Winter Interest

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Amazing winter landscaping is obvious at the Arboretum now that leaves have fallen. A curbside planting of purple coneflower bordered by catmint on one side and blue fescue on the other plays light against dark; short against tall; fluffy, straight and dotted against each other.

Bee Balm and Grass

Bee Balm and Grass

Red oak leaves hang stiffly above swaying, hay-colored grasses. The brown seed globes of bee balm become distinct against a backdrop of flaxen grasses. Naked magnolias are tipped with furry white catkins.

Common Winterberry

Common Winterberry

Red berries of common winterberry add brightness to the landscape despite today’s heavy clouds. Northern white cedars are dripping with clusters of small brown cones. A blue jay perches silently atop a bare tree, scrutinizing the treetops. Two skeins of geese honk as they fly overhead in V-formation. Other birds are keeping quiet today, just a few jays, crows, and sparrows calling quickly.

Kentucky Coffee Tree Branch

Kentucky Coffee Tree Branch

Kentucky coffee tree’s bare branches now reveals its large brown seed pods. Some have holes drilled into them, and I wonder whether the predator sought seeds or insects.

Muskrat Lodges

Muskrat Lodges

With plants now bare, muskrat lodges are visibly dotting the wetlands. These furry mammals eat many cattails, along with other plants, insects and amphibians. They also build their homes of cattails, literally eating the walls during winter. Their presence prevents wetlands from becoming too heavily planted, prevents flooding and provides open water for aeration and waterfowl.

The brook in the woodland gurgles loudly as water rushes downhill. Witch hazel is still in bloom! Four tiny, yellow thread-like petals splay open from four round golden sepals in the center.

With our late fall staying above freezing, some hybrid roses are still in flower, although withered from cold. Conversely, our Minnesota native wild rose has no petals. It sports a few red hips, but most are black and starting to release seed.

Handcrafted Ornaments

Handcrafted Ornaments

Indoors, a pair of fir trees are decorated with a pollinator theme in the dining room. Created by the Minnesota Herb Society volunteers, its handcrafted ornaments are delightful: butterflies, bees, and birds made of dried flowers, leaves, seed pods and strands, birch bark, acorns, felt, and more.

Buds on Oak Branch tips

Buds on Oak Branch tips

Multiple buds are growing on oak branch tips – a promise of spring before our winter has fully set in!

As the sky darkens, pairs of huge circles glow yellow and pink atop a grassy mound. They blink like giant owl eyes as part of the “Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” exhibit. As I depart, cars stream in to view this unique indoor and outdoor show.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Nature Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Winter Interest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s