Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Chilly May Bloom Day

When I was a girl, my father used to watch the local weather forecasts religiously.  I thought he was rather obsessed with it, even though he was a farmer whose livelihood depended on the weather.  As for me,  if it was cold, I put on an extra coat or sweater; if it was raining, I wore a jacket with a hood--what else did you need to know?

Fast forward a few many years later, and I have turned into my father. For the past few weeks, especially, I have checked the forecast every morning, looking at both the hourly and the long-range forecasts:  what time will the rain start today?  Is there one sunny day this week I can work in the garden??  We've had so many rainy days lately that farmers are beginning to worry if they can get their crops planted in time, and workdays in the garden have been few and far between.  I've been especially concerned about the Nursing Home garden where I volunteer on Mondays--we've had to cancel so many workdays recently because it always seems to rain on Mondays!

On top of the rain, the temperatures dropped to an unusual low this weekend with frost warnings for last night and tonight.

A few hardier plants were left outside to fend for themselves.

I went on a major plant shopping spree last week with my friend Beckie, and all those plants were sitting on my back porch and patio waiting for dry weather to plant.  When I heard the forecast for frost, I tucked most of the plants into the barn for protection and covered up my blooming clematis.  Fortunately, there was no frost on the ground this morning, and all the blooming perennials were fine.  But we have one more night to get through before I feel safe enough to bring everything out once again.

Oh well, such is the life of a gardener.  In a couple of months, I'll probably be complaining about the heat and the lack of rain:)  Since there's nothing we can do about the weather, let's take a look at what is blooming on this chilly and windy May Bloom Day.

Some of my friends farther north are concerned about their lilacs this weekend, but that was one thing I didn't have to worry about since they have already finished blooming here.  Little 'Scent and Sensibility' above was covered in pink blooms, and the 'Bloomerang' lilac did well, too.  But my old-fashioned, huge lilac was a disappointment this year.  There were fewer blooms than last year, and they weren't as large as usual.  I've decided this large shrub needs a good pruning soon, but talking to friends, I found I wasn't the only one with this problem.  It may have been a late freeze in April that nipped and stunted this year's blooms.

'Jack Frost' Brunnera is almost finished blooming, but a few tiny blue flowers still remain.

More small blooms that I love on the Solomon's Seal.

The Lamium is also sporting its purple blooms right now.  Plants in the shade garden seem to have doubled in size in the past week, making me wish I'd gotten busy and divided more of them earlier.  The Lamium and the Sweet Woodruff in the forefront, though, are definitely getting moved or culled soon before they engulf this poor hosta!

One of my favorite spring blooms is Amsonia.  Both the Amsonia tabernaemontana above and the Amsonia hubrichtii have done extremely well here, unlike my poor Baptisia which has fallen victim to some kind of varmint, I'm afraid.

Love these pale blue blooms!

Most of the garden is still in that lull between spring and summer blooms, so 'Purple Sensation' Allium really stands out among all the green foliage.

Not much blooming in the Butterfly Garden either, except for Phlox pilosa, which has made itself quite at home here.  This was a gift some years back from Gail at Clay and Limestone, who has gifted many with this practically perfect native.

The blue columbines I planted several years ago have not returned, but this reddish lovely has been a faithful returnee for several years.

It's also iris season.  All of my irises are passalongs, so I don't know their names,
 but I enjoy them nonetheless.

I have several of these lavender lovelies.

My favorite--this is the first time it's bloomed. 
 I'm pretty sure this is one that Beth of Plant Postings gave me; I love it!

Finally, one of my favorite blooms this time of year--'Nelly Moser.'  I'm so happy to see her full of blooms this year after a disappointing show last year.  She's the only plant I took time to cover up last night just to make sure she wasn't nipped by the cold; I can't wait to take off her covers tomorrow to enjoy her blooms again.

There are more blooms, as well--Nepeta, 'May Night' Salvia, and Bleeding Heart, to name a few.  But soon there will be many more, and as you can see, I'm anxiously waiting for the peony show to begin!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is celebrated monthly on the 15th and is hosted by the ever-optimistic Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

Enjoy Them While You Can

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

When the poet John Keats wrote this line, I'm pretty sure he was thinking of art.  I do know he wasn't talking about spring flowers, because the beauty of spring flowers certainly doesn't last forever.  We admire and write about spring ephemerals, those short-lived woodland beauties, but really, everything about spring seems ephemeral.  Spring brings me so much joy, but if I have one complaint, it's that it simply doesn't last long enough.

For example, this was the view from my front porch just two weeks ago--the scene in my header gives an even longer view of the flowering crabapples lining my driveway.

I look forward to this sight every year and enjoy every moment of it I can.  We were lucky to have a few nice days of sunshine to enjoy them, but the rain and strong winds can make short work of all these beautiful blossoms.

The redbuds, too, show off their glowing pink blooms for only a short time before they begin to leaf out and turn a pleasant, but ordinary green.

The tulips have also been short-lived this spring.  A week or more of unusually warm weather in April--in the 70's and even reaching 80 F some days--put the tulips into overdrive with all of them blooming about the same time and fading quickly in the heat.

In my last post I lamented that all I seemed to have were yellow tulips, but I needn't have worried.  After the early yellow blooms, other tulips opened up revealing that I had indeed planted a multitude of colors.  There was the delicate pink of 'Angelique,' one of the latest to bloom.

Shades of peachy-pink in the new 'Marit.'

Darker shades of pink in the new 'Mata Hari.'  This is an interesting tulip--
the petals get darker as they age.

There were orange tulips, too, including the 'Princess Irene' which bloomed just in time for my mother's birthday.

There were even pink tulips that opened to a near white bloom--'Lady Jane,' a species tulip.  And, of course, what would spring be, without a few dandelions--one bloom that sticks around for a long, long time.

Deep dark purple 'Queen of the Night' and the white of 'Marguerite' added even more colors.

And to add even more, there were several bi-colored tulips as well.

No, my garden wasn't just a monotone of yellow this spring after all.

There are still a few tulips blooming this first week in May, but most have disappeared, and the few remaining are fading fast.  This is the first year that I can remember when the tulip display didn't last until at least mid-May.

There were other fleeting blooms as well.  The Pulmonaria bloomed before I even had a chance to get a decent photo of it, but I did manage to capture the tiny blooms of the Epimedeum above before they, too, faded.

While I am sad to see some of my favorite blossoms leave so soon, there is an upside to spring, of course.  Later blooms appear to take the place of that early show of color.  Camassia is the perfect late spring bloom, tall enough to command attention amongst all the green foliage.

And then there are bluebells.  I was so excited to see these this week, nearly hidden among the Solomon's Seal and emerging hostas.  The reason I was so happy about these bluebells is that I've planted them before, and they've always been a no-show.  I'm pretty sure these were some I planted two or three years ago, and I'd forgotten their name.  These are Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica, not the native Virginia bluebells.

Spring is such a busy season in the garden, but its blooms remind us to slow down every now and then and just enjoy the moment.  A "thing of beauty" may not last forever, but we can delight in it for as long as it is here.  We can also take joy in knowing that there is more--much more--yet to come!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

GBBD: The Case of the Mysterious Yellow Tulips

It was a dark and stormy night. . . . no,no, that's not right . . . It was a beautiful spring day with skies of the bluest blue and no hint of frost in the air.  As I let the dogs out for their morning outing, I sensed something different in the air--no wind blasting me in the face, and temperatures already promising a day when I could finally shed my winter coat.  As I ventured further outside to see where the dogs had gone off to, I noticed something else that was different--the tulips were finally blooming!

Anyone who has visited this blog in the spring before, knows that I love tulips and that tulip time is my absolute favorite time of year.  Every fall I drool over all the different varieties of tulips in the catalogs and order twice as many I had intended to.  And every year, as I hurriedly rush to finish the bulb-planting before winter makes its appearance, I look at the remaining tulip bulbs, wondering where in the world I will plant them.  There is a last-minute scramble to plant them here and there, with no thought to the original careful plans for color coordination and bloom time.  Not surprisingly, this results in some surprises every spring.

On this fine spring day, as I walked around, delighting in all the new blooms, I noticed something unexpected--almost all the tulips in bloom were yellow!  The first tulips which appeared in the arbor bed nearly a week ago were yellow.

The thing is, I don't even like yellow, especially the bright happy-face sticker kind of yellow.  At least these are a paler yellow, but still.

They were everywhere!  One solitary brighter yellow in the Lily Bed.

And more in the sidewalk bed (bordered by the dead Encore Azalea that I refuse to admit is dead). A few of these might be 'Vanilla Cream,' which I do remember planting, but I expected them to be more cream, not yellow.

Every single flower bed--except one--had yellow tulips.  If you look closely, you'll notice a little critter on this one--apparently, they like yellow better than I do.

The only place that didn't have yellow tulips was the Roadside Bed, where these pinkish tulips are blooming.  But I'm lucky to have any tulips at all in this area: last fall squirrels, voles, or some other marauding creature dug around in this garden and not only ate most of my bulbs, but destroyed a lot of other plants as well.  But that's a story for another day.

To be honest, the last day or two I've noticed a few other colors here and there in the garden.  'Red Impression' tulips above in the Arbor Bed.

And a pink-peachy blend have opened up in the Sidewalk Bed--'Ad Rem,' I think.  Their color really changes as they open up during the day and as the light hits them.

Pink tulips blooming in between the shrubs in front of the house--if all I had seen lately were pink tulips, I wouldn't have been so surprised because I do love pink.  These are probably 'Pink Impression,' my favorite pink tulip for reliability and longevity.

 We all know that hybrid tulips are short-lived, some much more so than others.  Wouldn't it be nice if they came with expiration dates?  Or a little sign that popped up in the spring saying, "Hey, this is our last visit to your garden this year, so you'd better plant more of us this fall!"  It would certainly help me in my bulb-ordering and planting each fall:)

Speaking of longevity, this orange tulip has been in the shade garden for at least eight years. There once were quite a few more of this variety in different colors, and I wish I could remember their names because I think their days may be numbered.  I am leaning more and more each year to long-lived tulips to save myself so much work in the fall.

A closer look at the same tulip.  The forecast for temps in the 70's all week certainly sounds wonderful, but not so wonderful for the tulips who much prefer it a little cooler.  I need to enjoy them while I can.

Elsewhere in the garden, there is a plethora of daffodils.  I have been buying larger collections of different varieties for naturalizing with different bloom times, so the display of daffs will extend longer through the spring.

Other spring blooms can be seen on my last post, but I couldn't resist one more photo of a favorite, the Puschkinia.  Aren't they sweet?  I'm tempted to find a spot where I could plant a whole mass of these.

But back to the mystery--who planted all those YELLOW tulips?? One clue might be found in some of the blooms just opening up. These have become my favorite tulip--'Akebono,'

'Akebono' is a double tulip in gradations of yellow with a darker pink edging around the petals,
 barely visible here.

The first year these bloomed for me I was so taken with them that I planted a few more the following year, and when the rabbits ate some of them that spring, I planted even more that fall.  And I probably added a few more this past year.  What I noticed was that not every year's plantings have turned out the same.  Perhaps it's because I've ordered them from different companies, but some of the blooms are not as full as the original 'Akebono.'  Perhaps a few of the mysterious yellow tulips are also 'Akebono,' but more of the single-petaled variety.

One of the companies lists 'Akebono' as a Darwin tulip, which usually is one of the longer-lived types of tulips available.  That explains why I have so many of these this year in my garden; these particular yellow tulips I am happy to have!

However, not all the yellow tulips are this variety, so I may never know why I have so many.  But an even bigger question remains:  what happened to the gardener who carefully recorded her bulb purchases in a garden journal each fall and then made detailed maps where each type was planted?? Apparently, she wasn't around in the fall of 2015.  I certainly hope she returns this year, but if she doesn't, will somebody please remind me this fall, Don't Plant Any More Yellow Tulips!

I'm joining in (a day late, sorry) with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day where you can check out spring--and even some autumn--blooms from around the world.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spring Tease

Is it really spring yet, or is winter going to hang around for awhile longer?  These days it's hard to tell--one day I'm working in short sleeves and turning off the furnace, and the next, I'm pulling out my winter coat again and checking to make sure the heat indoors really is turned on.  The one thing that has been constant about the weather for the past week or more is the wind.  Remember, I live in the country where the wind blows unimpeded across the flat lands, sending garbage cans far out into the field and laundry on the line into the yard, clothespins and all. I made the mistake of trying to work one day in the wind, and every few minutes my large garden bag would blow over, dumping all the stems and leaves I had just stuffed into it.  I took it as a sign and gave up.  At least we haven't had snow, like so many parts of the country . . . but I'd better knock on wood, because there's a chance of it tomorrow.

A few warm weeks in March tricked me into thinking that spring had come early this year, and tricked my garden as well.  My poor plants must be so confused!  The Macrophylla Hydrangeas and the clematis leafed out before I could even prune them; I hope the freezing temps this week don't have any long-term effects on them.

It is definitely looking like spring around here, though, even if it doesn't feel like it at times. Magnolia trees and other early-flowering trees are blooming around town, and everywhere you look, daffodils are bobbing their cheery heads in the wind.  Good thing daffodils are tough!

I didn't realize how many different daffodils I have added to the garden in the past few years.

Daffs mark Roco and Tarzan's grave 
(and several other late beloved pets as well, including Granddaughter's guinea pigs).

I don't remember the names of most of the daffodils, particularly since I've been buying more collections of different naturalizing varieties the past few years.  But this is one I remember--'Mount Hood'--a strong and tall beauty.

In recent years my tastes have changed, and I've come to love the smaller blooms of slender narcissus.  Lining the short path in the arbor bed are what I think are 'Minnow.'

Aren't these adorable?  And yes, I know the photo is a bit blurry--
it's hard to get anything to stand still in this relentless wind.

Double daffs near the lily bed--'Replete,' maybe?  
There are several clumps that definitely need dividing.

I've been relatively pleased with my latest planting.  Last fall I planted nearly a hundred daffodils--a collection of different varieties for naturalizing--at the corner of our yard.  There is a stand of pine trees bordering the south edge of the yard, and my vision is to have a "river" of daffodils between the trees going all the way from the roadside to the house.  Obviously, it's going to take several years--and probably more than a thousand bulbs--to complete this vision:)

On the other hand, the bulbs I planted in the fall of '14 around the oak tree in the expanded shade garden have multiplied a little already.  In a couple more years, this area should be more like the mass of daffodils I envisioned.

No flower exemplifies true spring to me more than tulips.  The tulip parade hasn't begun here yet, but there are plenty of other early bloomers to enjoy.  The hyacinths have been blooming for a week or more and probably won't last much longer.

Last fall I added more hyacinths in shades of pink.  I remember running out of places to put them, so they're scattered here and there.

But the purple hyacinths seem to do the best here.

Easter weekend was warm and beautiful, and I took advantage of the sunny day to bend down and get a whiff of their heavenly scent.  An added bonus--the first bee I've noticed this season was enjoying the hyacinths as much as I was.

He took no notice of the lady with a camera and creaky knees and burrowed deep into the blossoms.

Just look at the pollen sacs on this little guy!

Early spring is a time when small blooms really stand out and are much appreciated as most of the garden is just starting to emerge.

Most of the crocuses are long gone, but the giant crocus mix planted last fall in the very front lawn are still blooming.  I don't know how much longer I can hold off the Lawnmower Man from mowing this area, but I hope long enough for them to get all their nutrients to survive till next spring.  Another "vision" of mine that needs several hundred more bulbs to complete!

Scilla in the shade garden add touches of my favorite color.
Note to self:  must plant many, many more of these.

And probably my very favorite of the small spring blooms--Puschkinia.  
I planted more of these last fall, but I would be happy to have a whole mass of these.  

A few primroses survived the winter to add some bright color.

And the very first Muscari are just beginning to bloom.

Did I say the tulips have yet to bloom?  Obviously, I was wrong, because the very first tulips began to bloom today.  While I do remember the names of most of my tulips, these are a mystery to me--I don't remember planting these, let alone their name.

More tulips are forming fat buds, so it won't be long now before there is much more color in my garden.  Spring may have been teasing us, but the forecast for a week from now looks much better with temps in the '60's--perfect weather for tulips!