Garden Diary - March 2020

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Flowers Around Town in the Days of Covid-19
Tuesday, 24 March 2020, with updates

I had thought to walk in the less visited public parks and gardens here in New Jersey but now all state sites are closed. John Beirne, superintendent of horticulture at Willowwood and a friend, told me that "Willowwood is closed to the public until further notice and we are only coming in as a skeleton crew- 2 staff 1 at each site every other day. It closed officially on Friday [that was on March 20] and they were back and forth about it for close to a week leading up to Friday. The Magnolias are not in bloom yet here actually, we are slow here in the spring. Believe me, I get it I was at NYBG last week before it closed and the Magnolias were just beginning to open, I would give the world to go walk through them now, all by myself. I will let you know when anything changes, Strange Strange times . . . "

Here in New Jersey we are told to shelter in place. Essential stores: grocery, pharmacy, and a few others - are open. Can walk for exercise but maintain social distancing separation of 6 feet. Having waffled for days about the situation - yes I'll go out / no I'll stay home - today Himself drove me in a loop around town to photograph what's in flower. Took some images from inside the car. I took others from just outside the car as the outside mirror was an in my field of view issue. Few vehicles on the road, occasionally an infrequent person walking.

Let me share what I have seen. Scroll down for the earlier images.

UPDATE: Thursday, 21 May 2020

Noticed this splendid purple rhododendron when at the Frenchtown Market for my every week to ten day shopping spree. But my camera is no longer my constant companion because with mask and gloves and bleachy washcloth I don't know how I would mange to take pictures. So a special trip was made, just for the picture.

UPDATE: Monday, 18 May 2020

A lovely mature horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum on Ridge Road. The fresh, tender green leaves look perfect at this time of year. Later on the leaves often turn brown from fungal disease.

Detail of branch, leaves, flower clusters
and a closeup of a single flower truss.

UPDATE: Thursday, 7 May 2020

Some floriferous azaleas crowding against a fence in Frenchtown,
noticed as we drove along the Milford-Frenchtown Road.

UPDATE: Saturday, 25 April 2020

Just a short loop this morning. Tinsman to Ridge Road, then onto Route 12 towards Frenchtown for two specific trees I wanted to photograph. Turn to go back home with another stop along the way on Ridge Road. Smattering of traffic on Route 12, otherwise nothing to speak of.

The uncommon weeping form of redbud, Cercis canadensis.
It's a graft onto an upright trunk to create the umbrella effect.

The pea-like flowers emerge directly from the branch.
The cold fuchsia pink color is rather harsh. I do know
where there are white ones but not my current travel.

The next house over has a pair of flowering dogwoods with
quite red flowers. Odds are they are the Rutger's cultivar,
Cornus florida 'Red Beauty'

The brightly colored portion are bracts, surrounding the cluster of

small, inconspicuous actual flowers in the center.


Heading back home now, with a pause to admire the lilacs, Syringa vulgaris,

that are just beginning to open

and the double flowered cherry, flowering a full month after Prunus 'Okame'.

UPDATE: Friday, 17 April 2020

Another looping ride around town. There was a little more traffic on Milford Road and Route 12 but still nothing like in the times before covid-12. A couple of bitter cold nights put paid to magnolias. Single flowering cherries about done. Doubles are starting. Now it is the apple's turn to bloom too.

A weeping cherry tree on the corner of Tinsman and Ridge Roads.

There are several double flowering cherry trees along Frenchtown-Milford Road
in Frenchtown. Perhaps there was a community planting effort several years ago.


A splendid wild apple tree in a field on Milford Road, towards the outskirts of town.

This tree is right next to Harrison Street in town. Apple blossom pink, so tender.

All it takes is a few days to go from starting to open to beautifully in bloom.

A closeup of the vivid pink flowers. This year they are especially profuse.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 14 April 2020

I don't know the history of this apple tree on Ridge Road near the old stone house.
It was deliberately planted, that is sure. I don't recall seeing apples on it. But with
these intense carmine pink flowers it might be a cultivar grown for its blossoms.

UPDATE: Thursday, 2 April 2020

Himself has a prescription to pick up at the pharmacy. Phone them
when you arrive outside their door and someone will bring it curbside.

We also bought two flat pleated surgical masks (all the store is allowing
per patron, priced at $3.99 apiece.) Himself asked if I wanted to join him

and there are more flowers to enjoy on our short drive from home to pharmacy and back again.

The saucer magnolias are just fabulous this year. Typically our weather is not frost free
until Mother's Day in May. But there has been no frost for a couple of weeks so the large
and tender petals of all the Magnolia ×soulangeana have been undamaged perfection.

Sort of behind a house, down a slope and near a small water course. There's a bench
and a table, pale pink weeping cherry and yellow forsythia. Sunshine makes it perfect.

Buttercup yellow petals and an orange red cup make these daffodils
a cheery sight. See the brown lump, upper left in the bush? It's a nest,
last year's, probably robin. I've seen them around. The earth still turns.

More bulbs, in Frenchtown. Sturdy pink and blue hyacinths to sweetly scent the air.

Turning back towards home. Yet another flowering cherry showing off its pink blossoms.

Now we're home. Star magnolias, Magnolia stellata, down in my woods glimmer in the sun.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Today I decided to make yogurt in my Instapot. Set things going and realized I used all the milk in the house. My choices are two-fold. Either drink coffee black until Thursday midday when I planned to go shopping. Or go this afternoon. I garbed with plastic glove, standard face mask, and bleachy washcloth and set off for the IGA in Frenchtown. Then on the way home

I saw this wonderful purple flowered evergreen Rhododenron 'PJM'.

And another large white flowered tree. A Prunus no doubt, but which one . . .
My friend,Joan suggests it is the offspring of a Bradford pear, another seedling
that escaped from cultivation, growing in a wild area, crowding native species.

And even though sunshine has been limited
my pink star magnolia has opened its flowers.

UPDATE: Monday, 30 March 2020

A visit to my friend Janet's house to drop off some cardboard while
we maintained proper social distancing. Looking around, I noticed
this lovely flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica, in full bloom.
What an early season we are having this year, at least two weeks.

Returning home I paused to take a picture of this lovely weeping crab apple
on Route 519 just after the turn off Route 12. Another early welcome to spring.
UPDATE: I stand corrected. Too early, Joan says, for a crab apple. She feels
that it's most likely one of those grafted, short, stumpy, weeping cherries.

Truly magnificent. A huge, mature saucer magnolia, Magnolia ×soulangeana
in full bloom. Such clement weather the flowers are not brown and damaged.

Another mature tree in bloom. This time it is a flowering cherry.
Not one of the ugly grafted octopus-on-a-barrel but a naturally
weeping form. I doubt the current homeowners know the variety.

UPDATE: Thursday, 26 March 2020

It has been a week. Today I made an expedition to Flemington for pantry supplies.
It is warmer in town, I gather, because the saucer magnolias were nicely in flower.

So little traffic I paused right on Walter E. Foran Blvd, took these out my car window.

TO BEGIN: Tuesday, 24 March 2020

I gained a new appreciation for forsythia. So easy to grow, so common, so ordinary.
And in these extraordinary times, such a cheerful display of bright yellow sunny color.

A loose, unpruned hedge of forsythia, spreading sunshine on a cloudy day

A single shrub of forsythia, large enough for a child to crawl under and play house.

Forsythia leaning over a picket fence in town, spreading sunshine to passers by.

And the same can be said for familiar yellow trumpet daffodils, sturdy harbingers of spring.

An old stone house, one from the Revolutionary War that has been around
for centuries. The house. The daffodils, I happen to know, are more recent.

It's a little warmer, in town, than at BelleWood Gardens. This star magnolia
has flowers that are pretty much fully open, while mine are just budding up.

A burst of deep pink flowers on Prunus 'Okame', earliest of the flowering cherries.

It's not only "exotic" plants from outside North America
that are coming into flower. Just admire this red maple,
Acer rubrum. Time to stop tapping sugar maples.

And we came back home, completing a loop by using different streets.
I walked up the driveway to see what I might see. Rewarded I was.

Not positive, but I think these charming little daffodils are Narcissus 'W.P. Milner'.

Not a native, and not dandelions. This is
coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, about to bloom.

Not especially showy but do they smell good!
This is the well-named Lonicera fragrantissima.

Almost invisible here. But another few sunny days, a little more warmth,
and my pink star magnolia will display more than these few hints of pink,

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