Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring on Fast Forward

What happens when you leave on a trip just as spring bulbs are emerging from the ground?  In a typical Illinois April, daily rainstorms could flood the ground or the temperatures could plummet with even a late covering of snow.  But not this year!  When I left to visit Daughter and her family two weeks ago, the sun came out and temperatures rose, and spring flowers exploded into bloom.  While I was off babysitting my newest grandson, now four months old, my friend Beckie checked on the garden for me and sent me photos of daffodils, tulips, and so much else in full bloom that I worried I was going to miss it all.  Of course, I was thoroughly enjoying spending time with my grandson, whose smiles can melt your heart, but at the same time I didn't want to miss my favorite time of year in the garden!

We returned late at night, and I checked a couple of the garden areas, but in the darkness it was hard to tell if the blooms were fading or still intact.  The next morning this is what I saw in the Arbor Bed--I hadn't missed the whole show after all!

I did miss some of the early tulips, and others were already past their prime, 
like the 'Double Maureen' above.

The same was true of the daffodils, including some sweet smaller ones that I saw only in Beckie's photos.  But I didn't miss these mixed among the 'Maureens'!  (Names of most daffodils are somewhere in my memory bank, but hard to retrieve at the moment.)

But most of the tulips waited for my return.  'Sunlover' was in full glory, a double peony-type tulip that has the largest blooms I've ever seen.  And even better, it has multiplied in my garden.

Too tired the first morning back to unpack or do any of the countless chores that awaited me,
 I traipsed around the garden in my ratty old robe and snapped photos.

A closer look at the tulips shown in the earlier photo--my namesake, 'Rosalie.'

And this gorgeous beauty in front of it, 'Ad Rem.'

As if on cue for my mother's birthday, 'Princess Irene' also began to bloom this past week.

I've kept records of all the tulips I've planted in recent years, but I have so many that I am beginning to get confused about some of their names.  I'm pretty sure this is a new one, 'Pink Star.'

And this, I think, is 'Lady Jane.'  I was worried these species tulips had been disturbed when we tried to dig out some nearby old yews last fall, but they certainly don't look like they were bothered at all--and they have multiplied as well.

Despite my efforts to record names, some escape me, like these delicate white with yellow markings. No matter, I enjoy their nameless beauty all the same.

Another NOID that's different from any others I have.

And what has become my very favorite tulip of all--'Akebono.'  The rabbits didn't get these this year!

There are more tulips here and there, some nameless, some still waiting in the wings to bloom.  I've been taking long shots of the garden, not because they're particularly attractive photos, but for my own records.

Having these photos in the fall will help me remember where there are empty spots in the sidewalk garden above and the shade garden in the previous photo.  Because you know I will be ordering and planting more tulips next fall!

Tulips aren't my only addiction, however.  I do love daffodils, too. 
 'Mount Hood' has multiplied in just two years.

It's a gorgeous white beauty with large blooms.

In the shade garden, a stand of narcissus.  I wish I could remember the names of these, because I just love their slender stalks and would love to order more.  Or, I could get ambitious and divide them...

I like the standard yellow daffodils because they're the first to bloom, but otherwise I much prefer a variety of daffodils and narcissus.  This is one of a mix around the oak tree.

My granddaughter and I planted 80 daffodils around the oak tree last fall. After rabbits and/or deer feasted on many of the tulips last year, I decided not to tempt fate and stuck with daffodils rather than tulips in this area. I think I need to plant twice that many . . . or I could just be patient and let them multiply over the next few years.

Not every spring bloom has to be big and showy.  Grape hyacinths make such a pretty contrast planted in masses in front of tulips or daffodils.  I especially like this variegated mix.

I was also happy to see the new dwarf forsythia I planted last fall blooming so well. 
 I guess I forgot I had already planted tulips in this spot, though:)

Hellebores are still going strong.

Their pretty faces are much easier to see now than a couple of weeks ago.

Pulmonaria is blooming as well.

As is the Epimedium--my very first one.  How have I overlooked these little beauties before?  I think there will be more of these on my plant shopping list this spring:) 

We were home in time to also see blooms on my little Serviceberry.  It's doing well, but it will be a few years before it commands the attention it deserves.

And best of all, we were home in time to see the sight I wait for every spring--the redbud and flowering crabapples lining my driveway.  Ahhh, can you see why spring is my favorite season of the year?!

I am way behind in blog reading and replying to all those who took the time to comment on my last two posts.  I took my IPad with me on our trip, and while I could read blogs, half the time I couldn't leave a comment.  I'm going to try to catch up with everyone's posts and comments this week--whenever the sun isn't shining, that is:)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April Bloom Day--Spring at Last!

April--the month I consider true spring here in Illinois.  We've had our share of April showers, of course, along with some wild weather including hail and threat of tornadoes.  But in between, the calm days have been sunny and warm, including Easter Sunday, which had to be one of the most beautiful Easters we've had in a long time, a perfect day for the grandkids to run through the yard hunting Easter eggs.  It is also the time when the garden finally wakes up, and each day seems to bring a new surprise.

For this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I am sharing a few photos that were taken last week.

The crocuses are fading fast, but they were a welcome sight to begin the gardening season.

Every year I plant more, and my efforts have been rewarded with some nice big clumps.  I love these striped crocus--'Blue Pearl,' maybe??--and must remember to add many more of these this fall.

The daffodils first opened up on Easter Sunday, appropriately enough.  The standard yellow NOID's are the first to bloom, but there will be many more of different colors and forms in the coming weeks.

One of my favorite small blooms of spring are these Scilla in the shade garden.  I don't remember if I planted more last fall or they have multiplied somewhat, but either way, more of these will be ordered this fall, too!

The Hellebores have taken awhile, but they have finally opened up, too.

Part of a collection I ordered from a mail-order company several years ago, they're all "ladies" of some type--'Red Lady,' 'Green Lady,' etc.--but I really don't know which is which, because they're all either white or deep red/burgundy.

The warmer temperatures last week really jump-started the hyacinths, which went from tightly closed buds to fully opened blooms in a matter of days.

I'm still not completely finished with gardening clean-up. due to rainy days and some other commitments.  But I couldn't resist planting a few pansies and violas in one pot.

One of the many delights of the spring are the surprises in the garden--surprises because I can't remember what I had planted the previous fall!   I had completely forgotten I had planted a few more miniature narcissus near my miniature Japanese garden until they appeared a few days ago.  On checking my notes, I found these are 'Topolino,'

Sasha kindly helped to show a sense of scale here so you can see just how diminutive these are.

Another surprise--some Chionodoxa, also known as "Glory of the Snow," under the lilac.  Actually, these bloomed last year, too, but once again, I had forgotten all about them.

Another new bloom this year--and one I had also forgotten I had even ordered, much less planted--are these Iris reticulata.  These are also planted by the miniature Japanese garden, and I think 'Harmony' is a perfect addition here.

 But my favorite surprise of all--Puschkinia scilloides, or Striped Squill.  I have admired these on other people's blogs for several years, and I can't believe I finally remembered to order some last fall.  Ten of these little beauties are blooming now, and I think they'll need some more company next year.

As I said at the beginning, all these photos were taken late last week, because by the time this posts, I will be in Texas cuddling my youngest grandson once again--no doubt posting lots of photos on Facebook:)  When I left, the lilac was leafing out, one flowering crabapple and the small serviceberry (above) were budding, and some tulips looked about ready to bloom.  Who knows what I will find when I return next week?  I am going to enjoy every minute of cuddling with Grandson, now almost four months old, but I'm looking forward to even more surprises in the garden when I return!

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting GBBD each month and for her constant inspiration.  I expect this month will see a host of people joining in celebrating the arrival of spring.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Early Spring at The Chicago Flower and Garden Show

One of the things I look forward to every March is going to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with my friend Beckie.  It's a welcome breath of spring, especially when winter has dragged on too long, and it's a good way to get inspired for the coming garden season.

Being "country girls," we enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big City.  The show is held every year at Navy Pier, giving us a chance to see the the expanse of Lake Michigan as well.  I suppose seagulls are a common sight to locals, but not to us living in land-locked Downstate.

But as much as I enjoy visiting the Windy City, I don't enjoy the traffic, so Beckie and I travel up the evening before just south of the city to spend the night and take the train into Chicago the next morning.  It also gives us a chance to talk and catch up with each other--except on the train ride home, when we accidentally got into the Quiet Car at rush hour.  I don't think the two of us have ever refrained from talking for a whole hour ever before!

Going up a day before also gives us a chance to be refreshed and raring to go for a day of nonstop garden viewing.  This year a friend of Beckie's met us at the show; it was her first time attending the show, so it was fun to see everything through the eyes of a first-timer.  The entry display above did not disappoint as we walked through the doors.

Surrounding the entry display was a tall trellis filled with flowers.  We debated at first what they were, but my guess was camellias.  Apparently we weren't the only ones who were confused; later in the day, I noticed a handwritten sign someone had stuck in front of them reading, "Yes, these are camellias."  It did seem a little strange that designers had chosen a plant, lovely as it is, that we can't even grow in the Midwest!

The theme of this year's show was "Do Green, Do Good." This display garden called "A Little Bit of Ireland" showed a different kind of "green."

It included several authentic, if rather different, garden accessories.  I don't think any of us would add this to our garden!

An interesting part of the display that drew everyone's attention was this round stone hut.  It reminded me of a very small Hobbit house.

One feature of the show each year is called "Tablescapes," different dining area tableaus created by local floral designers.  This one was rather over the top, but we enjoyed seeing all the succulent arrangements.

Most of the table displays were rather elaborate, but this designer decided to appeal to a different audience.  I wonder if any of the visitors turned to their spouse and said, "Honey, we could do this on our patio!"

Another yearly exhibit is by a group of female textile artists, Women's Journeys in Fibers.  This year the assignment was creating a mask as a self-portrait, and each work was accompanied by an explanation by the artist.  This piece was entitled "Ma Bell Transformed."

My favorite, though, was this garden-themed piece entitled "Maia, Goddess of Spring."

We have gone to the Chicago show for the last six or seven years and have developed a little more critical eye, I suppose.  No longer are we those garden innocents who walked around oohing and aahhing in wonderment as we did our first year.  But the truth is, the exhibitors have downsized since the first two years we attended.  There was the usual creative and large waterfall pictured above.

And one company which specializes in water features had its customary large exhibit of ponds and small waterfalls.

They include a lot of stone as well in their designs; not sure what this was supposed to be--a mini-Stonehenge?

But this exhibitor was the exception, rather than the rule. I remember one year talking to a representative at one of the exhibits who told us about the tons of stone they brought in just for the week-long exhibit.  Most of the displays now are much smaller and less elaborate.

One interesting display garden highlighted the plight of the Monarch and was designed to educate visitors on how to create a butterfly-friendly garden.  But as I looked around, I noticed the plantings were mostly annuals with no natives or specific host plants for the butterflies.  Plant selection throughout the whole show seemed less imaginative in past years with few that caught our eye and sent us scrambling for an i.d. tag.

But enough with the criticism!  There is still so much to see at the show that it is well worth the trip. One exhibit that was different from any I've seen in past years was simply called "A Classic Rose Garden."   Filled with a variety of roses, it was a rosarian's delight.  I don't have many roses in my garden, but I've heard so many good things about 'Julia Child' (above) that I might have to find room in my garden for this one.

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences always has an interesting display.  This year to follow the theme of "Do Green," their exhibit was called "Tiny House, Big (Little) Garden."  The focus of the exhibit was the tiniest house I've ever seen, showing how one could live in a much smaller space reducing our ecological footprint.  The gardens around the house showed how one could make the most of limited garden space, too, including many compact plants and several miniature gardens.

Note the pine cones used to build this miniature house.  I never got the chance to ask if the students had built this themselves, but it certainly was creative.

Another display garden also included some miniature gardens with lots of attention to detail:

Certainly plenty of ideas for any fairy-garden lover!

After seeing all the different exhibits, we always make sure to leave an hour or more to visit the vendors before having to leave.  I made a beeline for my favorite vendor, the bulb company, where you can purchase any of the bulbs seen in their gorgeous tulip exhibit.  This year I succumbed to the charms of 'Mata Hari,' pictured above.

Although I didn't buy any more of these, I was happy to see 'Patrick's Mix' in their display garden.  I purchased these bulbs last year and am looking forward to seeing them blooming in my own garden very, very soon!

We spent the better part of the day at the show, but still didn't see everything.  Somehow we missed the window box exhibit this year and didn't take time to go through the photography exhibit.  There are also cooking demonstrations, activities for kids, and different gardening seminars throughout every day of the show.  The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is well worth visiting, and yes, we do plan to go back next year!