The wild riots of spring continue, from the spring peeper frogs’ coral cacophony in wetlands and woods to the hoots, chirps and caws of owls, mockingbirds and blue jays.
And those trees! Never have we seen such early blossoms as these. Before this year, we have no records of first bloom for the earliest-flowering crab apples at Secrest Arboretum in Wooster until April 4. As for the usual date of first bloom, in recent years it’s been the third or fourth week of April. This year: March 23.
Similarly, many of the magnolias in Northeast Ohio started blooming early last week and star magnolias were beginning to brown late last week, but not for the usual reason, which is frost injury. They were browning from heat — namely day after day in the 80s. Then Sunday night there was a hard frost and now many magnolia types are blasted, though some buds are still healthy.
Flowering dogwoods are starting to bloom and redbuds have burst forth as well, with their pinks and purples as well as the wonderfully fresh and starchy look of the sub-species Cercis canadensis ‘Alba,’ the oxymoronic “white” redbud.
Eating apples are not quite yet blooming in full, which is good, since last Sunday’s frost dipped into the 27-28 degree range in some locations, which can be quite devastating, as it may have been for many cherries and peaches already in full flower.
Bees are buzzing, multicolored Asian ladybeetles are biting, and even early plant diseases may be brewing: Look for the orange masses of the cedar apple rust fungus to blaze forth soon with jellylike horns of millions of spores emerging from galls on eastern red cedar trees (junipers). These spores will microscopically splash and blow to nearby apples and hawthorn trees.
About the only thing certain, though, is that this wild ride of a spring will continue to amaze. No napping. If you snooze, you may lose out on some of your favorite wildflowers and other wonders. Speaking of which, large-flowered trilliums are already blooming in Johnson Woods Nature Preserve near Orrville. Blooming, that is, mostly in their deer-exclosure wire structures, since grazing deer have nibbled down most of the once abundant trillium colonies throughout this nature preserve.
What else is happening in the great outdoors? Well, a new disease has joined the invasive insects that have given us such headaches recently, from gypsy moths to emerald ash borers, to the isolated infestation of Asian long-horned beetles in Clermont County in Southwest Ohio. This new disease is boxwood blight, a fungal disease of boxwood and pachysandra.
The fungus is a British invasion less felicitous than the Beatles and the Mersey Sound invasion of the 1960s. So far it is found in 10 states, and in Ohio only in one nursery. So we hope it will not be a significant problem on landscape boxwoods, but is a serious concern for Ohio’s multimillion-dollar boxwood production industry.
Hopefully, you will not hear much more about this disease, but for now here is the symptom profile: brown spots or lesions on leaves, sometimes with dark borders; spots eventually growing together, often with a zonate or targetlike appearance; areas of straw-colored foliage and overall stem dieback and blighting of shoots; significant leaf drop when the disease is severe; dark brown to black angular spots on stems; and during moist warm conditions the disease can progress and kill stems.
If this does become a landscape problem for Beacon Journal readers, we will be sharing more with you from our weekly Ohio State University Extension Buckeye Yard and Garden Line (BYGL) electronic newsletter. BYGL returns next week, starting on Thursday, after its winter hiatus. Check it out at bygl.osu.edu.
Rites of spring
The Rite of Spring was the legendary ballet (Nijinsky) with music (Stravinsky) and production (Diaghilev) that caused a dissonant riot in Paris in 1913, but consider a more mellow “Rites of Spring” woodland walk with your family.
Take a trek this weekend to see the emerging beauty of an early Ohio spring. When you see something spectacular, for whomever in your family still has the eyes of a child (age is not a factor), reward with treats all around, jelly beans, raisins or some such.
My daughter Anna has carried this family tradition with her into her middle-school teaching program with Eastern Michigan University.
Sacre de Printemps (Rite of Spring)!
Jim Chatfield is a horticultural educator with Ohio State University Extension. If you have questions about caring for your garden, write: Jim Chatfield, Plant Lovers’ Almanac, Ohio State University Extension, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691. Send email to email@example.com or call 330-466-0270. Please include your phone number if you write.