Thursday, June 3, 2021

Flowers to spot at the end of Spring in Shenandoah National Park - Plants and Wildflowers

Jarman Gap Trail
Last week I had the opportunity to hunt for blooming plants in the Southern and Center sections of the Shenandoah National Park. "Hiking" three separate days we hiked on four trails; Milam Gap, Limberlost, Jarman Gap, and Riprap. We encountered more Appalachian Trail hikers on Memorial Day on the Riprap Trail than on any other days.

Mountain Laurel
There is about a 1,000 foot difference in elevation between the Southern and Northern Central parts of the Skyline Drive so some wildflowers down south were about a week ahead of the northern elevations.  

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Pink Azalea
Most obvious was the development of the Mountain Laurel which had really come out along the southern Riprap Trail and was holding back along the central Limberlost Trail. I would estimate that it's really going to be impressive in Limberlost around June 12th. There is a free park entry day on June 16th so that's where I'll be! 

Bowman's Root
We encountered some lovely wildflowers on Jarman Gap Trail. One being lavender blooming Skullcap. White blooming Viburnum shrub and pink blooming Azalea can be spotted all over the park this time of year. 

One of my favorite wildflowers, Bluets
Signs of bloomed out Early Meadow Rue could be found on Jarman Gap Trail but was stealing the show in Limberlost. Another sweet wildflower that I had never encountered was Bowman's Root. A delicate white wispy bloom and better described by its other name, Fawn's Breath.

One had to look fairly closely to find the teeny little Bluets scattered along the Limberlost Trail, conversely the Golden Ragwort was plentiful all over the central area of the park. It was nice to have my mother scout out for flowers one day and a friend on another day. They both were equally good at finding oddities. 

Daisy like Golden Ragwort
A few unknown plants were of the fungus plant world. May be you can identify these pretty plants?

Surprisingly, the more developed Limberlost Trail seemed to have the most variety of birds and plants but we did see a pileated woodpecker on the Riprap Trail. Jarman Gap and Milam had more inclines than the other two trails and require a little more skill but still very accessible. Riprap was a nice gradual climb and pretty safe as far as getting your footing. Limberlost is ADA accessible. 

In a few weeks the towering orange flowering tiger lilies in Milam Gap are going to be amazing!


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Wildflowers in Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive

Bacon Hollow Overlook mile marker 69
Located 40 minutes from Charlottesville, the Shenandoah National Park is a treasure for all to enjoy. Skyline drive is 105 miles long and the only road that traverses through the park from South to North. Driving the posted 35 miles per hour, it will take 3 hours if you put your blinders on and don't stop anywhere along the route. An impossible feat for even the most hard hearted.

Sassafras is easily identified
There is a park entry fee and if you go often it can begin to add up. There are several passes that can help you avoid or reduce your fees (if permanently disabled, a veteran, or a senior). When I turn 62 I want a Senior Pass for my birthday present! If you are in a vehicle with one holding one of the passes, you too can gain free access. There are also annual free for anyone days scheduled each year.

Golden Alexander

Because we currently don't have any special passes, I always jump on any chance to get free access. A visiting friend purchased a 7 day pass to the Shenandoah National Park and only used the first day. It is permissible to use a pass purchased by another person so my husband and I went the next day and explored the southern trail section starting on top of  Afton Mountain at mile marker 105 and ending north at Swift Run Gap mile marker 65. It was a perfect picnic day and we mainly ate our way up Skyline Drive veering off at all the overlook points. We did walk a few segments of the Appalachian trail observing wildflowers, birds, and trees.

Mountain Laurel
There are over 850 flowering plants documented in the park. Golden Alexander was in full bloom in the southern areas of the park this time of year. The bloom can best be described as a yellow Queen Anne's Lace. The Spring Ephemerals have nearly bloomed out. The Mountain Laurel is just now starting to bloom at the lower elevations. The full show will occur in June and is a beautiful time to come to the park. White flowering Viburnum shrub was often spotted in the woods.  Also quite common along the roadway is Golden Ragwort which could best be described as a 2' tall miniature Sunflower. It seemed to be more plentiful North of Big Meadows.

We had a wonderful afternoon exploring and getting to know one section of the large park. It took about 4 hours for us to leisurely drive up half of the park but would take a lot longer if any serious hiking would be planned.

~ Rebecca 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Spring Private Garden Tours 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia

Several years ago I joined a local Charlottesville Virginia plant exchange and garden discussion Facebook group. It's an active group with many sharing plants or collecting my excess! We're all happy that plants will find new homes and not simply be tossed on the compost pile. Select times of the year you can sign up for tours of home gardens.

Yesterday my mother and I visited three gardens located in the Key West neighborhood of Charlottesville. Our car navigator led us a bit astray and we initially drove right past the first garden on our list. On our way we noticed a colorful flowerbed that stood out from all the rest. It ended up being the home we were trying to locate! Leslie's garden is not easily missed as you cruise through Key West. This time of year the Iris is showing off as are the Peonies.

Leslie's garden was an empty palette when she began gardening their property 13 years ago. Originally starting small with a 12' long strip of flowers her gardens now encircle the home. Recently a massive swath of pink Daffodils have been added to the adjoining forest area and happily cascade down the back hillside to meet the Rivanna River. I'm told by other neighborhood gardeners she is often spotted tending to her plants. 

All three Key West gardens that we visited are located in deer country so a wide array of tactics are employed to help protect plants. Electric fencing, the rotation of various deer repellant products, and extremely tall fencing and netting help keep the deer away from special plant areas. Also plant selection is crucial, planting things they don't usually dine on unless extremely desperate but nothing is 100% when you're dealing with deer.

One pretty spot in Leslie's garden is the Lotus pond. The pink flowers tend to burst upward in June and crescendo on July 4th. Leslie invited us to be sure to come back and see the show!

We so enjoyed our day out meeting fellow nature lovers and seeing a diverse set of gardens that were all equally amazing. I hope this peek at Leslie's garden gives you a taste of what's on tour this year.



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