The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


May Observations: The Damage You’ve Done (and the Tulip Tree in June)

“Hey, did you see that?”


That was May whizzing by in a blur, speed: super fast with nitro injection (did I ever mention I used to date a drag racer? I don’t like to dredge it up much). May was very unlike the **** (four letter word) Winter which crawled by at a pace so slow one could observe every minute, painful detail (never did date an annalist). Yet these two paces meet up in my observations for May: The Damage You’ve Done. Yeah, if I had a dollar for every shredded leaf you’d make me a millionaire and it wouldn’t repair the damage you’ve done to my garden, Winter baby.

Which brings me to the sad state of my Tulip Tree I am sorry to report. I have been following this tree along with Lucy at Loose and Leafy. It is a good thing I am, too, because at my current pace I may not have noticed how unhappy my Tulip Tree is until too late!

sad tulip tree

I have consulted with my cooperative extension because I am very concerned. I thought that maybe it is suffering from Verticillium Wilt, but the nearby Dogwood shrub, Pin Oak and the neighbor’s Silver Maple are robust and happy if not downright cheerful. If my soil had this fungus, everyone should be showing some sort of sad sign. There also isn’t any evidence of bark striations or a dark ring in a cross section I cut. We have had plenty of rain. If I dig an inch into the soil it is moist, but not too wet, so rule out too much or too little water.

Neighboring Silver Maple

Neighboring Silver Maple

pin oak

My happy Pin Oak

The extension and I have concluded that the tree may be planted too deeply.

This is entirely possible since I did plant the tree as a very young sapling – difficult to see any sort of “flare” – and its base was swaddled in Vinca Vine. It would also explain why this tree hasn’t grown as fast as I think it should be from all I have read or heard. The nearby Elm is double the size of the Tulip Tree and it was also planted as a sapling (a sprout from my neighbor’s tree).

tulip tree leader

Time is of the essence! (And it is the one thing I don’t have- arrrghhh!) The question is, do I simply dig out around its base? Or do I dig it all up and replant it higher? I think I will dig out the base, cut away the Vinca, and see if there is any improvement.

I just love this tree and love these leaves – especially when they look happy and healthy.

The beautiful leaves of the Tulip Tree

The beautiful leaves of the Tulip Tree

As I look around, though, I wonder if the tree simply had a rough go of Winter. (Many of my other shrubs are damaged.) Stay tuned as I continue to follow the Tulip Tree … your prayers and well wishes for this tree are welcome!

So, what is the damage Winter has done? It is evident now at the end of May and into June (already!). The Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, surprisingly, have suffered and are very slow to leaf out. No blooms, but they are still young so that didn’t worry me. The branches are supple and the base of these shrubs is nice and green. I’ll wait a little longer and cut back anything not leafy.


Yet, just down the row, Pagoda Dogwood is loaded with blooms!

pagoda dogwood blooms

The same leg up symptom is true of my Sambucus Black Lace which was so incredibly beautiful last year. No blooms, slow to leaf out, but a healthy comeback at its base.

black lace winter damageblack lace comeback

It will get the same treatment after waiting just a bit longer. The Cranberry Viburnum and Ninebark along the drive, however, are fully leaved and fully loaded with blooms!

cranberry viburnum happy ninebark

The NJ Tea? Well, R.I.P., sniff, little guy. No signs of any leaves even at the base and not very supple stems. Oh, the damage, the damage you’ve done to me.


Let’s hope that will not be the same fate of my beloved Tulip Tree!



Tulip Tree in May

Oh, I am a day behind in joining Loose and Leafy for Follow A Tree. This hectic pace of a race will only get worse as the month “Mayhem” continues … Just to review, the tree I am following in my garden is a young Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.


My Dad gave me this tree. He dug up the sapling up from his yard – the only caveat was that I had to take the Myrtle, too.  Some of you may refer to this plant as Vinca Vine, Vinca Minor or Periwinkle. I’ve read it’s invasive but I have to admit I am enjoying the carpet of flowers, especially against the yellow daffodils, and I did notice the bumble bees were, too – there isn’t much out there yet for my bumble bees so I was happy to see it. So far, it has behaved well for me and I am a big fan of ground covers – less weeding!

tulip tree may 7 2014

The Tulip Tree is 57″ tall and has buds just about to unravel and burst open! And I think I have finally figured out my camera and the buds are in better focus – bonus for you! I hadn’t noticed the nice striation on the bark before this photo. I love that little leaf curl.

tulip tree bud II

Tulip Tree Bud

tulip tree bud I

Tulip Tree Bud

Before I started following this tree I would have bet the leaves would be open by now. I decided I would compare a few other tree buds to illustrate this year’s Spring progression. I could begin to compare these every year – that is what is so great about journaling my garden!

elm bud

Elm (this is a sapling from my neighbor’s tree)

amur maple bud

Amur Maple (That is my guess. Two of these came with me from Maine in a window box – grown from seed. I suppose that is why they are invasive.)

serviceberry bud

Serviceberry Laevis

Pagoda Dogwood - I think this will be a flower!

Pagoda Dogwood – I think this will be a flower!

I have planted all of these trees (and a few more) and I realize I will become a shade gardener over the years. We didn’t have any trees on our lot and I am a tree lover! I really can’t wait for the Serviceberry and Pagoda Dogwood flowers, and much later the Tulip Tree flowers!


What’s Blooming: Fall Forsythia

There really isn’t such a plant as a Fall Forsythia, but mine seems to blooming in spite of several hard frosts and a snowfall. Tomorrow, highs are expected at sixty degrees fahrenheit, but I don’t believe temperature is the reason for the unexpected fall blooms.


Apparently a period of stress, followed by improved growing conditions will cause a Forsythia to bloom “off key.” My Forsythia has grown enormous and is in need of a good pruning (which I am waiting for until early spring so I can actually see the structure of this shrub even though I will sacrifice some of those spring blooms). I am sure this shrub stressed during an August dryspell in very crowded conditions. The Forsythia anchors the first bed I created (the Bird & Butterfly Garden), and the entire bed is in need of dividing and thinning. It is also the site of the Black-Eyed Susan Gang Takeover. A rival Joe Pye Gang is also gaining a lot of ground. (I’m thinking I will have a big haul of nice, native plants to offer our cooperative extension for the Master Gardener Plant Sale!)

Aside from Forsythia blooms, it is difficult to believe I do not have much of anything blooming outdoors in the garden at this time. Seems to me it is much too early in the winter season. I did find a brave little Calendula bloom among some Lambs Ear. The honeysuckle has bloomed into December in years past.



There are other things going on, however – berries! My young Winterberry shrubs are in “full-berry” – the red on Ilex verticillata ‘Oosterwijk’ already picked over by birds. The Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ still sporting a beautiful orange spray of berries. These shrubs will  be up to 8 feet tall when full grown. They are pollinated by Ilex verticillata ‘Southern Gentleman.’ I have a young Hicks Yew, Taxus x media ‘Hicksii,’ as a backdrop. I am waiting for the day when these plants “come together.”



My Cranberry Viburnum along the Nice Driveway is also displaying its berries.


The star of the garden currently is the Pin Oak, Quercus Palustris, which has grown another two feet this year at least! It is still holding most of its leaves and they are a beautiful shade of dark red – a contender for Pam’s (at Digging) Foliage Follow Up. (I remember its first winter in the garden it was nearly girdled by a rabbit.)


I have installed a copper rain chain instead of a downspout off our back porch (if you can make it out from the ugly green board). Now I have two copper-topped bird feeders (the other a small suet feeder hanging by the chain), and the chain – I love these warm, glowing copper accents in the winter garden – “blooms” if you will.


Indoors plants are fairing well. Violets are in bloom. The Thanksgiving Cactus is in bud in the succulent table top garden. My current favorite succulent is Flapjacks, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. Its leaves remind me of a large flower bud.






Thank you for joining me for yet another Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting.