GBFD The Promise of May

On the 22nd of each month Christina at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides encourages us to look past all the flowers and blooms of the garden and take a second look at what foliage does to support it all.  I’m happy to once again take part in the fun, and what better month to do it in than May, the month where my garden really starts to overflow with the promise of the new season.  Lets start with the front beds where hosta and self sown columbine have now sprouted up and covered the snowdrop and corydalis beds of early spring.

blue columbine with hosta

These blue columbine were originally found in the woods behind the house prior to its clearing for industrial park.  They’re just escaped or dumped aquilegia vulgaris, nothing rare or unusual, but I like to keep them around as a reminder.  Plus they’re carefree.

This will be our seventh year here and after a slow, cash strapped and baby filled start I think things are finally beginning to look like something.  The colors and shapes of the front foundation plantings are still a work in progress but for now the look is finally something I’m no longer bored or annoyed by. – Cathy here are the variegated iris in bloom, they have a fantastic fragrance 🙂

mixed perennial bed as foundation planting

The just recently mulched, expanded and divided plantings of the front foundation planting.

I love the different colors and textures out here at the moment, but my absolute favorite is the “white frosted” Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum).  I know I’m in a lonely position here, but the prickly thistles always fascinate me, and in my opinion variegation is almost always a plus!

Cirsium japonicum 'White Frosted' Japanese thistle

Cirsium japonicum ‘White Frosted’ with blue fescue and some just divided sedum ‘Bon Bon’.

Even with the iris coming into peak bloom along the street border (it’s a good year for iris here), my favorite plant in this mix is the Ptilostemon diacantha.  Some see a spiny weed in need of pulling, I see some of the coolest foliage in the garden.

mixed border with historic bearded iris

Historic iris like the poor soil and hot, dry and sunny front border, and even though the pale yellow iris “flavescens” does not like the wind, the reddish ‘Indian Chief’ and lavender ‘Ambassedeur’ stand strong.

I know I’ve already shown this weed a couple times, but I’ve never seen it looking better…. not a difficult feat since this is its first time growing here!  I suspect the actual blooms will be a letdown, but the fine texture and pattern of the leaves…. 🙂

Ptilostemon diacantha

Foliage closeup of Ptilostemon diacantha.  A biennial thistle from the Balklands/Turkey region in need of a common name.  ‘Ivory thistle’ is the only one I came across and that one kind of bores me…. and with blooms of mauve I don’t see the connection.

There are some friendlier foliages as well.  The juicy fat clumps of this unnamed sedum spectabile (apparently Hylotelephium spectabile is its new name) always make me smile, no matter how common they might be.

spring clumps of sedum spectabile

Spring clumps of sedum spectabile.  The common types are unkillable, and one plant survived for two years after I put the clump down on a stone step after being distracted while transplanting.

Another foliage favorite which I’m happy to have again is this plant of Silene dioica ‘Ray’s Golden’ Campion, which comes via seed from the talented Nan Ondra of Hayefield.  It’s short lived in my garden but easy to grow once you get the seeds planted.  Just rouge out the plain green seedlings.

Silene dioica 'Ray's Golden' campion

Silene dioica ‘Ray’s Golden’ campion with Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ coming up behind.  This section of bed is still in need of weeding, fortunately the shredded leaf mulch has kept most of the little guys from sprouting.

When you circle the house to get out back, you pass what comes closest to a shade bed in this mostly sun-baked garden.  A leaky faucet (left intentionally so for the plants… and laziness) keeps these ostrich ferns and hosta happy here under the dry overhang of the house eaves.

hosta frances Williams seedlings

Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ (just barely noticeable to the right) is the mother to all of these hosta seedlings.  I was curious to see if any would pick up mom’s variegation, but no luck.  All have a similar bluish tint free of any color streaks, a plain look but still beautiful.

The rest of this month’s foliage celebration are also a celebration of wintertime seed sowing.  Lets begin with the seed trays.

rumex sanguineus seedlings with 'sunny side up' pokeweed

My obsession with weeds continues.  Here the baby pictures of Rumex sanguineus seedlings with ‘sunny side up’ Phytolacca Americana next door make for a pretty combination.  Their common names of bloody dock and pokeweed sound much less special 🙂

Any yellow leaved seedling is right up my alley.  Out of my American Primrose Society seeds comes this one little oddball.  My fingers are crossed I can nurse it along to adulthood.

primula polyanthus seedlings

Primula polyanthus seedlings with one yellow leaved sister.  I hope it stays this way and manages to limp through my on again off again care/abuse.  -don’t know why the fly had to photobomb the center of this photo.

Another seedling which has somehow escaped neglect and abuse is this third year Rosa glauca.  I’m looking forward to seeing this one take off, it just needs to go somewhere other than the tomato bed.  Or not.  Maybe it would look nice next to a couple golden cherry tomatoes 🙂

rosa glauca seedling

Rosa glauca freshly mulched with a shovel full of compost.

Sometimes neglect pays off.  The lovely leaves of this lettuce crop are the result of not removing last year’s leftovers until they had bolted and gone to seed.  They’ve even come up in a row as this was a ridge of soil where the mulch was blown off during some winter storm.  Dare I say this planting is nearly as nice as the seedlings I fussed over for weeks indoors and then carefully transplanted and nursed along?

self sown lettuce seedlings

The quality of my weeds is really coming along.  In this photo there’s lettuce, a nice bunch of arugula, phlox, daisies, a daffodil and sunflower.  I must stay strong and remove them all… this really is the only spot left where there’s any chance of fitting in a pepper.

Another weed problem are the many chrysanthemum seedlings sprouting around last year’s plantings.  I must rip them out as well, I have no room for more mums… says he who has a dozen more new little pots in need of planting.

chrysanthemum seedlings

Not sure why I’m posting weed pictures, but you can make out the tiny leaves of chrysanthemum seedlings here amongst the dandelions and clover.

Weeds aren’t the only issue this spring.  The phlox hate the extended dry winds and droughty soil, it brings on the spider mites and I have no interest in spraying for anything.  I’ll make an effort though and spray the foliage off with the water hose while watering (just watering in the first place is probably  good start), then give them a dose of liquid fertilizer.  That and a few more sprays with the water hose might be enough of a shot of goodness to help them outgrow these annoying pests and save this year’s bloom season.  I can’t even imagine a phlox-free summer…

garden phlox with spider mites

What a difference.  Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ on the left has nearly given up under the spider mite attack, while his neighbor to the right only shows a few yellow leaves and yellowed stippling from the spider mites.  I may just trim him back completely and hope for the best with any new growth which manages to come up. 

One more bad foliage visit.  Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a pest in my meadow garden and each spring I battle the legacy of the single vine planted along the fence next door.  I suppose I could spray the clumps and eventually do them in, but I have to admit liking their patterned foliage and late season blooms…. even though I promptly rip the vines off before seed is set.

Japanese clematis Clematis terniflora foliage

Japanese sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) foliage.  I wish this wasn’t such an invasive thug. 

To wrap things up I’ll leave you with something a little cheerier.  With the exception of a few rabbit decimated plants, the bulk of last years clearance heuchera have overwintered nicely and are showing off their fresh spring foliage (as well as their bland and boring flower stalks).  Honestly I don’t like them all together in one big mess, but as plants grow (or die off) I’ll divide the survivors and see if I can work a few clumps into the rest of the garden and make some nicer foliage vignettes.

mixed heuchera planting

Mixed heuchera from last year’s Santa Rosa Gardens purchase.  Yes this bed also needs weeding and more mulch…

So those are the foliage highlights from this end of Pennsylvania.  If you’d like to see what others are up to please visit Christina’s blog to see what people across the world are seeing in their gardens.  It’s always inspiring!

Have a great weekend, here we have three days to observe Memorial Day and in addition to the usual holiday activities I hope to catch up on all things blogging.  Enjoy 🙂

27 comments on “GBFD The Promise of May

  1. Pauline says:

    Love all the foliage in your front border, that has come on beautifully! What a good idea to have the hosta and fern under your leaky tap, they look super! Rosa glauca is one of my favourites, but maybe I should cut mine right down to make it bushy like yours, mine is so spindly!

    • bittster says:

      I’m sure Rosa glauca wouldn’t mind a hard pruning at all, but this is the largest mine has ever been, so no chance of trying any trimming yet! It amazes me how quickly everything has come up this year.

    • I had the same problem when I grew Rosa glauca… was wondering if it secretly wanted to be a climber but just didn’t have the energy, LOL. It was growing in more shade then it should have liked, so I was afraid that if I cut it back it would simply give up entirely. :-/

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Your sedum looks nice and healthy. Nice heuchera, great you found a bargain. They can be very expensive plants here. (Beautiful iris too!)

    • bittster says:

      i feel like there’s something so fresh and healthy about sedum clumps. I always admire them.
      Santa Rosa usually has a great sale each summer and I’m already debating whether or not I should add more heucheras. I think not, but it’s so tempting!

  3. Cathy says:

    Thanks for pointing out the iris, Frank! Yes, it is a lovely flower, but the foliage makes all the difference. Love the Heuchera, and the healthy Hostas too. Mine are also looking good for now, but the first snail trails have been spotted nearby! Those borders are looking really lovely – you’ve achieved a lot in seven years as they look quite established. We also have a holiday weekend (Whit/Pentecost Monday) so enjoy the break too!

    • bittster says:

      Good luck with your hostas. It’s an odd year when we get enough consistent moisture to keep the slugs happy… and chances are my lackluster watering habits won’t be enough to make up the deficit. The damage they do can get so frustrating, especially when your faced with looking at the same leaves damaged in May for the next five months!

  4. Christina says:

    Not a holiday here this week, and I’m glad because the weather is cold and wet, great for the garden, but bad for a holiday. You have loads of fabulous foliage interest in your front and back gardens; my favourite? the spiky thistle, it’s wonderful, I would love to have it here, even though it does look slightly scary! Thanks for joining in with such a generously long post filled with many inspiring foliage plants.

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad you like the thistle! Most people avoid noticing them or are politely reserved in their comments so it’s nice to find someone else who appreciates them. I like the thistle well enough, but I have a few verbascum bombyciferum seedlings coming along which I am just as excited about. Two years ago I was able to raise a pair of plants which promptly rotted while blooming, this time I’m hoping for a much greater success rate!
      I always enjoy joining in for foliage day, thanks!

  5. johnvic8 says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your foliage photos are a delight, particularly the heuchera and the rose.

    • bittster says:

      The heucheras have such amazing patterns and color, I never get tired of watching them grow and change colors as the seasons warm and then cool off.

  6. Thanks for the May tour. You have neatly edged beds and all looks so neat and tidy. Even your weeds look happy. We just had the Norway Maples snow on our gardens. The helicopters blanked everywhere. Weed seedlings will out number preferred plants very soon. Dandelion completely covered our parkway too. Some year for weed production.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks for noticing the edges, it doesn’t often look this neat and I wish it did. Trust me there are more messes around the garden than there is order!
      I despise Norway maple seedlings. I was just walking in the nearby woods and in some areas the ground is a blanket of sprouting N. maple seedlings. I would try and control them, but it’s such a losing battle… and the woods are really just abandoned mine lands so nothing pristine.
      The neighbor has a silver maple and I believe the dry spring has allowed every last flower to be pollinated. There is a 2 to 3 inch deep drift of helicopters along the curb and although the kids love throwing them, all I see is a billion new weeds!

  7. You’re right, the Clematis ternifolia leaves are very attractive – unfortunate that the plant is such a thug. I really like your Aquilegia, Irises, and selection of Heuchera.

  8. Chloris says:

    It amazes me how your garden has caught up after so many weeks of snow. It is looking wonderful. You have some great foliage. I love that spiky thistle. The Clematis ternifolia is new to me.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks. I’m not all that thrilled with the catch-up. It means we raced through many of my favorite times of year, even snowdrop season flew by, and don’t get me started on how quickly the tulips came and went!

  9. Annette says:

    That border in front of the house looks great, Frank, and I can see that you have a good hand for conifers too. Must admit that my Cupressus look rather poorly and I’m not sure if it’s a disease or wind damage. Your combinations show beautifully how important foliage is in a garden.

    • bittster says:

      My tiny conifers are beginning to amount to something and I’m quite happy for that. I’ve even begun the process of editing out some of the original plantings which I’ve never been all that keen on.
      I saw the cypress in your new orchard plantings. I hope it’s just a matter of them recovering from the recent transplanting and nothing more serious. Are they frequently planted in your area? I always picture them in more arid areas.

      • Annette says:

        Yes, they’re planted a lot around here and seem to thrive – mind you, we get very hot and dry summers. I’ve since learned though that they are pretty thirsty, especially in their youth.

  10. Your garden looks amazing, and it’s only seven years old? Even more impressive! So, what kind of armor do you wear when weeding around that dramatic but vicious-looking thistle? 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Armor when weeding around thistles? You give me an awful lot of credit…. common sense is not always one of my strong points, and I often end up playing the reach for weed, ouch!, reach for weed, Ouch! reach, ouch, reach, ouch… and later it occurs to me I should have worn gloves.
      Now cactus are another story. For those I wear gloves… even though the spines go right through. I don’t know why I’m considering more cactus.

  11. Fabulous heucheras and I love that variegated iris.

  12. Spider mites have devoured my phlox for the first time ever. It’s horrible! I’m just going to let them finish the leaves they’re dining on and then wait for new foliage. They’ve already had a good soaking but are getting more water mixed with worm juice from my worm bins and some liquid kelp meal tomorrow.

  13. Linda B. says:

    That thistle is stunning. I’d call it the Ghost Thistle.

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