After a cold, wet Wednesday, yesterday there remained a chill in the morning air as I took an early saunter around the garden. Water drops clung to leaves and petals in places the sun had yet to reach. It was quiet except for calming notes of birdsong.
In front of the house (which faces east) a couple of plants rescued last year during a neighbor’s border renovation project were catching the early rays. (I think I have identified them correctly.)
In a border along the south side of the drive ascelpias is making good progress. This area also has lots of echinacea popping through.
This spring the southern side path heading toward the back garden has been flourishing with daffodils, irises, baptisia, and clematis. Unfortunately this bed has a terrible infestation of bermuda grass that seems impossible to manage. I hired an organic company to help with it, to dig it up, but dosed with a great deal of mansplaining, their expensive efforts in March have proved to be merely cosmetic.
(I am focused on trying to keep it from getting further into the main garden and in two places have used layers of cardboard and piles of mulch to smother it. This can take two years from what I have read. I think this grass came in a few years ago in some bad mulch at a time I was not able to pay attention to the garden. I am trying to avoid spraying harmful products but frankly it is overwhelming to manage.)
So even as this ginger lily emerges with vigor, the grass continues its rampage on this border.
In the midst of my indecisiveness about this dilemma I came across a white form of rose campion having an identity crisis!
Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear) needs to be trimmed back and thinned out, but the bees convinced me to keep it awhile.
Currently lighting up the meditation circle Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) is a another favorite of the bees.
Note: Thanks to Tony Tomeo for commenting with the correct ID of this plant.
This patch of
Thrift (Armeria pseudarmeria ‘Ballerina Lilac’) Matthiola incana (stock) was planted last fall possibly last fall. I’m no longer sure. It has provided a cheerful spot of color in the southern border near peonies and iris since mid-March. Now it is starting to play well with recently opened Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ (Autumn Sage).
Continuing a look around the garden over the first half of May, I keep coming back to this Clematis ‘Niobe’. It was purchased in April 2015 at Southern States in Carrboro, a favorite local plant nursery since I’ve been gardening.
I go through periods of wanting an all-red or all-white and certainly an all-blue border. They never materialize as I imagine but a few of the plants such as this one end up becoming stars. This is a great shade of red.
The clematis has been waiting in the wings, caught up in the nightmarish aster that has been overwhelming my iris border. Most of last year I couldn’t even get through easily to the back fence where this clematis lives to check on it. This year the aster has been pulled out twice and still is revving its engines, sending out new runners underground. (Its leaves are visible in the lower right portion of the image above.) I am determined to keep working to be rid of that aster.
Meanwhile Clematis ‘Niobe’ is visible this May and looking lovely. It began opening around April 10.
Peonies have prospered in the fine spring weather. These are scenes from the first half of May.
Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Coral Charm’ (Coral Charm Peony)
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’
Paeonia ‘Madame Emile Debatene’
Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’ (Peony)
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.
While irises have captured most of my attention in the garden this spring, other plants have competently played supporting roles and many more are leading the way as transition toward the warmer season takes place.
An amaryllis I have been watching to develop surprised me today when it opened up and was white, not red. I also found one with a red bud nearby. These flowers did not bloom well last year and I had forgotten the particulars of them.
Pincushion Flower is an enchanting name for this plant, nicer sounding than Scabiosa. This plant seldom last more than a couple of seasons in my garden and this is year two. It has been blooming well this year, starting just over a month ago. The cooler temperatures and plentiful rain this spring seem to have kept it happy. If I can force myself to do regular deadheading it will help.
Slow to open this year the peony flowers show some browning after heavy rains this week. In the previous two years this ‘Pink Parfait’ bloomed by May 11, but this year, still waiting.
A Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ purchased last year is beginning to bloom. I enjoyed it last year so purchased 3 new ones this winter by mail order, this time ‘Red Fox’ Veronica. They arrived bare-root and are still very small.
This black iris has a few more blooms open today.
Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) has been blooming for a couple of weeks and now several thymes are also beginning to flower. Echinacea is shooting up in many of the borders and forming buds. In the meditation circle Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ both opened today.
Every Southern garden should have hydrangeas and, thanks to Jayme at EntwinedLife, my garden has a healthy hydrangea that not only has survived, but is forming flowers. Thank you Jayme.
This year I ordered an Allium Raspberry and Cream Collection, which is in fact a mixture of Allium Nigrum and Allium Atropurpureum. One Allium Nigrum is open this week.
To end this this garden tour today I will mention my family’s old-fashioned rose that my grandmother and mother grew. This was passed along eons ago by my mother’s cousin and my dear garden mentor. She shared with me so many of her favorite plants and they have become my favorites too.