Boycott the Easter Bunny!

It’s almost Easter, and my love-hate relationship with bunnies is coming to a head. The rabbit has been seen for centuries as a symbol of fertility. It wangled its way into European Easter celebrations about 500 years ago as a delivery-rodent for another symbol of fertility, the egg. Many say the rabbit was a companion of Eostre, the Germanic goddess of spring/fertility. Fertility symbols illustrate in a down-to-earth way the Christian concept of New Life

As darling as bunnies are, there are too many of them lately! The babies are so tame and cute and curious. Last year, my son carefully fenced off a poorly-sited rabbit nest, so Tyrannosaurus Gus couldn’t get the “kittens”. But that was only one of several nests within 100 yards of the nursery. By the end of summer, I was ready to sic the dogs on the whole lot of them, call in trained falcons or reintroduce wolves to Paradise Valley! We should rename the nursery “Tadpole Haven Native Plant Smorgasbord”. Brian has a theory that there is a disease cycle that wipes the rabbits out every so often, and right now they are healthy and very fertile. I had noticed population fluctuations, but I always attributed it to coyotes coming through. I’m very proud of the high quality wildlife habitat on our property where the nursery is. But the rabbits are giving habitat a bad name! Rabbitat! We’ve got plenty of high quality coyote habitat — where are those guys when we need them?

EasterFrog

So, I know this is late in the game, but I’d like to stop honoring the ravaging rabbit. So I urge everyone to boycott the Easter Bunny. In its place we will install the Easter Frog. The Easter Frog is an oversized Pacific Chorus Frog. The Pacific Chorus Frog actually LAYS eggs, thus is more qualified than a rabbit for the Easter job. If these little tree frogs haven’t started calling yet in your neighborhood, they will any day. At Tadpole Haven, we have a new pool waiting for them! We put in a couple types of vegetation suitable for attaching egg clutches: Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) twigs and Marsh Cinquefoil (Comarum palustre) stems. I tossed in three Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia a.k.a. Broad-leaved Arrowhead) bulbs. I am hoping that those will grow up and shade the pool from the hottest summer sun. This pool is much deeper than a kiddie pool, which we have used in the past. Those kiddie pools successfully raised several years’ worth of froglets, but they have gotten too hot during the last few summers, and all of the tadpoles perished, sadly. We will be celebrating Easter until summer’s end, watching the fertile New Life metamorphose and transform these small earthly beings.

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Bald-Hip Rose

Happy Spring! The weather has been terrific, but may get temperamental just in time for our Open Days on Friday and Saturday. But the greenhouse is a good hangout! Enjoy Lisa’s cookies and poke your nose outside to check out plants like the Bald-Hip Rose.

Bald-Hip Rose (Rosa gymnocarpa) a.k.a. Dwarf Rose, a.k.a. Little Wild Rose has fragrant pink one-inch-wide flowers. This adaptable deciduous wild rose-bush thrives in well-drained soil, in dry to moist conditions. It tolerates full shade to full sun. Grown in bright or dappled shade, it happily produces lots of blooms; its stems tend to get thin and gangly in full shade. It reaches 5’ tall, but can handle being pruned back. Though it is rhizomatous, it does not spread aggressively like its cousin, Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana).

When the flowers fade, the “hips” form, containing seed. The hips of most species of rose retain the tiny, dried-up remnants of flower petals at the tip of the hip; the Bald-Hip Rose is called “Bald-Hip” because it sheds them. The smooth, brilliant red, somewhat pear-shaped hips are about 3/8” long and persist through winter, providing nutritious sustenance for native birds and bits of brightness on murky Northwest winter days.

Most of these hardy beauties in the nursery are just beginning to sprout new growth from their pruned back stems. They will fill out nicely as spring progresses.

On My Knees to Crown Brodiaea

I first (literally) ran across Crown Brodiaea in the late 1990s while working road construction west of Rochester, Thurston County. At the end of a long day of chip-sealing, we parked our equipment on a patch of dry grass. As I climbed down from my roller, I spotted the most beautiful purple flowers growing in the grass, with glossy flared petals. Luckily, I had my trusty field guide (Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon, Lone Pine Publishing) in my bag! I succeeded in identifying the charming blossoms (many of which I had just flattened with my 7-ton, 9-tired pneumatic roller). While we waited for a lift back to our cars, the other members of the crew laughed at me, book in hand, on my knees before the flowers.

 Crown Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria), a.k.a. Harvest Brodiaea, thrives in the gravelly soils of Thurston County’s prairies, making it a perfect candidate for a rock garden. No rock garden? Give it full sun and excellent drainage. For example, you could tuck it just under the edge of your home’s south-facing eave—it will be moist in winter, and completely dry in summer.

In the late winter, one to three narrow, grass-like leaves emerge from the underground corm. After the leaves dry up, the 4-10”-high flower stalks put on their show in June or July.

 Right now, the Crown Brodiaea in the nursery have leafed out. I am pretty sure most will bloom, since the bulbs/corms are relatively large. I am planning to plant a few beside the native bunchgrass, Roemer’s Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis ssp. roemeri), and close to some other native prairie wildflowers: Great Camas (Cammassia leichtlinii Common Camas (Cammassia quamash), Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), and Big-Leaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus).

Come visit! Things are now showing thoroughly encouraging signs of growth. And I promise I won’t make fun of you if get down on your knees before the floral denizens of Tadpole Haven!

Brodiaea coronarialeavesinPots