The Night Before Spring

This afternoon the cold front which has been sweeping across the country reached this end of Pennsylvania, and temperatures have been dropping since.  Once again I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt and right now I’m considering wearing it to bed.  The chilly thing got old real quick when the snow flurries started flying again.

magnolia ann

Magnolia ‘Ann’ is a common and relatively cheap variety, and this afternoon it’s amazingly special and perfect and I’d still grow it even if every yard had one.  I’m hoping tonight’s freeze doesn’t end this.

I’m 95% sure all the wisteria buds were fried by our last freeze, so this current one isn’t even cold enough to make me nervous.  I was eyeing the tomato seedlings which sprouted on their own, and was thinking about using them for a big tomato sauce planting this summer but I guess tonight will decide how that ends up.  A different gardener would have their seedings already growing indoors and nearly ready to plant out but this gardener is a little more go with the flow.  He’s even too lazy to dig up a couple trowel-fulls to shelter in the garage, and in fact he thought a better use of time would be to browse daffodil offerings online and place orders.  Hmmmm.

narcissus beersheba

A few of the daffodils thinned and re-planted last summer, narcissus ‘Beersheba’ on the right and ‘not-Indian Maid’ on the left.  How annoying that after years of growing, one online check and I find ‘Indian Maid’ is a supposed to be a multi-flowering jonquilla, and not a single bloom large cup….

I was sort of aggressive last year with bed building and daffodil thinning.  I don’t regret it, but I do miss them all slouching around the back of the vegetable plot and moving on from the earlies to the lates, even if they did make me feel guilty for their neglected growing conditions.  One plus to less tomatoes is that it opens a whole raised bed to fill with new daffodil varieties.  So far I know there will be at least eight and of course planting season is still six months away so anything could happen.

narcissus stella

Narcissus ‘Stella’ is a newer one for me, and I’m shocked by how much I love the old fashioned pre-1869 look of wavy petals and nodding blooms.   

Even with a three year moratorium on new daff and tulip purchases, they trickle in anyway.  Gifts, surprises, impulse buys, they slip across the border and I complain about where to put them, not having room, and whining about not giving the ones here already the care they deserve, but within a few years they settle in and make the garden a richer place.  Sure there’s a point in caring for what I have, but honestly it’s been years, and if I was really serious about taking care of what I have…

narcissus high society

Narcissus ‘High Society’ in the front beds.  A well respected variety which just never thrilled me, and as ‘the cull’ continues I’ll need to re-home a bunch of these.  

Part of my problem is (1)I like smaller clumps, and (2) I’m sloppy and always dropping a bulb or two in some spot where it takes off and forms yet another clump.

narcissus jetfire

Don’t know how ‘Jetfire’ and ‘maybe Bravoure’ ended up here, but both are doing well in a spot I thought was too shady for nice daffodils.  Actually the colors are stronger and fade less out of the sun, so maybe more of the orange and red cups here is a good plan?

Years ago I made the “mistake” of dumping a couple hundred moldy and rotten tulips on the compost pile, only to find them coming up all over the yard in every spot where a little compost was meant to help.  Last year I was determined to not let a single daffodil repeat that fiasco.  Extras and the unwanted were dug right after and during bloom, and after sitting out in the sun and rain in five gallon buckets I eventually dumped the stinky mess into black plastic bags which sat out in the 90F sun for another few weeks.  Finally I dragged the bags behind the compost pile where various wild animals proceeded to rip through the plastic and root through the mess looking for all the tasty worms and maggots which were feeding on all the decay.  Half rotted bulbs were scattered all over, and obviously these tortured and neglected bulbs thrown around and never planted grew just fine and even flowered this spring.  Also somewhat obviously, many of the cared-for bulbs which were dried and stored and sorted somewhat properly, ended up molding or rotting.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

daffodil transplanting

Growing right where the skunk or raccoon left them, like an idiot I’m looking at these and thinking they’re so nice I should really plant them out and re-think tossing them.  Every day I have to fight the urge to sabotage my grand ‘thinning the herd’ daffodil project…

Must. Stay. Strong.

daffodil accent

‘Accent’ was divided a few years ago and is looking good.  

I am liking how the divided bulbs are looking, and really need to keep going.  Rather than review splayed and floppy clumps of crowded bulbs flattened by a windy day I’m enjoying sturdier plantings where the individual blooms can be appreciated more.

daffodil firebird

Daffodil ‘Firebird’

I’m serious though, I have to keep strong.  Even bulbs divided just yesterday were actually last divided five or six years ago and it’s time to give them a little attention again.  I feel bad being ruthless with such giving plants, but…

daffodil garden

More clumps in need of thinning.  

So that’s a pretty elaborate story to cover my latest daffodil purchase, and to be honest I’m pretty sure no one but myself would notice that there are any fewer flowers in the yard compared to last year.  What they will notice though, and I’m sure share a few comments on is when they see me wandering around the yard in October with a concerned and confused look on my face and a couple bags of “even more” bulbs in my hands.  I could get defensive, but I’ll just say you don’t even know my struggle.  Tulips are still on a no-buy list and you can’t have too many tulips, even if they sprout up out of your compost.

flaming purissima tulip

‘Flaming Purissima’, a genetically streaked tulip, as opposed to the virus-streaked tulips of the past.

I’m possibly more excited about tulip season than I am about daffodils.  A few antique ‘broken’ tulips slipped in while no one was looking and I’m anxious to see them bloom.

tulip breaking virus

The virus which causes the streaked flowers of ‘broken’ tulips is also showing in the leaves.  I didn’t think growing a virused tulip would bother me but it’s all I see when I do the rounds.

Tulip season will be awesome.  I know this weather is just a blip in the spring arsenal but I do feel for the people suffering through serious snow and magnolia frying temperatures, and I hope they sail through it somewhat unscathed.  Regardless tomorrow we start climbing back up into civilized temperatures and I’m sure we’ll be complaining about heat soon enough.

All the best!

A Bit of a Chill

The low last night was 23F (-5C) and tonight promises more of the same, although possibly a little warmer… as if that matters… so I’m going to dwell on the warmer days from earlier this week.  To the relief of many snowdrop season here has ended and we are hurtling forward through corydalis season but not yet fully into daffodil season.  After the highs of the snowdrops it’s almost a lull, but then I looked at the photos.  Not bad at all I thought, although a few more days of snowdrops would have been nicer.

front street border spring

‘Tweety Bird’ is my first daffodil to open making a ‘bold’ contrast to the pinks of the corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’.  

Weird how the sun and warmth melted the galanthus yet hasn’t really brought on much of the other stuff yet.  I suspect it has something to do with the weeks of snow cover and some things growing up through the snow yet others waiting for the melt to happen first.

scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana picks up right after the snowdrops finish, but even in a good year barely flowers for more than a week or two.  One rough week of work sometimes means missing the whole thing!  

It might sound like complaining when I lament how short a bloom season might seem but honestly I bore quickly, so this (with the exception of a quick snowdrop season) actually works in my favor.  There’s always the excitement of a next wave approaching and as long as a hard freeze doesn’t ruin things… hmmmmm…. maybe I shouldn’t yet discount late hard freezes…

pasque flower

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is one of the first perennials to bloom, right alongside the hellebores. 

Pasque (Pulsatilla vulgaris, formerly Anemone pulsatilla) flowers are a full-sun perennial  which I don’t think I’ve ever seen for sale on a nursery bench.  Of course they flower too early for Mother’s Day and don’t last long, and in this age of “does it flower all summer?” the answer is no, and some people just don’t want to hear that.  Actually many sensible gardeners aren’t crawling around their perennial beds yet, and the pasque flower’s early blooms pass perfection so quickly I don’t blame them for not bothering with this plant, but I of course love their fuzziness and optimism against cold and ice and always end up thrilled to see their blooms catching the springtime sun.

pasque flower

Same pasque flower, other side while a cloud passes.

I bet a few early, miniature daffodils in cooling lemon and white tones would be perfect alongside even more pasque flowers.  Other species come in reds and pale yellows and whites, and they’re easy from freshly sown seed and… well I digress again.   

galanthus peardrop

Galanthus ‘Peardrop’ is one of the latest to bloom here.

Sorry for throwing in two last snowdrops. -I was doing so good!

galanthus galadriel

‘Galadriel’ is an elegant beauty with a fitting name.  I should move it to a more open spot where it can be a focal point… hahaha, as if any of those spots are still empty 😉

That’s it for snowdrops.  I hope there’s something equally exciting on the horizon, and I think I have it here with this next sprout.

cold hardy cardoon

A plate-sized eruption of foliage means the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) really is as hardy a sort as promised.  Cardoons have always died away over winter here, so this is mega-exciting.  I guarantee you’ll hear more about it in a month or two! (please ignore the sea of allium seedlings in the background)

Maybe the promise of a year filled with cardoon photographs wasn’t what you were hoping for, but at least I didn’t sneak in another snowdrop.  Here.  Corydalis are also not snowdrops, and after a few years here they’re also not as formally named as the latter.

corydalis george baker

Maybe Corydalis ‘George Baker’.  The plant on the left looks rightish, but the other side of the clump looks a little different.

Honestly I can’t keep my corydalis straight.  Besides being promiscuous they must somehow resent how I try to pamper named cultivars while overlooking equally attractive stray seedlings.  Out of spite the $15 named corm disappears while a sea of seedlings comes up to surround the lonely label.

red corydalis seedlings

Last year the final named form in this bed opted out on renewing for another year.  Maybe it was the weeds, but everyone else seems relatively happy.  

I don’t mind.  They come up, flower, seed, and are gone before I even think about the other perennials and annuals which share this same space later in the year.  Maybe native plant purists and lovers of bare mulch beds will complain about weediness, but just come here I’d say, and I’ll show you some weeds you can complain about.

red corydalis seedlings

Ugh.  One has even jumped across into the next bed.  When I dig a few of the daffodils I’ll try and remember to weed out this corydalis.

I’d like to move a few of the nicest forms into a bed where they can clump up, but so far my clumsy attempts at moving them in bloom has caused more casualties than it has attractive corydalis plantings, but eventually I think I’ll get it.

red corydalis seedlings

Everyone here admires the corydalis.  I’ve been informed this little guy lives under the porch and often comes out to sun himself on bits of trash while admiring the flowers.  Word is he is really looking forward to meeting my friend Kimberley 🙂

So then this….

magnolia in snow

Magnolia are well known for how bravely they endure the ups and downs of early spring…

The weather started to “shift” yesterday.

forsythia in snow

Forsythia ‘Show Off’ which I planted next door.  I’d show you mine but it appears the soil on my side of the property line produces more rabbaliscious growth and as a result it hasn’t broken the four inch mark because of its annual pruning.

And now for a few hellebores.  I dug up a few as giveaways last week and have to say it’s a much nicer way to clear space for even more hellebores than sending them to the compost pile would be.  It would be nice to think I’m “upgrading” but since the new ones are unflowered seedlings, who knows but at least it’s much more exciting to see something new next spring!

double pink hellebore

I think this was supposed to be ‘Pink Fizz’, a single pink, but sadly I ended up with this very un-single flower 😉

I have a little thing for growing hellebores from seed.  A few get planted every fall, and eventually the pipeline is full enough that each spring there are new surprises from the years past.

hellebore seedlings

I believe these were supposed to be a ‘slatey’ mix of seeds.  Kind of average, and not really slate-ish, but still nice for a few springs.

hellebore seedlings

Someone was too lazy to separate this pot of seedlings when planting.  I like the effect!

double pink hellebore

I might have too many of these… a double pink hellebore, maybe ‘Nellie’ from seed I ordered 8 years ago from Australia.  They’ve finally gotten some room and are looking great, but 6 plants of it!?

The hellebores will be fine with the cold.  Most everything will be fine until it’s not, and even then it will likely recover for next year. *yes I’m talking about last year’s lost lily season*

frozen peony

A frozen peony (Paeonia daurica) this morning with other frozen stuff….  all recovered by 2pm.    

I just noticed that the melting peony is back to almost normal.  Maybe now it’s okay to take a stroll and see how everything else has made out, and briefly consider the wind and how likely it is that I’ll do any gardening today.  I actually want to work out there, but with low 20’s tonight maybe I’ll wait one more day before transplanting a few little white bulbs around.  They probably wouldn’t care either way, but choosing patience would make me feel a tiny bit better considering tonight’s cold will likely kill most of the flower buds on the wisteria (again).

Oh well.  It’s always something and if worse comes to worse I know where the Easter chocolate is.

Have a great holiday weekend!

The Purge

The late daffodils are still rounding out the season, but I can’t wait any longer.  While their blooms are still fresh in my mind I’ve gone around and done a daffodil inventory, and then let loose with the first round of narciss-icide.  I’m down to a baker’s dozen times ten, which I don’t think is excessive at all.  The second assault will start in June, when I dig the crowded clumps and only save as many as I *need* for replanting.

Three more buckets filled.  The survivors look nervous, but I told them they were safe for now.

It looks ruthless and sort of is, but when a bulb or two slowly turns into a foot wide, congested clump, something needs to be done.  Actually something should have been done a few years ago, but better late than never, right?  Let me know if you’re interested in any,  I still feel the slightest twinge of guilt tossing perfectly fine daffodils just because.

daffodil geranium

A happier view of daffodils.  ‘Geranium’ in the front border alongside some moneyplant (Lunaria annua’).  It was beautiful on Sunday and the flowers glowed.

Now I’ll wait until the foliage begins to yellow, about six weeks after bloom, dig the clumps, dry off the bulbs, hang in mesh bags, and then replant this autumn.  Hopefully by then I will still have enough empty spaces to put them all back in to!

Have a great week 🙂

Time For a Few Daffs

There was a time when I had a lot of daffodils.  I’m working on that.  It’s not because a lot of daffodils is a bad thing, it’s because they do need a little care here and there and this gardener has been slacking in that regard.  So in an attempt to mend my ways I’ve been culling the herd lately, trying really hard to convince myself that I don’t need hundreds of varieties and that maybe just one hundred might be enough.  I have to do it fast and without much thought.  No composting either.  I tried that with the tulips and it just ended up with tulips everywhere the compost was spread.

daffodil williamsburg red devon

‘Williamsburg’ and ‘Red Devon’, two keepers.

My garden just isn’t big enough to do daffodils the way I’d like to do them.  I want big clumps full of flowers but how many of those can you fit in without crowding the masses of snowdrops also planned?  Something has got to give.  When a friend first led me (willingly of course) into the world of yellow fever I thought I’d just try a few to see what I really liked and what did well here, and then just back off… and I suppose that time has come.

daffodil curlew

‘Curlew’ doing well along the street and ushering in the late season daffodils.

Two endlessly rainy summers and some garden drainage issues helped immeasurably.  At least half the clumps out back have disappeared completely, which to me says they were more prone to basal rot anyway… maybe… so no need to replace those.  Today I plan to go out, ID a few clumps which have lost their tags, and then shovel prune a few more.  Even after starting this process last year I just want to reassure you that I still have and will have plenty.

daffodil cassata

‘Cassata’ looking exceptionally orange this spring, thanks again to the cool weather.

I find that once they’re gone there are only a few I ever miss.  Not a big problem.  The other reason gardeners are usually so generous with their plants is for just that reason, a friend can always pass a piece back when you need it.

daffodil dress circle

‘Dress Circle’ is a favorite.  It’s always done well here, crowded or not.

So here are a few keepers.  They also need digging of course, but I’ll save that for June when they’re dormant and I can divide and replant.

daffodil kedron

‘Kedron’ has an overall orange tint that I really like.  It’s one of the few affordable versions of this color combo.

daffodil mrs ro Backhouse

One of the first “pinks”, ‘Mrs RO Backhouse’ needs some photoshopping these days to keep up with the newer pink varieties, but she’s a keeper anyway and always reminds me of the friend who gifted her to me.

daffodil modern art

‘Modern Art’ is frillier than I prefer, but my friend Tim just loves all these overdone daffodils so I’ll keep it to show, just in case he ever visits 😉

daffodil american heritage

I think this daffodil is ‘American Heritage’ although it came to me misslabeled.  It will look cooler as the cup fades to more of a pink… and also a better spot with better soil and more space won’t hurt either…

daffodil coral light

An unknown but still loved double daffodil next to ‘Coral Light’.  Of course both of these are right in the middle of one of the new yet-to-be raised beds.

daffodil altruist

‘Montego’ looking nice as the shrubby dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ spreads through it.  I’d consider digging this one, but the dogwood is all in there and… I would dig it to toss, it’s just too “leafy” for my taste.

… and of course there are two other things I just can’t not share.  Primroses are loving the cool wet.

primula auricula

I’m still disproportionately proud of the primula auricula which has yet to be killed.  I did grow them from seed after all.

And a first bloom on a purchase from Edgewood gardens.  Two years after buying a tiny pot of gravel, the little root inside has developed into an amazing Paeonia daurica.  I love it.

paeonia daurica

Ok, so I already loved the foliage on this when it was smaller, but now that it’s big enough to bloom… even better.  I may rip out a hosta or two to make more room for it 🙂

So even with freezing mornings and snow squalls rolling through there’s still plenty to be enjoyed in the garden.  Work?  Sure.  But if this is what I can get by being lazy, imagine how amazing things will look after a little care and attention.

Who am I kidding.  Two years of drought or some other new pestilence on the horizon will surely turn everything back on to its other ear and we’ll be back to square one again.  It’s a fun distraction though, and I hope this week you’re enjoying your own garden distractions as well.  The cold will end.

A Few Words

We are wrapping up our fourth week here since entering quarantine and the garden is still surprisingly unkempt and disorganized.  The gardener likes to suggest it’s because he’s busy double timing as a common core math teacher to a 6th grader, and in spite of holding a minor in Mathematics it’s a daily struggle, but it’s also been pointed out that the gardener spends a lot of time “thinking”, and often that thinking is interpreted as “just sitting around”.  Obviously sitting around does not get jobs done.

chiondoxa

Chiondoxa continues to spread.  These are all clones off a bulb moved years ago, and seem to be waiting for a partner to set seed, but each time weeds are pulled or the gardener thinks the spot is empty and tries to plant something else there, a few bulbs get moved a little further.

The gardener has been thinking the weather has been great, and the gardener has been thinking the sky is bluer than normal, and the gardener has been thinking it’s nice to have time to sit in the springtime sun without some desperate need to get just one spring chore done before dark.  But the gardener has also been wondering if there have always been so many snakes in the yard.

garden snake garter

One of the garden’s garter snakes reading a snowdrop label.  It’s ‘Three Ships’ Mrs Snake.

I do like the snakes.  One chilly morning I came across three little balls of snake out in the morning sun and I was surprised.  A good surprise though, not the EeeAhhhugh Oh! surprise you get when one of these slithery serpents zips away from your reaching hand or approaching step.  I think there’s something primordial in our natural fear of snakes, and I don’t entirely trust a person who just shrugs them off.  Pick them up, fine, handle them, fine, you can think your way through that, but when one zips across your path you better jump a little.

raised beds potager

The raised beds are coming together in the potager.   It’s going to be very neat I suspect.  I hope I don’t miss the late summer mayhem of overgrowth and decay, but who’s to say that won’t happen anyway.

It’s been taking forever it seems to get the raised beds built.  There are a number of plants to move or pot up, but I really do blame the gardener.  Not to dwell on the snakes, but work was called off entirely the other day when rustling in the boxwood hedge turned out to be an inappropriately writhing ball of snake procreation…. with an embarrassingly plural number of participants… it was watched for longer than it should have been, but it was interesting to see and of course if that’s what they need to do amongst the daffodils then lets just call off work for the afternoon to give them some privacy.

daffodil glaston

The cool days and cooler nights are bringing out the richest colors in many of the narcissus clumps.  Here’s the daffodil ‘Glaston’, looking luscious and tropical with its fruity cup colors.

So rather than work hard, the gardener looks at daffodils.

daffodil beersheba

Daffodil ‘Beersheba’, a pre 1923 daffodil (according to Daffseek) and nearly 100 years later, still a wonderful thing to have flowering.

Honestly the daffodils here have been tortured by poor drainage and neglect recently, and the show is not nearly as impressive as in other years, but the fewer words on that the better.  What does warrant a few more words are the corydalis.  They’ve enjoyed the cool weather as well and still look great.  Mostly.  Rabbits gave most if the ones in back a haircut, so….

corydalis solida

Corydalis solida, some named.  The pink in front is the highly acclaimed ‘Gunite’, while the darker red in back is ‘Milda’.

I do like poking through all the corydalis seedlings.  Some are great and plenty are nice, and there’s not that pressure you get with snowdrops to pick out and consider naming every next great thing.  I guess corydalis don’t offer the same wild diversity that snowdrops hold 😉

corydalis solida vanessa

Even with all the nice seedlings, I’m still willing to try a few new named ones here and there.  This new one was described as having exquisite “sky-blue lips and white spurs”… and I suppose that’s possible.

Of course why stop at a good thing?  If you can killed expensive named forms, why not try knocking off a few harder to find species?  These next two prefer summer-dry, Russian steppe/rocky woodland type environs.  The gardener isn’t sure if he should be insulted that the garden contains these types of planting areas, or pleased that the garden has made these happy for a third year, but in any case each spring could easily be their last.

corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae

Corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae growing well in the same conditions that favorTaraxacum officinale.  Apparently much of my garden is well suited to Taraxacum officinale.

Many gardeners crave blue corydalis.  I’ve discovered a knack for killing blue corydalis.  It’s kind of silly knack considering how easy blue scilla are, and hyacinths, and grape hyacinths, but if you know a perfectly perfect flower also comes in various blue shades, of course you need that color, and this gardener is no different.

corydalis fumariifolia

The first blue corydalis to last more than a spring or two (and not look completely miserable while doing it) Corydalis fumariifolia might even be expanding its reach.  I could use another clone.  Maybe seeds could happen with cross pollination…

Lets get back to easier things.  A few words for the front border as daffodil season hits its stride.

spring bulbs

Perhaps spring flowers can distract the neighbors from a shoddy cleanup and an un-edged and un-weeded front border.  Seriously, what does that gardener even do around here?

As I think on it (there he goes again not really doing anything measurable), the gardener spends way too much time on nonsense.  To mention a few words on the front border we could say ‘hyacinths and daffodils are easy and they look great’, but there goes the gardener again poking around and making things complicated.  Amongst all the daffodil color he’s most excited to see a few purple leaved moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’) finally showing a good amount of purple.  It was hard yanking the all green seedlings which used to rule, but over the years they are finally as purple as the strain should be.

Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’

Those are not weeds, they’re the much anticipated purple leaves of Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’.

I’ll leave you with even fewer words.  Hellebores are up.

hellebore

A nice picotee yellow seedling.

Another year without a late freeze and they’re all looking good.

hellebore

‘Golden Lotus’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’ with a mess of less showy things.

Hope this post finds you well.  Snow squalls are keeping the gardener inside today so rather than clean the bathrooms he’s blogging, but in spite of that he still gets fed three times a day.  Not bad.

A Down Day

I don’t know how non-gardeners do it.  Today was a sloppy, sleety, chilly day and after just a few hours of being cooped indoors I’m almost ready to try doing the taxes on my own.  We are hunkering down for our second week at home and although the yard doesn’t look much better for it, at least the open air and sunshine was a nice distraction.  One day inside and I can’t imagine what the rest of our neighbors do to fill the time.  I wonder if they even know the birds are singing and the buds are bursting in spite of the messy weather.

pussy willow

Pussy willow just starting

Things weren’t perfect before, but it was good enough with a coat on and decent mudding shoes, and considering it was still mid March I consider that to be excellent.  The sunshine and warmth ended the snowdrops but there’s always more on the way.

'Tête à Tête' daffodil

The first daffodils are coloring the front beds a springtime gold.  ‘Tête à Tête’ in front, ‘Tweety Bird’ towards the street. 

Corydalis solida and the first daffodils are leading the next flush, and in spite of the snow they’re a sign of real spring.

Tweety bird daffodil

‘Tweety Bird’ is my favorite early daffodil.  It handles the weather well and I love the form.

Maybe a down day is a good thing.  I’ve been pruning, trimming, transplanting, and fixing and after being inside for winter and work, I’m a little short of the normal gardening endurance levels.  Nothing a little a dose of Tylenol can’t fix 😉

corydalis purple bird

Corydalis solida ‘Purple Bird’.  Many of the named corydalis just abruptly disappear in this garden, but their many seedlings are often just as good (or dare I say better?)

I won’t bore you with the less than impressive transplants and prunings.  Most are just balls of mud in new positions which only I will notice, but one thing which may be noticeable is that plans are afoot.

potager

The work never strays far from a convenient rest spot.  It’s always good to reflect on any progress.

The plans are the byproduct of too much sitting around and thinking, and when it gets bad the gardener decides change for change’s sake might sound like progress, so giddy up!

So wood has been ordered for the construction of raised beds.  Someone here thinks the vegetable component of the potager will be much more productive if the beds are raised… I think planting fewer flowers might help… we will see.  In any case I’m sure it will turn into much more work than it should be, and take far longer.  That makes sense since it’s already cost more than we’ll ever make back in fresh produce.  In any case, have a productive and healthy week!

Hola Spring

Spring arrived last week, and from the looks of it she’s in a rush.  A couple warm days, a gentle rain, and we’re off!

berm plantings

‘Just a bit’ of pruning on the seven sons tree (Heptacodium) turned into a few trunks being removed, but the real point of this is the finished berm and trees which now shield us from the Industrial park.

I had to quickly finish up the last of the cleanup -which turned into more of a leave in situ/ call it natural mulch/ kind of thing- but I did try to get in a few projects.  One of them was an attempt at addressing the cankers which always seem to show up on the Seven Sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides).  From what I’ve read this plant seems to be prone to them, and my options are (1)ignore them and hope they don’t completely girdle the branch (2)cut them out whenever they show up, or (3)get rid of the whole thing.  For those keeping track, I’ve moved on to option 2.

heptacodium canker seven sons

Eventually these canker infections will grow enough to encircle the entire branch, cutting off the flow of nutrients and the trunk will die off.  Hopefully cutting them out will help control them…

Fortunately my pruning activities are nothing compared to the curly willow my friend has to deal with.  The almost-bomb cyclone weather system which pummeled the midwest earlier in the week also brought fierce winds, rain, and hail to our little valley.

wind damage

I feel somewhat responsible.  About a dozen years ago I offered a potful of rooted cuttings which were graciously accepted.  Curly willow grows fast though.

rain forecast

The weather forecast for this Easter weekend.

Not to dwell on the weather but any gardener worth his or her salt tends to dwell on the weather and I of course am no exception.  At the risk of appearing to complain I just want to point out that my holiday break perfectly matches the multi-day rain event which will be April-showering the Northeast this weekend.  Also if you are curious as to what part of the Northeast plays host to my garden, it’s just about dead center to the red outline which highlights this weekend’s heaviest rain forecasts.

Still, too much rain always beats drought, so I’ll just hope for the best and just enjoy the flowers which are coming up all over!

perennials and spring bulbs

A week ago it was corydalis, now the daffodils and hyacinth are taking center stage.  btw, Hyacinths don’t appreciate high winds so fortunately the ones here were only just coming up when the wind hit.

I can complain about a lot of things, but the spring bulbs along the street are not one of them.  All I do is cover up last year’s debris with a mulch of chopped leaves and then wait for things to come up.  It’s been a couple years since I last added new daffodils or hyacinths but I think this year a few can use some dividing.  Of course I’ll spread them out some more!

hyacinth woodstock

I think this is ‘Woodstock’.  I love those dark stems and saturated color.  Beetroot red is often used in descriptions, and I think that’s right on the mark.

narcissus red devon

‘Red Devon’ (which is looking less washed out this year) with ‘Tweety Bird’ in back and a few pale ‘Pistachio’ here and there.  ‘Pistachio’ is an absolute favorite in case you’re wondering. 

narcissus barret browning

‘Barret Browning’ (pre-1945) is an oldie but goodie.  

I have a few grape hyacinths out there as well.  I avoid letting them go to seed, but of course when I saw seeds offered I had to try them.  Go figure.  I think they’re extra special of course, since I spent three years growing them on to blooming size, but I won’t be offended if you think they look just like any other muscari which you can buy for pennies a bulb.

muscari seedlings

Muscari seedlings along the front walk.  I believe these were planted as ‘Mt Hood’ but of course don’t show anything close to the icy blue color and pale tip of the parent.  

I see that the rain outside has stopped for a bit, so let me find my boots and take a slog around the garden.

perennials and spring bulbs

A view down along the street border.  From the side and angled just perfectly it looks packed with spring color, and that’s the view I’d like to leave you with.

Enjoy your weekend and have a blessed Easter and Passover.

…and Tulips

The daffodil season was here and gone so quickly, I barely noticed.  Hot winds wilted the mid season bloomers and singed any flowers just opening.  It was all a little rude, but you’ll have that when you garden on a hilltop and the weather decides to finally heat up.

tulip garden

A few daffodils escaped the wind.  Having too many helps in this regard.

Fortunately I have way too many bulbs coming along, so even if a few are less than perfect there’s still plenty more where that came from.

narcissus conestoga

Narcissus ‘Conestoga’.  You may notice the birch branches cut as holiday decorations last winter have found a new home as part of the parterre archway.

The daffodils were missed, but to be honest I wasn’t all that in to them this spring.  They’re overcrowded and in need of digging and replanting and as I thought about it this week I decided many will find their way to the compost pile this summer.  As long as we’re being honest here I may have even filled a wheelbarrow with a few hundred ‘less favorite’ bulbs yesterday in an effort to speed up the process.

tulip garden

As the daffodils fade the tulips take over.

I was pretty sure last year that the tulips around here were on their way out.  Tulip Fire has hit the garden, and it’s not uncommon to find the spotted leaves and twisted stalks of bulbs affected by this fungus blight.  Late freezes, hail damage, and a wet spring for two years running have helped spread the disease around the whole garden but this year’s turn to drier weather seems to have slowed the fire.  I had my doubts last spring, but now I’m happy to say there are many more tulips surviving than I thought there would be 🙂

tulip garden

Although the heat brought the tulips on too fast and also fried many of the blooms, the color is still great.  Don’t look too closely though, there are plenty of signs of Tulip Fire here as well.

I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Maybe I shouldn’t just plant any bulb I can find… maybe I should be more faithful to the ones I have… maybe I’m not a good person to look to for tulip advice, since all you’ll learn here is that playing around with too many tulip bulbs might just leave you with a disease.

tulip garden

I promised abstinence last summer, but by the time autumn rolled around there were again more tulips.  Exotic parrots proved irresistible although these came up with a few fringed tulips mixed in.

Fortunately I have enough space to let these things run their course.  Tulip Fire (Botrytis tulipae)  is specific to tulips and shouldn’t bother anything else, and between thinning crowded clumps and removing overly infected leaves, maybe I can control it somewhat without resorting to chemicals.

tulip garden

Other parts of the garden still have plenty of the stray tulips which always seem to hitchhike in with the compost.  The colors might be a mess but it makes me smile!

Enough about my problems.  Out along the front border I didn’t expect much of a tulip show (given all of last summers rain) but to give in to a little bragging, I think they’re glorious.  Not public garden glorious, but for me and my crappy soil, with all my weeds and mediocre budget, and lack of chemical support, I’m going to claim glorious 🙂

tulip garden

Even an ugly duckling which sprouted up out of a patch of shorter tulips can steal the show.  It was supposed to be a ‘Pricess Irene’ mix…

I bought smaller packs of bulbs last fall from a new supplier and results have been mixed, but the year before that it was the ‘Incendiary mix’ from Van Engelen that earned a click on the proceed to checkout button.  They were amazing last spring, but I think they’re even better this spring… who cares if the flowers are a little smaller…

tulip garden

Tulips in the front border.  It’s perfect right now, the spring bulbs are up yet the weeds are still too small to notice.

Ok one more issue.  I noticed a few of the solid orange tulips have ‘broken’.  Broken color means the tulip has been infected with a tulip breaking virus which causes the color to streak.  It’s the virus which brought on several of the most beautiful historical tulips ever, but it’s still a disease.  I shouldn’t let them stay.  For as pretty as it looks I don’t like the way it’s spread this year, and even if I don’t have a tulip growing livelihood to protect I think it’s time to do the right thing.

tulip garden

Orange tulips streaked with flames of yellow.  It wasn’t there last year and is likely a tulip breaking virus.

All these problems are forgotten the minute I look at the next best thing.  There are still late tulips on their way and I think they’ll be just as amazing… even if much fewer in number.

tulip garden

The twisted fat buds of the last of the tulips, the parrots.

We just had a “lively” thunderstorm barrel through and I wonder how the flowers made out with all the wind and rain.  I’m hoping for the best but even if that’s not the case I noticed a few bearded iris nearly open.  There’s always a next best thing at this time of year, but it still goes too fast.

Have a great weekend!

The Springpocolypse

The weather has suddenly caught up to the calendar and we’ve been suddenly and brutally been thrown into our first hot (90F, 32C) days of the year.  I was battling cold and the chance of flurries Sunday and by Tuesday we’re turning the air conditioning on.  Go figure.  Better get some pictures and a post up before the tomatoes start ripening.

corydalis solida

The last of the corydalis.  These are in a shaded spot and later than the rest, and of course I’m already looking for new ones since I love the darker tips on short little ‘Domino’ 🙂

I was enjoying the long, cool, spring, but with two days of hot winds and beating sun everything has jumped ahead again.  I always fall behind on posting at this time of year, but this post has really got to go up quick since by tomorrow morning I suspect most of these flowers will have been done in by the weather….

corydalis solida

Plain old Corydalis solida.  I was a little ‘meh’ for the first few years, but now that they’ve settled in I must say I like them.

The hellebores will hopefully still have another week or so in them.  Without any late freezes it’s been a great year, and I’m suddenly itching to grow a few more!

hellebore seedling

Seedlings out in the street border.  The heavily speckled ones are some of my favorites, but then so are the dark ones, and double ones, and yellow, and….

I grow a few from seed every year, and would have started many more but lately it seems I’ve been running out of room.  The words ‘thinning the herd’ have come up, and now I’m looking at a few plants with a critical eye and an eager shovel.  I need room for more seedlings, my favorites deserve a chance to spread their seed ;).

hellebore golden lotus

These are purchased doubles from the O’Byrnes out in Oregon.  It’s ‘Golden Lotus’ in front and possibly ‘Peppermint Ice’ behind.  These would qualify as ‘favorites’.

I’m probably being delusional.  It would be a struggle for me to get rid of any of the hellebores, even the ones which might deserve the ‘less pretty’ title, and in case it’s not already obvious,  I really lack the focus and conviction to ever draw a line with plants.  Who knows though, one afternoon anger management might fail me and out they will come.

hellebore seedling

The queen bumble bees are out, and hopefully they’re getting plenty of the nectar and pollen they need to start this season’s family… and doing a little pollination on the side of course.

This spring even the messiest, most unevenly colored hellebore ends up being a favorite.  Green flowers in particular win me over immediately.

hellebore seedling

The first year flowers on a new hellebore seedling are always the most exciting.

Green flowers and other ‘curious’ blooms are always welcome here and this year I’m seeing a little success in that always curious plant group, the fritillarias.  Fritillaria uva vulpis, aka fox’s grapes, is back for a second year and even though it took the convincing of a friend to sway me towards keeping them, I’m glad now that I did.  They at least look a little ‘interesting’ rather than the straight ‘blah’ I saw last year, and perhaps they’ll continue to improve next year as well.

fritillaria uva vulpis

Fritillaria uva vulpis.  It might not hold up to a bank of golden daffodils but surely it still makes the garden a better place.

The snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) are showing off as well.  I love them, and and it makes me happy to see seedlings and clumps forming as they settle in to the soggiest parts of the garden.

fritillaria meleagris

This clump really lives up to the name snake’s head fritillaria.  I can even see eyes!

The white ones add a little contrast, but the checkered patterns and colors of the darker ones really wow me as they unfurl each spring.  Fyi I’ll need to spread the seeds of these around as well!

fritillaria meleagris

Fritillarias have some of the coolest flower patterns.

By the end of last week the front border was at a peak with all the leftover hyacinths, corydalis, and the start of the midseason daffodils.  From the right angle the bed looks packed with color and I was thrilled, and a few days later it still looks nice but half of what was in flower has been melted by the heat.  Now the first tulips are coming on, and hopefully in a few day you’ll tolerate a few photos of that as well!

daffodil garden

The front street border.  Spring is here 🙂

Here are a few highlights along the curb.

daffodil garden

Maybe ‘Red Rascal’ and and definitely ‘Pistachio’.  The pale yellow ‘Pistachio’ has been a favorite for years.

lunaria annua rosemary verey

The first flowers on one of the moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’).  This is the first year I’m seeing the purple stained foliage and stems for which this strain is know.

magnolia stellata

A magnolia cutting swiped from a layered branch on the neighbor’s tree.  It’s nothing special I’m sure, but having grown it from a cutting makes it absolutely special.  Of course I need more.

Behind the house the back garden is showing off as well.  In three days all the green has turned to flowers!

daffodil garden

Vegetable beds are much more successful when not filled with daffodils.  My bad.

Flowers aren’t the only color out there.  This spring I’m finally seeing the awesome foliage which inspired me to hunt down my very own plant of Iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’.  Thanks to Nan Ondra and her blog at Hayefield, I’ve been coveting this plant for years.  Now I’m seeing that the wait was worth it.

‘Gerald Darby’ also has pale blue flowers which follow the purple foliage.  As the shoots expand, the color will fade to green.

I’ll spare you most of the other foliage photos, and the overabundance of daffodil photos to just leave you with a few more scenes from around the garden.  The primroses enjoyed last summer’s rain and look promising for once in their (short) lives… such a refreshing change from their usual near-death appearance.

Some of the first plants to come in to bloom. This peachy sunset flower doesn’t show up well in the garden, but close up it’s delicious 😉

Under the weeping cherry the three day cherry bloom is over, and the spent petals are now decorating the ground.  It’s a perfect complement to the last of the hardy cyclamen, which (not to rub it in) have been blooming since March, through storm and ice and heat, -unlike the short lived cherry.

The last flowers on the Cyclamen coum.

While the earliest bloomers are still up and growing and building energy for next year, it’s a great time to do a little moving around and dividing.  I created what I hope will soon become my very own trailer park snowdrop bed.  It’s filled with the most messy and common double flowers, the ones all the classier growers look down on such as ‘Flore pleno’ and her variously marked variations such as ‘Pussey Greentips’ and ‘Lady Elphinstone’.  I’m sure someday they will grow to wow even the most rarefied galanthophile.

Snowdrops are classy but only if you avoid decorating the surroundings with plastic children’s toys, plastic buckets, and stray leaf bags. I’d also be more impressed with this new planting if the big rock at the front was already moved out of the new pathway.  Obviously it would be easier to put the path elsewhere.

Two days ago the tulips were mostly closed and the bleeding hearts still a deep, rich carmine. Today they all opened and the hearts are faded. Still nice though!

While I’m moving snowdrops and boulders hopefully I’ll still have the time to enjoy a few daffodils and tulips.  They’re opening as we speak and hopefully the winds and downpour which are barreling through this afternoon will spare a few.  I managed to take one last photo out the back door before the storm hit and as you can see it was full on spring today.

the spring garden

The potager on the verge of tulip season.  For the record there are onions and lettuce in there as well.   

My fingers are crossed for the weekend.  If things work out as planned there will be plenty of time and energy for all the things which need doing… if history repeats itself there will be plenty of sitting around and little work.  We’ll see who wins.

For the record I’ve spent $15 on pansies and then $14 on lettuce and more pansies.  The rabbits have already eaten about $8 worth of the lettuce.  It happens.  Have a great weekend!

$15 for an exceptionally restrained first visit to my favorite garden center
$14 lettuce, onions, and more pansies, also essential

$576 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

I Knew I Could, I Knew I Could

Like the little train who could, spring has done it.  She made an arrival last week and opened a ton of flowers but then got nervous, and ducked backstage again.  It’s a start though and I’ll take it!

‘Purple Bird’ corydalis, pink ‘Beth Evans’, and the slightly darker ‘George Baker, plus a few other things. The snowdrops are over for another year…

Last Tuesday wasn’t exactly the day it all happened, but it was a start, and once we got over the freezing mornings of midweek, winter cracked and the thermometer rose to nearly 80F (26C) for Friday and Saturday.  This is what everything was waiting for, and all of a sudden spring raced ahead another week or two.

narcissus tweety bird

Just a week ago there was nothing to see, but two days of warmth brought up the bright yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils and the pink of more corydalis towards the middle of the front street border.

The ‘Tweety Bird’ narcissus are one of the first daffodils to open here, right alongside the smaller ‘Tete a Tete’.  They’re almost too bright, but of course it’s the color you want after all that grey.  I think it goes along great with the pinks and purples of the Corydalis solida.  They open at the same time (at the earliest end of the daffodil season) and as I spread the little tubers of Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ around the garden, a temporary pink carpet is starting to take shape.

corydalis beth evans

Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ in need of dividing.  This one actually might multiply a little too fast since the clumps don’t flower as well due to the crowding.  (notice the single red seedling at the lower right, always a nice thing to see!)

For a couple of years the corydalis have been selfseeding, and in an effort to diversify I’ve added a few fancier colors to the gene pool.  I probably shouldn’t have bothered though, since the seedlings seem to diversify well enough on their own and all kinds of new shades are showing up.  Plus to my eye even the most exceptional named forms don’t seem stand-out better than what I’ve already got.  Still, a dark red or garnet, and a white were what was missing from the garden so I’m glad to see that deficit has been repaired.

named corydalis

A few named corydalis.  Front center is ‘Gunite’, maybe ‘Firebird’ just to the right, and white ‘Snowstorm’ just behind them.  The blue is Scilla siberica which is happily spreading throughout the garden… for better or worse. 

Corydalis cover a pretty good part of the earliest spring spectrum but a few other things are also making the garden look alive again.  Hyacinths are doing their part, and although the big floppy hybrids are nice enough, my absolute favorite is one of the multiflowering types, ‘Anastasia’.

multiflowering hyacinth anastasia

Hyacinth ‘Anastasia’.  Multiple flower stems and a clumping up habit are nice but the dark stems and violet flowers are what hyacinth-love looks like.

The pink and white versions of this hyacinth (‘Pink Festival’, ‘White Festival’) just don’t do as much for me, as well as the plain green stemmed blue version (‘Blue Festival’), but then I have to admit I’m not as in to baby shower colors in the garden, so if that’s your taste…. so be it.  In the meantime I’m holding my breath for hellebore season.

picotee hellebores

The first hellebores opening up along the street.  These were grown from ‘yellow picotee’ seed years ago, and I should probably add a few more.

I can’t remember the last time the hellebores came up so nicely, it’s become habit to expect a frigid arctic blast to come along and melt the flower stems and blacken the new foliage.  I forgot how nice they can be, and how occasionally they even rival the catalog photos.

dark hellebore

The dark hellebores are also very cool.  These are much darker in person and almost disappear into the mulch from a few feet.

The majority of my plants are from seed and this spring reminds me that I should absolutely start a few new batches and maybe make another attempt to clear out the ones which don’t thrill me as much as they could.  To be honest I find it more exciting to experience the surprise of the first flowers opening on a new batch of seedlings than to have a reliable, amazing, purchased plant that comes back faithfully each year.  I don’t know if that speaks well of me, but I do like seeing the new!

hellebore goldfinch

Variation in plants, all of these are seedlings from the yellow hellebore ‘Goldfinch’ but maybe only one in ten resembles the parent.

Hopefully in the next week or two I’ll be able to experience the best of both worlds with both new seedlings and also reliable returns…  that is assuming the weather continues to warm.  As I write it’s snowing again and spring is apparently having a little bit of stage fright.  I’ll try to keep things optimistic though, so I’ll leave you with one last favorite.

pulsatilla vulgaris

A pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris).  Each year I try to get a few more seedlings out of the seed exchange offerings but my success so far has been pretty bleak.  This pot did well enough though, and if pushed I may admit to liking the fuzzy stems even more than the actual flowers.  

Have a great week.  Hopefully the sun shines and even if it doesn’t at least there’s finally some hope for the 2018 season.