Time’s Up.

I’m always behind in the garden, and for as much as I think I’ve prepped and planned, there’s always someone throwing a monkey wrench into the machine.  Monday was what I hope will be the last frost…. it wasn’t really a damaging frost, just some ice on the car roof as I was leaving, but it reminded me that the early seedling for the vegetable garden are still sitting unplanted on the driveway slowly becoming stunted and rootbound.  I should almost forget about them and go straight to the tomatoes which are also rootbound, but still inside, but there’s always something.  While I labor away digging beds and spreading mulch and again mowing lawns the daffodils have passed and only the late tulips remain.  Here’s tulip “El Nino”, a big flower putting on a bright show!

tulip el nino

Tulip “El Nino”, a tall, late tulip with a huge flower and bright color.

A tulip star for this year was “Beauty of Spring” (an incredibly uninspired name for such a nice flower).  These were an impulse buy last fall, and at first I couldn’t figure out why I bought another yellow/orange tulip, but as the flowers opened and the mellow yellow and orange lasted and lasted I found this to be one of my favorites.

tulip "beauty of Spring"

“Beauty of Spring” tulip. A Darwin hybrid so I’m hoping to get a couple years of blooms out of this one before I have to dig up the bulbs and divide.

My tulip season was bittersweet this year.  Most came up all right, but many were damaged and stunted by a late arctic blast which dropped temperatures down to the low 20’s.  Also I found that I really missed the vegetable garden full of tulips that I had last spring.  Even the non gardener who I share the house with remarked on the lack of tulips this spring.  She asked if they were just late, I confessed to having killed them.  Apparently they really do need good air circulation while curing, or else the entire bin turns into a rancid heap of moldering decay.  Dumping hundreds of tulips on to the compost pile does not “build character”

tulips damaged by late freeze

I never thought cold could damage tulips but I have several batches like this. Stunted, floppy, and damaged blooms make for a much less cheery springtime sight.

But the season wasn’t a complete bust.  I had a few new ones to enjoy and there’s always something interesting to spice things up.  Here’s “Candy Apple Delight” (ugh!  who names these!?)  with a oddball broken colored bloom.

tulip "candy Apple Delight"

‘Broken’ color on a “Candy Apple Delight” tulip. I’ll have to wait and see if it comes up this way next year…. hopefully it’s not the result of a virus such as the tulip virus which caused so many mania inducing colors back in 17th century Holland.

Lately my photos have stunk, so there’s not much worth posting, but once I get past the hard labor of spring and into the enjoying flowers stage, I’ll again have the enthusiasm to bring the camera outdoors!  In the between time a few favorite shrubs are carrying the show while the tulips fade and the iris warm up.

fothergilla blooms

Frothy fothergilla blooms. The rabbits have been dining elsewhere and the fothergilla bush appreciates the break.

Here’s a closer shot of the brushhead blooms of the fothergilla.  It’s such a cool plant but a little hard to find a spot for since it looks best with a darker backdrop.

fothergilla flower

Although it doesn’t bloom for much longer than a week I think it’s still worth it to give a little space to this early bloomer.

The only other decent picture I got was of this old fashioned snowball bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) just starting to come into flower.  Far from fancy and new, this heirloom shrub has been around since the 16th century and has always been a favorite of mine.  My plants are cuttings grown off the bush at my parent’s house and I expect them to survive any abuse me, the weather, or the kids throw its way.  The blooms are a fresh lime green right now, but as they develop they’ll go pure white and I’ll have to hurry to get a picture before the  kids pluck them all for throwing 🙂

snowball bush green

Hope you’re enjoying your spring (or summer already for the warmer folk!).  I think the season is moving so fast it’s got me down, but I promise to be in a cheerier mood next time…. once a few weeds get pulled and a few summer plants and vegetables get planted!

Just another day at the salt mines

I can sorta relate to the people looking for low maintenance plants and landscaping.  I for one love being outside, watching things grow, tending plants, dividing, staking, deadheading…. even weeding.  About the only thing I really don’t care for is watering, so when it’s spring and I have a list of projects to work on and halfway through start to think it’s more trouble than it’s worth….. well it might be time to hit the lawnchair with a drink.  In a sick way I sometimes look around at my fellow suburbanites and think their yards look just as good as mine, but then I remember it’s unlikely they have a couple dozen different iris coming along into bloom, and they probably don’t even have any more than one or two snowdrops.  That helps my mood and I go through and finish the day with a smug grin, quite pleased with myself all over again.

The late tulips are still holding out, these (probably “Dordogne”) mixed in with all the others keep the patch colorful even after the rest are over.  Unless Sunday’s high winds beat them silly, they should last another week.late tulips

I think what beats me down is the lawn maintenance.  If you want to talk high maintenance a lawn is right there on top.  Part of that is my fault, I’m stubborn and insist on using a corded electric mower instead of something bigger, stronger, and faster.  It’s not the most manly mower, but from someone who’s always wandering the yard looking at his flowers….. well, the mower doesn’t help.

fothergillaSomething that’s mostly no-maintenance is fothergilla.  It doesn’t need pruning, blooms with these nice white bottlebrush flowers, is presentable all summer, and come fall puts on a nice show of glowing reds, yellows and oranges.  The blooms don’t last long for me, somewhere around two weeks, but that’s plenty.  You miss it when it’s gone, which in my opinion is better than a plant that wears out its welcome.

Round around July the lawn starts wearing out its welcome.  Mowing in the heat stinks and I look forward to the summer sun and drought sucking the green out of its blades.  As long as I mow on the long side it just goes dormant, and the summer vacation from mowing is much welcomed, since mowing clearly cuts into pool time.  But right now I need the flush of green clippings since they’re my number one mulch for the vegetable garden.   I use them and some leftover chopped maple leaves to smother the grass and weeds that are buried in this new bed.new vegetable bedMost of the weeds and grass will die, and hopefully by the time tomato planting weather rolls around (2 more weeks?) I can carefully dig down to soil level, plant the seedlings, top the bed with new clippings, and admire my avoidance of actually digging up this patch of hardpacked gravely “soil”.

Since I don’t have enough better things to do I actually transplanted some of the grass from the new bed into the former bed-turned-new-pathway (lower right of the picture).  I’m a big sod mover.  I hate waiting for grass seed to sprout.  People will disagree, but I like grass paths through the garden.  If you noticed, mine are edged with fancy pink marble sections.  Some people have compared the look to “deep south cemetery”, but it’s the best use I could think of for the stone we pulled off the house front.  Maybe it’s the second best…. we also have a pink marble compost bin.

apple blossomIn the orchard our new “Freedom” apple has even put out a few blossom clusters.  I should of course nip them off so the tree has more energy to establish, but I don’t care.  For all I know the tree could die tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy the blooms today.

vegetable seedlingsSpeaking of dying tomorrow, we have a frost predicted for tonight.  I brought in a few succulents and four or five early summer plant purchases.  The rest of the stuff is on its own.  Planning for low maintenance gardening means not sweating the small stuff like late frosts.  The cold weather veggie seedlings will tough it out (strong sun would damage them more than cool weather).

So we will see where the weather takes us.  I figure if the tulips and iris don’t mind this afternoon’s snow, they shouldn’t mind a slight frost.snow on tulips