Ms. Scarlet with the River Birch in the MS Swale

scarlet grey ilex verticillata

Garden designers care about “legibility”–they want visitors to be able to “read” the garden’s design elements. One of those elements at Friends is repetition of the school colors, scarlet and gray, a combination you’ll see over and over throughout the gardens and the seasons. Right now: scarlet berries on the winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and (ok, offwhite more than gray) river birch (Betula nigra).

Yeehaw, Paw Paw!

This spring, paw paw, or Asimina triloba had beautiful dark maroon flowers. Sadly, I have no picture for you. But then, right after school started, it looked like this.

Paw paw tree, with fruit
Then on the morning of September 17, I was sad that I couldn’t find any, and I assumed the squirrels had gotten them before me. But then I found an uneaten, ripe one on the ground. Penny included for size to show you that this is NORTH AMERICA’S LARGEST NATIVE FRUIT. And it’s growing on our campus. Yeehaw, paw paw!
And I, at least, thought it was delicious. My students in Literature and the Land, who had to write about it during a sensory descriptive writing exercise–they were not so sure. A few brave souls get a lot of credit for testing that fifth sense: taste.
Friends School of Baltimore’s Native Plants Teaching Gardens: not just for looking at, y’all. 

Ask Kay #3 Chrysogonum virginianum

In Ask Kay #3, we learn about:

chrysogonum virginianum

Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and Gold or Goldstar) is a compact, lush groundcover that grows in partly sunny to shady sites.  It has clean, green foliage and abundant bright golden yellow flowers.  Chrysoganum blooms heavily in mid spring and sporadically throughout the rest of the growing season.  Look for it in the Staircase Garden around the boulders at the top.

More details here at Missouri Botanical Garden page about this flower. This is a great resource for anyone interested in North American plants.

Ask Kay What’s Blooming #2: Fringe Tree

Hi Kay,

what do we have here? 
Fringe Tree and Wild Geranium

Kay Says: 

On the north side of the Middle School, on the south side of the Dining Hall/Gym, and in the Picnic Glade, and by Admissions, Chionanthus virginicus, (common names: Fringe Tree, Grancy Greybeard, Old Man’s Beard) is blooming.  “Chionanthus” comes from combining  the Greek words “chion” and “anthus” to make “snowflower”.
 A spine of Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium) runs up the slope beneath the Fringe trees next to the Middle School–the geranium is a shade loving plant that will be happy in the shelter of the taller perennials and shrubs that will fill out and bloom later in the summer and fall.  If you look closely, you will also see some tiny iris–Iris cristata–intermingled with the Geranium.
 Look for the peacock blue of  Amsonia tabernaemontana ‘Blue Ice’ (Blue-star) under the trees against the wall of the Dining Hall/Gym, another fun color combination for this tree.

 Thanks Kay! So: next time you find yourself serenading someone with Oklahoma lyrics, try this variant: “When I take you out in a surrey with the fringe Chionanthus virginicus on top.” Pro tip: If you’re serenading, probably best not to call anyone on your Oklahoma-themed date “Grancy Greybeard.”


Ask Kay What’s Blooming #1: Poppywort Report

Here at Friends we are doubly lucky: we have lovely Native Plants Teaching Gardens, and we have master gardener, designer, educator Kay McConnell, who is responsible for much of their design, plantings and yearly maintenance. See this post for more on the Native Plants Teaching Gardens. But here’s our news today: Kay has offered to identify and describe what’s blooming now. Here’s how it works: I send her a photo of something pretty on campus, and she tells us what it is. So, time for a poppywort report:

Dear Kay, What’s this?


Kay says: 

This cheerful wildflower is Stylophorum diphyllum.  The common names are Wood Poppy, Celandine Poppy, and Poppywort.  It loves to grow in moist woodlands and freely seeds where it is happy.  It is planted in front of the Lower School by the bridge. 


Thanks Kay! 

Time to Cheer for Amelanchier (Native Trees Aflower on Campus Now!)

It must be spring: we’ve got redbud and serviceberry trees blooming all over the place!

Cercis Canadensis (Redbud) by Admissions:

Serviceberry (also known as Shadbush and Juneberry) produces a delicious edible berry in, yupp, June. These are an important food source for native birds too, but sneak a few yourself if you can (and only if you’re sure you know it’s not something else–remember lots of berries only look edible.)

Amelanchier Canadensis (Serviceberry) by Lower school and adjacent to the community garden:

Meanwhile, in 9th grade English, we’re about to start Shipwrecks, a book about medieval Japan in which seasonal change and “mono no aware” (the bittersweetness of ephemeral beauty and bounty) are key concepts. See ’em while you can!