On the Eve of May

I hope no one is expecting the entertaining, witty narrative which usually accompanies these posts.  It’s been raining all day and the gloom has me drowsy, plus hours of inhaling varnish fumes this weekend probably killed off more brain cells than I can afford, so be prepared for a somewhat dull post.

darwin tulips

The potager last Friday.  The cool weather has been good to the tulips, but wind and rain is starting to take its toll.

As the first order of business I want to reassure everyone with the announcement that I have resolved my overabundance of yellow tulips problem.  They were looking a little tired Saturday so I just yanked a good amount of them and tossed them on the compost.  Sure they’ll probably show up everywhere now, as the compost will be contaminated by bulblets, but today I’m pleased with myself.  Never mind that it took me weeks to come up with this solution, despite the fact many people pull their tulips after bloom, but in this garden I celebrate where I can.

tulip tom pouce

My only 2022 tulip purchase, ‘Tom Pouce’.  Five bulbs purchased, one came up yellow, but I love the other four for their delicious yellow with pink frosted colors.

So in a moment of distraction I started wondering who Tom Pouce was, since there’s also a pink and yellow lily, and pink and yellow daffodil named after him, and to have three flowers carry your name must count for something impressive, so off to the library I went.

Or Google… and then Wikipedia… “A tompoes or tompouce is a pastry in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the local variety of the mille-feuille or Napoleon, introduced by an Amsterdam pastry baker and named after Admiraal Tom Pouce, the stage name of the Frisian dwarf Jan Hannema”.  Apparently it’s a pastry taken seriously in the low countries.  Color may stray, the pink and yellow may change based on national holidays or serious sporting events,  but you don’t mess around with either shape or ingredients.  It sounds like a pastry I would enjoy getting to know, although there also seems to be a little bit of a quandary on how it should be correctly eaten.  I believe that discussion is outside the scope of this tulip post, so I’ll stop now and wonder about Frisian dwarves all on my own 😉

broken tulip insulade

Not named after a pastry, ‘Insulinde’ is an example of one of the virused ‘broken tulips’ which are a virus risk, but just amazing enough to try growing anyway.  This one dates back to 1915.

Soon the tulips will be a thing of the past, and just like snowdrops and daffodils it will be another 12 months before they return, but at this time of the year it barely matters.  There’s so much coming along that even on a miserably rainy and dark Sunday you can’t help be a little excited.  In the potager the wisteria is blooming again, and although it should only be a year since the last time, it’s really three since late freezes have done it in for a couple seasons.  The scent of the flowers fills the potager air, even stronger than lilacs and probably just as sweet.

tree wisteria

This wisteria only looks like it is supported by the pergola since I wouldn’t dare release it onto crushable aluminum supports and a frame of mere two by fours.  Once a week for the entire summer stray tentacles of vine are cut back to a leaf or two to keep it under control.  This plant is a beautiful monster.    

There’s more blooming and growing out there, but I’ll spare you all except this last peony. Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii is a mouthful so most refer to this plant as ‘Molly the Witch’.  I did want the pure yellow version but when my seedling finally bloomed it showed to be a pale yellow with a pink tint, which is also within the range for this species.  I love the foliage but to me the bloom is relatively small and somewhat mild mannered.  Time will tell if it keeps a spot here in the garden, but even if it doesn’t I’m sure some gardening friend would take it in for me.

paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii

A nice pink tinted version of Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii.

The rain is coming down strong again and it’s getting late.  There’s work tomorrow.  Ugh.  I think I need something sugary and fatty or just plain greasy, because I feel like Monday has already arrived and I’m not excited.  Enjoy your week at least!

25 comments on “On the Eve of May

  1. Yes, your Molly the witch peony is not as showy as the “tropical-looking” peony you showed us last week. But it sure takes a nice close-up and would look great in a vase. I moved a species peony last fall and so far there’s no sign of it. Also no sign of 2 of the 3 seedling peonies I had last year, and the third is well up. So I’m wondering if the others are tardy or dead. Time will tell.

    • bittster says:

      That’s not a good sign if your peony is not yet up. I wonder if they sulk and will take a year ‘off’ like my lycoris? They’re usually so early to show.
      For some reason I’m up to three species peonies and I’m sure at some point I said they were a plant for other people. I also have a seedling tree peony (P. ostii) which has the most amazing foliage in its second year and I’m sure at the next seed exchange I’ll pick up a bunch of those. There may be no room for tulips in a few years, unless I pawn off seedlings on other unsuspecting NY gardeners 🙂

      • I actually dug up the oldest one (which had to be moved because of construction) and while the top was brown, the roots were white so I reburied it and crossed my fingers. But I’m not very hopeful.

      • bittster says:

        I’m not sure how likely peonies are to sprout from healthy roots if the growing point is lost. Maybe there’s some hope? Maybe? I would have done the same, just replant and cross fingers and then move on.

  2. Su says:

    If you decided to put “Molly” up for adoption, I would take her if I were closer. MN is a bit of a haul, though. 🙂 Love your tulip collection!

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Nice to see the last of your tulip display as the season moves forward. I admire your tenacity in taming the wisteria monster. Brave of you, I know I’d never be able to handle one myself without it taking over. The peony is a delicate thing, I’m impressed you cultivated it from seed. Very impressive! Have a good week, looks like a wet one.

    • bittster says:

      I’m the perfect person to tend this wisteria. It’s 90% standing around and 10% pruning and then I just drop the trimmings on the ground for the next time the mower rolls through. A neat garden can be overrated!
      I’m loving your wildflowers, for some reason merrybells have been on my wish list for years and yet I’ve never managed to find the right spot for one.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Thank you, Frank. Merrybells sounds better than bellwort, methinks! They are rather particular in their needs, esp. the no root competition part!

      • bittster says:

        All I have here in the shade is root competition! I never knew bellwort was a thing, you’re right in that merrybells sounds much better. I’ll stick with it! 😉

  4. Anyone who gets a Molly the Witch to bloom is one impressive gardener. Mine has come up which is thrilling. Love your broken Tulips. Nice to see a clump of them instead of the single flower they show in catalogs. I love the back story on plant names.

    • bittster says:

      How do you like the peony foliage? I love Molly’s and just added a tiny seedling of P. wendelboii this spring. I love the gray with the purple highlights.
      My broken tulips look nice this spring, but I’m not sure they really like it here. Insulting when a 100 year old plant can be kept going by others for generations and then reaches your garden and wants to just give up!

  5. Pauline says:

    Wonderful colourful tulips, they look amazing in your first photo! Like your Tom Pouce, beautiful shading and love the history behind them. Your Molly the Witch has beaten mine, she is still at the fat bud stage, but then she is being sensible and keeping all the rain away from the pollen!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pauline. You’ve had plants in flower for months, and now within a few weeks I’ve gone from snow, through nearly all of spring, and have passed you with a blooming peony. Amazing how rapidly things moved here with the more extreme temperatures!
      Your Molly the Witch has such a rich yellow color, I was hoping for the same and perhaps that’s where my slight disappointment comes from. It’s still a beautiful plant though 🙂

  6. Cathy says:

    Your posts are never dull Frank! The name of the tulip has intrigued me too. Literally translated ‘Tom Thumb’, who had something to do with a circus….. Anyway, pink and yellow in a tulip is delicious. The wisteria is a beauty but all the pruning has always put me off trying one. Molly is clearly one of those ‘less is more’ peonies, but lovely nonetheless. Hope you get some sunshine this week Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Interesting, America also had a Tom Thumb, an entertainer who according to Wikipedia was named after a character in an English fairytale from the 1600’s and earlier. I would guess both Toms owe their names to this.
      I hope sunshine and warmth has reached you as well. Yesterday was beautiful digging weather and the entire week looks promising. I would catch a cold and stay home a day or two if I didn’t have so much to do at work!

  7. Deborah Banks says:

    Great post! I have much less to show for my rainy weekend. We picked up a foster dog on Friday, so my weekend was filled with wet walks with her, and then of course more wet walks with our own dog. Not much else, except for putting in some time on a library book.

    • bittster says:

      All the best with the new pup! Hope she settles in and comes around for you.
      The rain has done wonders for your primroses, I expect the japonicas will be amazing again this spring 🙂

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    A perfect May Day post, I am reading it on May 1. I love Insuldine, it appears that a cermasist swirled this purple tulip in cream making it appear good enough to eat.
    Here the weather is being quite cruel with below normal temperatures and unrelenting wind. The garden will survive, I will survive, yet it is nice to have a platform to complain on as all will know I am worrying about the garden. You are a brave soul to have a wisteria in your garden, Chinese wisteria? They are gorgeous and smell like spring.
    Happy May Day.

    • bittster says:

      I suspect your weather is settling down just like it (finally) did here. The extended tulip season was nice, but I didn’t need to see flurries again! Fortunately the weekend so far has been fantastic, cool enough that I did some work without having to think about how hot the summer will be.
      I think it’s the Chinese wisteria, I always forget. It’s a cutting off my mother’s plant but she’s gotten rid of her’s because of the way it spreads. When I was at home there was someone willing to chop, chop, chop, but that got old fast when I moved out!

      • Lisa Bowman says:

        You get to be right. We are having a glorious day here and summer-like weather in the forecast for the rest of the week. Have a wonderful week.

  9. Paddy Tobin says:

    You do well to have tulips perform for more than one year. We consider them as annual plants and dump the bulbs after they have flowered as we rarely manage to get them to perform well in a second year. We grow this paeonia with the very long and difficult to pronounce name and like it very much.

    • bittster says:

      Returning tulips are nice, but I do admire the gardens where a stylish planting is created, filled with color coordination and effect rather than just a child’s mess of finger paint colors. It will never happen here, I’m far too cheap to toss and replace them each year, but as long as they keep coming back on their own I’ll enjoy the mess and add to it.
      It does ease the pain of the garden’s lack of trilliums.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        We have never planted tulips in the open garden – except those which are perennial with us,mainly species – but use them as potplants for a quick display and the tulips are thrown out afterwards.

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