Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April's Last Hurrah

There's an old cliche in Illinois (and probably elsewhere) that says, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes and it will change." That has certainly been true here the last few days. Last week started out with beautiful spring weather, and my hyacinths were in all their glory.

By the end of the week it was summer, or so it seemed--so hot and humid that the hyacinth blooms dried up and blew away, as did my daffodils. Then it became colder and colder; by Monday the weather gods were so confused they didn't know what to do. The sun shone, then it rained, then it snowed, then sleeted, then hailed, all in less than a few hours. I put blankets over my hydrangeas and a few other tender perennials Monday night in preparation for the freeze warnings. Thankfully, we didn't get the freeze forecast for that night and the next, and everything has survived.

The forecast for the rest of this week is warmer once again, and I'm hoping that lasts. My flowering crabapple trees were just about to bloom last week.

This week, in spite of the crazy weather, most of them have opened up.

They put on quite a show for a week or two for anyone who drives up our lane. These trees were all planted by my in-laws some years ago, and as you can see, there are at least two varieties of flowering crabapples. Perhaps some people think the pink and red clash, but I like the effect. The green tree to the left of the photo is another variety of crabapple, I think; it has white blooms that are not quite open yet.

If the weather isn't being cooperative for gardening, what's a girl to do? Why, go shopping, of course! And that's just what my good friend Beckie and I decided to do. By the way, in my last post I wrote about good friends of mine that I had taught with for many years. Beckie and I have been best friends even longer than that, which is pretty amazing since we're both only 35!

Ok, wipe the smile off your face, and back to the subject...

Since we both find shopping for plants infinitely preferable to clothes shopping, we decided to visit a couple of garden centers, including Prairie Gardens, where we attended a few workshops earlier this month. I have been wanting to try a newer species of gallardia called "Oranges and Lemons," and luckily I found just enough for the area I've planned. We bought a few other perennials we've been looking for, but resisted the temptation, for the most part, to buy annuals--it's still too early here for them. We checked them out, though, and took some notes and some pictures to remind us in a week or two what we'd like to buy.
There was certainly no shortage of petunias! Growers must be coming up with a new variety every year. There were the now-common wave petunias, the supertunias (my favorite), million bells, and something called surfinia (I'm not sure now if that is the correct name). I love this lavendar double petunia pictured below and plan to buy some later for containers. It was in a hanging planter, so I didn't get the name of it, but I'm sure I'll recognize it when I see it again.
By the time we hit the second garden center, our wallets were getting a little thin, so we mostly window-shopped, although neither of us could resist buying a yellow fusion impatiens. It was a little pricey, so I'm hoping we'll be able to find more of these a little cheaper in a couple of weeks. I didn't check the price on this basket of pink double impatiens below, but I'm sure it was more than I wanted to spend. I love this look, though, and am going to try to duplicate it myself. Last year was the first time I had ever seen double impatiens--they look just like miniature roses and far outshine regular impatiens.

One last stop before going home--we wanted to see the Master Gardeners' Idea Garden on the U. of I. campus. We had stopped there at the end of March when the only thing "blooming" was the rabbit planters. What a difference three weeks can make! Although there weren't that many spring blooms, there was green everywhere.

The nice thing about this garden is that every plant is clearly marked with a sign indicating its species and common name besides its native habitat.

The Master Gardeners experiment with many different varieties and species so that it's a great place to see how well a particular plant might do in this area. This beautiful flowering quince, for example, is not very common here, I believe, but it's obviously thriving in this plot.

I can't believe I have lived in this area all my life, and yet this is the first year I've ever visited this gardening site. Beckie and I made a vow to visit here often during the summer to enjoy the garden and to pick up new ideas for next year.

Finally, it was time to go home--I had to get to my granddaughter's soccer game. But we hadn't gone more than a few hundred feet down the street when we spotted a whole field of lilacs. Well, of course, we had to stop to see--and smell--them. There were several varieties of lilacs planted, including this beautiful, but not very fragrant, white lilac.

The field is on part of the University campus, but there were no signs, and I couldn't find any note of it on the official campus map. My guess is that it is part of an experimental plot for the horticulture department, since this whole area includes other gardens and groves of trees.

We finally tore ourselves away and made it home in time for the soccer game. As you can see, there was still plenty of room in the back of my van; I think we showed remarkable restraint on our shopping spree, don't you? Of course, next time I'll take out the back seat so we have more room!


  1. Thank you for the 35! That's pretty close if you don't consider I tell everyone on my blog I've been married 40 years. Your picture turned out soooo much better than mine. But that's okay. I'm just glad you showed some of the great plants we saw. It was fun and relaxing-and today, I came back to the real world of laundry, dealing with my Dad and trying to straighten out insurance problems. Can we do his every other day?!
    Great post, by the way! :)

  2. Thanks, Beckie. Just came back here to find a link to another blog and saw there was a comment. I wondered who in the world is reading this at 11:30 at night?! Of course, what am I doing right now but reading blogs as well.
    Yes, unfortunately the real world does intrude on us far too often. Let's plan another outing for next week. :)

  3. Love the trees, for me the combination works perfectly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
    I would love to have followed you and Beckie around the garden centres. What a show of plants you had to look at. Perhaps its just as well you didn't have the seat down this time!!

    Great post and love your humour....35 hhmmmm about the same age as me!!!!

  4. My, you did have a good day! How big is your garden?!!! It looks enormous, about the size of Wales.

  5. Well, Cheryl, I thought you were 35, too? :)
    Yes, we had a great time on Tuesday. I went shopping for some new clothes on Wednesday--not so much fun.

    Liz, My garden is not as big as Wales; LOL. Our house sits on about 6 acres, but only a tiny part of that is turned into a garden. I love the big yard, but my husband doesn't love it so much in the summer when it takes one whole day of the weekend to mow it!

  6. Rose ! I loved reading about you and your friend plant shopping and how young you two are ! hehehe
    I was in a 20 minute freak snow blizzard yesterday .. so believe me .. we are all having WEIRD weather !
    I just picked up more plants today and swore I wouldn't be doing this .. no room ! But some how I will manage to shoe horn them in again ?
    What beautiful crab-apples ? .. trees are so gorgeous when they put on a show like that. Spring bulbs are fading fast here too. We sort of jump into summer quickly as well .. except for that blizzard thing yesterday .. that was a shocker ! haha
    Thanks for stopping by my blog ! Emma is growing like a weed is right .. but Sophie has body weight behind her to give her a smack down when she gets too pushy ? LOL
    Joy ..
    PS .. I call my car the "plantmobile" hahaha

  7. I think the red & pink Crabs look great together. I'm with you & Beckie - I'd much rather shop for plants. They always look good on me. We did get the freeze, the forecasted one and a bonus freeze for free. Too much fun.

  8. All those photos were so beautiful. Made me want to go straight to the garden centre (it is past 11pm here now and I must go to bed soon)! That peach coloured blossom is georgious, I would love one of those!
    Thanks for such a nice post:)

  9. Indeed you did show great restrait, Rose. Isn't it fun to be a bit crazed this time of year (only gardeners know)? There's an old cliche in Michigan also that says, "If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes and it will change." Happy planting!

  10. Very nice pictures Rose! Your trees are beautiful.

    I love double impatiens. They're a bit pricey, but they're also very easy to propagate from cuttings. I've overwintered some and taken cuttings from them - every cutting grew. They are a bit messy, drop their blossoms a lot. But they're very floriforous, so there's always more where the fallen came from. I too love their little rose-like blossoms.

  11. Hi Rose you're right it's just 10pm now. I did manage a few glasses but Husband drinks more quickly than me so the bottle is empty almost before I've begun!!

    He said she found some friends as soon as she arrived and went off happily, which is a big change from last time. It is dark now so I hope she's OK.

    Thanks so much for commenting at mine. I always enjoy hearing from you

    Suburbia :)

  12. Garden4joy, Well Beckie and I are young at heart, at least! Every year I seem to buy more plants than what I have a pot or space to put them in, so I usually have at least one "catchall" container with the leftover plants. Sometimes it actually looks pretty good!

    MMD, I hope your plants survived the freeze. I know I wasn't the only one spreading blankets out on the garden earlier this week. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Joey, Yes, I seem to go a little crazy this time of year. But it's so worth it the rest of the summer enjoying all the color.

    Garden Girl, Thanks for the tip on propagating impatiens. I had no idea you could do that; I would love to hear more about all the plants you keep over the winter.

    Suburbia, I would like one of the peach colored trees/shrubs, too. I'll have to check it out.
    Thanks for the update on Tall Girl; glad she found some friends right away. Hopefully she'll come home telling you about all the fun she had!

  14. Hi Rose,

    Found you via Earth & Tree. You have a nice blog here. On to May!

  15. what a wonderful day out!

    I think that pink crabapple bloom is just gorgeous.. walking down the lane beneath those lovely trees at the moment must be very special :-)

    we have a lilac lilac (if you see what I mean!) and its out at the moment and the fragrance is heavenly .. but I've always hankered after a white one, so pure and fresh looking


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