Bloom(s) of the Week, April 12th-May 3rd, 2015.

It is amazing how fast Spring flowers can cause our memories of the snowy winter to fade away. We have been very busy the past few weeks getting the season started off. There certainly is a lot of cleaning up and prep work to do out in the garden. Perennials are coming back fast and furious and many trees and shrubs are already starting to leaf out. Because of the many plants in bloom right now we decided to share some classic sights of Spring, rather than pick one particular species for our bloom of the week. Please feel free to share some of your favorite Spring flowers with us!

Bloom of the Week, April 5th-11th, 2015

Aside from the tiny crocuses and snowdrops dotting the ground, the landscape in Eastern Massachusetts is more or less devoid of color again this week. One exception to the lack of color are the late Winter/Spring-blooming witch hazel varieties, which we have selected as our "bloom of the week."

 Hybrid witch hazel ( Hamamelis x intermedia ) in full bloom in Somerville, MA this week.

Hybrid witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) in full bloom in Somerville, MA this week.

The predominant variety we see planted in our area is Hamamelis x intermedia, known as "hybrid witch hazel." This deciduous shrub can grow up to 15 feet in size and comes in several different cultivars. During the growing season it has simple egg-shaped leaves, turning a soft golden yellow during late Fall. The shrub is a cross between Asian Hamamelis species, so unfortunately it is not a native. That being said, it adds great visual interest this time of year and makes a beautiful, robust addition to a large foundation planting or woodland edge.

 Close-up of hybrid witch hazel in bloom.

Close-up of hybrid witch hazel in bloom.

There is also a late Winter/Spring-blooming witch hazel variety available, Hamamelis vernalis, that is native to the Ozark region of North America, which can serve as an American (though not exactly native to our area) substitute. Our truly "native" witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a late Fall bloomer and is a spectacular plant that will likely be a candidate for "bloom of the week" later this season.

 Hybrid witch hazel provides striking late-Winter/early-Spring color to an otherwise drab landscape.

Hybrid witch hazel provides striking late-Winter/early-Spring color to an otherwise drab landscape.

If you look carefully you will notice the crowns of many perennials starting to emerge from the soil, as well as buds forming on some of the deciduous trees and shrubs. The snow is pretty much all gone now and the lawns are starting to turn green. Now is an ideal time to get out and take care of winter damaged plants and do some maintenance on the lawn and garden. Please contact us you have any questions about how to get your yard back into shape after this winter. 

Bloom(s) of the Week, March 30-April 4th, 2015

Throughout the season we are going to add posts showcasing plants that are currently in bloom or fruiting. The posts are intended to pay homage to a star performer during that week and to bring recognition to old favorites and new species alike.

After a rugged winter and a delayed spring warm-up, everything is behind schedule here in Eastern Massachusetts. Fortunately, signs of life have started to appear-- songbirds are out and about, some of the tree buds are starting to show, and grass (where it isn't still buried in snow!) is greening up. The surest sign of Spring, however, are the tiny minor bulbs that rise miraculously from the barren ground, adding small splashes of color to an otherwise drab landscape.

 Common snowdrop bringing some life back to the garden. 

Common snowdrop bringing some life back to the garden. 

This week we are honoring those minor bulbs-- Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Spring crocus (Crocus vernus) that are the first bloomers of the season. Typically these little guys come out in early to mid-March around these parts, but they just started showing earlier this week. Although they are not native species, these plants serve an important ecological service by providing the first source of nectar to bees and other pollinators emerging from their winter slumber.

 Spring crocus greeting the sun.

Spring crocus greeting the sun.

 Spring crocus come in many colors.

Spring crocus come in many colors.

These optimistic little flowers are great for transitioning your garden from winter to spring, as they already start fading away by the time many of the other spring flowers emerge. Try planting some minor bulbs in the fall to help bring your garden out of the winter doldrums early next season and give the pollinators a needed boost at the same time.

 Snowdrops out at last. Earlier this season there was 6 feet of snow covering this particular garden bed.

Snowdrops out at last. Earlier this season there was 6 feet of snow covering this particular garden bed.

 Waiting for the sun.

Waiting for the sun.

 Crocus happy to provide a meal of nectar to visiting pollinators.

Crocus happy to provide a meal of nectar to visiting pollinators.

Have a particular plant you would like us to feature? Have questions or comments? Make sure to post to the comments section of the blog or contact us directly.

What is "stormwater"?

 The great winter of 2015... Glad we don't have to see this again for a while.

The great winter of 2015... Glad we don't have to see this again for a while.

This post is part one of a series exploring the issue of stormwater and how landscape design can be used to reduce and treat runoff.

As I was walking around Somerville the other day I couldn’t help but rejoice at how little snow was left on the ground and how free and clear the sidewalks and roads had become. A few weeks prior you could barely go anywhere. Scuttling along tiny ice-covered paths, haphazardly shoveled through immense snow piles was the only way to get around. Driving was terrible. Parking—you're better off staying put.  The MBTA, let’s not even go there. We were all stuck, housebound with cabin fever. Thank goodness that is over.

Although now we all take delight in the melting snow and our restored freedom to get out and about, we are left with the unsightly remnants of the past couple months. Trash, salt, sand, oil and gas sheens, and pet waste are everywhere. As the snow continues to melt and the spring rains move in, all of that pollution is going to go somewhere. Street sweepers and sewer systems will capture some of the contaminants, but a large percentage will flow into our streams, ponds, and coastal waters. The water from rain and snow that runs off of the land surface is known as “stormwater” and it is a major contributor to urban flooding and water pollution.

 Stormwater in Somerville entering a storm drain. Notice the visible oil sheen on the surface.

Stormwater in Somerville entering a storm drain. Notice the visible oil sheen on the surface.

In natural landscapes water is absorbed into the ground through a process known as infiltration. The problem is that in urban environments the land surface is dominated by impervious surfaces, like roofs, roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks. These surfaces create a landscape that does not allow water to be absorbed, thereby creating high volumes of runoff. As the stormwater rolls along it picks up contaminants from road surfaces and other hardscapes. Oils and grease, brake dust, pet waste, gasoline, sediment, and all other sorts of nasty things go along for the ride, ultimately ending up in surface waters causing pollution and environmental degradation. Stormwater can also cause flooding during periods of heavy precipitation when water flows to low lying areas faster than it is able to drain away. Stormwater is one of the biggest contributors to water pollution in urban areas and is a major issue for all highly developed/urbanized landscapes. As we say "good riddance" to all the snow, remember that the water and the contaminants it carries eventually has to go somewhere.

In future posts I'll share some thoughts on how landscape design can be used to reduce stormwater volume and lessen the impact that urban runoff has on the environment.

 Flooding in Somerville after a summer downpour.

Flooding in Somerville after a summer downpour.