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Spring has taken an odd turn here.  The weather has been fantastic and there’s been time to spend in the garden but I have absolutely no interest in doing anything.  Maybe it’s the lull effect.  Snowdrop season come on so fast and was over so quickly, it was hard to keep that high going.  Then the warm days were followed by two nights of hard freeze which singed the corydalis and melted half the hyacinths, but oddly spared the magnolia buds.  This has become the norm lately, but for some reason the freeze-damaged flowers have me a little bored, and the return to warm days has me hesitant about starting too much transplanting.  Fortunately the front garden looks ok with some spring daffodils, and my little twig of a magnolia cutting has grown into something which finally shows off.

magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata, probably ‘Royal Star’ anchoring the far end of the front border.  You can see the mother plant from which this plant came from to the right of the neighbor’s house.  

I’m 87% sure last week’s freeze again killed all the barely pea-sized wisteria buds, but the almost open magnolias are fine.  Go figure.

magnolia stellata

This year the flowers have a flush of pink to them, but that will fade to white in a couple days.

Right now, with a nice cover of shredded leaves, the front border seems optimistically weed-free, so even if there is transplanting and thinning to do I can still pretend it’s all under control for a few weeks longer.  A gardener with more foresight and enthusiasm would probably scuffle through the mulch with a hoe now, before the onslaught of seedlings put down roots, but…

daffodil tweety bird

The daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ flopped a little for the 21F night but has bounced back without a second thought.  I’d say it’s one of my absolute favorites.

As I said, the hyacinths are probably the one bulb which took the biggest freeze-hit.  Some are fine, but many either melted or suffered freeze damage to the flowers.  Of course with all this pessimism running through my veins all I see are frosted flowers, even though I know I’m the only one to see it.

freeze damage hyacinth

It saddens me to see the damage on ‘Woodstock’, but maybe a lost year of flowering will just mean a bigger show next year!

The hyacinths usually lead the garden into full daffodil season, which is also normally a big thing, but last year’s purge of the narcissus beds has left a noticeably smaller show in the back yard.  Again, I’m the only one who notices these things, but I do miss them.

hellebore hgc silvermoon

Maybe “MORE!!!” is the solution I’m looking for.  I could divide up the hellebore ‘HGC Silvermoon’ and spread hyacinths all over… and then wonder how I ended up with so much pink 🙂

Actually the daffodils will be back next year, they just need a year to settle in and bulk up, but what I still want to celebrate is my first self-sown daffodil!

daffodil seedling

‘Holland Sensation'(supposedly) on the left, and a nearly identical seedling to the right.

I had been watching the daffodil seedlings for a few years and of course had all these amazing possibilities in my head, so it was a little bit of a surprise to see a nearly identical child show up.  It’s going to be interesting to see what the others turn out to be since there are quite a few ringing the mother clump… all about a daffodil stem’s length away from the seed source.

tulip bed

Tulips will be next.

Honestly there are still plenty of daffodils to come.  They’re later than normal from the digging and drying and storing process, but there will still be enough.  Tulips on the other hand, there are never enough tulips!  I replanted some of the ones I dug last year, but they were stunted from the ‘in the green’ transplanting process so only about half will bloom this year.  But that’s not a bad thing since the transplanted tulips are showing perfect foliage, and that’s not been the case recently.  The foliage is usually scarred with the pocks and streaks of the tulip fire fungus, and the tulips I didn’t get around to moving are again showing this kind of damage.  I considered fungal sprays, but they all sounded so toxic I was going to just try digging these as well until I saw Neem oil spray.  An organic option which doesn’t sound too eco-toxic so I’m going to give that a try on top of moving them.  I’m not 100% sure when is best to spray, and I’ve never used it before, so please let me know if you have any suggestions.

garden pond

Cleaning up the pond.  Of course the pump broke halfway through.  

Since we ended up on the repulsive subject of tulip fire, let me just stay with the theme and say that pond cleanup is also repulsive and probably the most disgusting part of spring cleanup.  There was a slimy layer of rotten leaves coating everything, with a robust algae population and who-knows-what-else ecosystem of muck.  Even with gloves it would be super-gross, but of course I was too lazy to go find them, so into the unknown my fingers went.  The best part though was when the dog found something delicious in all that muck to chew on.  What a disgusting little beast.  Yuck.

So sorry about that segway into grossness.  It’s probably just a symptom of my dark mood which will evaporate just as quickly as the first tulips open.  In the meantime I wish you all a wonderful and safe week!

 

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!

Winter Arrives?

With the calendar turning over for the official start of a new year, I had the opportunity to see my blogging stats as a year end summary.  I usually expect a disappointing show but how exciting to see that for the first time since 2016 my visitors and views have actually increased!  I’ll still point out that there was far more interest in this blog five years ago than there is today, but I guess any move to the plus side is worth celebrating, and I think my first move will be to show off these numbers to my bank account.  It’s been slacking in the numbers department as well, and this might be just the inspiration it’s been waiting for.

mulched vegetable beds

A former vegetable bed has filled with hydrangeas and other things more colorful than vegetables.  Now a messy mulch of leaves looks suspiciously like the cover for a future snowdrop bed.  Hmmmm.

My concerns over declining views are matched only by my race to improve them.  In the last four years I’ve done nothing.  That could be part of it, but at least the weather was beautiful last Saturday and I was able to do something outside and actually weeded a few spots and spread a little mulch.  Not bad for January, and I think I’m as set as I will be for the earliest spring bloomers, some of which have mistaken sunny days in the 50’s for the end of an extremely short winter.

Mrs Macnamara

Mrs Macnamara is an early riser, but unfortunately this weather tricks her into being too early.  In the five years she’s been here her early blooms have been destroyed five times, and I have yet to see her flowers open and look their best.  

History does not bode well for an extremely short winter in this garden.  A review of last year shows various things up and nearly in flower the first week of January… and then also shows the wilted, frozen mush of snowdrops and hellebores by the end of February.  I doubt there’s a gardener out there who doesn’t know this same story.

winter hellebore foliage

I would have removed the hellebore foliage but prefer to mow it all up, and honestly the lawnmower deserves at least a few days off for winter so I’ll wait.

I guess there’s no easy way out.  A more mature and sensible gardener would just not grow the plants ill suited to their garden.  That’s a good idea, and you of course should do that even if I won’t.

winter hellebore

On the advice of a better gardener I’ve started trimming the old foliage off my hellebores at anytime from late December on.  Tender, easily damaged shoots seem to show up whether the leaves are removed or not.

I apologize for speaking of warm sun while showing gloomy snow and sleet but one of the blog stats which stood out for me was that this blogger used to post twice as much.  Because Saturday was a beautiful, busy day and no photos were taken, I was forced to go out Sunday into the sleet for something to blog about.  Quantity over quality is my new mantra and we will see if more frequent posts will be the secret to overwhelming my site counter and bringing on that lucrative movie deal I’m still hoping for.

Or spring.  I won’t mind if more frequent posts bring on spring 🙂

In Like a Lamb

I’m considering filing a restraining order against March this year.  Every spring-like warm spell brings the hellebores and snowdrops on a little further along but then some new brutal weather event comes by to smack them all down again.  It’s clearly an unhealthy relationship but I just can’t move on.  Every time the sun comes out again, spring becomes so real I just want to forgive and forget and say just one more chance.

galanthus brenda troyle

Possibly my favorite snowdrop, ‘Brenda Troyle’ looks extremely average but it’s also so reliable and perfect I can’t say a single bad thing about it.

Most of the snowdrops were lost after the first chance for spring came and went, but a few hid here and there either underground or cozied up to the house foundation.  A shame they didn’t warn the hellebores about how fickle the season was being.

hellebore buds

The hellebores which could have been.

I admit I’m not much help in protecting things.  A few snowdrops received a plastic tub or bucket cover for when the thermometer dropped to 7F (-14C) one night, but most things are on their own.

galanthus lagodechianus

Galanthus lagodechianus tried hiding underground for a while and did manage to avoid the hail, but then came up just as the latest arctic blast was about to hit.  Fortunately a simple cover saved its perfect flowers from damage and at least this week I’ll be able to enjoy the yellow coloring which is exceptionally bright this spring.  

The various snow crocus in the meadow garden are always a risky bet so I can’t complain much here.  The weather gets whatever the rabbits didn’t so even in a good year you need to be quick.

snow crocus

Some warm sun might be too much to ask for.  I keep waiting for the spring where I see a whole swath of opened crocus basking in the sunlight… but it hasn’t happened yet. 

To hedge my spring flowering bets I went around yesterday and plucked any undamaged hellebores which were still around.  A few remained and they were enough to remind me why I still bother growing them…. since last year’s season was mostly a bust as well.

hellebore flowers

Snuggled up right next to the porch foundation, hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ has actually flowered well this year. Usually the buds are killed much earlier in the winter and never make it to this point.  Wish I could say the same for the others, but this small handful were the only undamaged flowers I could rustle up. 

Hopefully the rest of March is a little gentler on the hellebores and the later flowers can still develop and put on a show.  It would be nice to see a few showy clumps instead of the wilted and blacked stalks I’ve been getting used to seeing.

hail damage magnolia

Fingers crossed that this is the last of the hail damage.  At first the magnolias didn’t look so bad, but once the damage started to brown it was a different story. Fresh foliage will make this all a memory in a few more weeks… I think.

One last complaint.  For some reason these snowdrops (G. woronowii) really took a beating from the cold.  Maybe it was the 62F to 7F drop in temperature, or the wet soil, or the exposed location, whatever the case I think a few might not be salvageable.

snowdrop freeze damage

Sad seeing freeze damage on a snowdrop but it’s not my first time.  Maybe a few will survive, but they (and about 200 others) were looking so promising for their first year. 

I guess some days it’s just better to stay indoors.

forced tulip

The first of the forced tulips are coming into flower.  I’m sure their shortness says something bad about their culture but to be honest the height actually works out perfectly for under the growlights 🙂

The indoor garden should really have many more seedlings getting size on them for spring planting, but for whatever reason I just haven’t yet been in the mood to tackle a whole under-lights seed agenda this year.  I planted onions, that’s it.  Good thing the primroses are filling in and starting to flower.

primula auricula

Photographing yellow is still a sticking point for me, but hopefully this picture still gets across how nicely this primula auricula has done.

Having my yellow Primula auricula survive for a second year was a surprise in itself, but the fact that it’s actually multiplied and flowered again is borderline unbelievable.

primula auricula

I still think the mealy powder on these flowers is one of the most exotic things. 

These indoor flowers will have to keep me and most of the East coast going for the next few days since March just decided to come back and slap us with a surprise snowfall.  Normally this would be another reason to complain, but at least snow should insulate things for the temperature drop which will follow.

hellebore in snow

Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ in the actual snow.

Temperature drop and then more snow.  Right now they’re saying lots more but given the forecasting track record it’s still too soon to tell.  Wouldn’t that be something though if we get more snow in the first few days of spring than we did all winter.  March must know I was planning on a garden visit next weekend because I bet this weather forecast is what jealously looks like.  Stop it March!

Too much money

Some complaints will never get you any sympathy, and to complain that tulips are coming up and blooming in all sorts of odd places probably ranks right up there.  Truth be told it’s not a problem, but when every batch of compost seems to hold a new crop of bulbs, the spring planting in the parterre becomes a little more complicated.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Once again the vegetable garden is a complicated mess of far too many flowers and far too few edibles.

For all my failures in the garden, tulips seem to be one plant which enjoys the poorly draining, heavy soil of the flower beds.  It’s a surprise to see this considering many references suggest a loamy, free draining soil for your best chances at success, and even then it’s a safer bet to treat tulips as one or two year treat.  Fortunately no one has whispered this little secret into the ears of my bulbs and they keep coming back and multiplying.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Having a few tulips in the way is just the excuse I need to skip digging too deeply when it comes to planting the spring vegetables. 

I think I do know the secret though.  The soil may be heavy but it’s also thin and dries out relatively quickly once the heat of summer settles in, and if I do manage to drag my lazy self away from the pool to water it’s never a solid deep watering, it’s always a guilty stand around with a hose until things look less dead kind of triage.  I can’t imagine much of the water ever penetrates deeper than two or three inches and for this the heavy soil works to an advantage.  My tulips like a hot, dry summer similar to their ancestral haunts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and most years (unfortunately) this is what my garden resembles.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Tulips in the onions, tulips in the lettuce.  I try to replant stray bulbs closer to the edges, but there are always more little bulblets in the compost or stray bulbs dug around in the soil.

When I was more ambitious I used to fill several of the beds each fall and then dig them again in June after the foliage died down.  It was a glorious spring explosion but one bad experience soured me to the whole deal and I ended up tossing hundreds of fat promising bulbs.  They really do need a good drying out over the summer and when mine all molded up and rotted one damp August I put a stop to the project.  But…. I can’t promise it won’t happen again some day 🙂

lettuce self sown seedlings

If all goes well this batch of tulip leaves should put out two or three blooms next year.  Not bad for a weed, and if you notice there are more weeds in the lawn, in this case lettuce seedlings from last years neglected plantings.

So to sum it up my tulips don’t mind a nice heavy fertile soil while they’re growing, the just need to follow it up with a warm dry summer rest.  Planting them in a spot which dries out and doesn’t get summertime irrigation is one option, actually digging them up and storing them in a hot, dry, ventilated area until fall planting is another.  Just be prepared to have more tulips than you know what to do with since most tulips will at least double in number every growing season.

double early tulip

Leftover Easter flowers from two or three years ago.  Let them bloom and grow as long as possible in their pot and then stick them into some out of the way spot, preferably one where they will not be overrun with bearded iris 🙂

Although most people recommend species tulips and Darwin types for the best chance at perennializing,  I don’t notice that much of a difference between the types.  Give them all a try is my advice, but for best results regardless of type you will have to dig and divide the bulbs every three or four years  when they begin to get crowded.

perennial Darwin hybrid tulips

A few stray tulips snuck in with the compost for this new snowdrop bed.  With snowdrop season long gone I’m quite happy to see the tulips flowering in a carpet of my favorite annual weed, purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum). 

Alas, even plants relatively happy with their homes do not always lead perfect lives.  The tulip season may be a little sparse next year for two reasons, both of which revolve around the weather.  The first is our harsh April freeze which damaged many of the buds and much of the blooms for this year’s show.  That in itself could be tolerable, but in the weeks since the weather has remained damp and cool, and many of the damaged plants are now falling victim to gray mold (Botrytis).  Botrytis is bad news and seems to stick around for a few years even after better weather returns.  I’m wondering how many of the affected plants will be going on to tulip heaven…

tulip virus candy apple

Not to go on and on about this late freeze, but here’s yet another example of damaged foliage and stunted blooms.  To top it off I also suspect virus in the streaked blossoms of what should really be a solid colored flower. 

All is not lost though.   I still love tulips and would grow a few even if they only made it a year or so before falling victim to whatever tragedies visit my garden next.

tulip marit

Tulip ‘Marit’ is a favorite this year.  I don’t remember such round flowers last year but the shape and color this year really won me over. 

In the meantime I will keep my fingers crossed.  I far prefer being spoiled for choice as far as tulips go, and if it means working around a few bulbs here and there that’s fine with me.

tulip pink impression

Tulip ‘pink impression’ in the front border.  They’re huge and pink and although battered by the weather they’re still the crowning glory of the border.

Have a great Sunday and happy mother’s day to the moms!

A freeze and the daffodils

I can’t really hold the weather against them, but I do.  Again and again I told them not to get such an early jump on the season but they ignored me and sure enough one final blast of winter came through and taught them all a lesson.  Three weeks later and I’m still mourning the daffodil season which never was.

cold damage daffodil

Can you guess the prevailing wind direction?  Like a windswept bonsai this daffodil ‘Actea’ still managed to pull through and open a few blooms in spite of the 20F winds which blew through. 

I shouldn’t say the whole season was a wash but if I had to guess I would say about half the daffodils lost their buds and blooms completely and only about a quarter opened up nicely.  A quarter goes a long way though and I’m still grateful to have what I do, plus the weather has been very accommodating since so I suspect the surviving daffodils will put on an extra special show next year.

Isn’t that typical of a gardener?  It’s always “wait until you see this next week” or “imagine next year”…. or the apologetic “you should have seen it a few days ago”. 🙂

narcissus daffodil stepchild

One of my many favorites, narcissus ‘stepchild’ is later and in a spot sheltered from the wind, and although neighboring clumps were still de-flowered by the cold, she seems as pretty as ever. 

In spite of the wild swings in temperature the various butterflies of the garden seem unfazed and continue to shake off the cold and go about their business as soon as the weather warms enough.  Perhaps I hadn’t noticed in previous years, or perhaps there were other non-freeze burned sources of food available, but this year the daffodils have been very popular with several types of butterflies.

butterfly on daffodil black swallowtail

A black swallowtail feeding off the windblown and weather-beaten flowers of narcissus ‘kokopelli’. 

I hope my wallowing in self pity hasn’t made it seem like all is lost in my end of the woods.  Spring is a fantastic relief even with its frequent ups and downs and if one looks past the blackened cherries and mushy primrose blooms and perennial shoots there’s still more good than sad.

daffodil newcomer narcissus

Later is better this spring, and because a late replanting last fall set daffodil ‘Newcomer’ back a few days, its blooms missed the worst of the weather.  The tulips as well, the shelter of the garden’s tiny boxwood hedge seems to have helped them avoid the full brunt of the winds.

In the lee of the house the front garden missed the full force of the wind.  Here if I ignore all the mushy, blackened hyacinth blooms, and wilted early daffodils I can still find plenty to enjoy.

narcissus geranium daffodil

Blooms of the good old reliable daffodil ‘geranium’ set off by ‘pink impression’ tulips, yellow Euphorbia polychrome, and the purple flowers of ‘Rosemary Verey’ Lunaria annua (moneyplant).  I was hoping for darker foliage on the Lunaria but maybe having all the old leaves frozen off a few weeks ago left me with only fresh new green ones.

Maybe this freeze was a warning to diversify.  I admit to having way too many daffodils and maybe adding more supporting players isn’t the worst idea (as if I need a reason for adding more plants!)

mertensia Virginia bluebell from seed

Finally!  After several failed attempts and then a three year wait for my only sprouted seedling to grow up, the first Virginia bluebell (Mertensia Virginica) is in bloom.  Others claim it to be nearly weedy in its ways, but I managed to kill the first one I bought and then never found it in the garden center again.

I’m kidding of course.  Although I do need to find new homes for many of the most promiscuous daffodils (please let me know if you can take any in), there are billions of new plants on the way regardless, as seeds sown last fall and winter begin to sprout.  I always love these new surprises as much as I love the warmer up sides to this spring’s manic mood swings.  Even a bright yellow dandelion makes me grin when the sun is out!

creeping Charlie dandelions

Creeping Charlie and dandelions on a sunny day.  A beautiful lawn in my opinion…. even if Charlie does get on my nerves later in the season.

I have one more gloomy post as I complain about the assault which the cold made against the tulips, but after that things should return to a happier tone which more accurately reflects the joy of the season.   Have a great weekend, I’ve spent far too long on the computer and need to get out there and dig a little before the first Little League game drags me elsewhere 🙂

The Iceman Cometh

I made a point of getting the lawn mowed Saturday.  I wanted to have things nice and neat for when the snow comes.

mixed perennial border

Bright yellow daffodils, blue hyacinths and a freshly cut lawn.  The front border is looking very spring-ish with its mix of sprouting perennials and flowering spring bulbs.  Please ignore the upended chairs which the nasty wind has blown over. 

Although things are way too early this year, all my efforts to convince them to slow down have gone unheeded.  The plants just don’t know what to do with this rollercoaster ride of highs and lows and as a result it’s been a kind of crappy spring with snowdrops peaking and then wilting in a few days of heat, hailstorms knocking everything down, cold weather keeping the depressing wreckage at a standstill, another warm spell to snap things back into high speed, and then now this latest arctic blast.  Here’s the front border six days prior when only a few weather beaten crocus were up.  At least I had enough time to raid the neighborhood dump and mulch the border with plenty of nicely chopped leaves.

mixed perennial border mulched with leaves

A nice mulch of shredded leaves will do wonders smothering the weeds this summer and feeding the soil all spring.  I wish I had more!

In less than a week we’ve jumped ahead to the peak of the daffodil season.  Last fall I wanted to mix in a few more of the bright yellows so I snapped up a batch of 50 from Van Engelen and haphazardly spread them throughout the border.  I tend to enjoy a more natural look and the scattered planting combined with the wildflowery long noses on this cultivar makes them appear as if they’ve been there much longer than a few months.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this or if I’ve repeated it a dozen times, but daffodils which hold on to the long trumpets and backswept petals of the original N. cyclamineus species are by far my favorite types 🙂

daffodil tweety bird

Daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’, a product of Brent and Becky Heath’s breeding program, filling in where I pulled out an invasive burning bush last fall.

One, and possibly the only, thing good about frequent cold spells is that some of the daffodils are showing their deepest, glamour shot colors without the fading which normally occurs in the warmer weather.  Here in a cool bed which is shaded by a fence, ‘Jetfire’ is looking almost fluorescent with its orange cup.  I’ve never seen it this bright before, and hopefully this is a good start for this bed since I’m still into the months long process of killing the most persistent weeds here with a double shot of thick mulch and weed killing spray.  Maybe by the start of this summer I can finally refill this open land with all kinds of new goodies!

daffodil narcissus jetstar

Narcissus (or daffodil if you prefer) ‘Jetstar’ blooming with some unusually bright color this spring.  This is one of  my most reliable daffs 🙂

Another thing you may or may not know is that I tend to have a lot of favorite daffodils, and that’s because I grow a good assortment to choose from, and I challenge anyone to stick to just one favorite!  Narcissus ‘Rapture’ is an award winning, American bred daffodil with just the kind of cyclamineus genes I love.  Look at those cute little reflexed petals and long trumpet!  As you can see by the neighboring empty spots, not all daffodils have done as well in this location, since at one time this bed was fully planted.

daffodil narcissus rapture

A nice fat clump of Narcissus ‘Rapture’.  If I didn’t already have so much yellow out front I’d surely spread this one around the mixed border along the street.

But of course the up and down weather is even beginning to wear on the daffodils.  Arctic blasts of cold burnt the early tips of many of the more trusting varieties.

freeze damage on daffodil

The jonquil types of daffodil sprout just a little too early for our zone.  This is probably ‘Pipit’ or ‘Hillstar’ and even in a good year the tips of the foliage get singed by too cold weather extremes. 

It’s all or nothing for some of these daffodils which carry the genes of the more southern N. jonquilla.  If it’s a cold winter they hunker down and don’t poke up their heads until the weather has settled, but in an unsettled winter they keep on trying to get started during every warm spell.

narcissus daffodil tiny bubbles

Narcissus ‘Tiny Bubbles’ with a freeze damaged ‘Kokopelli’ behind it.  I like the dainty flowers on ‘Tiny Bubbles’ but I wish either the foliage was shorter or the blooms up a little higher. 

The unsettled winter crushed this year’s hellebore show.  I should have seen that coming since last fall they looked better than ever and were poised to bloom their heads off.  So much for that.

picotee hellebore

Here’s one which managed to come out and open perfectly between the frigid blasts of cold.  There are singed and damaged flowers all around but this one with its dark centers and perfectly veined blooms is enough to make me smile. 

Of course I have my favorites among the hellebores as well.

yellow hellebore

Even with a few damaged centers and singed outers the buttery yellow of this hellebore keeps it on my best-of-the-hellebores list 🙂

Any opinions on this picotee hellebore growing in the front border?  It’s doing very well in spite of the fact nearly all its neighbors were frozen back to their crowns…

picotee hellebore

Would you call this a yellow picotee hellebore?  I like the red shading and subtle color, but suspect it might not jump out at everyone.

I guess it’s time for a reality check.  Here are the daffodils this morning as the cold wind howls outside.

daffodil frozen in snow

The front foundation border once again covered in snow. 

To be honest I hope the snow predicted for tonight also comes through.  The garden can use a little bit of extra cover to help it out when the low temperatures drop to 19F (-7C) for both Monday and Tuesday.  Whatever.

frozen hyacinth

All the early bulbs flattened and frozen by a late cold snap.  You can bet my fingers are crossed they make it through this….

It’s normal for everything to wilt as it freezes, and that’s a good thing since too much water in the stems will cause them to burst as the water expands, but I’m not sure exactly what else will survive the upcoming deep freeze.  I’m writing off the wisteria, even the barely expanded buds will most likely die off, and the hyacinths will be mush, but I’m most worried about the tulips and daffodils.  A few years ago a one night cold snap permanently ‘did in’ a bunch of tulips, this longer spell has me more worried, and I have many more now than I did back then.

C’est la vie.  Maybe I’ll order a few new cannas today, and dream of a beautiful June garden.  April and May are kind of iffy right now, but as long as the birds sing and the sun is warm we’ll be fine…. tulips or not.

Cold? I barely noticed.

The new amaryllis are coming into bloom and between them and mommy’s valentine’s day roses  things are looking very festive around here.  I don’t mind one bit but it’s surprising to me that the dirty flower pots at the end of the table are being tolerated as well as they are.  Usually non-edible growing things are frowned upon in the dining area.

double amaryllis red peacock

The girl picked out some nice roses this year and although red is always a valentine’s day favorite, I and hopefully others love this blend of colors even more.  The timing on the double red amaryllis also couldn’t be better, I believe it’s ‘red peacock’.

During a weak moment this winter I came across a clearance sale for amaryllis (hippeastrum) and decided to treat myself.  Treating yourself is always a good idea in December and soon enough a few new amaryllis were sitting at my door.  Since I was already buying cheap bulbs of a flower which I really don’t need, I decided to try something new and picked a few doubles and miniatures.  So far so good!

Belladonna mini amaryllis

A miniature amaryllis ‘Belladonna’.  Even more mini due to the lack of roots and long storage before planting, but still putting on a nice show.  I impressed myself by pulling some moss out of the lawn and tucking it in around the bulbs for that little bit finished look 🙂

All the amaryllis were planted in nice new terracotta pots which I’m ashamed to say required more time and effort to find than any of the actual bulbs.  Apparently clay pots are not filling the shelves during the holiday shopping season…. or at least not filling the shelves at the first three places I tried… but persistence paid off.  Hopefully the bulbs will appreciate my struggle.

As the bulbs settle in and sprout there are more things coming into bloom in the garage.  I’m especially pleased to announce the opening of my little auricula primrose.  The color is a mustardy yellow which although very ‘refined’, wouldn’t be my first choice for a show stopping color.  I love it though and am looking forward to seeing a few more blooms opening over the next few days… and hopefully having the flower stem straighten out to get rid of some of the ‘nod’ it has!

auricula under grow lights

My lovely little auricula growing under lights.  I can’t seem to do a decent job photographing yellow, but hopefully you can still make out the mealy white center which makes these flowers so distinctive.

Outside is a different story, and it’s a mix of hope and optimism as well as worry.  We had enough warmth earlier in the winter to bring on a bunch of stuff way ahead of schedule, and some of those things paid a price for their eagerness when the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  The hellebores in particular are looking sad.

freeze damage hellebore

I don’t know if this hellebore will recover to bloom this year.  It won’t die, but the freeze damage doesn’t look good.

Also sad are a few of the daffodils.  Early risers such as anything with tazetta or jonquil blood (two of the many daffodil species crossed for the hybrids we have today) were mushed back to the ground.  Some will die, but most will carry on and just have browned tips to their leaves when the blooms come up.

freeze damaged daffodils

Freeze damage on early daffodil foliage.  In spite of the way they look I think they’ll be ok.  The buds and more leaf will continue to sprout once things warm again.

The bad news is that after a few spring-like days we and the rest of the East coast are having some of the coldest nights of the winter.  I would feel much better if a nice blanket of snow covered up last weekend’s early bloomers but just a dusting of snow accompanied the cold snap.  For now ignorance is bliss and I’ll again enjoy last week’s signs of spring as we slowly warm up from a blustery low of -8F (-22C) last weekend.

wendys gold Gerald parker galanthus

‘Wendy’s Gold’ and ‘Gerard Parker’ in bloom last week.  I loved the early glimpse of spring, but this week had to scrape traces of snow off the lawn in order to pile it over them for a little extra cold protection.

I should know later this week if there is any damage to my snowdrop treasures.  I remain optimistic, but sadly enough in years past I have had it that drops have died from a late season arctic blast, and these bloom are far along, and this cold snap is severe.  But what can you do?  Wendy and Gerard got a box over them but I’m not ready to go all over the yard covering things for each cold snap.  These bulbs will have to show their true colors.

galanthus magnet snowdrop

Galanthus ‘magnet’.  This one’s on his own so I’ve got my fingers crossed for these next few days.  If worse comes to worse I’ll be able to try ‘magnet’ again from a different source, since I’m not positive this one’s correctly labeled.

Wish my bulbs luck.  If they do survive I will never underestimate the hardiness of some of these earliest bloomers.

winter aconite

Last week’s show of the aptly named winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).  I love this pale version of the usual bright yellow.

As a backup plan I’ll start a few more seeds this week.  Empty ground is always a good reason for new plants, and if worse comes to worse there are always annuals 🙂

January Thaw

This is a post only a gardener could love…. and even at that it would need to be a gardener stuck in the cold and gray of a Northern January.  Only a cabin fever gardener would care about the first tiny green sprout of a snowdrop coming up among the freezer-burnt hellebore foliage.first snowdrop sprouts

Just a few days after temperatures dropped to -6F (-21C), the warmth has returned, the ground is thawing and I’m back outside poking for the first signs of spring.  The snowdrops (galanthus elwesii) seemed way too early but then after checking last year’s notes I saw the first was open January 31st last year, and I suppose we’re right on schedule.  Using this as a clue I checked the seed pots and saw minute sprouts there.  Yay!  These little babies might have to come in under the lights, a pot like this is something I might have to check every day!  **btw there are two tiny sprouts, just in case you can’t see them 🙂galanthus elwesii seedlings

Elsewhere in the garden some of the snowdrops (also galanthus elwesii) forced under lights last year are also ready for the new season.  I keep throwing more mulch on them to slow them down, but they insist on coming up and facing the frigid ice and blowing snow unprotected.galanthus elwessi sproutsI wish I cold post a couple witch hazel blooms, but mine is refusing to bloom this year.  It does that, going on and off depending on its mood.  So in a desperate bid for anything interesting, here are a few colchicum sprouts already showing.  Colchicum are another plant that insists on worrying me with a too-early showing.colchicum sprouts in the winterOne plant that did not appear to enjoy the polar vortex is this cyclamen coum.  The warm front that preceded the artic blast melted off all our snow cover and these little guys were forced to endure the straight on winds without any windbreaks or mulch cover.  I’m hoping the dark shriveled green of the leaves is not a sign of death…..frozen cyclamen coum foliageTo leave off on a good note this hellebore “HGC Silvermoon” is only showing the typical winter foliage damage.  It’s in a full sun position but was engulfed by a neighboring catmint plant during the summer.  The plant doesn’t seem to care and I’m looking forward to a nice show soon (now that I can see it again!) hellebore HGC silvermoonSo that’s it from here.  Not much, but it’s always nice to be able to get out there for a look around during the daylight hours.  It gives me time to contemplate failed projects such as the leaking pond shell, the hole of which is holding more water than when the pond liner was in there.  In my head I will fix it and end up happy….. right now it just annoys me whenever I pass.pond liner failBut it’s nice to be outside doing something other than shoveling snow.  There’s still a month at least before any thoughts of spring become legitimate, so I need to take it easy.  Another good cold snap would do well to cool this spring fever off, but I’m worried about what more indoor computer time would do.  Right now the budget is blown for spring and it has a lot to do with that easy click that brings plant goodies right to your door….. there’s still a long way to go, and I hope you’re doing better than I’ve been!

Late Freeze

A little over a week ago snow and rain and then freezing nighttime temperatures hit this part of Pennsylvania.  Plants were frozen solid and frost covered the lawns in the wee hours of the night until the sun finally came out again to warm things up.  There was damage to many things, but even a week later things are still showing up.  Luckily these blue columbines didn’t miss a beat. aquilegia vulgaris blueStrawberries also looked good on the surface, but closer in you’ll see black centers to some of the blooms.  I think the freeze killed off the berry part of the bloom while the flower was developing.  Good thing there are more coming.freeze damage strawberrywisteria flowerThe wisteria was getting ready for a great show, a good recovery from last years freak freeze that killed all of 2012’s bloom.  Then this freeze came and did the same thing all over again.  Here’s how it looks today, most leaves are dead and damaged and the blooms have all fallen off.

freeze damage wisteriaEven with the damage on most shrubs and trees, I have no doubt they’ll all make a full recovery (the aggressive wisteria for sure).  The dried and damaged leaves won’t look good for weeks and maybe all season, but if it’s not a freeze ruining perfection it would be chewing bugs or children with golf clubs or something worse.

Enough about the freeze.  How can you think badly of spring when it’s the start of iris season?  Down along the street the historic ‘Ambassadeur’ (1920) is just coming into full bloom.  It’s not a favorite, but grows like a champ and the grape scent perfumes the area.iris ambassadeur

I’ve got to move those boxwood, they were never supposed to stay there.  I have hedging issues and for some reason always have a couple dozen little boxwood cuttings coming along and in need of a spot to call home.  There are projects galore to deal with around here and finding homes for hedges is always one of them.  It seems like such a good idea in August to take a couple dozen cuttings, but when you have a tray of fifty looking for a home guilt kicks in.  Enough guilt.  Here’s more iris.  This is ‘Pink Bubbles’, a more modern iris…. I’m not crazy about it this year but the violas make a nice backdrop.iris pink bubble