April 22, 2021. The temperature at 6 a.m. was 34°F. and after dropping to 32°F by 7 a.m. it began climbing up again. 61°F at 5 p.m.
The garden seemed unbothered by the cold night and a couple more irises opened today. One came from my former late-1970s neighbor Henrietta. This tall bearded iris features pale lavender standards and bright violet-purple falls. Sweetbay identified this passalong last year as Iris ‘Helen Collingwood’.
The second newly blooming iris is a reblooming type with ruffled petals. Also a passalong without a name, it came from a plant swap in my current neighborhood in October 2013. The petal color strikes me as a clean, clear, pure yellow, with a touch of white on the falls below the yellow beard.
A few more flowers opened on the Paeonia lactiflora ‘Coral Charm’ (Coral Charm Peony); a bud on my passalong rose bush is showing color; and two snapdragon plants from years past have survived and appear ready to bloom. The snapdragons suffered a lot of rabbit damage last spring so I am happy to see them return.
This week has been a busy time for openings. This fragrant patch of Tall Bearded Iris is brightening up the southern side path this week.
Henrietta was our across-the-street neighbor at our previous home on Wave Road in the late 1970s and she shared many of her tall bearded irises with me. Some of her pass-alongs , including this deep yellow beauty, came with me when we moved here 20 years ago this May. I do not have a name for this one.
This soft yellow iris opened yesterday and is another pass-along. My sister-in-law mailed a huge 4 x 4-foot carton of these irises (to our Wave Road house) all the way from Idaho in the late 1990s. She knew them as Japanese Irises, but I haven’t been able to confirm. It’s a sweet, delicate flower, not as showy as the one above.
I have admired the color of this iris in my current neighbor’s yard for a number of years. When she replanted her entire side border last year I was happy to give it and a few other of her plants a new home. The iris opened just this afternoon.
A second iris opened today, a re-blooming one with large flowers, Iris germanica ‘Immortality’.
Clematis ‘Niobe’ also chose today to unfurl its lovely red petals.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is not fully open but has made good progress today.
Always the first to bloom in my garden Peony ‘Coral Charm’ has strong stems and rich color. I have had a close watch on this peony the past several weeks, but I looked away a moment this morning and suddenly three flowers had opened when I looked back.
There is a freeze warning for early tomorrow morning, a little late in the season. I know some of you have or will have snow this week too so there is no room for me to complain. It’s 66 F. this afternoon and has been a gorgeous, sunny, albeit extremely windy, spring day in April.
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.
Yesterday was a nearly perfect gardening day. Early morning showers cleared to a sunny afternoon in high 70s, and last night a final glance through the upstairs window before bedtime revealed an animated starlit sky.
My first view outside each morning is usually from that same window from where I have a bird’s eye view of the entire back garden. Yesterday the sight of scattered peony petals sent me scurrying outside through wet grass to catch the last bits of Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’ until next year.
After using one stem in my Monday vase, I had watched the rest of these gorgeous flowers all week as the aging cycle transformed their crisp structures of deep coral pink into softer, paler symbols of grace. Sad to see them go I have enjoyed observing them through each stage.
Tuesday, April 21
Thursday, April 23
Friday, April 24
All but two buds on this peony had opened precisely the same time so this and the rest of the blooms had fallen by mid-day.
The remaining two buds will be appreciated a few days longer. Both opened quickly and were fully awake by late morning. Fortunately at this time of year there are other garden delights now and ahead.
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.
Last Thursday’s delivery included 7 cubic yards of double-shredded hardwood mulch and 4 cubic yards of compost blended with topsoil (50-50 blend). I should have ordered plain compost. The compost blend was a mistake and I ended up giving away much of it to a neighbor.
With trepidation I hired assistance this year to help me weed and distribute the mulch. Although I know there were a few victims, such as the Solomon’s Seal I had just recently spotted popping up, but mostly I am pleased and relieved to have this job done.
April has been a gorgeous and floriferous month. I want to invite you along as I make note of some particular enjoyments from my little spring garden.
When featuring white Dutch Iris in a Monday vase on March 28 I mentioned I thought I had planted blues ones this year but could not remember where. Happy to report they are found and blooming this week, not all blue, but rather a mixed collection that is delightful.
To add further to the confusion, I displayed these leaves as part of April’s foliage day. At the time I thought they were alliums. The mystery now is where did I place the alliums.
Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ has given a rewarding show this spring and often I feel the columbine in its midst makes a charming companion.
Unfortunately, this native Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) is becoming unmanageable, drifting to all corners of the garden. I will cut it all back this week but seedlings are everywhere.
With this year’s nice gentle spring, Coreopsis has bloomed well. Although I often see it recommended for summer, it generally stops blooming here when it gets too hot or maybe it is too dry. Then it resumes briefly in autumn.
Nearby, Verbena bonariensis is shooting upwards next to Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft), one of my favorite white flowered plants.
Peonies are ever so close to blooming, 3 in one border and 1 in another. A third border hosts a peony purchased last year that already was in flower. Its foliage looks healthy but does not promise blooms this year.
Foxglove have been difficult to establish in my garden, but I keep trying. I added 3 new plants in early spring, Digitalis Foxlight ‘Ruby Glow’ PPAF (Ruby Glow Foxglove).
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ was featured in this week’s vase. It grows outside the main enclosed garden at the top of the southern side path and deserves another look.
This morning my attention soon drifted away from the clematis to the spires of Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ across the path.
Yesterday I just saw two huge yellow Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ at the N. C. Botanical Garden in full bloom. My own baptisia seems minor by comparison and must really not be in a good spot. It is supposed to be very easy to grow. Nevertheless I enjoyed discovering these blossoms today.
Verbena bonariensis growing in the side path opened just this week.
This yellow bearded iris is a pass-along from my long-ago neighbor Henrietta. Many of the irises in my current garden came from her.
Flowers on this white Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) began opening last week.
A late-flowering Narcissus showed up this week, but I have not been able to find the tag. I would like to believe these are the one transplanted from my family home about three years ago, but I also bought some similar bulbs after those did not appear the first year.
Iris germanica ‘Immortality’ is beautiful this spring. Here it is growing near Clematis ‘Niobe’.
The grass needs cutting every few days, but that is not happening on schedule. Maybe today it will though before some predicted showers. The meditation circle is on the list for a good clipping and cleanup. Thyme has happily adapted to the center of the labyrinth and beyond, overtaking some of the pavers. The pansies took a while to bulk up after winter. They soon will be replaced with angelonia for summer.
Edging the border just before the labyrinth begins is a nice stand of saliva, Meadow Sage ‘May Night’. This is where the lady bug in the top image was hanging out. (Tradescantia is popping up everywhere too).
At the northeast gate the path is blue with blooms of Isotoma fluviatilis (Blue Star Creeper). There is a lot of sedum mixed with it.
Plenty of tasks await the gardener today but I have been taking time to enjoy the birds, chimes, fragrances and blossoms swaying on gentle breezes. Thanks for visiting.
It is time again for Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides.
The dogwood for now is green. There were only a handful of flowers this spring—the most disappointing dogwood display ever. I keep threatening to remove the poor performer but inertia keeps it safe for now.
Below, this this early morning scene highlights the fresh green iris foliage which is very strong and healthy this year. Beside them, in the foreground on the right, green-gray catmint is filling out and up. Looking beyond irises, just beyond the meditation circle, a large circle of daffodil foliage is dying back slowly. Narcissus are wonderful in early spring, but I pay the price of planting them in the middle of the lawn by having to watch the leaves yellow and wilt.
Further back are five evergreens, Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ (Blue Point Juniper). They were planted to add some height and privacy to the garden. Because I worked around some existing plants, they are not necessarily situated in the most effective way, but they do help with privacy.
At left behind the fence the neighbors’ red maple is gorgeous this year. Back inside the fence the tall trees in the right back corner are Cupressus arizonica ‘Carolina Sapphire’ (Arizona Cypress) awash in the early morning sun that has yet to reach the rest of the garden. And the large shrub on the right is Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea). It is sending out suckers everywhere and needs a severe pruning, my intended task for this morning.
Lots of plants are bringing great promise. Not all, but many, of these early plants have lovely silvery foliage, such as Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) and, in the background, overly abundant Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear). Echinacea are maturing, with a few already forming flowers.
Last fall the garden was overgrown when I was trying to plant allium. I just cleared a spot and stuck all the bulbs together. That pretty much sums up my gardening style. I have been reading this spring about suggestions for underplanting alliums to hide their foliage, so lesson learned.
Here are a few more images to wrap up this April foliage highlight.
Thanks to Christina at Garden of the Hesperides for hosting. Read her foliage update and see more links to foliage perspectives from many parts of the world.
The 22nd of each month is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides.
Spring arrived officially this week and today’s photos, taken March 19, reveal the season is well underway. I thought Brunnera macrophylla ‘Silver Heart’ was lost after last summer’s extreme heat so was happy to see these brightly-patterned leaves.
What a pleasure to discover the fresh leaves of emerging plants or watch the evergreen ones recover from the harsh conditions of winter. Here are a few glimpses of the late March foliage.
Thanks to Christina at Garden of the Hesperides for hosting. (She may be away this month.)
At the end of April the garden is a mix of maturity and possibility, old friends and new.
This Sunday morning’s stroll around the garden with the camera yielded many nice surprises. I wanted to document the views in walking order. I began the tour with Sunday Morning Promenade — Part 1. Picking up the wander at the northwest corner, here are more glimpses.
This Anemone coronaria is one of those surprises. I expected this to be ‘Admiral’ which I planted last fall. It appears to be ‘Governor’ from a spring planting the previous spring.
Walking up toward the house along the Northern border, in front there is ‘May Night’ which came into bloom this week, and Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) which seem very close to opening.
This Northern border is where the bulk of the irises are.
In the area toward the northeastern corner of the garden (just out of view in the photo above) many irises are quickly are filling out and showing color. ‘Raspberry Blush’ is usually an early bloomer and is one of the few irises I actually bought. Most are pass-alongs. After dividing these irises last summer I was concerned I’d lost track of Iris ‘Batik’ but it showed up in its original location. Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’ (Peony) has more buds than ever before.
Before leaving the Northern border I stood at the peony and turned around to look back across the meditation circle towards the southwest corner. The garden was calm and pleasing this morning.
Turning back around to face the Northern border and continuing eastward I noticed ground covers at Northeastern corner are filling in between the entrance stones at gate.
The Eastern border is that area along the foundation of the house. There is a large swath which I recently showed filled with Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) and Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm).
Facing the central back stairs leading down to the patio is a small planting of Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue).
On the other side of the stairs, in the back are two Hydrangea macrophylla (not shown) with green leaves, but the buds appear to have been damaged once again, this year by a severe freeze earlier in the month. In front of the hydrangeas is a Gaura that needs to be moved. It starts out promising each spring but does not bloom well. Further down are the Shasta daisies from the start of the tour.
Finally, I stepped through the South gate into the Southern Side Garden. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is beginning to glow. The yellow bearded iris along the path is usually one of the first to bloom. It seems late this year. Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is sending up shoots. A pretty multi-stemmed white Narcissus is blooming. This may be from the home where I grew up or from a purchase last year. I wish I had not lost track of this one.
End of tour. Thanks for coming along.
The forecast which called for rain by afternoon proved accurate. Fortunately I was out very early this morning to check the garden’s progress. Besides there was some planting to do—2 Dahlia ‘Blue Boy’, 40 Gladiolus Blue Shades Mix and 3 Dahlia ‘Black Jack.’ Only about a third of the gladioli made it into the ground as I kept running into weeds that took a lot of time. I still have zinnia seeds to plant.
I also planted a pass-along from last fall I am excited about. It is a red dahlia from Libby at An Eye For Detail that her mother used to grow, so I feel extra responsibility to take care of this one. The tubers made it though the winter in my garage and even showed a bit of new growth.
Another new pass-along came from touring a garden club friend’s beautiful property last spring. She had potted up a variety of plants for us to take home and I selected Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon’s seal). I checked on this plant fairly recently and decided it must not have survived, but here it is after all.
Before the work started I just enjoyed wandering around and around note-taking with my camera.
First views stepping out the back steps from the garage, looking due west with southern border on the left, panning north, and finally, looking down at Shasta daisies beside the garage steps.
Next I walked along the Southern border. There are three peonies here. The juniper hedge has grown tall. Aquilegia is everywhere. At the far end of the Southern border begins the shadiest corner in the garden.
Turning the corner toward the Western border, here is the Oakleaf hydrangea. I move it to the front of the border in early spring and it seems to be doing much better.
There are two small islands near this corner, one of which is planted with iris and a hodgepodge of other things. The iris foliage looks very brown. I thought it might be cold damage but I need to check for disease or iris borers.
From here I turned around to my right to inspect the snapdragons in the meditation circle, almost ready to bloom. This is looking toward the northern border.
Returning to the oak leaf hydrangea and moving on along the Western border.
I stepped into the Western border and looked back southward across the the columbine. Many plants have died out in this area and the columbine is taking advantage. I need to get it under control.
Turning back to continue the walk, this is the rest of the Western border as it curves around the meditation circle.
Later I will share the rest of the garden views from my Sunday morning promenade.
The past week was sunny, hot, rainy, cool—mostly splendidly spring. Dogwood branches dress the back northwest corner. At first the bracts opened a creamy yellow-green, but later changed to white.
An afternoon thunderstorm passed through several days ago. That night another storm followed with rain pounding and prolonged streaks of lightening piercing the nighttime sky. Here is a garden view in-between storms.
The stones in the circle now need a good cleaning since the driving rain washed mud across the the labyrinth. The upper part of the the circle is filled with Viola that overwintered. Their purplish hue is continued along the back border by Phlox subulata.
Also in the circle are snapdragons that were planted last October. I have never grown them successfully but this year they made it through the cold and now look poised to flower. Dark clumps of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ are putting out fresh new foliage. This penstemon self-seeds freely. The mounds of bright green foliage are white and pink Dianthus.
A few days this week I took my coffee outside into the very early morning just as the birds awoke. Those first hours of the day are often the best time to appreciate this little garden’s peaceful offerings.
Not often do I photograph the garden from the position below, that is, standing behind the dogwood at the northwest corner and looking east toward the back of the house.
The brick foundation seems rather bleak and bare from this distance, but move back up close and one can see the first of the native columbine flowers are nodding about. In this border Aquilegia is underplanted with Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm). Soon it will all fill in. I spotted our first hummingbird this week and this area is a big attraction for them.
Returning to the dogwood corner, I could not resist sharing a few more views. Phlox subulata looked pretty waterlogged on this morning, but has since recovered.
Close by the dogwood is where the Anemone coronaria are planted. Since last year only one survived I am happy this area is so colorful. Maybe someone will be able to help solve a mystery. I am curious as to why the centers of some of the white “Bride” flowers look so different.
Sadly the newly purchased Gardenia jasminoides ‘Summer Snow’ fell victim to a late freeze. It was supposed to be a hardier variety but the entire shrub turned brown. Fortunately I was able to return it for a refund.
Pine pollen is in full force, coating everything with a fine yellow dust. Not even the huge storms this week could tamp it down. This will go on for several more weeks.
On a happier note, elsewhere in the garden Irises are gaining inches each day and a few fat buds have appeared. And Peonies, baptisia, clematis and more are making promises for a beautiful spring.
Grass is at its most verdant this time of year in deep contrast to the surrounding perennial borders. But with iris, monarda, columbine and phlox reaching upwards and filling out, soon the focus will shift. In the meantime a crescent of viola in the meditation circle are fairly ostentatious and a few hyacinths add color to the northern border.
Last week I purchased more Iberis, one of one of my favorite ground covers. It needs to be planted right away, but rain is pouring down this morning. This is Iberis sempervirens ‘Snow Cone’.
This time of year I hear the garden center call. While many gardeners are dealing with seeds and seedlings, I am just itching to add some things to the garden that offer immediate gratification.
For several weeks though I have been single-mindedly working on garden cleanup and finally yesterday I completed the weeding—I made it around the entire garden and those pesky things will not dare return. Now I can concentrate on some planting fun.
From this upstairs view of the garden one can see much more white fence than evergreen shrub. Succumbing to drought and other excuses, over the years countless shrubs have died out and been replaced, only to have them die out also. The five Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ (Blue Point Juniper) have been the exception.
I had intended to make a plan to add shrubs to the garden over the fall and winter. The Chuck Hayes gardenia hedge along the back fence has dwindled to a mere five bushes and this harsh winter has contributed further to its demise. Two days ago I dug one gardenia out completely and pruned another way back nearly to ground level to try to revive it. Only one other looks healthy and it is hidden out of view behind the spirea.
Yesterday, without a plan but under the magical spell of springtime, I explored a local garden center to look for new shrubs. The nursery aisles were bursting, with more temptations being unloaded all the time.
Although what I came home with are not perfectly well-suited to the garden, they spoke to me. Shade loving plants for a garden that has little shade? Surely I can convince them to thrive.
Soon I had selected a pink single camellia with a delightful and strong, sweet fragrance. Its name is Camellia X ‘Koto-no-kaori’.
It features an upright form, reaching 8-10 feet at maturity. I will wait a few days to plant it as the temperature is supposed to dip into the twenties this weekend. Koto-no-kaori needs light shade, which will be a bit of a problem. We plan to lop off some lower branches of the juniper in the southwest corner, so I may be able to work the camellia under its protection somehow.
I use to see Acuba growing on UNC’s campus and found those yellow dotted leaves fascinating. Now, realizing how useful its foliage can be in flower arranging, I have been focused on acquiring one. Welcome Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ (Gold Dust Aucuba), but where will I put you? Your mature size is 6-10’ H x 4-6’ W and your foliage burns in sun.
One shrub that can take full sun is Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’ (Green Mountain Boxwood). This upright, cone-shaped evergreen is a moderate grower, maturing at 5′ H x 3′ W. It has bright green foliage.
Looking around the nursery I became distracted from shrubs at some point with predictable results. These two sun-tolerant perennials are Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Euphorbia ‘Shorty’. I have grown Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ in a pot for a number of years, but finally decided to try some others. These should form nice mounds.
Last fall’s Sweet William seeds are still in their packet, so I bought a healthy-looking clump of Dianthus barbatus ‘Barbarini Mix’. This old-fashioned plant is one I always want in the garden.
Oh, I did find a new gardenia that claims improved cold hardiness (zones 6-10). Gardenia jasminoides ‘Summer Snow’ features fragrant, double white flowers and grows 4-5′ tall. I may even go back for a couple more of these. I hear the garden center calling.
Today Cathy at Words and Herbs published a special look back at her 2014 spring garden. I decided to join her on this journey to review the garden in three segments: Spring, Summer, and Late Summer/Autumn – one each week running up to Christmas.
I may do a more extensive review around the first of the year, but for now here are a few things that stood out this Spring.
The winter was very cold and wet. The morning of March 4 found the garden encrusted with a layer of sleet. Normally in early March temperatures would be nearing 60F/15.5C. By March 18 daffodils had opened but the garden lay under an icy glaze.
When the vernal equinox occurred here on March 20, 2014, a most welcome reprieve brought blue sky, sunshine and warm temperatures.
By the end of March I was way behind on garden chores. It was still raining, but the spiraea was blooming and the grass was turning green.
What a difference flipping over a calendar page makes. On April 4 the temperature was 79°F (26°C) at 7:00pm. The native redbud was blooming, spiraea was bursting with blossoms, and the soft green leaves of Eastern red columbine were unfurling.
By mid-April it was still raining. The garden seemed to be lifting itself upward, turning green, and filling out.
In time for Garden Bloggers Foliage Day there was plenty of fresh new growth.
It pleased me to no end to see an Anemone coronaria in my garden this spring. I had planted 40 bulbs, but rather late, and only one came up. Was it too late? Did the voles eat them? I do not really know, but yesterday I planted a new set of bulbs, so I hope to see many more next spring.
By the time April ended the irises were lighting up the borders.
In early May there were many more wonderful irises to enjoy. This part of the year is when my garden is most enjoyable.
By May 10 there were still more irises and I was enjoying their rich blues and violets.
Other colors than blues do show up in the garden though. Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) and Tradescantia (Spiderwort) were spilling over in the western border a few days later, May 14. The aquilegia had been blooming 5 weeks by then.
May brought more happiness as irises in the (southward facing) North Border were joined by lush peonies, phlox, nepeta, foxglove and Sweet William. Here are some views from May 21. If only the garden could stay like this.
A big thanks to Cathy for inspiring me to prepare this garden review. As I am trying to consider changes for this coming year, it was instructive to reflect on my 2014 spring garden.
Hard to believe how quickly May is rushing by, but it is once again time for Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides. This monthly focus is a chance to consider the role foliage plays in creating an interesting garden. My garden is not strong on having year-round structural interest, but at this point in spring the borders are filling out nicely.
There is nice fresh growth on the passalong Hydrangea macrophylla , but it blooms on old growth. I have read several places they will not be blooming this year because of damage from our cold winter. This was shared by Jayme last year and it did have a few gorgeous flowers last summer. I was looking forward to a bigger show this year, but gardening demands patience and the bigger show is being rescheduled for next year.
This plant is also from Jayme last spring, Sarcococca ruscifolia (Fragrant Sweet Box). It is still very small and seemed not to have made it through the winter, but it certainly came around after the weather warmed up. These shiny, bright leaves are much improved over how they looked a couple of months ago.
I mentioned Amaryllis in the post yesterday featuring flowers, but its dew-coated stately leaf and fat bud are interesting too. The fine leaves of Achillea filipendulina (Fern-leaf Yarrow) and dark red stem and leaves of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) bookend this Amaryllis.
Tendrils and buds of this passalong Perennial Everlasting Sweet Pea are always a welcome sight. This variety does not have a fragrance but will have lovely pink flowers.
Hemerocallis (Daylily) are gaining size suddenly. These came from a daylily farm in Fayetteville, NC which my daughter and I visited a few years ago with one of my sisters. I love the plants in my garden that have a little memory.
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ in front of a large stand of a passalong, woody-stemmed Chrysanthemum bring green lushness to the southern border and the promise of later color.
Newly planted this year, the foliage of Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball ‘Abetwo’ looks very healthy. It is planted in front of an old-fashioned rose.
After seeing so many great specimens from other gardens I made it a point to add Brunnera this year. After blooming very well, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Silver Heart’ (False Forget-Me-Not) is set to lighten up a dark corner of the garden with its bright leaf color and pattern.
I wonder if anyone else grows Tansy? A coworker gave it to me years ago and it started becoming a thug. Yes, she warned me it would spread, but I did not understand at the time that when someone giving you a plant speaks those words, it is imperative to heed the warning. I cannot get rid of it, but lately it has just shifted around here and there, not causing too much problem. The foliage is attractive and it has little yellow flowers later. Oftentimes I am actually fond of it.
Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox) is pushing up into the morning light. These are planted in several spots around the garden, most of which are much sunnier than this particular protected location. The dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea is visible in back.
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) is growing well in many spots, preparing to take over the floral display as the iris and columbine wind down.
The foliage of Baptisia australis (blue false indigo) is a soft, gentle green that remains attractive for a few weeks after the flowering time. Baptisia also forms interesting bluish black seed pods.
Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) had beautiful white flower clusters for weeks, but now is going to seed. (Actually I have since trimmed this back to encourage it to fill out.) This Iberis is surrounded by Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue).
A large clump of Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy) has filled the front of a border next to the back steps. Behind it stands Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) with lots of airy, feathery leaves. Completing this area, English thyme is just entering bloom and boldly patterned leaves of Salvia Dorada ‘Aurea’ (Golden Sage) dance above.
Visit Christina at Garden of the Hesperides to see what foliage she is featuring this month and find links to other participants.
Native to eastern North America Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) has been blooming in my garden since April 9. This is about the same time we noticed the spring’s first hummingbird visitor.
Recently I was reading on the black bench facing the meditation circle when a hummingbird came near. From my ring-side seat I watched it sip from one, two, three, four of the nodding red and yellow flowers.
In an instant the tiny bird was on its way, but the moment lingers still.