April in Bloom

We had our earliest 90+ degree day ever last week (33C) and I was unimpressed.  Daffodils melted and hyacinths fried and the gardener turned on the air conditioning and did nothing in the shade.  Three days later he froze standing around at a track meet with a brisk 41F (5C) breeze and the occasional snow flurry.  Such are our springs.  As usual things are busy and people are probably relieved that photographing snowdrops had to take a back seat to work and trips and home repairs, but I did take a minute Sunday to photograph a few things.  Lets start at the end… the end of snowdrop season 😦

galanthus lp short

Here’s the double snowdrop ‘L.P. Short’ holding on to a last bloom while a sea of Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) bring on the next show.

galanthus narwhal

Galanthus ‘Narwhal’ is still hanging on in spite of all kinds of weather and me stepping on him at least once…  

Of course the end of snowdrop season is always a sad time, but at least there are plenty of distractions to ease the trauma.  Actually as things come on so fast and furious it will be at least another month or two before the reality sinks in, and by then I can start digging a few bulbs and buying a few new ones, and dreaming of next season 😉

epimedium purple

I might have added an Epimedium or two over the last few years.  Shade tolerant, drought resistant,  deer and rabbit resistant, nice all summer… I’ve been avoiding them for a while, but what’s the harm in adding another two or ten?  This is ‘Purple something’ since I lost the tag and possibly didn’t write the name down anywhere…

As trees grow, this full sun garden is becoming shady in spots and I kind of like the early flush of spring bloomers.

dogtooth violet, Erythronium americanum

Some dogtooth violets (Erythronium americanum) a friend gifted me a few years back.  I was shocked to see them blooming this year, I thought for sure the cool speckled foliage would be all I’d ever get in this crappy, rooty, dry as a bone all summer, growing location.

spring garden

From far enough away the somewhat-shaded part of the garden actually looks nice.  

Shade is nice, but full sun is still something I treasure most.  All kinds of bulbs are now filling in the beds and it’s awesome to see the return of color and growth, even if at times it seems to move along too fast.


The grape hyacinths are absolutely common, and somewhat weedy if not dead-headed, but the blue color is perfect and lasts a while.

For all the treasures I see in the garden, most of the people coming and going from this house don’t mention a thing about the garden.  You can imagine my shock then when not one, but two people commented on the ‘pink tropical looking flower growing alongside the porch.   Species peonies are nice enough but two people?  Honestly I think they’re just messing with me, but when they immediately lost interest upon hearing the blooms only last a week or so, I knew they were authentically interested… even if it was only for a minute…

peonia daurica

Peonia daurica by the front porch.  

No one mentioned the dandelions, not even the fancy white Japanese version I’ve been pampering along in the front border.  I wish it would seed around a little, that would surely draw more attention.

Taraxacum albidium

It’s a favorite of the rabbits at least.  Taraxacum albidium must have a better flavor than the regular dandelions since I practically have to cage it to keep the bunnies off.

The daffodils might draw attention even if it’s never mentioned by anyone.  I need more, and I need to move a few bunches back into full sun since they’re sulking in the shady spots I tucked them into.  They’ll bounce back, but I was so proud of myself when I found all that room under the trees along the side of the yard.  I guess there was a reason for the empty spaces since apparently nothing really wants to be there including the daffodils.

narcissus bravoure

Narcissus ‘Bravoure’ front and center near the door.  It’s very nice and refined and I can’t find a single fault other than I’m not so crazy about it.  Maybe it’s too stiff.  I really shouldn’t try and find faults.

narcissus stella

Narcissus ‘Stella’ aka Kathy’s Sweetheart is not too stiff.  She nods and sways and has joyfully twisted petals which fade from cream to white and I’m surprised how she’s grown on me.  I was trying to be a show-daff kind of person but I guess I’m not. 

narcissus noid

This one just showed up.  It doesn’t match anything which used to grow here yet I’m pretty sure it had a name at one time and I either never knew it or lost it.  It’s a keeper though, I like how the color of the trumpet bleeds into the petals… something which I believe show-daff people frown upon…

fancy daffodils

Newer, fancier daffs which are not doing as well in the ‘terrace’ as I thought they would.  It’s frightening to think how these should also be moved to a better spot.

fancy daffodils

I don’t remember ‘White Collar’ from last year, but this year he’s living up to the name and I definitely approve.  Behind him is ‘Bronzewing’.  Bronzewing is again amazing.  

To be honest the shaded daffodils escaped the worst of the heat and are still somewhat nice when compared to the fried daffodils in the main beds.  But what fries the daffodils grows the tulips, and from here on it’s the tulips which will shine.

spring bulbs

Darwin tulips in the front border.  

tulip abba

Years ago I took out the double tulips, but I must have missed one and over the years the one bulb has been clumping up nicely.  I suspect it’s the tulip ‘Abba’.

Most of the tulips here come and go as I add new ones or accidentally dig up and then divide old ones, but the potager is filled with the tulips I intentionally dig and divide each summer.  There are a couple hundred and although I planted them too thickly (entirely because I was too lazy to plant them properly), they still seem to be coming along nicely.  There’s no room for lettuce or onions but by the weekend all I’ll care about is how amazing it looks.

darwin tulips

More (mostly Darwin) tulips in the vegetable beds.  Another warm day and the main show will start.

Honestly the tulip show is nothing when compared to the big shows where bed after bed is filled with a curated display of color echoes and blends, but I like it, and on a beautifully sunny day all the color is just a celebration of spring.

orange emperor tulip

One day I’m telling my sister in law that this is one of the less-interesting, sloppy forms of tulip, and then two days later I think it’s one of the nicest in the garden.  ‘Orange Emperor’ has a delicious color and I like the touch of green on a few of the blooms.  Thanks Kimberley, I like it!

There is a little bit of a stink hanging over the display.  The pear tree is covered in blooms and without a freeze in the forecast I’m anticipating a good deal of pears this summer.  Fortunately this ‘Bartlett’ pear doesn’t seem to stink as much as the yucky stench of those Bradford pears planted all over the place.  This one only comes on as a wiff here and there, the Bradfords stink up your whole car if you drive by with the windows open.

bartlett pear

Plenty of pears to be.

While on the topic of flowering trees, the magnolias were amazing this year, but the heat pushed them over far too quickly.  I’ll have to get photos next year of two new ones but for now the new standard magnolia ‘Ann’ is still putting on a great show.  New flowers open for a while and the fruity fragrance always wins against the stink of a pear.

magnolia anne

‘Ann’ will never be more than a small tree, and that’s a perfect size for this side of the yard.

The side of the yard where ‘Ann’ is planted is somewhat mucky in spring when runoff works its way down from the yard next door and the front of this house, and for a while the spring muck followed by summer drought rejected pretty much everything I planted here, but finally two plantings are doing well.  Spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) and Snakeshead fritillaria (F. meleagris) rebel against good drainage and don’t mind sitting in water when water sits.  Both are actually happy enough to seed around.

fritillaria meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris seedlings are blooming here and there below the magnolia and my plan is coming together perfectly except for the fact you don’t notice the purple flowers under the purple magnolia.  Hmmm.  But at least they’re happy 😉

Plenty of things don’t work out to plan here, and plenty more things don’t work out without a plan so miss-colored fritillaria are one more thing which needs moving but will probably stay put for decades.  I’m fine with that.  The thing or two which do work out keep me happy enough and for the next couple weeks I’ll be swimming in tulips and that’s more than plenty.

darwin tulips

A mess of tulips

I hope your spring is also filled with plenty.  Have a great weekend!

14 comments on “April in Bloom

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    I feel we can move on with great ease from the snowdrop season. They provide wonderful interest over the winter months when little else is in flower but they are very quickly followed by a huge burst of growth and flowers from new plants so that we now have great interest in the garden and can allow snowdrops to fade from memory – except that I have to lift some bulbs to send on to friends!

    • bittster says:

      Yes, snowdrops are much more interesting when the gardener is bundled up rather than when he’s in short sleeves and a t-shirt. And sweaty. And tired from all the other jobs that are suddenly urgent!
      My good intentions to also lift and divide and send on to friends are in danger, but perhaps I can still find them when things slow down in August.

  2. Paddy Tobin says:

    I should have added that there is now huge and beautiful interest in your garden!

  3. Everything looks fabulous, especially compared to our garden which is still mostly brown. Love. Love. Love that G. ‘Narawhal’. I have one lone Claytonia that never wants to increase or spread, so I am totally impressed with yours, as well as your Erythronium americanum flowering! I’ve had foliage for years but nary a flower. The grape hyacinths with the blue grass is a lovely combo. We had a week of 80°F which pushed things too fast. Now we’re back to the spring temp swings. Seeing all the color and blooms in your garden has been the perfect start to my day.

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t ‘Narwahl’ cool? He’s the first “spiky” to not immediately die in the garden, so that’s a big plus. I went out on a limb and am giving another one a try, the package just arrived yesterday from Temple Gardens and the plant looks perfect, so it will be all on me if it joins the others rather than standing with ‘Narwhal’ 😉
      We finally had some rain last night and the cooler weather arrived. The rain was much needed, things were wilting and that’s not what I want to see in April… or May… but since the heat already fried the daffodils and early tulips the change might be too late for the flowers and will only fuel the billions of weed seedlings. What else is new!
      -and yes, I was also astounded to see multiple blooms on the dogtooth violet. If it happens again next year it might be worth it to send one your way and give it a try there. I need to ask my friend where these came from and if his are doing the same since I’ve heard there are strains which multiply and there are strains which actually bloom.

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Beautiful tulip beds! I’d be picking armfuls for indoor enjoyment. 🙂
    Everything is looking happy to be leaping ahead. It is a pity about the heat spell. It ended my crocus and brought on the daffs, which look wonderful this year. I guess drought doesn’t bother them, thankfully. You have many beautiful narcissus, and the ones you shared with me are thriving, thank you again.
    White dandelions are new to me. You’ll have to cage the flowers so you’ll have plenty of seed. Have a great weekend!

    • bittster says:

      Sounds like spring has made it your way, I hope things don’t get too cold now but I think most of what’s out is able to handle a little frosty weather. Are you also dry? We had some rain last night and I see more for the next week, but recently it was getting to be quite droughty for April.
      I was looking at more daffodils last night. I really don’t need any but when you only buy two or three bulbs it’s so much easier to believe you have room rather than when they’re sold as bags of 12 or 20 😉

      • Eliza Waters says:

        The extended forecast looks frost-free, but you never know. Full moon on May 5 could be cool if it is clear. Time will tell.
        We’ve been having good moisture since March, starting with the two big snows we had. It’s been raining since last night and more heavy rain throughout today into tonight, 3+ inches and counting. So it is a good start to replenishing the water table. Fingers crossed we don’t repeat last summer’s drought.
        I don’t ‘need’ any more bulbs, but I do want to get some corydalis, inspired by your photo from your last post, a lovely combo with scilla.

      • bittster says:

        Wow, that’s quite the rainfall! I hope this summer is not a repeat of what you went through last year, and you’re right that it will take a while to recover the water table plus the stressed plants. lmk if you want some corydalis, I’m sure I can find a few to share!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Wow, really? That’d be great if you had some to share. I’ll reimburse postage! Do you dig them right before they go dormant? Otherwise, I expect they’d be tough to find?

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    That narwhal snowdrop is fantastic. I am amazed that it blooms so late. The few I have are all finished. The weather this April has been odd. Too High highs and too low low temperatures.
    I am sure your neighbors enjoy your tulip parade. They are so cheerful this time of year. I have seen a couple of gardens that have displayed tulips where you can see them good while driving by. Too bad those of you who plant them like that can’t hear all the ooos and ahhhs about the colorful display.
    That species peony looks artificial, in the most beautiful way. 🙂 No wonder people are commenting on it.
    I almost fainted when I read you had a pear tree. I was revived when you mentioned what kind it is. Those Bradford pears and their progeny are highly invasive. I work with a group that tries to eradicate them and other invasive plants. I am quite pleased that your pears are the Bartlett variety. Do you get pears to eat?
    I know those grape hyacinths are common as old shoes but I do dearly like to see them every spring.
    After seeing what dandelions do in Alaska, as in taking over meadows, I cringe when I see them in any form.
    I am lovin that rock wall. Your entire garden is quite lovely this April. I am hoping you get time to enjoy all of your labor of love.
    Happy Weekend.

    • bittster says:

      That narwhal snowdrop isn’t really late, it’s just really long-blooming. I think because it’s so screwy it’s sterile and the flowers are waiting for a pollination which can never happen. Most of the doubles and other odd forms are also very long blooming.
      I like that idea. Maybe there are a few people who drive by to enjoy the flowers and I just don’t know about it, so that’s a nice thought. It’s probably better that way, if I knew about them I’d drag them out of their cars and through the garden and I really wouldn’t get anything done… and they would also be too scared to drive by again!
      Ugh the Bradford pears are starting to become a real pest around here. Twenty years ago there might have been a tree or two seeded out along the highway, but now they’re coming up everywhere even in my own yard. I can see them peppered into the slope at the end of the street and those are just the ones big enough to bloom… oh and the Bartlett pear tree produced loads of pears each year and they’re delicious,
      my only labour was planting the tree and now thinning the fruits in years when the fruit set is too heavy.

  6. Cathy says:

    I love your spring garden Frank, and I bet it looks just as good close up in that shady area too. 😉 I am also growing Orange Emperor this year, in pots, and it is glorious. Much better than I expected. Wish I could grow a few things that need shade, like the dog-tooth violets and Epimediums. But my trees will hopefully provide a bit more shade in a couple of years too. Your Fritillaria looks good with the fallen Magnolia petals around it – perfect matching if you ask me! Oh, and I was so surprised to see your white dandelion as I was looking online only yesterday to see if I could find one of the white or pale yellow ones. (We have enough of the dark yellow ones!🤣) Not good to hear the bunnies like it better than the yellow ones though. Happy tulip season Frank – just about to look at your next post about them. 😃☀️🌷

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