Sneakily Ringing in the New Year

Working outside last weekend, I unknowingly uncovered this Southern ring-neck snake (Diadophis punctatus), who I’m sure was trying to stay warm. These cute snakes have one of the largest distributions of any North American native snake, ranging from Canada south to Florida. As many snakes as I’ve run across, I can’t specifically remember spotting one of these before. In a Kansas population study, they were counted at between 250-700 per acre, so they’re anything but scarce. They are completely harmless to humans, but spend their lives eating earthworms, small lizards, and other invertebrates.

Southern ring-neck snake

2 thoughts on “Sneakily Ringing in the New Year”

  1. Tony,
    I came across a pair of Northern Ringneck Snakes Diadophis punctatus ssp. edwardsii the mountains of SW Virginia. It was an early spring morning and they were in a cold-induced stupor. The orange color of their ventral (belly) scales is striking.

    Last week I had a “first” in my garden in SW Wake Co. when planting bulbs I dug up a small frog, likely a tree frog of unknown species. It was hibernating several inches deep in one of my beds. It was cold enough the frog didn’t wake and I reburied it so it could continue its winter nap.

    Question: I am just now getting the last of my bulbs in the ground (mid-January) and was curious what your opinion is on planting spring flowering bulbs in this late in NC zone 8a? Some say late late plantings have increased risk of bulb rot, delayed blooming, and poor performance for 1st season, though they rebound well in the 2nd year. Others say planting bulbs in January is fine for NC zone 8a, preferable to planting too early and risking active growth during a warm fall, saying its OK to plant spring bulbs all winter long since the ground rarely freezes. Any advice on planting bulbs in NC zone 8a in winter?

    One final question: I’m trying out Camas lilies (Camassia leichtlinii alba) this year for the 1st time. I’ve read Camassia do well in part shade, in heavy clay soil that is poor draining. My woodland garden has just such a spot that needs some flowering plants. Do you have any experience with Camassia or other plants that thrive in heavy clay soils that experience alternating wetter winters and drier summers?

    Thanks for the advice,

    1. The key would be how the bulbs have been stored. If they were stored in a cooler, refrigerator, or cool garage, they may still be fine. Most bulbs require a winter chill to flower, so if they don’t get adequate chill, they may sprout, but subsequently die. Some bulbs may possibly last for a second year if not adequately chilled, while others do not. You It’s always preferable to plant bulbs as early as possible in fall. Later planning only makes sense if the bulbs have been partially pre-chilled. Planting bulbs early in fall does not cause them to emerge early. Bulbs sprout when they have received their winter chill, regardless of the planting date. Most bulbs are very tolerant of cold snaps once they have started to emerge.

      We love camassias. C. leichtlinii grows well for us, but is best in part sun, very open shade. They would not perform well in dense shade.

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