June 14, 2020
What's blooming in Madison this week?
Gardening Friends,

It’s been a long time since I was able to send out a letter. I’m glad to be contacting you again, and I hope you are all safe and well.

We have changed over to using Constant Contact for this newsletter and we hope the new format will be an improvement. 
Wood Poppies vs Greater Celandine
Unfortunately, I have to report that I was confused about the Wood Poppies in my woodland garden. Most of the plants that I thought were Wood Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum , have turned out to be Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus , which is a very invasive Asian species.
They look almost identical, but the seed pods look quite different.
Wood Poppy
The seed pods of Wood Poppy are white, drooping, and hairy. 
Greater Celandine
The seed pods of Greater Celandine look like tiny string beans standing straight up.

Greater Celandine
I usually pull out Greater Celandine, since it's very invasive. That creates space for the native wood poppies to move in!
In the meantime, several of my other native wildflowers are also going to seed. 
Virginia Bluebells
The Bluebells, Mertensia virginica , that made such a nice display back in April, have now produced seeds.
You can see the seeds in this photo. Four little nutlets form in each of the sepal cups that remain after the flowers have fallen. the leaves collapse and disappear at this time as well and the plants go dormant over the summer. 
Some seeds have already fallen out of the cups.

When the flowers fade, the tallish seed stalks flop over, which helps the seeds disperse to a foot or two from the parent plant. But in my yard, they seem to find a way of spreading even further than that. 
If you want to help bluebells spread to a place you prefer, collect the seeds when they are fully formed and start to turn from green to black. I find that the seeds often drop out of their cups, and become hard to see on the ground before I can harvest to them. So it may be best to check on them every day.
Propagating Virginia Bluebells
The rule of thumb for native perennials is to sow seeds when they naturally fall to the ground. That means that spring-flowering plants such as Bluebells are sown in spring or early summer.

Bluebell seeds, as well as some other spring-blooming wildflower seeds, lose some vitality if allowed to become dry. For best results, sow them on the ground or in pots immediately after you collect them. Press them into the soil surface, but cover them only very lightly with soil (they need light to germinate) and keep them moist.

If you sow them on the ground outdoors, they will naturally experience a warm moist period over the summer and a cold moist period over the winter, and they will germinate the next spring as soon as it's warm enough. Alternatively, if you sow them in flats or pots, keep them warm and moist over the summer and then cold and moist in a refrigerator (or other protected place such as an unheated garage) over the winter. In spring, move containers to a warm spot and water them as needed.  
Wild Columbine

My Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, is flourishing right now with some flowers still blooming and green five-part seed pods already forming on the plant. 
Propagating Wild Columbine
When the seed capsules are dry and brown, they will split open and drop the little round black seeds. Again, if you want to spread the plants to a different area, it's best to try and harvest the seeds just before the capsules split open.
As with the Bluebells, sow Columbine seeds immediately and give them the warm summer and cold winter they need for new plants to sprout the following spring. Both Bluebell and Columbine seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover with soil; instead, press the seeds firmly into the soil surface and keep them moist.
Please contact me at maccarij@rosenet.org if you have questions, comments, or photos of your own to share.

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Be safe and be well.

Best wishes,

Joan Maccari 
Madison Environmental Commission (MEC)

Unless otherwise noted, all photos were taken by Joan E. Maccari.
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