This is Baptisia 'Purple Smoke.' Last spring I planted seven of them. They developed a fungus on their roots and leaves, and died back in early autumn. I've never had a single problem with baptisia grown in previous gardens. I've found them to be tough, reliable perennials not subject to mildew, black spot or other fungus that can plague other varieties such as phlox, roses, and monarda. They've bloomed beautifully for me in part sun in previous gardens.
In the past I've planted the species, and it's possible this cultivar isn't as sturdy. The baptisia still haven't emerged, and I feared the garden had suffered more casualties. I dug up this one to inspect the roots. I found some dead spots and trimmed them off, and found no visible signs of the fungus from last year. I also saw, much to my delight, some small signs of new growth. After trimming the roots, I lovingly replanted the baptisia. Two days later, this is how I found it.
Evil yard monkeys had struck again. Anytime I have new transplants, I check them daily and too frequently find them dug up by the squirrels. Sometimes, with smaller transplants, they cart them off, never to be seen again. Fortunately this one was left behind. I replanted it, saturated it to settle the soil, and piled several inches of mulch around the disturbed soil. Squirrels seem to smell freshly-dug soil, gravitating to new transplants and digging them out before the roots have an opportunity to knit into the soil. Heavy mulching seems to throw them off. I leave only as much bare soil around the crown as needed to allow top growth to emerge. I didn't initially mulch this baptisia like that. But replanting it the second time, I didn't make that mistake. So far, it remains undisturbed.
Sometimes the silly yard monkeys replant their finds elsewhere. Last spring while planting a few hosta divisions, I found two missing astilbes replanted under an overgrown yew hedge. It was generous of the squirrels to reconsider stealing them, and so helpful of them to replant them and thus prevent the roots from drying out. Unfortunately, they haven't learned how to replant them crown side up. These two poor astilbes were trying very hard to emerge in spite of their dire circumstances. I rescued and replanted them. Also unfortunately, I didn't find them in time and they ultimately succumbed.
The squirrels are busily building their nests in our cedars. Next, as the maples leaf out, more nests will appear. We usually have at least five nests between the maples and cedars, with an average of 2-3 litters per nest per season. Like juvenile primates, young squirrels are often even more mischievous than their adult counterparts.
I have a friend who enjoys squirrel stew, and I've often fantasized about inviting him over for some backyard hunting. My friend also enjoys rabbit. Since the rabbits often eat what the squirrels don't destroy, I figure, why not let my friend cull the rabbit population as well. Don't be alarmed, it's just a fantasy, one I don't really intend to carry out. But on days when they pull stuff like THIS, my harmless little fantasy brings me some comfort.