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E-Garden Almanac: Something to be said about first...

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
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Location: Iowa

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Something to be said about first...

In much of Zone 4/5 you'll be pressed to find many things in bloom on March 15 (beware the ides of March!) Maybe some hellebores in sheltered or southern locales or some snowdrops too. But the first woody plant to come into bloom across much of the region is vernal witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis). I've always been fond of this ephemeral, which often blooms through cold snaps and snows abiding by its evolutionary programming.

Vernal witchhazel is native to the Ozarks of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, a relict of the last glacial advance which left a number of species stranded on top of a rising plateau. Many believe the species formerly occupied a much broader range but succumbed to a changing climate.

My mention of this early garden darling doesn't come unplanned though. This summer I'm taking the E-Garden Almanac on the road to the Ozarks with fellow plant nerds Josh and Elizabeth on a five-day horticultural exploration. We're in search of shrubs like vernal witchhazel (which we'll collect scionwood of), Indian cherry (Rhamnus caroliniana) and deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum). Vines are also on the docket including yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea) and climbing milkweed (Matelea decipiens). But the star finds of the trip will hopefully be new horticultural accessions of Missouri orange coneflower (Rudbeckia missouriensis), Bush's skullcap (Scutellaria bushii), downy skullcap (Scutellaria incana), and redring milkweed (Ascelpias variegata). The Ozarks are a botanical wonderland uncharted for horticultural potential. We'll post daily journal entries and video blog posts (via YouTube) of our progress, adventures, finds, and general silliness. Plant nerds know how to have fun!

Stay tuned for other summer explorations in the garden and the wild beyond!


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