Friday, May 24, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday:Just Getting Started

Ah, spring!  The time when each day brings some new bloom to be enjoyed and the time when gardening enthusiasts finally get to play in the dirt.  And the time when my to-do list seems to get longer every day . .  . sigh. With limited time (and energy) and the unpredictability of the weather, I've had to prioritize the list of garden chores.  First on the list is getting all those new plants in the ground or in containers.  Just as I make a dent in my "plant ghetto" on the back porch and patio, new plants mysteriously appear to take up the vacated spaces.  Who is it, I wonder, who keeps buying so many plants and just where does she think they're going to go??

At the bottom of the to-do list usually is the butterfly garden where the natives and volunteers have been allowed to fend for themselves.  I usually don't pay much attention to this area until something is blooming and catches my eye.

Thank goodness these pink pretties are at the front of the butterfly garden where they are immediately noticed, despite the weedy grass surrounding them.  This is, of course, the famous PPPP--Phlox pilosa--known throughout Blogland, thanks to the generosity of Gail of Clay and Limestone. In fact, this stand started from three small starts given to me several years ago by Gail.  They have multiplied over the years, but what has me really excited this year is that they now have spread to another area. Those thuggish obedient plants and aggressive asters aren't going to conquer this little beauty!

Nearby in the better-tended arbor bed Amsonia hubrichtii is blooming.  Planted three years ago as a delicate little seedling, it finally seems to be coming into its own.  The blooms don't seem to be as blue as that of its cousin, but it's the interesting foliage of this plant that makes it a year-round winner, turning a lovely bronze in the fall.

Its relative, Amsonia tabernaemontana is just starting to bloom.  Once a beautiful plant, I made the mistake of dividing and moving it last year--something I won't attempt again!  I'm glad to see it survived; hopefully, one day I'll have not one, but two large specimens of this plant I first fell in love with at the Lurie Garden during the Chicago Fling of '09.

While these are the only natives currently in bloom in my garden, I hope to have many more to show in the coming months.  I ordered a few plants from Prairie Moon Nursery, and two weeks ago I went to the local Prairie Plant Society's plant sale.  The plant sale always seems to fall on the same day we have our big planting day at the Idea Garden, so I either miss it or get there late.  This year I got my act together and headed out early to the plant sale, which was definitely a good idea.  There were so many more selections available before everything had been picked over!

Between my order and the plant sale, I now have these new additions to the Butterfly Garden: Coreopsis tripteris (tall coreopsis), Echinacea Pallida (the pale coneflower I've always wanted!), Ratibida pinnata (yellow or gray-headed coneflower),  Eryngium yuccifolium  (Rattlesnake Master),  Helenium (Sneezeweed), a foxglove beardstongue,  Royal Catchfly, and a trillium (planted in the shade garden).  I also stopped at a plant sale on the way home--a local gardener who plants mostly natives and has lots of nice divisions looking for new homes every spring--and added another Joe Pye weed and a 'Baby Joe' to the collection.

Image from Wikipedia 
One of the purchases I made really intrigues me.  Royal Catchfly Silene Regia is included in the database of Illinois Wildflowers so it may be well-known to wildflower enthusiasts, but it is a plant I'd never heard of before.  According to both this website and the Prairie Moon catalog, Royal Catchfly is on the endangered status in Illinois and is attractive to Black Swallowtails and hummingbirds.  Two reasons I hope it does well in my garden!

While I wait for all these new natives to grow, there are other blooms attracting my attention in the garden this week.   I realize this isn't a wildflower, but the irises are in full bloom right now, and I had just had to show off one of these beauties.

I'm glad to finally join in once again in the Wildflower Wednesday celebrations, and with all these new babies in the garden, I'm looking forward to having more to share in the coming months.  Wildflower Wednesday is hosted the fourth Wednesday of every month by the best friend of pollinators, Gail at Clay and Limestone.  Thanks, Gail, for reminding us of the importance of going native!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Bloom Day: My Favorite Time of Year

It's May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the time when most people's gardens in the Northern Hemisphere are bursting into bloom.  But you really should have been here a week ago . . .

A week ago, the red and pink crabapples lining the driveway (see header photo) were still in bloom, and the white crabapple, always the last to bloom, joined in to complete the show. This is why early May has become my new favorite time of year.

The white crab was loaded with blossoms this year, and full of bees buzzing about.

Usually the first to bloom, the redbud waited until the crabapples bloomed and quickly began to leaf out.  This redbud was a disappointment this year with sparse blooms, perhaps the result of the past two summers of drought.

The lilacs are still in bloom, but were also at their peak a week ago.  This old-fashioned lilac, now at least 10 feet tall, was covered with fragrant blossoms.

Thanks to strong winds and a few storms, the blossoms of the crabs and the old apple tree are now but a memory. The tulips featured on my last post have also been pretty much stripped of their blooms, but a few latecomers are still providing some color, like this 'Pink Sorbet.'  This late tulip was planted along with some 'Red Impression,' thinking the combination of white and red would look very striking.  But for the second year in a row, the 'Pink Sorbet' didn't start to bloom until the reds had dropped their petals.  Oh well, at least I planted these in front, so they are a distraction from the faded blooms behind them.

A more successful combo has been the dark 'Queen of the Night' with the pure white of 'Marguerite.'

'Marguerite' is another one of the doubles that I just love.  

 A new addition this year is another double, 'Orange Princess.'  It's another example of not planning very well during the frenzy of fall tulip planting.  It's such a beautiful tulip, but because it's a late bloomer and planted towards the back of the lily bed, it's hidden by the emerging lily foliage.   I think I'm the only one who noticed these tulips this year; you might say it's my secret tulip garden.

Another new addition this year were my first-ever species tulips.  'Lady Jane' is certainly not as showy or dramatic as the other tulips, but it's rather sweet nonetheless.

I'm usually pretty good about recording names of bulbs and a general idea of where I planted them each fall.  But this year, in addition to the bulbs I ordered, I purchased several different kinds at a local garden center and apparently forgot to write them down.  These pink and white are among several NOIDS this year.

Another new NOID are these red and yellow flamed tulips.  I really need to find out their names, because they are so tall and striking I'd love to have more in front of the house next year.

The mixture of Darwin tulips on "Daffodil Hill"--now "Tulip Hill"--is still going strong after a few weeks.

As the spring bulbs wind down, the rest of the garden is just getting started.  The shade garden is growing by leaps and bounds, reminding me that I missed the opportunity once again to divide and unclutter this crowded area--I'm going to blame it on all the rainy days we've had. Brunnera 'Jack Frost' is a mass of delicate blue blooms right now.

Other standouts in the shade garden right now: Bleeding Heart

Solomon's Seal 

'Sweet Tea' Tiarella

Elsewhere, the unnamed perennial geranium is looking the best I've ever seen it.

Also looking the best ever, 'Bloomerang,' the re-blooming lilac, is following in the footsteps of its old-fashioned cousin.  The blooms are also more fragrant than I remember in the past. Let's just ignore the weeds, shall we?   I'm trying, but sunny days to work in the garden have been limited this spring with rain and more rain.

While the early show of bulbs and flowering trees are fading away, new blooms are ready to take their place.  The allium--'Purple Sensation', maybe?--are brightening up the spots vacated by the bright blooms of tulips.  Spring is such an exciting time in the garden with new changes every day; I hope you are enjoying every moment of it, too.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is brought to you the 15th of every month by our hostess, Carol whose May Dreams have now become a reality!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Trouble With Tulips

It's time to be honest.  I am a tulipaholic.  Sure I love daffodils, and I've broadened my tastes to include other spring-flowering bulbs, like these Siberian scilla that are making their first appearance in my garden this year.

They've won me over, and I'll definitely be adding more of these this fall.

But nothing lifts my spirits and makes me so excited to step outside each spring morning as tulips do. Knowing the colorful show that will soon arrive makes the long winter bearable. Although I seem to lean towards pink, it really doesn't matter what color they are...

. . . from the soft white/pastel yellow of 'Vanilla Cream' . . .

. . . to the bright yellow of this NOID in the lily bed . . .

. . . to the bright red of 'Red Impression'...

. . . to the darkest of all, 'Queen of the Night' . . .

. . . to mixtures of different colors . . .I love them all.  In fact, I'm not sure there's a color of tulip I don't have somewhere in my garden.

Some might say that planting many tulips isn't worth all the effort because they're short-lived.  It's true--compared to many other bulbs like daffodils, for instance, tulips often don't last more than a few years.  I know I've been disappointed by some gorgeous tulips that failed to re-appear for a second season.  But choosing types of tulips that are longer-lived, like Darwin tulips, will give you more years of enjoyment and less work.  These 'Pink Impression' bulbs have been faithful performers in my garden for many years.

Last year I ordered a collection of tulips from Breck's called 'Forever,' which were promoted as having more longevity than ordinary tulips.  I planted them on what I whimsically refer to as "Daffodil Hill," which is not a hill at all, but a slightly sloping bare spot in front of a tall evergreen in front of the house.  They certainly look very strong and hardy this spring, which is a good thing, because planting tulips in this area with its heavy clay soil and thick tree roots is not something I want to do every year.

Sometimes other varieties can surprise you--my favorite tulip of all, 'Angelique,' has returned year after year.  In fact, I think it has multiplied!

But even if most tulips last for only a couple of years, there are some benefits to this.  My laxity in keeping garden records means I can't remember what I planted for more than a few years anyway.  These tulips in the lily bed have me stumped.  I remember planting some 'Fur Elise' here two or three years ago, but not this many.  There's a second clump north of these as well.  Either they've multiplied or once again I have some "DIPITs" (did I plant this??).

Knowing not all my tulips are going to return each year also gives me an excuse to indulge my addiction and buy some new ones every year.  I'm a sucker for showy doubles like this 'Double Maureen.'

Another spectacular double is 'Sun Lover,' which has blooms that are 5-6 inches in diameter!  Although I have been planting more and more of the more robust Darwins, I can't resist showstoppers like this.

'Double Maureens' with 'Sun Lovers' and other bulbs in the arbor bed.
Some people give up on planting tulips because either squirrels will dig up the bulbs or deer will eat the emerging leaves.  I can sympathize, though I've been very fortunate not to have either problem so far.  My only disappointment this year was in the roadside garden, where a new planting of mixed colors was a no-show.  It's possible the squirrels dug up these bulbs since their favorite hangout, the old oak tree, is nearby, and this small garden is far from Sophie's usual patrol.  But I suspect the lack of blooms here has more to do with the fact that this whole garden was in standing water for a week after the recent flooding here.  Tulip bulbs will rot if overwatered.

'Fur Elise' this week
Other gardeners can't grow tulips because of their warm climate.  I guess I should be thankful, then, for our cold winters and often chilly spring days.  The temperatures reached into the 80's for a few days, and you could just see the tulips starting to wilt in the heat.  More seasonable temps are predicted for the coming week, so hopefully the show will last a little longer.

Tulips may not last forever, but neither does childhood.  A day spent with youngest Grandson who just had to reach out to touch Grandma's blooms is a precious moment that will remain in my memory for years to come.

Possibly the most beautiful tulip ever, in my humble opinion--'Akebona' begins as a pale yellow, then opens up to a lemony delight with tinges of pink and red edging on its petals.

No, say what you will about the troubles with tulips, there is only one problem I can see with these Dutch beauties, and it's the same problem with all the blooms of spring--I wish they would last for months!  But knowing their time is fleeting, I truly live in the moment each spring and delight in each and every bloom.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."


For last year's Asheville Fling attendees or anyone thinking of visiting this lovely North Carolina city, check out this link:     I was so excited when I received an email that one of my photos from last year's trip was included on their website as well as a link to my blog.  I'm ready to go back to Asheville again!