A Mayday Celebration

The last few weeks have me drowning in the color of spring bulbs.  They’re not the fanciest varieties and they’re not laid out into the most exquisite vignettes, but they are bright and to me they’re just about the nicest explosion of spring that I could imagine.

perennial tulips

Perennial Darwin tulips in the vegetable garden.  I keep threatening to evict them in order to make room for tomatoes, but tomatoes can wait and for now this is something you just can’t buy at the grocery. *photo credits to my wife for this one.  The spring color lured her out as well… in spite of allergies!

Every summer I make an attempt to reclaim the vegetable garden and every spring it seems like the bulbs are multiplying faster than I can dig.  The daffodils are carefree, but even the tulips make a go at it, and I think the summer baking in thin, heavy soil is really what they seem to enjoy.  If only the vegetables did as well.

potager garden

The area more commonly known as the “Potager”.  To put minds at rest I’d like to proudly announce that the center bed actually now contains vegetables as well as a few blooms.  The seed potatoes finally went in this week.

Not to paint myself as some greedy, plant hording ogre but here are the tulips which were supposed to end up next door in my brother in law’s yard.  At the time it sounded like an extremely noble gesture, this selfless donation of extremely fat tulips to someone else’s garden… but then I had second thoughts and into my own garden they went.  Looks like my petition for sainthood will still face a few bumps in the road.

darwin mix tulips from home depot

The orange tulips were already here, but the purples, reds and whites were newly planted from a bag of ‘mixed Darwin tulips’.  They’re nice enough, but as it is with these mixed bags from a big box store they’re not Darwin tulips, and they’re nothing like the photo on the bag.  They are colorful though.

Another issue with my sainthood (other than still being on the living side of the divide) was that I actually pulled out a few tulips from this mix which were deemed too ugly to stay in this garden.  This was horribly judgemental on my part, but the tulips were a grossly congested, small white multiflowering thing and even though I would have never thought I’d ever see an ugly tulip, there they were…

narcissus bright angel

The beautifully pristine narcissus ‘Bright Angel’.  The early and midseason daffodils may be over but these are still just perfect!

While the tulips are taking the spotlight there are still plenty of daffodils.  This is the tail end of the season, and the late varieties are really welcome as the others begin to fade.

narcissus irish linen

Narcissus ‘Irish Linen’.  A clean, pure beauty which has stood up well to the wind and changing weather.

For this little slice of Pennsylvania 2017 has been an excellent daffodil season.  Occasional rain, reasonable temperatures and no brutal freezes have reminded me that these bulbs can be overwhelmingly awesome, and I’m almost ashamed to admit I considered entering a few flowers into a daffodil show.  What kind of fanatics do things like this!?  The closest would have been a two hour drive each way and me being a complete novice I just couldn’t rationalize my way into it.  For now maybe I’ll just rejoin the American Daffodil Society and consider a try in 2018… that sounds entirely reasonable.

narcissus winston churchill requiem

The fragrant double ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ on the left with ‘Requiem’  to the right.  Both deserve more recognition than that of a passing rabbit or lone, wandering gardener.

Looks like we will have to wait and see what happens.  Spring is such a busy time and I hate to lose a full Saturday during primetime, but for some reason it’s tempting.  Must be that attraction of spending time with equally crazy plant people, I think that’s what always gets me 🙂

narcissus requiem

‘Requiem’ again.  The Petals have a lemony flush to them which I love, and the small cup looks so perfect.

Daffodil shows or not, one thing I definitely need to still consider is the call for adoptive parents for the many extras which fill the bulb beds.  The beds are packed and I need to get rid of hundreds of bulbs from old favorites to heirlooms to newer varieties.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any,  all it takes is the price of postage.  Please.

narcissus mission bells

Narcissus ‘Mission Bells’.  This one deserves a little more room but…

Now I really can’t justify the next flower.  Double tulips are gross wads of colorful tissue paper stuck onto the ends of pipe cleaners and pen ends.  Completely lacking in class and of course just what I need more of.

magic carpet double tulips

A few years ago I planted a ‘Magic Carpet Mix’ of double tulips and I’ve been digging them each summer and moving them around trying to find just the right spot for them.  I’ll let you know if I ever succeed.

I admit I do like tulip monstrosities.  The singles are so plain and elegant it’s nearly unstable of me to want anything else, but I do, and I know next year will see a few more doubles and probably a few of the twisted and distorted parrots as well.  I think the only oddities I don’t like are the fringed tulips.  It’s probably good to draw the line somewhere.

magic carpet double tulips

More ‘Magic Carpet mix” double tulips.  The taller pink and blush flowers make excellent cut flowers btw.

It’s not all bulbs here, there are a few other treasures here as well putting on a nice show.  As this is my 9th spring here I’m starting to wonder where all the billions of seedlings I start each spring go.  I kill thousands, and another million are annuals, but here and there I’m starting to see a few nice perennials joining my garden.  Not as many as you might hope for or expect, but it’s still a fun trip.

valentine bleeding heart from seed

Here’s a bleeding heart from seed.  The seeds were labeled as being from ‘Valentine’ and the plants do have darker stems (which have faded in some warmer weather) and the red flowers of its parent, but as for growing it from seed I can’t give any reason other than you can and I did 🙂

One group of seed-grown plants which is almost a problem now (since I keep starting more and more each spring) are the primroses.  A few of the tougher types such as the polyanthus and veris (cowslips?) types are building up decent clumps, but I’m still pretty sure they just tolerate my garden and aren’t really that thrilled to be here.  I’ll take what I get though and for now they’re worth the extra trouble of watering.

primula seed exchange

Seed grown primula from the American Primrose Society seed exchange.

Although most of the other types (mostly the p. aucalis and wanda types which usually show up at groceries in the spring) die off during the summer, but eventually I hope to find a few others which aren’t too much trouble.  Granted “too much trouble” is a very relative term if it’s something you really, really, really need to grow!

primula seed exchange

More primula from seed, these are probably ‘Sunset shades’, a cowslip (p. veris) strain.

Okay, I’m already distracted by the bulbs again.  As we move around to the front yard the Camassia are blooming in the front foundation bed.  I love them but they flower so quickly, especially if we get a few hot days.  By the way these need to be divided as well, so if anyone wants a couple dozen…

camassia

The foundation bed with blue camassia and (in my opinion) a very nice blend of foliage colors and textures.

More tulips.  The “Incendiary Collection” from Scheepers is flowering in the newest section of the front street border and I’m more than pleased with it.  The mix is a blend of three colors but even for the gardener who planted them it looks like a mix of two unless one looks really hard.  No problem though,  all I notice is the bunches of perfect color and the…. well really, the tulips are the only thing I notice.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

A $40 splurge on 80 bulbs.  They weren’t even on sale and if I were the introspective type I’d wonder why I bought them and how I rationalized it after saying earlier “no new tulips this fall”.

Actually I did notice one other thing.  Still tulips, but they’re a much shorter and more subtle version of the group.  It’s tulip “Green River” and they’ve come back nicely for a second year.

tulip green river

Tulip ‘Green River’.  I’d call this an orange sherbert color and although it’s not as showy as the others I still think they’re cool.  Don’t overlook the variegated foliage, it’s another subtle touch on a pretty little tulip.

Spring is moving fast so it’s really best to soak these things in while you can, and believe me I’m trying.  The house has a ton of projects which should be getting done but whatever.  I’ll leave you with a parting glimpse of the front yard tulipomania.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

Bright flowers, green grass, and springtime sunshine.

Hope spring is going great for you as well.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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.

mumble mumble mulch

Spring is here and I love it.  It means work of course, and for me it’s hard to hit just the right balance of sitting around and actually doing something, but I try my best.  One problem which always haunts me is that I’m the type who (again while sitting around) usually gets tons of unnecessary projects in his head, starts them, and then moves on before they’re done.  Fortunately I’m not much bothered by this, but someone else here is, and sometimes decides to be helpful and remind me of the obvious…. but most of the time that person doesn’t notice unplanted chrysanthemum collections or realize it’s been years since the boxwood cuttings should have been planted out, so it all works out fine.  How can it not when rain and rainbows and warm sunshine have brought out the daffodils?

double rainbow over the garden

Double rainbow over the ‘potager’.  A beautiful sight if you can tune out the industrial park and white vinylrama next door 🙂

I’ve been relentlessly mulching.  It started innocently enough with a load of mulched leaves hauled out of the woods, but then exploded from there.  My neighbors were so generous last autumn with several heaps of nicely chopped leaves and grass clippings that I couldn’t stop lugging them back to the garden.  The entire front bed got a nice layer and I would have kept going but of course ran through all the available bounty.

cheap leaf mulched perennial beds

The front perennial bed all nestled in with a nice mulch of chopped leaves.  The earthworms will munch them all down by the end of  summer but for now they should go a long way in keeping the weed seedlings down.  Did I mention it was all free?

As if that wasn’t enough, for some reason when finished I got it in my head to crack open the wallet and order a load of shredded bark mulch to finish off the yard.  With most of the front already covered I felt finishing with a little purchased mulch might be something the budget could handle, so $290 later I was mulling over another new heap in the driveway.  It seemed a steep price to me but judging from the other $1,000 plus order slips hanging next to mine I guess I’m being downright frugal.  Also, mulch is a gardening expense the boss never criticizes, so now it just needs to be spread.  More on that later, daffodils first!

narcissus tahiti daffodil

Always a favorite, ‘Tahiti’ is an awesome daffodil.  Sorry if you’re not a fan of doubles, but this one never fails, and the yellow petals seem to glow with an orange shade which I love.

I’m stuck on orange lately.  The daffodil ‘Serola’ tops the list this year.

daffodil narcissus serola

Narcissus ‘Serola’ with the first of the tulips opening behind.  When I divide this bed (hopefully this June) I’ll need to put these out in the front garden to brighten things up even more!

My whining about space in the vegetable garden is entirely due to my weakness for spring bulbs and the abundance of open space left when vegetables finally give up the ghost in September.  It’s so easy to just pop a few bulbs in here and there 🙂

daffodils in the vegetable garden

It’s so much easier to line a few daffs out in the vegetable patch than it is to decide on a spot in the open garden!  I’ll just plant a few pumpkins or squash over them in July to make it look respectable again. (fyi it’s bouncy house season so please ignore the deflated mess in the background) 

One more orange.  ‘Kedron’ has a color which stands out very well…. if you’re into colors that stand out very well 🙂

daffodil narcissus kedron

Narcissus ‘Kedron’.  Notice the empty spaces nearby.  Not everyone does well here and I just don’t have the patience to nurse unhappy plants along, so while ‘Kedron’ takes off the others just fade away…

Although the vegetables complain, bulbs in general seem to like my lazy (or complete lack) of an efficient watering ethic.  Tulips in particular like the open, sunny, fertile soil, and unless I weed them out (which I could never do) most clump up and bloom.  Even if I do pull a few of the smaller bulbs they just end up in the compost anyway so get spread throughout the garden a few months later when I take and spread the barely rotted goodness.

tulips and double hellebore

Yet another plant which needs to find a permanent home outside of the vegetable patch.  This double hellebore seedling is taking up prime bean and pepper real estate.

Believe it or not I’m making progress with my bulb issues.  When I was younger and carefree I used to plant out patches of whatever tulips I had on hand and then dig them up again in June just in time to clear the beds for tomato planting.  It was insanely beautiful (to me at least) and I can’t rule out this happening again.

mixed darwin tulips

Tulips blooming in the vegetable garden (spring 2013). These would all be dug, dried, and stored while the warm season veggies occupied the same beds.

Maybe my bulbaholism isn’t getting any better.  Maybe it’s just migrating.  I planted these fritillaria imperialis bulbs out in the meadow late last fall (clearance bulbs) and can’t wait to see how they do.  If I get one decent spring out of them I’ll be thrilled, but in my heart I want them to settle in… even if they do look slightly out of place in the short turf.  Hopefully they enjoy the dry summertime baking this spot receives, and the grass should come up soon enough to hide the yellowing foliage.

growing fritillaria imperialis

My ‘meadow’ is in danger of becoming a bulb field.  The fritillaria imperialis don’t look entirely happy yet, but I have my fingers crossed they’ll at least bloom and then maybe return next spring?

Out front I may have a few bulbs as well.  Early spring is when I love the front beds the most.

spring bulbs front entry

Tulips and daffodils where snowdrops ruled just a few weeks ago.  I should have taken this picture today since I mulched yesterday afternoon, but after all the work I was ready to just sit and relax!

I better wrap this post up.  Now that mulch sits in the middle of the driveway I’ve got plenty to do even from the non-gardening viewpoint.  And it’s not the fastest process since mulch needs to be worked in between sprouts and edges need to be tidied up…. and actually a bigger problem is that I’m coming up with all kinds of bed enlargements and side projects while I dilly-dally on finishing the main project.  I promised to trim back the yews along the side of the house, and this golden arborvitae just happened to show up in the lawn between us and the neighbor.  As long as I’m mulching, might as well create a nice big bed around it 😉

new perennial bed

new perennial bed

Let me get out there then.  Good luck on all your own spring projects, may they progress more quickly than my own!

Some Daffs

The first step towards solving a problem is admitting you have a problem.  I don’t have a problem, I have daffodils, and compared to people who count their plantings in tens of thousands I’m not even on the radar, so let me take this opportunity to just say too many daffodils is not a problem.  The long cool spring (also not a problem) is making the spring blooms last, and with a little sunshine and a little time to take some pictures…..

narcissus "stepchild"

Narcissus “stepchild”, one of many favorites, but just a little more favorite than most 😉

I’m sure you know daffodils are easy to grow.  A good vegetable patch will grow excellent daffodils, but the tried and true varieties can handle shade and roots and less than perfect growing conditions.  Just make sure they get good drainage.  A spot where water sits in winter or summer will likely cause the bulbs to rot.  Most of mine are in separate beds where I can keep better track of them.  I let pumpkins and sunflowers take over the space when the daffodil foliage dies down.

narcissus "bright angel"

This time of year the small cup, mostly white, poeticus type narcissus are taking over. This is narcissus “bright angel”.

The only difference between the terms daffodil and narcissus is that daffodil is the common name for many types and narcissus the species name for all the types.  I’ll let you decide which to use.  Here are “Bushmills” and “Pipit”, both are usually referred to as narcissus because of their non-trumpet or smaller blooms.

narcissus bushmills and pipit

The white on the left is narcissus “bushmills”, the yellow and white bicolor on the right is good old “pipit”.

There are going to be too many daffodil pictures in this post, so I’ll try and break it up a bit.  Tulips also seem to like these daffodil beds, and when I first planted this section there were a few stray bulbs that have now multiplied into decent clumps.  Me thinks they make a nice contrast.

mixed plantings of daffodils and tulips

Tulips growing as “weeds” in the daffodil bed. Please ignore the tumble down compost pile in the background, the kids did some “mining” and it did not go well for the walls.

Each season my fickle tastes latch on to a new favorite.  This year I like white, either in a shape resembling the poet’s narcissus….

narcissus "Dress Circle" and "Molten Lava"

Narcissus “Dress Circle” with “Molten Lava” peeking in on the right.

Or ones resembling the multiflowering paperwhites……

narcissus "geranium"

Narcissus “Geranium” can also be had in a double version (Sir Winston Churchill). This one has a strong fragrance, a trait which many of the smaller, multibloomed daffodils share.

Or a smaller, looser flowering, “wilder” look…..

narcissus "firebird"

Narcissus “Firebird” should be placed in a bit of shade to help the blooms last. Full sun tends to burn out the orange centers on this one.

Not every daffodil is a favorite.  Here’s “Rugged Realism”, which in my garden never bothers to bring its blooms up to where I can see them.

narcissus "Rugged Realism"

The dumpy narcissus “Rugged Realism”. Fortunately “Firebird” is sneaking in from the right and adds a little grace to this shot.

New favorites are always on the way, and this spring is no exception.  Newly planted daffodils are always late to come up in their first season, but these goodies from Brent and Becky’s hold much promise and could have me gushing praise come 2015.

narcissus "Sabatini"

Narcissus “Sabatini”, large, strong, blossoms with a bright sunshine yellow color and a white halo around the trumpet.

Also new, and reminding me slightly of those fat, overbred, hybrid daylilies…..

narcissus "York Minster"

Narcissus “York Minster” with thick petal substance and a strong color….. it’s not a flower for the “less is more” crowd.

The bold bright blooms scream spring to me, but there’s always room for the smaller and daintier.

narcissus "tiny Bubbles"

Just opening and also new this year is narcissus “Tiny Bubbles”.

But gardening is just as much about the no-name, tried and true favorites.  I have plenty of them, either bought or traded or gifted, and if you want to find your own I suggest visiting the American Daffodil Society website and finding a local chapter to investigate.  The flower shows are great, but the autumn bulb sales and swap meets are even better.  Most of my clumps found their way here via a friend’s visits to ADS meetings (I live in the plant society boondocks, closest meeting is a 2 hour drive both ways!), and she was kind enough to send a few bulbs my way.

narcissus "tahiti"

Tried and true, award winning narcissus “Tahiti”. A double daff for people who aren’t crazy about doubles.

Things are finally easing up here work wise (still waiting for some huge lottery winning to come my way), so as long as I don’t spend all my spare time sitting around enjoying spring (who would want that!?), I should be able to attack a few of those springtime tasks that are beginning to build up.  Weeding comes to mind.

violet as a weed

Just a few of the more attractive weeds which are showing up everywhere. I really need to spread some more mulch around before a green tsunami of unwelcome volunteers wipes me out.

Wish me luck on the weeding, with the warm sunshine, bright flowers, and singing birds there’s nothing I want to do more than sit around and enjoy it all!  I hope it’s the same in your part of the world 🙂

A little diversion

It’s spring.  I spend hours just looking around,  finding new spring discoveries, and just plain old enjoying the season.  It’s still early enough that one can imagine all the great things that will happen, and forget the drought and hail, insects and acts of God which will surely come along.  My work ethic borders on laziness this time of year (and actually most any time of year) but how can I motivate myself when my ugly little plastic chair has found a partner and all I want to do is “stop to smell the roses”?

spring garden

Someone scooped up the last orange chair and brought it home for me, and we’re still taunting the neighbors with plastic furniture in the front yard 🙂

The daffodils are out in full force, and the cool spring makes them last forever.  The cooler weather also seems to give the reds and pinks a brighter color, and many of them actually look like their catalog glamour shots.  Speaking of brighter colors, two blue chairs found their way into the backyard, and although I like the orange better, it’s nice to finally have an uncracked, uncrooked, safe seat to think about things in.

spring gardenOne of the things that needs thinking about is the neighboring industrial park.  The warehouse needs more room, so word is they’re expanding down to our end of the property.  The big boulder pile is in the process of being crushed to pebbles and in the near future our entire western view will be altered.

living next to construction

Construction has finally reached our end of the industrial park. The kids are upset their rock mountain is being crushed down, between that and the railroad tracks it’s the most popular hiking destination around here.

I’ll bore you with more daffodil and tulip pictures in the next post, right now spare time is in short supply and sneaking out for a few minutes here and there is about all I can manage until work and school calm down.  Hope spring is treating you well!

A May Day walkabout

The start of May is always an exciting time because for us it’s that part of spring when everything just explodes into growth.  We might be a little behind this year, but you still can’t beat the first of May.  The biggie bulbs like daffodils and tulips are taking off now and the front bed has finally been resurrected from its winter drabness.

spring bulbs in a mixed border

Early daffodils and a few of the first tulips opening up along the front border.

I’m trying to get things moved around while it’s still cool but life always interferes with colds, work, and T ball games so I’m already way behind.  Last Saturday all I wanted to do was move seven rooted privet cuttings into place to start a nice little hedge along the back fence, instead it turned into an hour long project and I ended up digging out a good sized boulder.  At least I got this magnolia transplanted before it leafed out.

white magnolia

Magnolia in position near the street. I wish I knew the variety but it’s a layered cutting stolen from my brother in Law’s yard….. yes, it needs some pruning.

If I had more land there’s a good chance I’d find room for a number of magnolias.  But I don’t, so I try to stick with some of the smaller types… even though a nice big one would make for a good shade garden once you trim it up.  Here’s magnolia “Ann”, one of the smaller bush/tree sized ones, finally big enough to bloom after several years of rabbit attacks.

magnolia ann

Magnolia “Ann”. A smaller, later blooming cultivar that should grow into a nice sized bush here in front of the fence.

winter buned foliage on southern magnolia "little gem"

“Little Gem” magnolia still looking worse for wear after the winter.

While on the subject of magnolias, the freezer burned “Little Gem” is still looking sad and brown and dead, but I’m still pretty sure it will recover just fine once warm weather hits.  As soon as these brown leaves start to drop off I’ll know the plant is starting to think about putting on new leaves.  It will look worse before it gets better, but hopefully by June will look as good as new.

Luckily other parts of the garden look good enough to distract you from the first aid beds.  Yellow primrose has clumped up nicely in the damper parts of the yard.  In the next few days I’m going to try separating this clump, and hopefully this really is the right time of year to tackle this.  My track record on primula is not too good, so wish me luck.

yellow primrose primula vulgaris

A yellow primrose (primula vulgaris?), one of the few primula to survive any amount of time in my care.

I guess I might as well bore you with a few daffodils too 🙂  I have quite a few and really do need to give them some attention this summer in terms of division and moving and “thinning the herd”.

daffodils and tulips

Some of my favorite daffodils…. with a few tulips sneaking in.

A friend of mine lured me in to the daffodil world a few years ago.  While she succumbed to  the dark world of show daffodils, I’ve held strong and try to keep myself satisfied with just a few good garden varieties…. actually it’s hard to go wrong with daffodils, and it’s also hard to stop at just a hundred or two!

mixed pink and white daffodils

Left to right- narcissus “golden echo”, “passionale”, and “serola”

Maybe I’ll admit to having just a few show quality daffodils.  As far as I know something like this one, with a nice strong (not tissue papery) flower substance, nice flat petals, clean unmarked, and no nicks or anything around the edge…. that’s what makes for a flower you could bring to a show (that and a few years practice and you might bring home a bunch of ribbons!)

narcissus "new penny"

Narcissus “New Penny” looking nice in the garden and maybe worthy a spot on the show bench?

It’s still a little early here for tulips, they’re only just starting to color up around the beds and add in a little contrasting pinks and reds, but the muscari always brings in a nice blue to go along with the yellows and whites of the daffodils.  These can be a pest in some gardens, but I guess I’m still young enough or dumb enough to not mind them spreading a bit…. or I’ve been conscientious enough to behead them after blooming to stop their seed spreading ways.

blue muscari

Regular old blue muscari given to me by a friend. I need to remember to spice up this planting with a few of the pale blue “Valerie Finnis” which still need planting out.

A plant I wouldn’t mind seeing spread a little is this nice double hellebore that’s blooming for the first time this spring.  It’s another seedling from the now closed Elizabethtown nursery and I believe it was supposed to be a double pink cross.  Double it is but pink it’s not, and I’m quite happy with this genetic mix up.  The newest blooms open a pale chartreuse and then darken to a limey green.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like next year!

green double hellebore from elizabeth town seed

First year’s bloom of a lime green double hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.

And that just about does it.  After the subtle rarefication of a lime green hellebore I leave you with a final view of bright tulips and a photo bombing tacky orange plastic Adirondack chair.  It was a gift from my mother in law and I’m really quite pleased with it.  I guess my endless whining about wanting a couple for the back yard didn’t fall on deaf ears.

tulips and daffodils in a mixed border

What better front yard art is there than brightly colored plastic lawn furniture?

I wonder how long it can stay out there before the Hillbilly comments start and people again loudly question my design sense?  Maybe a pair of these chairs would be twice as good?  I might have to test that this weekend, since I eventually will retire these to the back.  In the meantime I’m beginning to think this could be the new millennium’s version of the pink flamingo.