April showers bring May flowers . . .
But what do March flowers bring??
It's official--March 2012 was the warmest March on record in my part of Illinois, a March unlike any in recent memory and a March we may never see again. All the warm sunny days produced a kaleidoscope of blooms all racing to join the show and seemingly trying to outdo each other in splendor. I couldn't let the month end without sharing some of these blooms with you, and looking back at what was a most unusual but magnificent month.
If you had visited my garden last week, the first thing that would have caught your eye were the flowering crabapples lining the drive. Some years a hard freeze nips their buds, and they barely bloom, while other years strong winds or storms will blow off the pink petals before we've had time to enjoy them. But not this year--every tree was covered with a mass of blooms that lasted well over a week. Each year I try to capture this magic moment on camera: this photo was taken last Wednesday, a few days past their prime, but they're still looking good.
Appleblossom time usually arrives at the end of April or the first week of May; their early appearance this year was just one of many early arrivals in March. The white crabapple is always the last to bloom, but it lasts the longest and in many ways is my favorite of all. If you look closely, you'll see the bees are out and about already as well.
The lilac provided the first butterfly sighting--the Red Admirals have arrived. I don't remember the crabapples and lilacs ever blooming simultaneously before. But the old lilac appreciated the warmth, too, and produced more blooms than ever. Its delicious fragrance was carried on the breeze all the way to the front door.
The crocuses and early daffodils have faded away, but nearly every other spring bloomer was determined to make an early appearance this year. I find it hard to get a decent long shot of any of the garden areas, but many such photos were taken anyway, mostly for my own records to determine suitable planting spots this fall. By fall the shade garden above will be a mass of green, making it hard to find some bare soil for digging. But as you can see, there are plenty of empty spots for adding more bulbs. In the upper center of the photo, you'll notice a large grouping of tulips and daffodils. These were planted in front of the tall spruce tree on the left, where nothing--not even grass--grows. I envisioned a sweep of colorful blooms in front of this tree that could be seen as you drive up the lane, and I planted two bargain bags of mixed tulips and daffodils. I realized when they bloomed, though, that more than 100 bulbs are needed for that vision:) The fall to-do list has already been started . . .
I realized trying to include all the different blooms the past few weeks would have meant a ridiculously long post, so I've grouped some of them in collages. Top Row: Fothergilla 'Blue Shadow'; hellebores peeking from behind narcissus in shade garden; reliable 'Pink Impression' tulips with purple hyacinths. Bottom Row: old-fashioned lilac covered in blooms; petite 'Tazettas' in arbor bed; Brunnera 'Jack Frost' in shade garden.
Top Row: Only one of last year's new 'Professor Roentgen' returned; unknown orange tulip in lily bed; new 'Akebona' tulip; one of bargain mix daffodils in front of evergreen. Bottom Row: varieties of muscari edge part of lily bed; either 'Apricot Beauty' or 'Apricot Delight' in sidewalk bed; NOID yellow tulip; more narcissus.
But there are a few blooms, especially some of the new tulips planted in the arbor bed that deserve individual portraits. Purplish-pink 'Double Maureen' is a true beauty queen.
Edged in red, 'Akebona' opens to a delicate pale yellow.
With streaks of pink, 'Montreux' is a pristine white beauty. You may have noticed I have a fondness for double flowering tulips. Last year's stunner, the orange 'Professor Roentgen', had a disappointing return this year, and I wonder if these new more exotic double tulips will be short-lived as well. I try to plant more of the hardier Darwin tulips, but there will always be a few new double beauties for me to admire each spring.
With all the tulips blooming a month early, I am beginning to wonder if there will be anything blooming in April. Still, there are a few varieties of tulips yet to bloom, including the later 'Angeliques' which are just beginning to open up. My favorite of all tulips, the 'Angeliques' have returned reliably for several years,
But spring isn't just about tulips--my granddaughter's favorite bloom of all, the old-fashioned bleeding heart, always draws attention in the shade garden.
I'm not sure what April will bring--much-needed showers, a return to frosty nights, or the early arrival of summer flowers. But whatever happens, I shouldn't complain--March, you have been magnificent!