Marking May’s mid-point I have gathered some favorite images and impressions from the May garden.
In recent years summer heat encroached early into springtime’s allotted time. This year spring has held. Spring has held.
There have been some actual hot days in high 80s mitigated by temperatures dropping back into high 50s-60s for a few days–some cloudy, some sunny. If you check actual records this report may vary, but it seems we’ve had a lot of just nice 70-degree days. Today’s 82. Sunny.
Early spring was wet but rains have diminished over the last several weeks. Rains missed us yesterday, Thursday. As a rule it rains every Thursday morning, the day recycling and waste are picked up in my neighborhood. It doesn’t take long for the garden to seem dry, I feel I may need to even water! Enter presumptive tropical storm Arthur, likely to form this weekend and bring rain next week.
I actually tried planting seeds this year, unsuccessfully overall. A few sweet peas made it through to transplant but I don’t think they’re in a sunny enough spot. They’re making slow progress.
Snapdragon seeds came up but my timing was off and I didn’t get them planted until too late. Good thing I had bought some plants last fall.
Back to seeds, I’m on a second or third try at Sweet William. Now it it warm enough I have direct sowed some along with ‘Summer Romance’ Honey-Scented Alyssum. I have lots of other seeds that are going out this week, mostly zinnias. Other seeds I am trying this year: ‘Pride of Gibraltar’ Hummingbird Cerinthe and ‘Antique Apple Green’ Heirloom Bells of Ireland.
This oakleaf hydrangea is filling out. There are a few broken branches, thanks I believe to the squirrels clambering to get to the bird feeder nearby.
Squirrels have been excavating regularly and greedily, even as they have all they can eat underneath the bird feeder. I’ve seen only a few butterflies so far, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis).
Dahlias are up, some lazily left in ground last autumn and some new ones planted out a few weeks ago. Seeing a little bunny every morning breakfast in the garden makes me feel closer to Mr. McGregor. I did get a chuckle from observing a brief encounter between the small bunny and a squirrel—both so intently feeding they were startled to find themselves suddenly face-to-face within a couple inches of each other. For a breathless pause there was a comedic stare-down as each conveyed utter shock and indignity at the other’s rude indiscretion. The rabbit caved first and scampered.
American Goldfinches are back. Cardinals predominate at the feeder although sparrows, black-capped chickadees, nuthatches and house finches find plenty of action as well. Bluebirds, robins and towhees are occasional guests. This morning a lone mourning dove has been lumbering back and forth. Birdsong and chimes form a peaceful soundtrack for the garden.
Recently I also planted in-ground Liatris spicata ‘Blazing Star’, Lily Asiatic ‘Royal Sunset’ and Dutch Iris Hollandica ‘Discovery’. I planted in trays Ranunculus Tomer ‘Purple’, Ranunculus Aviv ‘Picotee Cafè’ and Anemone De Caen ‘Bordeaux’. This last group in the trays is looking most unpromising. I find anemone and ranunculus so luscious but so frustratingly difficult to grow. Their rarity makes me desire them all the more.
I’m trimming back Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), visible in the back right corner of this image) as it is going to seed all around the garden. I’m too late to be effective at stopping its spread. That time passed years ago. Similarly the stachys is a plant that takes as much space as it can. It’s pretty for a few weeks, then I pull out as much as possible.
I’m encouraging little baby hellebores; some find them nearly a nuisance but I love the few drifts they’ve designed on their own. They provide beauty and wonder for months across winter and spring.
Asclepias tuberosa is readying itself. I look forward to its orange flowers each year.
Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ is about to burst into bloom in the meditation circle. Its strong upright form and dark leaves once enforced the turnarounds along the meditation paths, but now having long since reseeded itself it is blocking the paths themselves. I relocate or passalong some but mostly I let it be and just step over and around to accommodate it.
Despite many attempts my garden lacks those strong garden “bones” that give it structure all year round. Neighbors’ cars, play equipment, tarps have a way of creeping into many pictures. Sometimes I can block out those inconvenient objects if I carefully frame a shot from a low angle. In person I just edit those imperfections from my vision.
Photographing long views of the garden does not capture the essence of my experience with the garden. This year I haven’t made trips to garden centers to fill in bare spots with ‘May Night’ meadow sage or Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) and so brown hardwood mulch seems to stretch endlessly in many photos. But viewed in person from the back porch a story above the garden or down amongst the plants, the garden this year is enough. I am very attached to the plants. It astonishes me how many plants come back year after year. Opportunity abounds for changes and improvements certainly, but in the here and now the garden is all it needs to be this year.
It holds that sense of place and wonder singularly unique to a garden setting, encompassing a refuge, an observatory for nature, a spot for reflection, a prompt connection to calm and peace.