And Then It Was Summer

Well now it’s official, the first roses are in bloom.

rose john cabot

Rose, possibly ‘John Cabot’, opening up at the far end of the front border.

I don’t think anyone out there dislikes roses.  They might not like growing them, but to dislike them or harbor worse opinions seems out of the question and even borderline suspicious to me.  There are a few roses around here but I’ve tried to hold back.  Rose Rosette Disease is in the wild roses all around us, and I’d hate to see it jump into the garden and decimate any big plantings I might end up putting in.  Unless they’re irresistibly fragrant of course.  The workhorses I have right now are barely fragrant, and at the start fo each summer I always give a little thought to adding something with a fierce perfume.  This year I’m thinking rugosas, and we’ll see if I can hold strong or not.

lupine red rum

A surprising return from last year, ‘Red Rum’ lupine.  I still think it’s amazing and of course want more.

The front border along the street is still riding high with the last of the iris and alliums and a returning lupine star from last year.  I was sure the lupine would would be a one and done wonder but here it is in year two looking even better.  Between the lupine and some new allium schubertii I’m really pleased how it looks.  Usually the iris are followed by a lull, but not this year!

allium schubertii

A closer look at Allium schubertii.  Not super showy, but definitely super cool.

You may have heard it mentioned that someone here is going through an iris phase.  It’s true, and I guess it’s been building for longer than I’d care to admit.  Two years ago ‘Bayberry Candle’ was added, and this year I’m seeing how a flower which is not bright nor flashy, can still be rich and amazing.

iris bayberry candle

Iris ‘Bayberry Candle’ (1966)

It’s possible there have been other iris as well.  ‘Gerald Darby’ was showing off his purple foliage earlier in the year and now has sent up several purple tinged flower stalks topped with several elegant (purple of course) flowers.

iris gerald darby

Iris ‘Gerald Darby’ in bloom.

These later iris are part of what I call the ‘water iris’ group.  That term would likely make a more knowledgable iris grower cringe, but for me it’s one of the beardless iris which do well enough in occasionally soggy, and my always clayish soil, even to the point of sitting in water.  I put the invasive yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) in this group, and although it’s a little too sloppy for me I do have the brown veined ‘Berlin Tiger’ version which will hopefully not seed around and spread as much as the standard variety.  This one has the distinction of being one of my most expensive iris, since even though the original plant was free from a friend (thanks Kathy!) I may have been tempted to search out similar varieties, order them from far away, and then add other things just to round out a decent order…. and I’m still thinking I should add a few more this summer…

iris berlin tiger

The finely veined flowers of iris ‘Berlin Tiger’ are pretty darn interesting.

Moving out of the iris world it’s also peony season.  On the plus side my garden is too small and this gardener is too fickle to invest in bunches and bunches of these.  I’m counting that as a good thing since if it weren’t set up that way I’m sure I could devote quite a few beds to these opulent flowers and surely I’d go overboard.

peony Do Tell

Peony ‘Do Tell’ wallowing in a weedy side bed.  I hope you believe that it’s been cleaned up since this photo was taken 😉

At this time of year the gardener is spending most of his time weeding and mowing, but what he really needs to do is finish planting.  Last weekend overwintered bulbs went into the tropical garden, and in an attempt to buy some time from the weeds the lawn clippings were collected and spread around as a mulch.

the tropical garden

Not the most attractive soil cover, but it sure beats an ocean of verbena and prickly lettuce seedlings.  In a few weeks you hopefully won’t even notice it under all the new growth.

I do prefer thick perennial plantings as a way of crowding out weeds rather than the trouble of mulching and cultivating, but a full bed in June doesn’t leave much room for all those annuals I’d like to still add.  Hopefully this doesn’t become a regret in August.

allium nigrum amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii in front with its oddly icy colored pale blue flowers, and Allium nigrum rising up in the center.  I’ve been warned that the allium will be impossible to get rid of, so I pretend to be happy with its multiplying and just let it be.  

Maybe I will whack a few things back today and sneak a few castor beans and cannas in.  I also have a few orange marigolds which should really class things up, so maybe this weekend…  In the meantime here’s one more picture of my little darling ‘Red Rum’ lupine, I honestly look at this plant a million times a day.

lupine red rum

One last view of ‘Red Rum’.  The color is exciting, just try to avoid spelling the name backwards.

All the best for this weekend.  Hopefully you are either well into it or have already had an excellent time of it, I know I plan to 🙂

I just have to avoid the temptation of nursery hopping this weekend… in the hopes of finding some fragrant rugosa roses.  We’ll see.

An Iris Visit

Although it was a struggle to break away from the garden during this (I should be) busy season, a friend convinced me to take a day and ride out to The Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Montclair NJ to finally follow through on a promise to visit.  Word was that the hot weather and rain had been tough on this year’s show, but that was all lost on me the minute we pulled up to the entrance and saw the beds full of color.  I was way too excited to be there, and just in case there was any doubt left, I’m absolutely a plant nerd.

presby memorial iris gardens

Looking across part of the Presby iris gardens towards the building which houses the Citizens Committee which oversees the gardens.

An all volunteer Committee runs and maintains the gardens, and their work is amazing.  There were several people out and about tending the beds, either deadheading or staking, and I’m sure that’s quite a job considering how many plants are being grown here and the maintenance needed to keep them at their peak.

presby memorial iris gardens

A bed of more modern iris (~1970’s) stretching upslope behind the house.

Personally I tend to prefer the older and simpler forms of historic iris (older than 30 years) but I’m only human and the fluffy, ruffly, overblown flowers of the modern tall bearded iris are very tempting.

iris 'wings at dawn' 2014

Iris ‘wings at dawn’ (2014).  A ‘space age’ iris due to the little tabs ‘launching’ off the falls of the flower.

This might have been my first time around so many iris.  They put on quite a show and I can see how the garden drew in hundreds of visitors the day before when the weather was nicer (but much hotter).  In spite of the fact I had actually brought an umbrella along, a light drizzle started shortly after we arrived and normally I’d complain about my luck, but actually the fine mist only added to the relaxing effect of the pearly light, glowing colors, and nearly empty gardens.

presby memorial iris gardens

A mixed planting near the house.  

My friend and I slowly took in the plantings.  We went back and forth between admiring each bloom to admiring the overall setting and figuring out which varieties we had and which we absolutely needed now that we’ve seen them in person.

presby memorial iris gardens

Long iris beds follow the contour of the land along a small creekbed which separates the gardens from the rest of Mountainside Park.

Although I was mostly interested in seeing all the older iris this garden is known for, here’s just one more that’s “too much”.

iris montmartre 2008

Wow.  Iris ‘Montmartre’ (2008)

Before making the visit I saw an online comment calling the gardens “small”.  I guess I can believe that.  Some people could probably walk the gardens and take a selfie in just over 20 minutes and then hit lunch, but just for reference we iris lovers strolled about in the rain for about two hours before feeling we’d gotten a fair dose of iris.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris stretching off along the street towards the woods. 

I did enjoy spending too much time admiring some older iris I’d never seen before.  They have a grace and elegance which some of the newest varieties lack and to be honest I might have added a few more to my wanted list.  Now would probably be a good time to mention the annual grab bag sale the gardens host as they replant beds each summer,  and also next month’s annual Historical Iris Preservation Society (HIPs) rhizome sale.  Both are excellent means by which a historic iris addict can add some of the seldom offered older varieties.

iris 'titian lady' 'melanie' 1941

White iris ‘Titian Lady’  and the rosy ‘Melanie’, both 1941 introductions.

I’ll leave you with just a few favorites as we enjoyed the older iris plantings.

historic iris 'ariane' 1930

Historic iris ‘Ariane’ (1930)

historic iris reingauperle 1924

I loved the tall historic iris ‘Reingauperle’ (1924).

historic iris 'waverly' 1936

The light rain was perfect for bedazzling the flowers of ‘Waverly’ (1936)

…and there were peonies as well.  The entrance to the building next door had a nice smattering of peonies filling its beds.

presby memorial iris gardens

Peonies outside the gift shop.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris and peonies holding up to the rain.

Thanks to Trish for meeting me there, and thanks to the volunteers who make this show happen each year.  It was great seeing such a nice garden and it has me wondering how difficult it would be to start something similar in my neck of the woods 🙂

Have a great week!

Summer?

People who keep up on these things will notice it’s been a while since my last post.  Don’t be concerned.  Springtime is when a gardener should be out in the garden and not on the computer, and although not all that much is getting done a few things do.  “Lazy” might be the word of the day most days, but it still beats looking out a window at snow so I hope all is good.  This Monday we are into the Memorial Day weekend, and to many this holiday kickstarts the summer season.  Spring always goes so fast but I’ll give it a little longer before I announce summer.  To me summer starts with the first rose bloom, not the first stretch of heat, humidity, gnats and baseball, so please humor me and join in on a gloomy ‘late spring’ walkabout.

front border

Out front at the mailbox, columbine and iris are putting on a colorful show.  

After a few years off there appears to be a relapse in someone’s iris addiction.  I blame the internet of course, but I guess I’m also somewhat responsible since I did plant the little boxes and bags which arrived at my door.

front border

The rest of the front border.  You may notice the moth-eaten look of the ‘Gold Cone’ juniper.  I fear it’s juniper blight and there’s a strong possibility I’ll lose this little treasure.

Some readers may already know this, but I much prefer the older iris over the newest and latest.  They’re all beautiful but the older varieties (often referred to as historics) seem a little hardier, a little less disease prone, and a lot more fragrant than the modern color bombs that grace the covers of most iris catalogs.

iris pallida variegata

The variegated leaves of Iris pallida ‘variegata’ are awesome even when the plant is not in bloom.  There’s also a heavy grape fragrance to the flowers on this one.

Many of these iris come via the Historic Iris Preservation Society (HIPS), an organization dedicated to saving iris who’s introduction dates back further than 30 years.  It’s a noble cause, but watching varieties which I remember as being the latest and greatest slip into the ‘historic’ category does not help at all when it comes to clinging to my youth.

iris lighthouse 1936

Iris ‘Lighthouse’ (1936 introduction)

I’ll spare you from too many photos this year.  More may come, but for now it’s just the few which looked decent in this morning’s rain.

iris kashmir white 1912

Iris ‘Kashmir White’ (1912).  Not bad for a 106 year old iris.

Due to drainage reasons, the tall bearded iris grow best in the front yard, and out back it’s a little more hit or miss with rot and disease.  Surely better spacing, site and soil prep could help, but that sounds like a lot of work to me and an occasional miss is made up for by a few hits 😉

garden arbor

The potager, looking far more flowery than vegetably.  Holiday birch branches have made their way into the arbor and a few snowball bush cuttings (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’?) have exploded into full sized shrubs.

The newer iris usually end up in the vegetable garden, since that’s the only ground which is typically not packed with plants during the midsummer iris planting season.  I think the gardening books call it ‘succession planting’ when a spring crop of potatoes is followed by a summer planting of new iris rhizomes.

iris port wine 1950

A new one for me.  Iris ‘Port Wine’ (1950) will surely find a spot out front next year.

Here are a few more from out back.

iris mme. Chobaut 1916

Iris mme. Chobaut (1916).  You can’t tell so much from this photo, but the modern iris behind has flowers about twice as big… but also a bunch of foliage and rot issues…

iris color carnival 1949

I’ve grown Iris ‘Color Carnival’ (1949) for at least 30 years so in my defense there are a few sentiment issues going on with my attachment to it.  Color-wise it has a lot going on, and the variegated grass sure doesn’t help.

There’s plenty more going on but with the rain and weeds and general messiness here, and I’m a little hesitant to expose it all, but how about a primula?  Primula sieboldii seedlings are doing well enough but I have to ask if anyone knows the secret to growing them well.  Mine are carefree in general, but seem a little shy when it comes to flowering and I’m wondering if it’s a sun thing, overcrowded thing, or fertilizer thing?

primula sieboldii

A few Primula sieboldii seedlings from American Primula Society seed.  I could easily fill a garden with these 🙂

Another issue I should touch upon is the budget thing.  You may remember I’m trying to keep a track of gardening expenses this year, and even if it’s only a half hearted attempt I think May is still too early in the year to give up completely.  Let me wrap this post up by getting a few things off my chest.  $7 for plants I picked up on a random nursery stop.  $8 for plants I picked up when shopping for someone else.

deck planters containers

The deck containers were planted up this weekend.  I’m struggling to stick with purples and yellow this year… although having a color theme is not something I’ve ever succeeded with before…  

I’m trying to cut down on plastic this summer, so new planting containers have been a problem.  Terra cotta is nice (but heavy), so to keep things a little new I’ve been keeping my eyes open for anything else which might fill in.  Metal might be an option.  At $18 a metal laundry tub has been put to use as a water garden with a dwarf papyrus to start.  We’ll see how it works out, and before anyone starts critiquing my budget-math I want to point out this is not a gardening expense since I may start doing laundry in there at any time.

deck planters containers

Perfectly hardy painted ferns have been put to work in the annual deck containers.  I couldn’t resist the colors and patterns, and with a connection to the drip irrigation lines they should do even better here than in the often too-dry open garden.  

I admit the ferns were an impulse buy.  They made up nearly half the $48 I spent on super special plants for the deck.  I guess add another $46 for other necessary annuals.  Oh and $7 for feed store annuals, but ignore the $7 I spent on poultry grit.  The grit will likely be used for topping seed pots and and amending bulb soil, but you never know.  A friend has chickens now and it’s not the worst idea to be prepared for any possible chicken-sitting or chicken-daycare which could possible happen.

summer porch

Add $6 for a clearance dieffenbachia which although slightly browned should recover nicely. 

Did you notice the (perhaps too many) new metal buckets gracing the back porch?  At $3.50 a piece I thought they were reasonably priced, and even better when they rang up at the register for $1.50.  When I commented on the price I got a “well that’s what they’re coming up as”, so of course I went back to the Mart the next day and got more.  Another eight was probably more than I needed, but they might make decent planters someday… but not today of course.  Today they are decorating accents and perhaps beverage containers, and in no way a garden budget item.

summer porch

In response to a ‘you should put some pots out front’ request I pulled a few things out of the garage and set them around the porch.  $14 for the one new plant in the red pot, an expense which should fall under ‘gift’ or ‘home accent’, but in a wave of generosity I’ll add it to the garden budget.

So that’s where we’re at.  There’s still tons of stuff to plant due to someone having seeds and being bored in February.  There are still dozens of homeless succulent cuttings, unplanted coleus cuttings, tubs of tubers and summer bulbs, and even more started seedlings in the garage under the grow lights… but that can wait.  Right now it’s still damp and dark outside.  Maybe dark and damp make it a good morning to grab a second coffee and put the porch furniture to use and just think about what needs to be done.  I use that excuse often and rarely run into regret.

Have a great week!

$129 in nursery indiscretions

$705 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

…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.

A Little Cabin Fever

For a couple days it was warm and I quickly started a little cleanup and poked around feverishly to find every single sprouting snowdrop, but that was short-lived, and now it’s back to winter again and I’m just chomping at the bit.  The indoor winter garden has helped somewhat, and it’s probably a good idea to start off there with a few more hopeful signs of life such as my precious little primrose (Primula obconica), who is still going strong after nearly three months in flower.  Rather than this primrose becoming a one hit wonder, it’s produced two more flower stalks and the first one is still opening up new blooms.  It’s a beauty, but I may have forgotten to mention one of its common names…. poison primrose.  The name stems from the rash which sensitive skins may develop after contact with its foliage.  I find the scent of the foliage a bit yucky, but as far as rashes go it seems I’ve escaped any sensitivity issues.  That wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination though, since a quick poll around here would probably place me on the ‘insensitive’ end of the scale anyway.

primula obconica

Primula obconica from American Primrose Society seed, indoors under the workshop growlights.

I won’t bore you with every flower in bloom under the shoplights, but the geraniums must be sensing the slightly warmer temperatures and as a result are putting on more growth and sending up more flowers.  I’ll bore you with one photo, the lovely Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a healthy variegated geranium which doesn’t exactly look too salmony in the photo.

pelargonium crystal palace salmon

Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a flower which would make any geranium loving grandmother proud.

Obviously I’m getting into trouble with all this forced indoor time.  I’ve started several flats of seeds, started more and more succulent cuttings, and maybe feel that start-even-more-seeds compulsion creeping into the back of my head.  For budgeting purposes I’ll admit I ordered 40 packets of unnecessary seeds from the NARGS surplus seed round.  That set me back $14 so I’m quite all right confessing to that charge.

NARGS seed exchange

More seeds from the NARGS seed exchange.  Observant readers will add this to the 25 I had already ordered.

I’m trying all kinds of seeds again from generic annuals to obscure cacti to full sized forest trees.  There’s no question I don’t have a place in mind for nearly all of them but when has that ever been a concern?  I’m planting lotus seeds and am quite aware I have no pond to grow them in, but we’ll see what happens.  They have a long way to go before I need to worry about any space issues.

lotus seed

I wasn’t sure if I had sanded through the seed coat of these lotus seeds, so decided to crack one open for a look.  Who would have thought there would be a whole tiny lotus plant folded up inside! -and who would have thought the friggin seed coat (dark outer layer) would be so thick…

Nearly all the seed pots get a thin layer of chicken grit over the top and then go outside on the sidewalk to experience a little winter chill.  When things get warm enough they’ll sprout right up… and then need to deal with finding homes for everything.

poppy seedlings

The latest spell of warm weather has encouraged a few of the hardiest seeds to sprout.  Here are a few six packs of Opium poppies coming along.  they should be just fine as long as things don’t freeze up too solid.  The sheet of Reemay fabric protects them from the worst of the weather.

Back in February I thought we’d have plenty of time to post cheerful photos of spring beauty as it gently sprung into action and each flower followed the next, but then it snowed… and snowed… again…. and again….

snowdrops and winter aconite

Flashback to February with snowdrops and winter aconite opening up for the first of the warmer weather.

It’s still snowing.  Next week looks promising, but things have all got to thaw out again, and the earliest risers have to work out all their crushed stems and snow flattened flowers.  Hopefully by the time that happens there’s still enough energy left in them to put on a show.

snowdrops and winter aconite

More snowdrops, the green tipped ‘Viridapice’ and short ‘Dodo Norton’.

In the meantime I’ll stay inside and try to avoid driving everyone nuts with the amount of time I spend staring out windows and brushing aside snow looking for survivors.

sprouting lotus

I just assumed I had killed the cracked open lotus seed, but four days later it’s actually starting to grow!

At least the bird feeder is entertaining.  I was ready to call it a year and send the birds on their way, but then snow returned, covered everything up, and I got that guilty feeling.  Once I topped the feeders off the regular crew was quite happy, but they had to make a little room for the returning grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds.  They’re a noisy bunch but fortunately filming through the glass spares you from most of their metallic squawks.

Hopefully the farmers out there aren’t too upset with me encouraging these blackbird pests, but I’ve always considered them just as much a sign of spring as robins and the first crocus.  Well actually the return of turkey vultures is also something I consider ‘springy’, but most people are far less entertained by the return of huge carrion-feeding birds which follow the thawing roadkill north…

May your week be enjoyable and carrion-free, and hopefully warmer and less-snowy than here 🙂

$14 for 40 packets of surplus NARGS seed exchange seed

$332 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.