A Mayday Celebration

The last few weeks have me drowning in the color of spring bulbs.  They’re not the fanciest varieties and they’re not laid out into the most exquisite vignettes, but they are bright and to me they’re just about the nicest explosion of spring that I could imagine.

perennial tulips

Perennial Darwin tulips in the vegetable garden.  I keep threatening to evict them in order to make room for tomatoes, but tomatoes can wait and for now this is something you just can’t buy at the grocery. *photo credits to my wife for this one.  The spring color lured her out as well… in spite of allergies!

Every summer I make an attempt to reclaim the vegetable garden and every spring it seems like the bulbs are multiplying faster than I can dig.  The daffodils are carefree, but even the tulips make a go at it, and I think the summer baking in thin, heavy soil is really what they seem to enjoy.  If only the vegetables did as well.

potager garden

The area more commonly known as the “Potager”.  To put minds at rest I’d like to proudly announce that the center bed actually now contains vegetables as well as a few blooms.  The seed potatoes finally went in this week.

Not to paint myself as some greedy, plant hording ogre but here are the tulips which were supposed to end up next door in my brother in law’s yard.  At the time it sounded like an extremely noble gesture, this selfless donation of extremely fat tulips to someone else’s garden… but then I had second thoughts and into my own garden they went.  Looks like my petition for sainthood will still face a few bumps in the road.

darwin mix tulips from home depot

The orange tulips were already here, but the purples, reds and whites were newly planted from a bag of ‘mixed Darwin tulips’.  They’re nice enough, but as it is with these mixed bags from a big box store they’re not Darwin tulips, and they’re nothing like the photo on the bag.  They are colorful though.

Another issue with my sainthood (other than still being on the living side of the divide) was that I actually pulled out a few tulips from this mix which were deemed too ugly to stay in this garden.  This was horribly judgemental on my part, but the tulips were a grossly congested, small white multiflowering thing and even though I would have never thought I’d ever see an ugly tulip, there they were…

narcissus bright angel

The beautifully pristine narcissus ‘Bright Angel’.  The early and midseason daffodils may be over but these are still just perfect!

While the tulips are taking the spotlight there are still plenty of daffodils.  This is the tail end of the season, and the late varieties are really welcome as the others begin to fade.

narcissus irish linen

Narcissus ‘Irish Linen’.  A clean, pure beauty which has stood up well to the wind and changing weather.

For this little slice of Pennsylvania 2017 has been an excellent daffodil season.  Occasional rain, reasonable temperatures and no brutal freezes have reminded me that these bulbs can be overwhelmingly awesome, and I’m almost ashamed to admit I considered entering a few flowers into a daffodil show.  What kind of fanatics do things like this!?  The closest would have been a two hour drive each way and me being a complete novice I just couldn’t rationalize my way into it.  For now maybe I’ll just rejoin the American Daffodil Society and consider a try in 2018… that sounds entirely reasonable.

narcissus winston churchill requiem

The fragrant double ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ on the left with ‘Requiem’  to the right.  Both deserve more recognition than that of a passing rabbit or lone, wandering gardener.

Looks like we will have to wait and see what happens.  Spring is such a busy time and I hate to lose a full Saturday during primetime, but for some reason it’s tempting.  Must be that attraction of spending time with equally crazy plant people, I think that’s what always gets me 🙂

narcissus requiem

‘Requiem’ again.  The Petals have a lemony flush to them which I love, and the small cup looks so perfect.

Daffodil shows or not, one thing I definitely need to still consider is the call for adoptive parents for the many extras which fill the bulb beds.  The beds are packed and I need to get rid of hundreds of bulbs from old favorites to heirlooms to newer varieties.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any,  all it takes is the price of postage.  Please.

narcissus mission bells

Narcissus ‘Mission Bells’.  This one deserves a little more room but…

Now I really can’t justify the next flower.  Double tulips are gross wads of colorful tissue paper stuck onto the ends of pipe cleaners and pen ends.  Completely lacking in class and of course just what I need more of.

magic carpet double tulips

A few years ago I planted a ‘Magic Carpet Mix’ of double tulips and I’ve been digging them each summer and moving them around trying to find just the right spot for them.  I’ll let you know if I ever succeed.

I admit I do like tulip monstrosities.  The singles are so plain and elegant it’s nearly unstable of me to want anything else, but I do, and I know next year will see a few more doubles and probably a few of the twisted and distorted parrots as well.  I think the only oddities I don’t like are the fringed tulips.  It’s probably good to draw the line somewhere.

magic carpet double tulips

More ‘Magic Carpet mix” double tulips.  The taller pink and blush flowers make excellent cut flowers btw.

It’s not all bulbs here, there are a few other treasures here as well putting on a nice show.  As this is my 9th spring here I’m starting to wonder where all the billions of seedlings I start each spring go.  I kill thousands, and another million are annuals, but here and there I’m starting to see a few nice perennials joining my garden.  Not as many as you might hope for or expect, but it’s still a fun trip.

valentine bleeding heart from seed

Here’s a bleeding heart from seed.  The seeds were labeled as being from ‘Valentine’ and the plants do have darker stems (which have faded in some warmer weather) and the red flowers of its parent, but as for growing it from seed I can’t give any reason other than you can and I did 🙂

One group of seed-grown plants which is almost a problem now (since I keep starting more and more each spring) are the primroses.  A few of the tougher types such as the polyanthus and veris (cowslips?) types are building up decent clumps, but I’m still pretty sure they just tolerate my garden and aren’t really that thrilled to be here.  I’ll take what I get though and for now they’re worth the extra trouble of watering.

primula seed exchange

Seed grown primula from the American Primrose Society seed exchange.

Although most of the other types (mostly the p. aucalis and wanda types which usually show up at groceries in the spring) die off during the summer, but eventually I hope to find a few others which aren’t too much trouble.  Granted “too much trouble” is a very relative term if it’s something you really, really, really need to grow!

primula seed exchange

More primula from seed, these are probably ‘Sunset shades’, a cowslip (p. veris) strain.

Okay, I’m already distracted by the bulbs again.  As we move around to the front yard the Camassia are blooming in the front foundation bed.  I love them but they flower so quickly, especially if we get a few hot days.  By the way these need to be divided as well, so if anyone wants a couple dozen…


The foundation bed with blue camassia and (in my opinion) a very nice blend of foliage colors and textures.

More tulips.  The “Incendiary Collection” from Scheepers is flowering in the newest section of the front street border and I’m more than pleased with it.  The mix is a blend of three colors but even for the gardener who planted them it looks like a mix of two unless one looks really hard.  No problem though,  all I notice is the bunches of perfect color and the…. well really, the tulips are the only thing I notice.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

A $40 splurge on 80 bulbs.  They weren’t even on sale and if I were the introspective type I’d wonder why I bought them and how I rationalized it after saying earlier “no new tulips this fall”.

Actually I did notice one other thing.  Still tulips, but they’re a much shorter and more subtle version of the group.  It’s tulip “Green River” and they’ve come back nicely for a second year.

tulip green river

Tulip ‘Green River’.  I’d call this an orange sherbert color and although it’s not as showy as the others I still think they’re cool.  Don’t overlook the variegated foliage, it’s another subtle touch on a pretty little tulip.

Spring is moving fast so it’s really best to soak these things in while you can, and believe me I’m trying.  The house has a ton of projects which should be getting done but whatever.  I’ll leave you with a parting glimpse of the front yard tulipomania.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

Bright flowers, green grass, and springtime sunshine.

Hope spring is going great for you as well.  Have a wonderful weekend!

23 comments on “A Mayday Celebration

  1. Tim Calkins says:

    looks great!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Wonderful, exuberant colors.

  3. I hope I am already on the list for surplus daffodils, and I’ll take camassia, too. And those dogwood seedlings. And let me know if there’s anything else you need help with. Do you have too many primroses yet?

    • bittster says:

      Oh good, someone interested in the camassia. I think once I get started digging those crowded clumps there will be quite a few bulbs to spread around. I have a double white camassia as well, I’ll try and slip one in just for variety.
      As far as primroses go I’m still trying to figure out which ones will survive the dry summers, but I bet Deborah would have a few spares!
      Hmmmmmm, if I get up to Ithaca this spring and you make it as well, we could do some kind of shady parking lot or street-corner plant swap. Maybe I can find a patent protected plant to trade illegally and we could really take a walk on the dark side!

  4. johnvic8 says:

    What a beautiful and colorful display. It must make you feel wonderful.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks John, it’s so nice to see things growing happily again (until the next extreme weather event or varmint attack comes along!)

  5. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Yowsa! What a gorgeous explosion of spring’s exuberance. After winter, gardeners are starved for color and new life. Who cares if it’s “tasteful” or not? Your potager is awesome – tomatoes be damned. Unfortunately, most tulips don’t hang around for many years in my water-retentive soil/wet winter garden.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, obviously “tasteful or not” doesn’t hold me back too much!
      Sorry the tulips don’t last in your garden, but I’m not even close to feeling bad for you. I’ve seen pictures, and my first thought was never ‘you could use a few tulips in between all those podophyllum and under the dripping-with-flowers camellias’ 😉

  6. Christina says:

    It is lovely to relive the tulip season through your ‘spring’. I won’t be offended my your dislike of fringed tulips which I think are stunning. Good job we don’t all like the same things really.

    • bittster says:

      I did not think it could ever happen but perhaps fringed tulips are the first thing out of your garden which I’ve not hoped to duplicate here! I’m caught between being proud of myself for taking a stand, and being concerned that I’m missing something. Maybe I’ll add a fringed tulip next year just to make sure I’m not jumping to conclusions!

  7. That sure is a nice collection of tulips! Green River is really pretty. Seriously, I’m going to give you all of mine after I dig them up later this spring! Better you should get them than the creatures in the forest, where I usually dump them! And there’s not a fringed one among them–I did some of those last year and wasn’t overly impressed! There’s a really pretty peony-type called ‘Charming Beauty.’ And I’ll be happy to take extra daffodil bulbs off your hands–no postage necessary! ‘Requiem’ is stunning, and I’ve heard only good things about the scent of ‘Sir Winton.’ Your Camassia is much earlier than mine. I’ll take a look in my gardens to see whether I need/want any more of those! I really want to get down there to see your spring gardens before it’s too late. Looking at the forecast, though, it does look like things will last a while, if they don’t get too waterlogged!

    • bittster says:

      You were right. The downpours have washed away most of the late daffodils and the bulk of the tulips, but there are still a few things bu the trees are greening up and I noticed the first iris are opening! I won’t even care about daffodils and tulips once the iris start 🙂
      Don’t worry too much about the tulips, I actually have The princely mix already and should probably take a little better care of them before I start adding more of the same. ‘Charming Beauty’ does look very nice though…. just saying…
      I’m going to hold you to your daffodil request. I have a lot of extras, so start thinking about where they’re going. You may want to ask about my “shallow grave” planting method, it’s what I use when I have to get way more daffodils into the ground than I want to.

      • Yes, I think you’ve mentioned the “shallow grave” method. You just barely dig a shallow trench and then load up lots of leaves on top, right? Or do you even bother digging at all?

      • bittster says:

        Dig shallow hole, dump bag contents, kick dirt on top. Sometimes I spread the bulbs around a bit so they’re not crowded and then put them pointed end up, but most of the time the next step is kicking the dirt over and back into the hole. It’s more a ‘no-bend’ method since bending down is becoming less and less fun as I further develop my talent for laziness.

  8. DB says:

    Your wife is an excellent photographer. You should use more of her pictures. 🌷

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, I’ll pass that on to her. Deep, deep, deep… deep, deep down inside I think she really likes the garden.
      You know what else I hear she likes? -breakfast. How about some yummy, greasy breakfast this morning?

  9. Cathy says:

    Wonderful colours! Green River is really pretty and that three colour mix has great impact. My Camassia are not in flower yet, but I still have lots of tulips for colour. I immediately thought of Kimberley when you said you had Narcissus going begging… glad she is taking you up on the offer! Some of my cowslips have cross-pollinated and I have some that look just like yours now. I think they all came from one single plant and some primulas planted in pots on the patio. 🙂 By the way, I think my fringed tulips will be open today (20°C is forecast!) so I will get a shot of them and see if I can convince you…. Have a great weekend!

    • bittster says:

      🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing the tulips. It’s well know that it takes next to no convincing to get me to try a new plant!
      20°C and sun sounds so perfect, we’re windy and a bit cooler but without sunshine it’s more of a work day than a sit in the garden enjoying I day… not that I won’t 😉
      I don’t know if my garden will ever make the cowslips happy enough that I get seedlings but then you never know. Maybe all it will take is a little attention to watering and a better site so you never know!

  10. My Tulips are finally opening after lots of rain and cold. Can’t wait for that splash of color, though it’s nothing like your colorful display. Love the wider view of your garden rather than just the close-ups. And I must say I do love double Tulips, though at the moment I can’t remember what I planted last fall . . .

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    More than amazing, your tulipmania, must inspire the whole neighborhood, Frank. Your offer is tempting, especially with flat-rate postage. 😉

  12. […] 😉 If I could send bulbs to the US I would dig them up and send them to Frank at Sorta Like Suburbia to try and convince him how lovely the fringed ones are and how any discerning tulip collector […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.