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!

A day of rest

Sunday being a day of rest I try to avoid too much noisy, heavy labor on this end of the weekend.  I don’t exactly deserve it since I did plenty of resting yesterday as well, but on this subject I will defer to the higher authority and take it easy.  With daffodils beginning their season it’s hard anyway to focus on serious projects.  The blooms are a great distraction on what thankfully turned out to be a warm sunny spring day.

best daffodils

The vegetable garden is looking good in spite of its lack of vegetable space. My favorite daffodils deserve a good spot just as much as some bean or pepper plant.

I did manage to get a few things moving in the ‘potager’.  With so many flowers filling the beds, calling it “the farm” anymore seems a bit inappropriate.  Maybe a flower farm, but definitely not a hotbed for fresh produce.  I did find a few open spots for squeezing in a couple lettuce and broccoli transplants.  That should keep the rabbits happy.

planting sprouted potatoes

Lettuce and arugula tranplants are in and hopefully will amount to something before temperatures rise. I also planted a few of the sprouting potatoes found in the back of the storage bin. Not a picture for the serious gardener but that’s how we roll here 😉

Covering all the vegetable beds with whatever mulch I could scrounge up (mostly shredded leaves and grass clippings from the lawnmower bag) has made bed prep a snap this spring.  I just stirred in whatever leaves were left of the top coating and popped transplants into the ground.  My little vegetable babies from under the growlights will hopefully make me proud in no time at all.

growing daffodils

I’ve given up on this vegetable bed, and the daffodils have completely taken over.  Note the empty chair.  Trust me it gets plenty of use 🙂

So I did get a little done yesterday to deserve a break.  Not exactly a lot by most standards but after waiting so long I hate to see the season fly by.  I want to soak up every minute and hope you can do the same as well!

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!

Boom. Spring.

Last week we dipped down to some of the lowest temperatures of the winter, but this week it’s spring.  I’m not complaining.  We’ve been losing close to six inches of snow a day and this afternoon I came home to an almost cleared snowdrop bed along the East facing side of the house.  I’m sure those of you in warmer climes are rolling your eyes at yet another snowdrop post, but I’m thrilled 🙂

snowdrops emerging from snow

Snowdrops opening even before the snow has a chance to melt. They’re as anxious for spring as I am!

I think it was sometime in January when I last saw bare earth here, and back then only one or two snowdrop noses were barely poking through the surface.  Somehow they must have their own clocks and somehow must work their way up through the frozen soil.  Hard to think of plants as something more than just cold-blooded victims of winter, but there was some kind of growth going on here in the frozen soil under the icy snow and I’m very grateful for it!

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.

 

 

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!

Uh Hello Spring?

Spring will start Thursday.  Technically it should take off with the spring equinox, but around here Thursday will be the first day.   I’m sure of that.

Today’s high just barely reached the freezing point and yesterday didn’t quite make it, but the forecast shows warming and I’m 100% positive spring will come Thursday and stay…..  unless it doesn’t.  The first winter aconite opened so that’s a hopeful sign, but to see the snowdrops all flat and frozen this morning didn’t warm my heart any.

winter aconite (eranthis)

First blooms of winter aconite (eranthis)

I’d been hoping to get a better picture of the snow crocus in the meadow, but the two warm days were only enough to bring out a few and these quickly became the spring tonic for our local rabbits.  There will be secondary buds coming up, so fingers crossed, but how can I resent the little bunnies for their springtime snacking after the winter they’ve had?  Look at that dead grass…. no vision of spring there.

snow crocus

snow crocus (almost) blooming out in the meadow

The new snowdrops are also just waiting…… This planting of galanthus viridapice (a green tipped snowdrop) has one bulb that is just a little earlier and looks just a little bit off, I suspect it’s mislabeled, perhaps it’s “sharlockii”.

galanthus viridapice

galanthus viridapice? just waiting for warmer weather to open

Also on my mislabeled snowdrop list is this galanthus “Sam Arnott”.  It’s not supposed to be double or green tipped…. also there’s not supposed to be a tulip sprouting there just in front,  maybe I was a little hasty in throwing all the moldy bulbs into the compost… and then using the compost too soon.  Oh the stuff that never gets mentioned in the gardening books 🙂

galanthus sam arnott

galanthus “Sam Arnott” and not galanthus “Sam Arnott”

But until Thursday rolls around, there’s not much else to look at.  I did turn an optimistic corner and started the winter garden changeover.  All the snowdrops and cyclamen were replaced with seedlings of lettuce and broccoli and hopefully by the time they’re a decent size it will be time to go outside.  For now the highlight is a potful of muscari “Valerie Finnis”.  I surprised myself by getting this one chilled and through the winter and then into bloom.  It’s a nice look, too much foliage for my taste, but remember beggars can’t be choosers.

muscari valerie finnis

Muscari “Valerie Finnis” forced indoors under lights

Here’s another reason spring will come Thursday.  My “in the green” snowdrops from Carolyn’s Shade Garden have arrived all safe and sound and need to go outside in the garden (“in the green” because they’re bareroot, actively growing, not dormant bulbs).  They can handle plenty of frost, but the next two nights of 16F (-9C) lows might be too much of an insult for these city drops (Carolyn is located outside of Philadelphia).  I’ll leave them to sit like this on a windowsill for the next two nights with just enough water to keep them wet, but not enough to have them sitting in water.  I’m excited to have them and the plus side to this treatment is I get to admire them close up for a couple days.  The blooming one is “Straffan”.

snowdrops in the green

Snowdrops in the green from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens

So wish me luck.  I don’t often complain about winter but I think I’m done with this one.  The clock’s ticking and I’d like at least three weeks before people start complaining about the heat!