The nicest time in my garden can be the early hours between 6 and 8 a.m., when the sun is peeking around, seeking entry past rooftops and fence posts.
Yesterday, heading down the back steps with a cup of coffee in hand I intend to sit on the black Lutyens bench in front of the meditation circle for a few moments of reflection.
Before I even sit something catches my gaze and of course, I must look.
Satisfied, I continue toward the meditation circle and take a seat. Birds calling and chimes singing are the sounds I notice and sometimes for an instant, there is complete silence.
Pretty soon though I spot a mocking weed that must be plucked right away. There, that takes care of that impetuous intruder! Oops, another one.
Ah, too many weeds to worry about just now, so I relax and take another sip of coffee. But soon I am up wandering around with the camera, exploring each new bloom that has appeared since the previous day.
Now the coffee cup is abandoned. Like the honeybees pausing for nectar at each opportunity, I float round the borders, inhaling rose and peony and iris, and retracing my steps.
I carefully tread lightly into the back of the northern border for a closer inspection, then swing the camera back out across the garden.
Delighting at form, color and wet grass underfoot I recognize the transience of this peaceful moment, and can hardly bear it.
In bud this pass-along iris from my friend Cathy is a rich black. It opens to a deep purple.
The week has been stormy, with heavy rains at times, and though sunshine prevailed today, Thursday’s forecast calls for more storms. The garden is in full bloom so I have been taking photographs of sodden and drenched flowers.
Long ago at my former home, a neighbor, Henrietta, shared many Tall Bearded Iris with me. This is one I like very much. The coloration on top of the falls where the markings are, displays a chocolate cast before blending into a lovely purple.
The red flowers in the previous image actually grow on my Iceberg Rose. Did I prune it back too far at some point or is this a sport? For quite a few years there have been some red flowers, but this year I have not seen any white flowers on the bush.
I created a Mesh gallery to share more garden views at this point in May. If you have time for a tour, click to start. You can make the images full-screen using the 4-corners icon.
This little bunny has been eating pansies from the meditation circle and no telling what else the past two weeks. Here it is hiding among aquilegia and gladioli.
What is captivating you in your early May garden?
A supremely spring-like day yesterday stirred a few of the garden’s early achievers and an early morning rain today left them freshly washed.
Daffodils suddenly are awake all around the garden. These are Narcissus ‘King Alfred’.
This little blue friend still could use a bath. It was a muddy job pushing its way out into the sunlight. Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum), the azure grape hyacinth features a bright blue color with a darker blue stripe on each flower. In the Pseudomuscari genus the mouth of the flowers is shaped like an open bell, rather than narrowing the way it does on Muscari.
Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ opened just overnight it seems.
An inexpensive impulse purchase from the grocery store last fall yielded just one crocus but it has a delicious color.
Euphorbia has been nice in the garden all winter.
Hellebores are blooming well at last. These were planted about 14 years ago when we first moved in.
Some hyacinths from last year have yet to return but a group of H. orientalis ‘Woodstock’ pushed up way too early into a cold, brutal world. Surprisingly they seem to be recovering.
Remembering how spring hurried in and rushed past so quickly last year has made the this year’s leisurely drift into spring all the more enjoyable. The garden’s gentle pace toward April flowering has been a gift, allowing time to watch and anticipate.
Standing in the garden yesterday, I had that feeling for the first time this year that the individual plants were coalescing, uniting to form a whole, unifying to create a balance to the garden that escapes it other times of the year. This early part of the gardening season, with its fresh growth of foliage, tender young shoots and the promise of imminent flowering is my favorite time in the garden.
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Dutch’ (Dutch Lavender) shows a fresh flush of leaves after being cut back severely in late winter.
New leaves of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood) are fresh and healthy after a hard pruning. This sits in front of white-blooming Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion).
The early spring foliage of this Chrysanthemum complements the silvery, fuzzy leaves of Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear). Both of these are some old-fashioned pass-along plants.
The first Coreopsis blooms are open and colored a deep sunny yellow.
Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and Gold) is a native that I have tried several times to establish as a groundcover in this garden. This one was added last spring and looks promising. Today I noticed it being used in a garden along with Coreopsis and it worked well.
Melampodium ‘Showstar’ is a reliable summer-blooming annual that tolerates the heat and drought.
The first tall irises to open each year are making a strong show this year, filling up the Southern side path.
A long-time favorite pass-along, this year Tradescantia (Spiderwort) is on probation in the garden. Last fall and late winter I dug out untold numbers of strays and yet many more are showing up in odd places. At this time of year it is lovely though. Here it mingles angelically with an Iris without a name, also passed along by a friend.
Linum Perenne ‘Sapphire’ (Flax) does not perform very well in this garden but the perfect blue color of its dainty flower keeps me trying.
Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ was blooming by this time last year. There are two other Baptisias in the garden.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ opened it first flowers this week as did a striking Batik Iris, Iris ger. ‘Batik.’
Ants have found the Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’ and presumably are enjoying the nectar. Looking back I see this Peony is at the same stage as it was this time last year.
Overall the garden has filled in quite a lot in just a few weeks and the Meditation Circle plantings are growing well.
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) is everywhere.
Iris ger. ‘Raspberry Blush’ is getting lovelier every day.
Winter was a long time leaving and now Summer is intruding on springtime. After a beautiful and warm day, it is 87°F at 7:00 pm. Yesterday the Easter Redbud was opening against the deep blue sky.
Also yesterday, several spikes of Meadow Sage revealed purple-blue buds. Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) was ready to pop open. Bumblebees were courting, a yellow butterfly drifted through the garden and a ladybug investigated a chrysanthemum.
Today the mulch project I began in early February was finally completed! The garden beds have all been weeded. There is still some cleanup to do to thin out some of the most aggressive growers (almost everything in the garden it seems). Nevertheless the garden looks tidier and feels ready for the green, the growth and the surprises that follow winter. And the patio is ready to be reclaimed for something other than mulch storage.
A few new Iberis ‘Purity’ and some Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ have been added to the center of the meditation circle in hope the mulch soon will not even be noticeable. The planting areas between the paths on the left are ready to plant tomorrow. I have used Angelonia there the last two years and it has performed great, blooming until October. It is an annual though and it requires trimming back several times during the summer in order to be able to comfortably walk by. I will try Dianthus year, an not very exciting choice–we’ll see.
I ordered new plants from a mail-order company in Michigan in February and finally received them today. I expected them by mid-March, but was dismayed as the shipment dates were pushed back several times. Perhaps the severely cold winter affected the company’s ability to fulfill the order, but now the temperatures here are extremely hot and the plants will need extra care. I will try to get them in the ground early in the morning.
3 Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Plant, Orange Glory Flower
12 Delphinium x ‘Pacific Giants
12 Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)
1 Clematis ‘Wildfire’
3 Veronica spicata ‘Rotfuchs’ syn. Red Fox (Red Fox Veronica)
1 Paeonia lactiflora Duchess de Nemours (White Peony)
1 Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ (Lil’ Ruby dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea)
1 Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Choice’ (Pam’s Choice Foxglove)
1 Paeonia lactiflora ‘Black Beauty’ (Nightlife Peony)
20 Anemone coronaria de Caen ‘The Bride’ and ‘Mr. Fokker’
To celebrate the first day of Spring yesterday, we went headed to nearby Durham. First we viewed a photography exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art on the Duke campus and enjoyed lunch at the museum cafe. Next we went to see early spring flowers in the Italianate-styled terraces of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
The beds here are planted with annuals and bulbs. Last year when we visited these gardens the tulips were just past their prime and this year we were early. Still there were many pleasures to behold whether looking close-up at the plants or taking in the long views.
The day was partly cloudy and I felt a bit cool, that is until we met a woman from Indiana who told us she had left home the previous day in 9°F. weather. She and her daughter were wondering the name of these eye-catching blooms. I had admired this plant earlier and was able to identify it as Anemone (Anemone coronaria ‘Lord Lieutenant’).
Anemone ‘Rosea’ (Windflower) was also striking.
At the bottom of the terraces is the fish pond, a favorite spot of small children and and grown-ups alike. To the right of the pond was a wonderful Witch-hazel.
Working our way back up the terraces, one planting I particularly admired was this mix of daffodils and orange tulips.
There were many Erysimum (Wallflowers) interspersed with tulips in the beds. Since most tulips were not open we will have to return to see the full effect. One combination of Erysimum with a salmon-pink Hyacinth was lovely.
Sweet William is an old-fashioned flower that I just love.
These were pretty flowers but I must have been distracted before locating the plant label. Anyone know what they are? [Update: Thanks to both Cathy and Malc for the quick ID of these. This is Bellis perennis, a perennial lawn daisy.]
I imagine it might be April before the Wisteria Pergoda at the top of the terraces blooms. Another reason to visit this garden again.
Our spring celebration continued last night at North Carolina Botanical Garden Director Peter White’s presentation of the natural history of Robert Frost’s poetry. Robert Frost visited Chapel Hill for many years to give readings in celebration of spring and walked the woods here. His knowledge of plants is evident in his poetry as White illustrated during his talk.
The weekend weather has been ideal—sunny with low humidity and slight breezes. With a high of 81°F. today it would have been an enjoyable day to garden. Instead the garden provided perfect surroundings for lunching on the back porch and later, for sitting on the patio in the warm sun, being very still and watching the birds.
Among the species at the two feeders today were Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Mourning Dove, House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Brown Thrasher and some other little ones I could not identify. Spotted a rabbit in the middle of the western border. No hummingbirds yet. That should change when the Monarda, now three feet tall in some places, opens its red flowers.
Gladioli and zinnias are coming up in several places around the garden (although that rabbit may explain why there are not more zinnias). They were planted just a couple of weeks ago to fill in some of the bare spots: around the foundation of the house where shrubs were removed last year that had become too overgrown and in the northwest corner where a Carolina Sapphire Arizona Cypress died. Yesterday I transplanted some self-sown cleome into these same bare areas to add more height and texture later in the summer.
The garden has never seemed so full of bees as it is this year. The Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) in the meditation circle is attracting them, and along the southern path so is Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) and Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear). Bees also enjoy Tradescantia (Spiderwort) but I am currently battling its pushy encroachment. The delight at seeing its first blooms has worn off and I am cutting down large cart loads of it to make room for other emerging perennials. My skin has become very sensitive to its sap and breaks out into a rash if in contact for very long.
This year I remembered to prune back the Buddleia in early February. That, plus the good rains we have had, encouraged it to a height of five feet and it soon will be providing some color in the western border. Buddleia is now on a watch list for invasive plants in my area. If it does not put on a much better show than last year, it will be easier for me to choose to remove it.
I intend someday to locate the tag for this Coreopsis. It is a dwarf variety with lovely, strong color.
In front of a long row of Shasta Daisies, which grow along a sidewalk, is a tall spire of Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura). In its first year the gaura has not filled out very much and it is hard to tell if it is just in its sleep year or really does not like its location.
Several Shasta Daisy buds are slowly, slowly unfolding.
Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) is very floppy, especially in one area where the soil is heavy from clay and though amended, may not drain well enough. The flowers are cheerful anyway and are long-lasting when used in indoor arrangements.
Another plant with a lost tag, this Clematis is still forming a few flowers but has not been very showy this year.
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) is starting to bloom around the garden and should provide color and flowers for cutting all summer.
A Perennial Sweet Pea is entwined among salvia, chrysanthemums, yarrow and daylilies in the southern border. Unlike annual sweet peas, this is not fragrant but I enjoy its old-fashioned appeal.
Spring arrived quickly this year bringing with it early flowering to non-natives, such as the December arrival of Iberis sempervirens in the meditation circle. On the other hand the natives in the garden seemed to hold back and take their time. They are opening approximately the same time as they have the last few years.
One such native is Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), which has just started blooming this week.
Also native, Tradescantia (Spiderwort) slowly has begun to show color around the garden. It seems to be a week early, based on garden records from past years, but it really has not put on its full display yet. Not all of the many plants are blooming. Spiderwort spreads easily and has drifted throughout the garden, often shifting colors as it moves around. Some years I do not mind, but this year I have already been yanking it up.
The Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebell) is native, but new to this garden. Judging from online resources its current blooming seems reasonable.
The Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) is another native showing restraint. This tree, flowering about the same time as last year, will probably peak in another week.
Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox) appears to be blooming at least a week early in this garden, but then last year it scarcely bloomed at all. It is especially vigorous this year. This cultivar is ‘Emerald Cushion Blue.’