The Vortex of Gloom

Vortex of gloom might be slightly dramatic, but the endlessly overcast days really seem to be extending far beyond the usual April showers.  Last I checked it’s May and this nonsense should have been all worked out a week ago.

perennial tulips

‘Pink Impression’ tulips doing well along the street, even though the shrubby dogwoods are beginning to take over.

No matter.  The ground has still not degenerated into the slimy muck of last year’s endless monsoon so there’s still hope… but considering the growing season is only just off to a start, there better still be hope!

perennial tulips

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers.  The form can be so elegant, and the colors and patterns so intricate.

I didn’t know what to expect this year as far as the tulips go.  For the past two springs I’ve been dealing with the fungal infection called tulip fire, and when I say ‘dealing with’ I hope you understand I mean more of an emotional coping rather than any kind of actual physical activity.  This lazy gardener did go around and pick off many of the most infected leaves (spotting and distortion) and dug a couple hundred bulbs to thin and replant in the fall, but as far as sprays and other more sure-fire solutions… meh.

The carpet of corydalis is disappearing under the next wave of plants.  They next wave would probably look better dry and not-windswept, but you get the idea.

All in all it’s not a bad show.  The earlier part of April was dry which helped, thinned out clumps probably helped, and since it’s a soil-borne pathogen I think mulching helped as well.  Add to that my insanely strong resolve last fall and the fact that I didn’t add a single new tulip (in spite of clearance sales, flash sales, and glossy catalogs galore) and there might have been a good enough combination of culture and luck that things worked out.  Now if we can only avoid a fungal fueling month of dreary, wet weather there might be some hope for next year as well.

perennial tulips

I’m not sure how I like smoky rich tones of ‘Muvota’, but they might look really cool in a more elegant garden as opposed to my 8-pack Crayola colors garden.

To be honest the ten day forecast does not look good.  For now we’ll just have to enjoy the raindrops and lack of watering chores and look forward to the jungle which shall rise over the next few weeks.  Hopefully it won’t all be weeds.

perennial tulips

My tulip plantings are a mess and I’m fine with that.  Smarter gardeners would pull them each summer and enjoy a cleaner palette of new color-coordinated bulbs planted each fall…. 

perennial tulips

This almost looks planned.  I could dig them after the foliage dies back, thin out the smaller bulbs, replant in the fall as a mix, and it would probably look even better next year… but that does sound like a lot of work considering new bulbs can be bought for under $10. 

As far as useful information in a blog post goes, again I apologize for not providing any, so here’s one bit of selection advice.  Most of the early doubles and parrot tulips don’t appreciate day after day of heavy rains and overly rude winds, so if you garden anywhere that weather happens you should expect these to get floppy.

perennial tulips

More advice:  Don’t plant your new snowdrop bed over where you ‘thought’ you dug up all the tulips, and while we’re at it don’t throw spare bulbs in the compost and then use the compost before it’s done.  

You may have guessed by my tone that it’s still too damp this Saturday morning to get out in the garden, but to be honest it’s still all pretty awesome.  I love spring, rain and rot and everything!

blueberry flowers

Wherever the blueberries have outgrown the reach of the local bunny population, the branches are full of flowers.  Advice alert:  you should do better than me, put a little fencing around in the fall and all of your bushes might flower as nicely. 

Primrose are on the way.  Many are still a little too insulted to grow well in my miserable soil, but a few hardier souls are thrilling me to bits.

primula veris

Primula veris, the cowslip, doesn’t mind a little summer drought and rooty shade.  Gardeners in better soils might even accuse it of weediness.

The last two rainy years have almost tricked me into thinking I can grow a bunch of shade loving things such as native woodland wildflowers, but I won’t fall for that.  The ones I have can enjoy the moisture while it lasts, but let me say it now… I WILL NOT BUY ANY TRILLIUMS.

magnolia macrophylla

My amazing bigleaf Magnolia (M. macrophylla) seedling.  Individual leaves can range from 1-3 feet in length and hold the title for largest simple leaf of any native N. American plant.  Sadly a few hours after this photo was taken a surprise freeze shriveled this foliage, but new ones are on the way!

Come to think of it I shouldn’t buy any new plants, but who seriously expects that?  If there are any promise I can keep this year it’s to actually buy more.  Someone chilled me to the core by mentioning my favorite nursery was actually considering closing after a terrible season last year.  It was a landslide of personal tragedies that can effect any small, locally owned business where the employees are more a family than a work-force, but combined with the bad weather and its influence on outdoor sales, things start to add up and seem overwhelming.  I don’t pretend to know all the circumstances, but I do know I can buy more plants!  Fair warning that rain of shine I’ll be scheduling plenty of visits to Perennial Point this season.  Once a week sounds like a decent start, and after spending a billion dollars to take a couple kids to a movie and buy a few drinks and popcorn, I think a minimum budget of $20 $30 a week is very reasonable 😉

arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum looking a bit rain-battered, but still impossibly white inside.

I’ll cram the new plants in wherever they fit.  I’m never happy with where I put stuff anyway, so why should I always stress over it, and unless I suddenly become gifted with the powers of good-design sense, it should all work out anyway.  Case in point and also Advice Alert:  Move/remove small tree seedlings that sprout too close to the house and you won’t be faced with having to deal with big tree seedlings that have sprouted too close to the house.  If the tree wasn’t there you also wouldn’t have to feel guilty about cutting it down, but on the other hand (and sort of trying to get to the point), it doesn’t seem to matter anyway.  The gardener mentioned that he has to remove it.  The boss stated that she likes it.  The boy claims he likes seeing it out his window.  The tree remarked with some enthusiastic blooms.  The boss restated that she likes it.  Case closed.

dogwood seedling

I didn’t get authorization to trim the evergreen down a few years ago and there words exchanged, so when the dogwood appeared and also grew too big, I figured I’d mention the deed before doing the deed.  It’s staying… but I wonder what will happen when the little Japanese maple seedling at the bottom right of the photo becomes large enough to get noticed 🙂

That’s it from here.  It’s still gloomy, but I’m pretty sure the front porch step is dry enough for sitting with a second cup of coffee, and the birds seem happy enough and the tulips still glow.  I’m sure within a few minutes I’ll be wandering about and the neighbors will again wonder how I can spend so much time looking at dirt, but I’d like to suggest I’m now looking at weeds as well.

allium karataviense red and pink giant

New this year, Allium karataviense ‘Red and Pink Giant’.  I love it already!

I guess I do have to deal with the weeds.  Looking only does so much.

muscari and blue fescue

I think I said all the blue fescue grass needs dividing and replanting…. but not now, it looks so nice with the grape hyacinths (Muscari).

Have a great weekend!

18 comments on “The Vortex of Gloom

  1. The tree that must not be removed–what kind of dogwood is that? I don’t have much luck with tulips coming back. I don’t think it gets hot and dry enough in the summer. But I like looking at yours! Hope this week is drier than they predict for both of us.

    • bittster says:

      The dogwood is a self-sown C. florida. They like the front yard and I often end up with seedlings here and there.
      Welllllll…. it hasn’t been much drier, but it’s still spring, and that’s always a good thing. By now the rain has brought on fungal attacks, and much of the tulip plantings have turned to mush… but at least the lettuce has recovered from a bunny attack and maybe I’ll finally have a chance at it!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Love all the color in your garden right now, Frank, and adore T. ‘Muvota’ (although it might be tricky to position them with others due to its color change as it ages). The near-constant rain is making me behind in my spring gardening chores, sigh. I dash out between cloudbursts.
    You had better move that Japanese maple before it gets much bigger! 😉

    • bittster says:

      The ‘Muvota’ tulips are a nice change for me since they’re so different from what I normally plant. Fortunately there are so many color-misses in my garden that I really don’t have to worry much about any real fine-tuning of tricky color combos with these, but maybe someday I can work on it!
      Hope you’re getting a chance to get out there. Here I started doing rain walks since the waiting for drier weather has become hopeless. At least today is looking promising!

  3. Pauline says:

    I too like your Tulip Muvota, vey unusual colouring, it would look lovely in my sunset border! Hope your rain soon stops and you have a nice dry spell to get all your weeding up to date, I’m battling the weeds too.

    • bittster says:

      Oh yes! I think you’re right on a sunset border position for this tulip. Actually I should really take a firmer hand with my “sunset border”. It never really rose or set, and could use a gardener with a more disciplined color sense 😉

  4. rusty duck says:

    Your tulips look amazing!
    Frost for us tonight. Very unusual this late in the season and I expect it will take its toll. There’s always something.

    • bittster says:

      Hopefully the frost passed harmlessly, although with all the construction going on at chez duck I can hardly imagine worrying about anything more than the most tender things from in the not-so-sheltering-anymore greenhouse! Good luck 🙂

  5. I keep planting tulips with mixed results, so yours are impressive. And that Arisaema! We are entering our second week of mostly rain. My plants are happy but not looking their best. Dare I mention my Trilliums are looking great despite snow and rain. I need to take some pix.

    • bittster says:

      I think trilliums were born to this weather, which I suspect is why they don’t normally do well here. You would laugh at how tiny and disappointed they look!
      Still I wouldn’t mind a little drying out… even if that means a pollen explosion the next day.

  6. Cathy says:

    Your tulips are enjoying the weather too – I love that smoky red one ‘Muvota’. I have never lifted and thinned or replanted tulips either, but usually have some in pots that get added to the garden and buy more almost every year! I think that is extremely generous of you to support your local nursery by buying more plants. 😉 I think that may be a good new year’s resolution that I may be able to keep too! It was very hot 10 days ago, and now we are back to cool showery days and frosty nights. Hope your rain lets off soon. We are lapping ours up as we have waited so long for it!

    • bittster says:

      I suspect all the rain we are getting is payback for all the complaining I’ve done in the drier years, so I still stand by the opinion that deluge is better than drought.
      I’m glad you’re finally seeing a good amount of rain. There’s nothing better than a couple good, natural soakings for all those new plantings!

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your tulip fest is nice. Only the white tulips I planted years ago come back. They don’t seem to multiply they just are. All the color ones seem to eventually fade away. I always want more but forget to plant in the fall. After seeing yours I think I should make a point to plant more. Your entire garden looks pretty. You should sit there on the step with your coffee and enjoy it. The weeds will wait. Have a good week.

    • bittster says:

      Tulips are the one fall-planted bulb that rarely cause me any stress. I rarely expect more than a year or two out of them, so don’t bother much with how or where they get planted. That shows when they come up, but the garden is so color-starved in spring, a few color clashes don’t bother me at all

  8. I find it hard not to take the weather personally sometimes, especially when day after day goes by without any sun. How can that not be a sign of malice? I like a random approach to bulbs, especially tulips that appear more or less by accident.

    • bittster says:

      I think the only thing worse than endless rain and gloom is on and off rain and gloom that seems to match your gardening schedule. I hope I’m not tempting fate by taking a sick day on a day which is supposed to be nice.

  9. Mabel Kwong says:

    Sorry to hear it has been rainy for you over there. But from the looks and sounds of it, it is doing your garden well 🙂 These are some lovely close-up shots you took. Perhaps you should treat yourself to a new plant or two… I like things organised like you and fitting things in their place, but sometimes you have to tell yourself something new might bring something good your way 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Mabel! I have to admit I did treat myself to a few new plants last weekend. If all the extra rain is good for anything it’s at least doing a great job keeping my new plantings watered 😉

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