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.

Snow keeps plugging my lawnmower.

I’m sure you can guess what happened last night.  That which should not be named came down again and it’s been seen on and off all day.  Thankfully it’s been confined to the higher elevations but I suspect tonight we will lose the magnolias to even stronger cold.  Spring is on the calendar though, and after an explosion of growth last weekend this cooler weather has brought things back down to a more considerate rate.

daffodils and hyacinths  spring bulbs

Daffodil ‘Golden Echo’, white hyacinths, and a winter-burned variegated boxwood make for an unusually (for my garden) subtle combination.

Please excuse the photography this week, my camera is on vacation to sunny and warm Florida and I had to resort to the lens on my phone.  To be honest they’re not much worse than what I normally take, it’s just I don’t have as many to chose from with the phone, so you get what you get.  I wanted to post a few anyway, the corydalis are flowering and even if the pictures are blurry and overexposed I’ll still enjoy looking back on them when everything’s gray next winter 🙂

corydalis George Baker

Corydalis ‘George Baker’ still looking good in spite of downpour, heat, cold, and frost.  This clump is overdue for division and thanks to Facebook and trading I’m pleased to say I know exactly what to do with all the extras!

A newer to me corydalis is ‘Harkov’ which has a dusky purple color which I’m not terribly crazy about yet.  It will be a nice contrast to the pinks and reds but I’m still holding out for a darker, clearer purple before I let out that sigh of ooh-la-lah.  (is it just me who does these things?)

corydalis solida harkov

Corydalis solida ‘Harkov’.  Nice enough, but maybe too subtle for me.

To its credit ‘Harkov’ does have decent sized bloom heads and seems to be growing fine, but the color reminds me of a previously poo-pooed bunch of what I bought as straight corydalis solida.  The species has been a bit of a weak grower for me with small blooms and a color I first thought of as washed out, but this year I kind of like it.  I kind of like all my corydalis this spring and maybe it would be a good idea to get many more.  This patch could easily use some white blooming friends, no?

corydalis solida

Corydalis solida in need of companion colors.  Maybe a few of the native white blooming dicentra Canadensis (squirrel corn) would fit the bill.

The corydalis are such an easy grower, anywhere they can rest in peace during their summer dormancy seems to suit them just fine (although they are said to prefer a woodland setting).  Another easy grower which I’ve really taken a liking to are these multiflowering ‘Anastacia’ hyacinths.  They get transplanted and divided frequently as I accidentally dig up the bulbs, but other than that nothing much gets done.  I suspect the summer dryness of this bed goes a long way in keeping them happy.

blue multiflowering hyacinth anastacia

‘Anastacia’ is from a strain of Dutch hyacinth which naturally produce multiple, looser flowerheads than the big fat, single stalk Dutch hyacinths one typically sees.  The color is great, but the dark stems seal the deal for me. 

I like how the hyacinths combine with the blue fescue.  Just recently I was considering evicting the fescue completely, but this week I’ve flip-flopped, and might just divide it all up and put an even wider border of it all along this bed!

blue hyacinth anastacia

Blue hyacinths with a pair of ready-to-divide fescue clumps.  I see dozens of divisions here, enough to fill in a whole new edging scheme!

There’s plenty more going on in the garden, but between work, baseball games, dance and spring cleanup (and all those garden strolls) I don’t get on the computer as much as I’d like or snap as many garden pictures as I should.  Posting and keeping up with the other blogs which I enjoy will have to wait, but I’m sure any gardener will understand.  Muddy and tired are the sign of the season!

narcissus feu de joi daffodil

The early narcissus are starting.  This old double (pre 1927) is narcissus ‘Feu de Joie’.

So I’ll keep plodding along.  Hopefully the snow will leave for the season, the lawn will dry out enough to mow, and the gardener will have a good weekend.  Scratch that.  It’s April and I know I’ll have a good weekend.  Hopefully you will as well!

Making up for lost time

The first few weeks of spring all happened in four days, four gloriously warm and sunny days!  I prefer a drawn out cool season with no big shocks but I don’t think that will be the case this year.  Last Saturday went up to just over 80F (27C) and the drab gray garden exploded into color.

narcissus tete a tete

Narcissus “Tete a Tete” one of the best small, early daffodils for the garden and also for forcing in pots.

Just a few days ago we were freezing our kazooies off looking at snowdrops, now I’m rushing to admire the last spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) before the warm weather fries its delicate bloom.  It’s hanging on in a cold spot which only just thawed out last week.

leucojum vernum

Leucojum vernum the spring snowflake, that’s a flake, not a drop, even though snowdrops are a close relative.

Around front, the shelter of the house has things popping up even faster.  Corydalis “George Baker?” and the hellebores opened in two days, the hyacinth was a fat bud Sunday and then full bloom on Monday when I took this picture.

hellebores and corydalis

I have good luck with hyacinths.  In fact the blooms get so big and heavy they end up flopping when fully open.  This little piglet has been in the same spot for five years and has a bloom bigger than ever, plus two secondary stalks.  If only the yucca “colorguard” behind wasn’t so beat up by the winter….

how I like all my hyacinths to grow

The hard winter may have been good for something though.  This is the first spring I’ve ever seen corydalis seedlings, and Carolyn over at Carolyn’s Shade Garden said she notices an abundance of seedlings around her plants after a snowier winter.  Maybe the snow cover helps moderate the soil moisture or temperature and aids in germination or maybe after all the snow we’re just looking more desperately and notice every single green sprout!

corydalis solida seedlings

Corydalis seedlings, I first thought they were some odd one-leafed clover that needed weeding out!

Corydalis are one of my new favorites, and the most confusing thing about the seedlings is I never even noticed the seed pods forming… and trust me I was looking!  I have it in my head to nurture nice swaths of corydalis color similar to the showcase found in Carolyn’s garden.  The ones I have here (“George Baker and “Beth Evans”) were originally ordered from Brent and Becky’s and are exactly the bold colors I’m looking for.  I also added some straight species corydalis solida from Van Engelen’s,  but they’re just a little too pale and small and actually seem to be dying out.

corydalis and scilla "spring beauty"

Corydalis solida with blue scilla siberica “Spring Beauty” and Chiondoxas…. and finally some greening grass.

Corydalis really appreciate division and replanting, and this single bulb moved the year before last is already a nice little clump.  You just have to get to them quick though, they die down fast after blooming and it’s hard to remember where they were.

corydalis george baker

Corydalis “George Baker” with some hyacinths in need of division and replanting.

My focus for the last few days has been getting the cleanup done so everything can sprout up all nice and fresh.  Some people are concerned that early cleanups leave the little sprouts exposed to late frosts, but I never have a problem.  Actually I feel that mulched areas warm up in the sun more quickly than damp exposed earth, but overall it’s the mid May freezes that kill my plants, not the cold blasts in March and April, so I clean up as soon as I can get out there.  It lets me see all the weeds such as this campanula that has taken over most of what was supposed to be an iris bed.

kids in the garden

Cleanup includes taking the seeds out from under the deck.  What was I thinking when I started all these!?  Even if I get rid of all the campanula plus some more lawn, there still might not be enough room for planting out all these seedlings.  A few pots already show sprouts btw.

seeds sown in winter

Seed pots sown throughout fall and winter and left to stratify (exposed to the elements) under the deck.

Daffodils will also need some attention this summer.  The first are opening and I’d like to divide several of these clumps after they die back.  Here’s the early yellow “Peeping Tom” and some unknown bicolor that I’d love to put a name to.

daffodil peeping tom

Some of the daffodil beds got a nice mulch of mowed up maple leaves last fall, but they only go so far.  As I clean out the flower beds everything from leaves to perennial stalks to shrub trimmings to ornamental grass tops, all gets run over by the mower and bagged up to either mulch beds or feed the compost.  The warm weather brought up this clump of narcissus “Rapture” so fast, I barely had time to get the mulch around it before the blooms opened.

narcissus rapture

Narcissus “Rapture” opening so fast in the warm weather the blooms barely had time to make it up out of the ground.

I really should use some of these early daffodils out in the front beds along with a few of these blue chiondoxas.  This clump was actually just a weed which hitchhiked in on some scilla mischtschenkoana bulbs which share this same spot.  Six days prior the scilla was in full bloom and there wasn’t a sign of the chiondoxa.  Now look at it!

chiondoxa forbesii

A clump of what might be chiondoxa forbesii… don’t know for sure since I never really planted it 🙂

There’s nothing subtle about spring in my garden.  Besides yard cleanup I planted these pansies out in pots by the front door, and although these are in a more subtle grayish pot, the rest were planted in a bright cobalt pot!  Planter choices aside,  I may be on to something with the pansy mix.  Christina over at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides used a similar color mix for an arrangement of Gerber daisies, and I’m going to be on the lookout for my own daisies in these colors too.

matrix daffodil mix pansies

‘daffodil mix’ Matrix pansies

So that brings us to the next flush of color.  The hellebores are also starting to open up in the exposed parts of the garden.  Here’s “HGC Silvermoon” still looking kind of greenish.  The foliage on this one is great and I’m jealous of gardeners who are able to get it through the winter with leaves worth looking at.

hgc silvermoon

Hellebore “HGC Silvermoon” just starting to open up. Too bad the nice foliage on this one was burnt up by the cold.

And one of the first Elizabethtown seedlings just starting to come up.

pink hellebore

A nice freckled hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.

So spring is finally here in full force, just in time for Easter.  There are still a few bumps in the road …..such as last night’s snowfall and low of 21F (-6C) but I think we’ll make it.  I just have to find the time to catch up on all the things that were on hold because of the weather.  It’s way too early to fall behind!

Spring is Official

Two warm days and spring has exploded into full force.  The trees don’t have leaves yet but 70°F brings up all the bulbs, opens the hyacinths, and starts the daffodils.  It also brings out the neighbors.  I saw more people around the block yesterday than I had in all the last three months combined, and everyone was out raking, fertilizing, aerating, blowing….. all the good things that responsible subdivision inhabitants fill their sunny days with.  In the front bed we have our first dose of flower sunshine, good old “tete a tete” daffodil.  It’s the Stella D’Oro of daffodils and gives nice early color.tete a tete daffodil

I have to confess I broke the camera last weekend.  It’s a Nikon D3000 with a Nikkor 18-55mm 3.5-5.6GII lens……. I have no idea what any of that means but I’m sure it has something to do with expensive and something to do with even more expensive to fix.  The camera met the floor and the plastic tabs that hold the lens snapped off.  Apparently it’s a common break and after several hours of moping and cursing (silently of course, away from the kids) I went online and found the fix.  It was a generic lens bayonet piece which I ordered as well as the tiny screwdrivers needed to replace it.  Two days ago I replaced it and am now back in business.  There was one more final blip in the road, it was the crappy, non-functional, cheap (more cursing) screwdrivers.  I gave them to the boy, who has a talent for disposing of small tools, and then made a trip to Home Depot and got a Husky set (for less money btw).  The camera came back on line just in time.  Here’s a picture of the front border with blue scilla siberica and the reds of corydalis solida.  Corydalis might just be one of my new favorite spring bulbs.corydalis solida, scilla siberica, early spring bulbs

I’m not 100% sure if they really are true to their names, but I bought the darker red corydalis as “George Baker”  and the lighter, almost pink as “Beth Evans” (both from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs).  corydalis "George Baker" with chiondoxaMost of the time I can’t tell the difference between the two, but I don’t entirely care.  Both are nice and I need more.  There are whites, purples, pale pinks…… but they’re hard to find and not exactly cheap.  Maybe I’ll treat myself this fall to two or three affordable ones…..  I just won’t buy any more new work ties for a year or two.

 

corydalis "beth evans" with scilla siberica "Spring Beauty"Not blooming yet are some I bought as the generic corydalis solida, it’s a murky mauve color, shorter, wimpier looking, and I’m not crazy about it.  I’ll bore you with a picture of it when the blooms open.

The blue of the scilla siberica and the violet stars of the chiondoxa are nice enough too, but if you look closely you’ll see a bunch of seedlings coming up.  I’m not sure I want that many and wonder if they’re going to be a pest some day.  But on the other hand a weed with a bright blue or violet color might not be the worst problem to have, so for now they are welcome reseeders.

The hellebores have come up too,  these survived spending the winter buried in kids toys and trash and are now looking all dark and moody.sunshine strain hellebores

They look better in the picture than in the garden, the colors are too dark to show up well, but the dark one is cool.  Originally these were bought as “sunshine strain” from Barry Glick’s nursery maybe 5 years ago.  I expected a nicer range and bigger blooms but I guess you get what you get…. also the plants were kind of tiny when I got them…. I should probably stop there.

ashwood hellebore with corydalisHere’s a lighter one, an “Ashwood strain” from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I like it.

That’s enough for now.  Daffodils are coming up and I need to save my energy for that.