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!



March Observations: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Tom Petty got it right, the waiting is the hardest part. This is an old fashioned, knock down, drag out fight. Winter vs. Spring in the ring and Winter is holding out. Baby break down, go ahead and give it to me. Not even one 50-60 degree day to entice us. Not one cracked window, not one warm porch session – the furniture still wrapped in tarp. The sun feels good, almost warm but the snow shovel and heavy coat are still within reach. Even the snow blower is out of gas, as Winter and Spring fight on. The crocus are back in hiding, beneath more snow, but eaves are dripping, melting. Spring is enduring. Icicles slipping, falling.

winters grip

Winter’s grip, icicles clinging like claws, but slipping.

knocked out icicles

Icicles knocked out to the count of ten, Spring is winning!

The first day of Spring I cut Forsythia branches. I scattered Poppy and Larkspur seeds into the snow, something I’ve never tried before. The repeated thawing of the snow is supposed to work the seeds into the ground. Poppies and Larkspur are said to germinate better with a frosty touch. I need to plant my peas, too, but I think the ground is still frozen. I might test it this afternoon since it is a “fruit day.” My potato starts arrived yesterday – oops. I requested them a bit early for this year.

The Red Polls and Juncos remain at my feeders. It’s somewhat bizarre to see them among the newly arrived Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles and yellowing Goldfinches. I don’t think I’ve ever observed a mixed flock such as this. I still haven’t heard the Robin’s call, seen them sparring in the (snow-patched) lawn. Although Friday afternoon, the Sea Gulls circled above, glowing white in the bluest summer-like sky – I’ll take it.

In the five years we have lived here, this is the longest we’ve waited for Spring. My new garden clogs will stay shiny and clean for just a bit longer.

new garden clogs

Ready to get down and dirty!

It looks like Spring and Winter are going into the final round.

Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part