along the woodland path are beginning to rapidly fill in.  There are so many things in bloom right now that I'm not sure where to look first!

Pink Bleeding Hearts, Yellow Celandine Poppies & White Trilliums
In the foreground, are the lacy leaves of Dutchman's Breeches (Soon to disappear!)

Blooming in large colonies in different areas of my path are Wild Oats. They have one inch creamy yellow bell shaped flowers dangling beneath unstalked leaves. One might easily miss these 6-12" gems if not looking carefully. But I think they are charming!

Wild Oats - Uvularia sessilifolia

Wildflowers can sometimes be challenging even for the best of gardeners! For me, there have been several wildflowers that have been difficult to establish in my garden.
However, it makes them even more special to me as I walk along and spot them in bloom!

The Trout Lily is one of those baffling wildflowers that I patiently waited for 23 years to finally have one bloom!! Needless to say, I was doing the happy dance all day! Something my kids didn't appreciate!
Growing up, these amazing small 4-10" trout lilies grew along the banks of a woodland stream that ran through our property. Each spring they carpeted the banks with their beautiful clear yellow, lily-like flowers, and purplish brown mottled leaves, only to quietly disappear by the summer. I always loved them! I knew it may take up to 4-7 years for them to bloom, but 23 years! When transplanted along my path, they quickly grew like wildfire giving me a sea of beautiful leaves but no flowers until 2 years ago when I saw one little yellow flower blooming in the middle of all those leaves!! I couldn't believe my eyes, but here's the picture that captured that glorious moment!

Trout Lily (Dog Tooth Violet) - Erythronium americanum

This lovely plant has two common names. Many people refer to it by Trout Lily because it blooms at the beginning of Trout season and their leaves look similar to brook trout swimming under the water of rippling streams. Dog Tooth Violet, refers to the tooth-like shape of its white underground bulb.

Wild Columbine - Aquilega canadensis

This striking perennial wildflower jumps out at you with its gorgeous one to two inch red and yellow nodding flowers! Hummingbirds love to visit this native wildflower for its nectar from its long backward pointing spurs or tubes. Certain insects and Hummingbirds use their long tongues to extract the nectar as they hover below the blooms.
I often see columbines in rocky areas tucked inbetween rocks or cliffs when I hike. It grows one to two feet, is a short lived perennial (usually lasting for 3-4 years), and should reseed itself.
I have experimented planting this wildflower in many different areas of my woodland path, only to be disappointed that it has never reseeded itself for me! So every couple of  years I find myself purchasing another plant or two. I really hope this one will like its spot and reseed for me! There is also a yellow form of this columbine which is just as beautiful, but equally difficult for me to keep in my woodland garden! If anyone has a tip on how to get it to reseed let me know!

Wood Anemone - Anemone quinquefolia

Another beautiful little gem of a plant! I love its one inch clear white flowers and delicate leaves. It grows to about 4-8" on slender stems that often will tremble in the breeze, giving it another nickname called Wind Flowers.

Miterwort - Mitella diphylla

This wonderful wildflower is another native plant that you may just walk by without taking a second look! Nestled in front of two rocks along my path, this is slowly spreading into a nice little colony!
If you look closely, it has amazing tiny white fringed flowers(1/6") that bloom along a slender stem. It grows to 8-18", mine grow more like 10-12"tall. The fruit capsule is the shape of a bishop's miter or small cap releasing small black seeds. Sometimes people call it Bishop's Cap!

Virginia Bluebells - Mertensia virginica

I couldn't wait for my virginia bluebells to spread into a large area where my native Rhododendrons are growing.  I love their beautiful pink flower buds that turn into gorgeous blue trumpet-like flowers. They are so pretty blooming along my woodland path! They grow 8"-2' and have gray/green leaves that die back and go dormant until next spring.

You might be asking yourself what type of plants do I have after all these wildflowers go dormant? All kinds, is my answer! Just wait and see how the the woodland flora takes over, quickly covering the dying ephemerals. By mid-summer, one would never know there were wonderful native plants lying dormant, just waiting to wow me with their spring show again next year!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday's Woodland Walk

Dutchman's Breeches

The early spring wildflowers along my woodland path have finally burst into full bloom this week! After a few days of rain, the warmth of the sun seemed to bring the woods back to life from the long cold winter! Here are a few of the wonderful flowers that are making me smile this week!

The Dutchman's Breeches (above picture) are one of my favorites! The odd flower looks like a pair of pants turned upside down (personally, I think they look like teeth!) They grow up to 12" and have finely cut leaves. Once these plants got established in my woods they began multiplying into large clumps that I divided and transplanted into different areas of the path. After blooming, their leaves die back in the summer.  (Interesting fact: Bumble bees are one of the only insects that can reach deep inside the flower with their long tongues to get the nectar.)

They look great with the blue snow glories shown in the picture!

Snow Glories

Beautiful  snow glories are beginning to carpet the woodland floor in a sea of blue patches. These lovely star shaped flowers spread quickly and grow to about 4-6". They go dormant after blooming and disappear by the summer.

Spring  Beauty

These lovely white to pink dainty native flowers can be enjoyed only when its sunny out! These interesting flowers close each night, on cloudy days, and if you try to pick them! Needless to say, enjoy them where they are growing! Their tubers are edible, but I think I will test that out some other time!

Growing to 6-12" high, they slowly spread by self seeding and spreading rhizomes. After blooming they die back and go dormant until next spring.


When my husband and I went to the Smokey Mountains, there was a store that was selling these little gems in small packets of 3. I bought a pack just to see if they would live in this area. Wildflowers are quite particular about their habitats and I was quite surprised after two years I finally saw a single white flower popping up from the leaves. 20 years later I have been able to transplant little groups of these wonderful flowers around my path. I just love how they popup with the single leaf wrapped around the stem and then slowly open up as the flower blooms. Bloodroot has gorgeous white petatls and  received its name for the red juice within its rhizome. It grows 6-9" and will usually go dormant in the summer on my path when there is not enough rain.
Another interesting fact about this plant is when the seed pod splits open to release the seeds they are often collected by ants and carried away for them to eat the nutrituious outer area of the seed. That helps the bloodroot spread to other areas.

  I hope to share more awesome flowers next week. I love this time of year. Each day there is something new to be delighted by! Now is a wonderful time to go hiking in your local woods. Grab your wildflower guide and let me know what you discovered. Just to remind you, wildflowers should never be dug up from public lands unless you have permission! Many local garden clubs or wildflower sanctuaries have annual sales. I live about an hour away from Bowman's Hill Wildflower Sanctuary in PA , over the years I have purchased many of my wildflowers at their annual plant sale. It's first come, first served, so if anyone decides to go to one of these plant sales, go early for the best selection!
Have a great day!