A May Lull

A cool and rainy week with a busy schedule have kept me out of the garden for a few days.  By that I mean there were enough weather and work excuses to avoid any real work, since even a rainy day does not cancel the daily garden tour.  In other gardens the lilacs overhang azaleas, with dogwoods and redbuds shading the lawn, and banks of rhododendrons exploding in color… but I’ve only a few dogwoods and little of the others, so here the spring crescendo of tulips is followed by a slight lull of green.

foundation perennials

The blue camassia are a flash in the pan here and only seem to flower for a week or so.  It’s a nice show, but the blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) is just as nice and lasts longer so I may (again) try and dig all the camassia to get rid of them.  This time I’ll try and get all the bulbs…

Right now there may be a lull in the flowering, but after several months of white and brown, green is still an excellent color, and with its various shades and shapes, and the surprise of variegation and chartreuse or purple tints, even a green lull makes for a nice show and it should really be enough.

aquilegia vulgaris

Blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) was originally found in the woods behind the house, and rescued when the bulldozers came.  It’s not native and fancier colors and forms exist, but I like it well enough.

Most people can stick with well enough, but I admit to a short attention span and fickleness so of course I want other things to follow up as the tulips fade and the bearded iris are yet to come.  The columbine is good, and usually moneyplant (Lunaria annua) fills in with a nice purple, but I think I need more alliums.

perennial bed

Tulips and daffs have all been deadheaded and are disappearing under the next wave of growth but just the columbine and a few moneyplants  (it’s a down year for this biennial) are in bloom.  The blue is nice, but note the bold little ‘Candy Corn’ spirea in front.   I can’t believe I planted it, usually spirea disgust me, but this one is so offensively bright there was no resisting.

Back in the day the budget was much tighter, and a few flowering onions always seemed to be just too much when a big bag of tulips could be had for the same price.  Today it’s a different story.  A couple new alliums are just pennies once you’ve paid off the monthly gymnastics bill and bought a couple pricey snowdrops.

allium gladiator

Allium ‘Gladiator’ was my first big allium.  I was hoping for bigger, but tall is good too!  Over the last 15 years one bulb has become many.

So I will see what happens.  The problem is settling on just two or three rather than a dozen, and I of course will be looking for suggestions from my friends.  I already have a few leads 😉

allium gladiator

‘Gladiator’ is also doing well in the potager.  Phlox and other perennials are coming up just in time to (mostly)cover the allium’s yellowing leaves.

Yeah, the yellowing leaves.  Just as the flowers open and draw a little attention, the foliage starts dying back to compete with the show.  Trimming them back or hiding them in a border are two options for better gardeners.

allium gladiator

The green centers are cool.

The yellowing allium foliage can be a deal breaker for some, but here it barely registers.  I run a messy garden and fortunately some delusion of diamond in the rough or some bizarrely inflated ego syndrome allows me to still share photos online.  I should be embarrassed most of the time, but luckily it’s a rare day that I see some perfect garden photo and suddenly question my entire gardening hobby (as well as the public settings on this blog).

raised bed vegetable

The mountain of snowball bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) is probably the only perfect thing about the potager right now.  It should be weeded.  And planted.  And tended.  One of these days…

Ah, whatever.  Let’s finish with a disclaimer on the potager.  The raised beds are excellent, the sand paths are perfect, the whole idea of the potager is much better than the usual mess, but it’s still just a mess.  “It’s not you, it’s me” I tell the garden and I suspect the garden understands.  My weaknesses is a love of interesting, and it’s just too interesting to see if the resprouting cabbage stumps from last year will form heads or if the missed potatoes from last year will amount to anything.  Good thing no one expects this garden to feed a family.

raised bed vegetable

A few parsley seedlings went into this bed, but I’m still working myself up to weeding out all the rest.  Besides obvious weeds there’s a nice clump of lettuce, many tomato seedlings… random hellebores…

So what did I do today?  Clear a bed and plant beans?  No, of course not.  I was working in the front border dividing tulip clumps.  Just for the record, it’s too early to divide tulips.  The foliage should be yellowing and it’s not but whatever.  Dig up a clump, shake and pick out the smaller bulbs, and replant.  No careful soil improvement, no watering in and I guess we will see what comes of it.  Smarter gardeners would have pulled them all and tossed them after flowering, it’s just a few dollars to replace them, but I don’t think it will surprise anyone if I admit my gardening is more of an ADD drifting through ideas rather than a focused plan with a to-do list.  Reinventing the wheel has always been a passion of mine.

Have a great week, and I hope it includes plenty of plant-time 🙂

24 comments on “A May Lull

  1. I will take some camassias off your hands if you ever get around to digging them.

  2. Ian Lumsden says:

    Not, absolutely not, a messy garden and your attention span appears longer than mine. Great read.

  3. Cathy says:

    Hellebores in the veg plot?! Mind you don’t put a leaf or two in the salad bowl! 😉 I dried my tulip bulbs last year and replanted in autumn… wonder if that was better here than just replanting immediately as they did really well this spring. I will have to experiment. My Alliums are also multiplying which means smaller flowers. Am I supposed to divide them too? I always end up chopping off the leaves at some stage! Oh, and you can never have enough Alliums. The Camassias are pretty but their foliage does take up a lot of space, I must admit. Love them though, brief as they may be!

    • bittster says:

      I’m running the same tulip experiment. Although the bulbs I replanted immediately were probably dug too early, it will be interesting to see how they compare to the ones dug later and the ones dried off and stored for the summer.
      I saw some excellent alliums this weekend and am even more desperate to add new ones, but then I saw a garden filled with roses. They weren’t even in bloom and I was still way too excited, they were all ramblers and climbers, species crosses and old roses, all selected for hardiness and disease resistance. I can’t wait to go back in June 🙂

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I always enjoy your ramblings about the garden. Allium are such cheerful orbs floating above the garden.

  5. Paddy Tobin says:

    May has been peculiar in the garden here, south-east Ireland. At this time of year here there is an explosion of growth and the garden really fills up, a wonderful time of the year, but we have also had a very wet period this year which has prevented our normal everyday gardening. We wish to but we cannot.

    Camassias enjoy our conditions too much; growth is luscious and leads to their collapsing in a messy heap. They are plants of the open prairie, a hotter and drier situation than our damp and cool garden – the feeding is really too good for them. I have come on Camassia cusickii which is much smaller and is a perfect candidate for growing in long grass. Alliums are coming into flower here also – Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is most numerous as it has seeded about over the years.

    • bittster says:

      I hope there’s a dry spell on the way. A few days inside during this time of year can leave things a mess and you also miss so much as things are moving so quickly.
      We are into a few hot days and flowers are opening and passing far faster than I’d like. The rich colors of the first clematis fade in a day or two and even the alliums have lost their brightness. I’ve even had to drag the hose around the last few days for some new transplants and all the moisture lovers. Obviously the primula are not happy. But on the plus side we opened the swimming pool and it was hot enough out to brave a dip in the icy waters 🙂
      Camassia confuse me. I’ve seen pictures of them in their native haunts and it’s always a damp meadow. Here they do well in a completely dry spot. I think I’m going to get rid of them all this summer.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        The bigger ones – C. leichtlinnii, for example – become big flops here, growing lush and tall and then collapsing. They are reasonably good when put between shrubs for support.

      • bittster says:

        How surprising, I’ve always thought their short bloom period was their main fault!

  6. pbmgarden says:

    It looks great Frank. Wish I had your success with alliums. Mine just disappear. I blame voles although I thought they were supposed to avoid allium.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Susie. Perhaps your voles enjoy a little more flavor in their diets, I wouldn’t doubt it at all if they were the reason yours always disappear.

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    Green is definitely better than the white and brown that we have to put up with for half the year. I adore seeing all the green unfolding at this time of year, as well as hearing the wind in the leaves once again. I’ve been focusing on attracting more birds to the yard and it is so fun watching the action every morning, sitting out on the deck with my tea. Three birdhouses have new tenants. 🙂
    Sadly, I hurt my back two weeks ago (such BAD timing), so garden work stopped and only now is resuming at a snail’s pace. You would understand how hard it is to keep a gardener out of a garden in May!
    If you really are getting rid of camassia, they’d find a home here, postage paid. 😉 The daffodils were wonderful, but this heat is sending them over– it was a great season with the prolonged cool temps.

    • bittster says:

      Ugh. Injuries during May are the worst. I hope you’re set up well for a relaxing recovery, but I know you must want to get a ton of things done! The garden can wait though, even if it needs to wait a whole season… although it may end up a little wooly looking by the time you get back to it!
      You’re on the list for Camassia! I have some double white as well, I think they’re going too.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Yes, it isn’t easy waiting this one out. Luckily, I have some help from hubs and DIL, so things are slowly getting done. I really have to stop myself from bending down to snatch a weed!
        Thanks in advance for the camassia, I have just the spot for them!

  8. As a foliage lover, all your images look great to me. I just bought a Spirea but think I should have looked for that ‘Candy Corn.’ I also just ordered a bunch of Alliums so I won’t know until next year how i feel about doing that.

    • bittster says:

      Hmmm. I feel like the last few hot and dry days have absolutely dulled down ‘Candy Corn’. I wonder if that’s always going to be the case or if I need to drag a hose over to it for some water.
      You’re smart to order the alliums now. That might be a good hot afternoon activity 🙂

  9. I had all intentions of planting some Allium ‘Millenium’ this year (because I totally forgot them last fall) but here we are in late May and “oops!” LOL. I do have a small group (5) of new and supposedly blue alliums whose heads are still green. There was a second group of the same on the other side of the patio steps but those has inexplicably disappeared without a trace, after making foliage last fall. I always thought alliums were impossible to kill and unpalatable to critters, so I am stumped!

    • bittster says:

      It seems like where there’s a will there’s a way, pest resistant or not. Out of spite I think some animals sense the most special plantings and always take them out first!
      I saw some awesome tree peonies this weekend, I can’t wait to see how yours turn out!

  10. You may enjoy Allium ‘Star of Persia’ and A. caeruleum. I have ‘Globemaster’, which initially looks like ‘Millenium’ but over the years the flowers keep shrinking. I probably need to dig and divide it.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been meaning to try A. caeruleum, this might be the year!
      Yeah, they do seem to shrink if you don’t get around to digging and dividing. Fun fact is that they don’t really mind tranplanting while still in bloom. The foliage yellows while the flowers are still nice, so I dig them and move them around then. It’s easier to see how the flowers look in the new spot that way.

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