Rhubarb, the first perennial edible to wake up in my garden, thrives in full to limited sunshine. It is appropriate for edible and ornamental gardens. Purchase plants or beg divisions from a grower. We are eating nutritious rhubarb sauce from last season’s harvest stored in the freezer. Photo: Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: At home in the forest and garden: A guided adventure

Here is a collection of personal introductions to many of my wild friends.

April 6 – 19, 2020

Mount Washington — While physical distancing from most in our human community is necessary, physical intimacy with nature can only bring health and happiness to all who adventure outdoors. Next to the stars in the sky, trees are among our grandest and most reliable confidantes. On a recent walk along a country lane, I was surprised by the feeling that large trees, especially, seemed to actively draw me to pay attention to them. Then, the recently melted waterways opened my ears to their spring music. A mourning cloak butterfly crossed my path. In the heat of the afternoon, spring peepers chanted as if to tell me, for sure, that winter is past.

Here is a collection of personal introductions to many of my wild friends. I introduced this issue of Nature’s Turn with a nod to gardens, and will end with another garden note.

Red maple (Acer rubrum), also known as swamp maple, is the first forest tree to show swollen red flower buds. Silver maples (Acer saccharinum), notable along riverbanks and floodplains, have similar, very early buds. Photo: Judy Isacoff
A pruning from the red maple branch, above, photographed on one of the last patches of snow. The bud scales, i.e. coverings, are spreading, soon to reveal the male or female organs. If the opened buds contain two-pronged, ruby red antler-like structures, these are pollen-catching female flowers that are followed by the familiar samaras, winged seeds commonly called helicopters. If the bud has tiny stems bearing yellow pollen, the tree is male. The flowers will pollinate female flowers on another tree. Male trees do not produce seed. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Sprouting red oak acorn in bed of predominantly red oak leaves. Pink-red nutmeat bursting out of its shell. Return to see acorns put down roots and sprout stems with leaves. The red oak (Quercus rubra) leaves have an indented margin, or edge; the pointed leaf tips resemble fire flames. Notice the ample petiole, or leafstalk, that attaches leaf to stem of parent tree. Pictured here with a few beech leaves that appear pleated. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Ridged bark of red oak trees. Foreground trunk has unusually red striations, background trunk more typical ridges. Notice deep green moss and grey lichen on the bark. Touch the soft moss and take a close look at the lichen. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Graceful trunk of an individual red oak tree: Respond to its unique asymmetry by mimicking it with playful posturing. Slide your hand down the curve. Hug the tree and rest your whole body, including your head, on its sturdy form. Linger to listen to the tree with your ear to its body. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) bark, likened by some naturalists to ‘burnt potato chips’ as a way to differentiate it from other trees and remember the tree’s identity. Background: eastern hemlock; foreground beech twigs with marcescent (persisting) leaves. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Free-flowing water blazing under the Sun, one of the first sensations of early spring. Pause to listen to the sounds of running and skipping water up close and received from faraway. Photo: Judy Isacoff
All maple trees and shrubs have opposite twigs on their stems with opposite buds on the twigs. This striped maple shrub, or small tree (Acer pensylvanicum), is also known as moosewood. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Identify white pine (Pinus strobes) by its long, soft needles with a white stripe. Also, look closely to notice that the needles are attached to the stem in little bunches of five needles each. The word ‘white’ has five letters and white pine five needles to a bunch, another way to be sure it is a white pine. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Return to the garden or a patch of bare ground, or wherever you might grow a potted plant. This shallow saucer of sprouting coriander seed will soon grow a stand of cilantro. Photo: Judy Isacoff


By the time we meet here again, if we haven’t already begun, we will be planting frost-hardy flowers and vegetables. My cool-weather mainstays are lettuces, Asian greens, peas, onions, beets, parsnips and potatoes. I am planning a new Purple Passion asparagus bed, too.

I leave you with this wonderful movie.


Ward’s Nursery http://wardsnursery.net/ – store and greenhouse open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Trees, shrubs, perennials, cold hardy plants, seed potatoes, seeds and bird-attracting supplies. Spacious, touch-free checkout. Call in orders for curbside pick-up.

Windy Hill Farm https://windyhillfarminc.com/about/ – Projected opening Monday, April 20, check website. Specialty: large fruit trees, perennial and annual plants, seeds. Protected checkout.



Frogs and toads sing – https://musicofnature.com/calls-of-frogs-and-toads-of-the-northeast/