An Executive Summary for May

  • Lockdown continues
  • Working from home keeps us surprisingly busy considering we’re home all day
  • Laziness could still be a factor in things not getting done
allium gladiator

The Potager Pandemic Project is progressing at a pitifully poor pace.  I will not share pictures until it looks a little better (Allium ‘Gladiator’)

  • Multiple harsh, late, freezes did in another year of wisteria blooms and damaged many early risers
  • Spring continues regardless
primula sieboldii

Surprisingly, Primula sieboldii continue to do well in a damp, part shade location.  I divided and moved a few in early spring and they haven’t complained a bit. 

  • I still love you spring
primula sieboldii

A range of seedling Primula sieboldii.  I’m pleased with how well they’ve done, obviously they’re not that hard to grow!

  • iris have been delayed and disfigured by the cold
  • lilacs have not
father fiala lilac

A selection of lilac flowers, mostly Father Fiala hybrids and older varieties.  

  • Older lilacs with names such as ‘Atheline Wilbur’, ‘Paul Thirion’, and ‘Marie Frances’ roll off the tongue in a way that ‘Bloomerang Dark Purple’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ never will
  • Have a wonderful week

The Purge

The late daffodils are still rounding out the season, but I can’t wait any longer.  While their blooms are still fresh in my mind I’ve gone around and done a daffodil inventory, and then let loose with the first round of narciss-icide.  I’m down to a baker’s dozen times ten, which I don’t think is excessive at all.  The second assault will start in June, when I dig the crowded clumps and only save as many as I *need* for replanting.

Three more buckets filled.  The survivors look nervous, but I told them they were safe for now.

It looks ruthless and sort of is, but when a bulb or two slowly turns into a foot wide, congested clump, something needs to be done.  Actually something should have been done a few years ago, but better late than never, right?  Let me know if you’re interested in any,  I still feel the slightest twinge of guilt tossing perfectly fine daffodils just because.

daffodil geranium

A happier view of daffodils.  ‘Geranium’ in the front border alongside some moneyplant (Lunaria annua’).  It was beautiful on Sunday and the flowers glowed.

Now I’ll wait until the foliage begins to yellow, about six weeks after bloom, dig the clumps, dry off the bulbs, hang in mesh bags, and then replant this autumn.  Hopefully by then I will still have enough empty spaces to put them all back in to!

Have a great week 🙂

Sorta Spring

If you like a long drawn out spring, this one is for you.  So far this season I only complained once about weather that was too warm, and even that was only ‘outdoor gardening without breaking a sweat warm’, which is much cooler than ‘sitting on the porch doing nothing but sipping a cold drink’ warm.  There have been no windy blasts of 80-90F weather which wilt the daffodils in hours and skip the garden straight to summer… followed by a freeze which has the gardener throwing his hands in the air… and for that I’m grateful.  There was snow though.  I started edging and weeding the front border and had to cut it short because of all the snow showers.  Not so much for me or the plants, but the neighbors already talk, and as I went in to get a hat I thought I better just call it quits instead.

spring bulb garden

Making my way down the border.  No leaf mulch was drug out of the woods this spring, and holy crap are there a lot of seedlings coming up.  It might be easiest to just go with a fennel/verbena bonariensis theme this year. 

I didn’t really mind the precipitation, but working out there in the chilly wet and mud makes me think I might as well garden in the UK or Pacific Northwest, and that’s weather for plants and not what a gardener needs.  The upcoming forecast shows better weather on the way, so I’m sure the weeds can wait another day or two.

Here’s a question.  Dead or alive?  The pots for the front walk were dragged back into position and one still contains a bit of one of those trendy brown sedges from New Zealand.  ‘Red Rooster’ I think.  I didn’t think it would be hardy so assume it died over the winter, but maybe not?  It only looks marginally more dead than it did last year, so I’ve left it in place and added some of the extra tulips which I shouldn’t have bought last fall, said I wouldn’t buy, didn’t need, but got anyway.

tulips in planters

Dead sedge?  Who knows.  

After weeks at home, my daughter must be pretty bored since she offered to help with the planting.  I was glad for the company.  The tulips we planted were supposed to be gifts, but since travel to NY is off for the foreseeable future, these were planted, two were dropped off on local porches, and the rest were dug in by the driveway.  It will work out.

muscari seedlings

The most amazing grape hyacinths (muscari) I’ve ever grown.  They look just like any other dime a dozen muscari, but since they were grown from seed (intentionally), they’re super amazing.

For my daughter digging and planting were entertaining, but trying to explain why the seed grown muscari were so much better than the nearly identical muscari which I deadhead and weed out, was pushing the garden thing too far.  Even she must know that muscari are cheap and easy to buy and come in nicer forms than these, but c’mon!  How cool is it that one of them even has a little white top!?

muscari seedlings

Maybe I’ll divide out this clump, they seem to have a little more variety, and I’d like to see how the one with the white does on its own.  

Of course grape hyacinth from seed is easy, in fact many people complain they’re weedy, but as I go through the garden and divide and transplant I do find a few more special things.  My seedlings of the Asian spicebush (Lindera glauca v. salicifolia) are doing well.  I’d like to use them as a hedge, but need a few more, and in the meantime have potted these up while they wait for their planting site to happen.  They’re still holding onto the dried foliage from last year, a plant habit which I used to hate, but on this plant it just all seems more excellent.

lindera glauca salicifolia

Lindera glauca v. salicifolia seedlings potted up and hopefully ready to spend at least a year under my questionable care.

Transplanting has happened, pruning has happened, bed building has happened, but not much weeding yet.  Still in spite of the weedy mess, I just have to show some of my favorite spring iris foliage.

gerald darby iris

I’ve shown the purple spring foliage of iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’ before, but some of the pseudata iris can also put on a show, in this case a bright springtime yellow flush of new leaves.  I think the cool weather helps.   

I’ve moved on to weeding not because the potager is finished, but because my better half has banned me from running to the store to get the lumber I think I need to finish.  The first veggies can still be planted, but I’ll wait until it looks slightly better before sharing another photo.  In the meantime if you remember I mentioned one slightly warmer day.  That one day encouraged me to sit around in the shade, and while sitting around, the guilt of laziness encouraged me to weed and clean the little moss bed I’m trying to grow.  Yes it doesn’t look like much, in fact this is what other people end up when they do nothing, but I of course am pleased.

moss garden

A bit of moss in a shady corner.  Ruined terra cotta and a few tree trimmings to camouflage the drainpipe and I think it looks ok.  I wonder if tiny hepaticas could survive here.  hmmmmm. 

So that’s it from here.  I think the cloudy gloom will lift in another few hours and although it’s still a little wet to do anything serious, I’m sure I can find something interesting to “think about” outside.  I hope your spring is also going well.

A Few Words

We are wrapping up our fourth week here since entering quarantine and the garden is still surprisingly unkempt and disorganized.  The gardener likes to suggest it’s because he’s busy double timing as a common core math teacher to a 6th grader, and in spite of holding a minor in Mathematics it’s a daily struggle, but it’s also been pointed out that the gardener spends a lot of time “thinking”, and often that thinking is interpreted as “just sitting around”.  Obviously sitting around does not get jobs done.

chiondoxa

Chiondoxa continues to spread.  These are all clones off a bulb moved years ago, and seem to be waiting for a partner to set seed, but each time weeds are pulled or the gardener thinks the spot is empty and tries to plant something else there, a few bulbs get moved a little further.

The gardener has been thinking the weather has been great, and the gardener has been thinking the sky is bluer than normal, and the gardener has been thinking it’s nice to have time to sit in the springtime sun without some desperate need to get just one spring chore done before dark.  But the gardener has also been wondering if there have always been so many snakes in the yard.

garden snake garter

One of the garden’s garter snakes reading a snowdrop label.  It’s ‘Three Ships’ Mrs Snake.

I do like the snakes.  One chilly morning I came across three little balls of snake out in the morning sun and I was surprised.  A good surprise though, not the EeeAhhhugh Oh! surprise you get when one of these slithery serpents zips away from your reaching hand or approaching step.  I think there’s something primordial in our natural fear of snakes, and I don’t entirely trust a person who just shrugs them off.  Pick them up, fine, handle them, fine, you can think your way through that, but when one zips across your path you better jump a little.

raised beds potager

The raised beds are coming together in the potager.   It’s going to be very neat I suspect.  I hope I don’t miss the late summer mayhem of overgrowth and decay, but who’s to say that won’t happen anyway.

It’s been taking forever it seems to get the raised beds built.  There are a number of plants to move or pot up, but I really do blame the gardener.  Not to dwell on the snakes, but work was called off entirely the other day when rustling in the boxwood hedge turned out to be an inappropriately writhing ball of snake procreation…. with an embarrassingly plural number of participants… it was watched for longer than it should have been, but it was interesting to see and of course if that’s what they need to do amongst the daffodils then lets just call off work for the afternoon to give them some privacy.

daffodil glaston

The cool days and cooler nights are bringing out the richest colors in many of the narcissus clumps.  Here’s the daffodil ‘Glaston’, looking luscious and tropical with its fruity cup colors.

So rather than work hard, the gardener looks at daffodils.

daffodil beersheba

Daffodil ‘Beersheba’, a pre 1923 daffodil (according to Daffseek) and nearly 100 years later, still a wonderful thing to have flowering.

Honestly the daffodils here have been tortured by poor drainage and neglect recently, and the show is not nearly as impressive as in other years, but the fewer words on that the better.  What does warrant a few more words are the corydalis.  They’ve enjoyed the cool weather as well and still look great.  Mostly.  Rabbits gave most if the ones in back a haircut, so….

corydalis solida

Corydalis solida, some named.  The pink in front is the highly acclaimed ‘Gunite’, while the darker red in back is ‘Milda’.

I do like poking through all the corydalis seedlings.  Some are great and plenty are nice, and there’s not that pressure you get with snowdrops to pick out and consider naming every next great thing.  I guess corydalis don’t offer the same wild diversity that snowdrops hold 😉

corydalis solida vanessa

Even with all the nice seedlings, I’m still willing to try a few new named ones here and there.  This new one was described as having exquisite “sky-blue lips and white spurs”… and I suppose that’s possible.

Of course why stop at a good thing?  If you can killed expensive named forms, why not try knocking off a few harder to find species?  These next two prefer summer-dry, Russian steppe/rocky woodland type environs.  The gardener isn’t sure if he should be insulted that the garden contains these types of planting areas, or pleased that the garden has made these happy for a third year, but in any case each spring could easily be their last.

corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae

Corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae growing well in the same conditions that favorTaraxacum officinale.  Apparently much of my garden is well suited to Taraxacum officinale.

Many gardeners crave blue corydalis.  I’ve discovered a knack for killing blue corydalis.  It’s kind of silly knack considering how easy blue scilla are, and hyacinths, and grape hyacinths, but if you know a perfectly perfect flower also comes in various blue shades, of course you need that color, and this gardener is no different.

corydalis fumariifolia

The first blue corydalis to last more than a spring or two (and not look completely miserable while doing it) Corydalis fumariifolia might even be expanding its reach.  I could use another clone.  Maybe seeds could happen with cross pollination…

Lets get back to easier things.  A few words for the front border as daffodil season hits its stride.

spring bulbs

Perhaps spring flowers can distract the neighbors from a shoddy cleanup and an un-edged and un-weeded front border.  Seriously, what does that gardener even do around here?

As I think on it (there he goes again not really doing anything measurable), the gardener spends way too much time on nonsense.  To mention a few words on the front border we could say ‘hyacinths and daffodils are easy and they look great’, but there goes the gardener again poking around and making things complicated.  Amongst all the daffodil color he’s most excited to see a few purple leaved moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’) finally showing a good amount of purple.  It was hard yanking the all green seedlings which used to rule, but over the years they are finally as purple as the strain should be.

Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’

Those are not weeds, they’re the much anticipated purple leaves of Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’.

I’ll leave you with even fewer words.  Hellebores are up.

hellebore

A nice picotee yellow seedling.

Another year without a late freeze and they’re all looking good.

hellebore

‘Golden Lotus’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’ with a mess of less showy things.

Hope this post finds you well.  Snow squalls are keeping the gardener inside today so rather than clean the bathrooms he’s blogging, but in spite of that he still gets fed three times a day.  Not bad.

A Project For the Pandemic

I’m extremely lucky.  Both my wife and I are able to work from home, while this health crisis spreads across the land and attacks our healthcare system, and our children are home here with us.  Our immediate family can afford to do the same.  Only a few of our closer friends are on the front lines as healthcare providers, and the area we live in has yards, streets to walk, and woods to wander.  I wish it were the same for everyone.

pulsatilla vulgaris

The first pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) opens.  I love their furry sweaters and the saturated color the cool weather brings on.

It’s not though, and the beautiful, early spring is a bit surreal alongside the news headlines and overall concern.  So we stick to home and the garden.

corydalis solida seedlings

Blue Scilla siberica and the red tones of Corydalis solida seedlings have officially taken over the front foundation beds.

Working from home frees up about two hours worth of commute each day, and with lunch and breaks it easily adds up to an extra three hours of spare time each weekday.  Sometimes I even stretch my lunch a little, but please don’t tell.

potager remodel

The potager is getting raised beds.  The old edging is coming out and the new layout is being planned.  I have no idea where all the soil to fill raised beds will come from but I’m sure something will work out.

After an ordering fiasco and delivery disaster the wood for the beds has arrived.  Normally I’d make a thousand trips to piecemeal and nickel and dime the entire project, but for once I planned a bit and will hopefully have most of what I need.  We will see.  As projects go it’s fairly simple and straightforward except for two things.  (1) The site is not all that level, and (2) Thousands of plants are in the way.

flower bulb bed

The zucchini and gooseberry bed…. but then underplant the berries with colchicums.  Edge the beds with chrysanthemums.  Tulips came in with the compost.  Daffodils will die down before the zucchini needs room.  The rose is so small… oh I need a spot for these snowdrops…

Common sense would say dig it all under and buy a few new bulbs in the fall.  This was considered, and then considered again, but of course by Thursday I decided to save as much as I can.  How can I dig under tulips just a few weeks away from blooming?  Things are now being moved if possible, or just plain potted up with hopes for a miracle in space becoming available.

spring bulb border

The front border starting to look less sloppy and more flowery.

The potager is going to be a mess for a while so I’ll leave you off with a view of the front street border.  The mowed up debris of last year is starting to become less noticeable as spring bulbs come up green and burst into flower.  Surely some good must come of this.

Have a great week, and all the best.

Primula Sieboldii

I guess it always starts innocently enough.  A friend tells you about a plant, you see a couple pictures of the plant, and before you know it a few seeds get ordered or a plant gets boxed up and something is in the mail headed for you.  You didn’t get carried away yet but sometimes things just happen.  This spring Primula sieboldii just happened, and of course you can’t place the blame on this gardener.

primula sieboldii

Primula sieboldii and a few other things in the spring garden.

I’m going to blame the American Primula Society and the endless rain.  Primula in themselves are a nice enough group of plants and as a rule they do like ground which is typically damper than this garden normally provides.  When a few survived our normally droughty summers I thought whatever, let me try and kill a few more.  That’s when the Primula Society seed exchange stepped in.  Some of the best seed in the world is practically given away and who am I to say no to that?

primula sieboldii

The basic form for Primula sieboldii in shades of pink.

Each winter a few more batches of Primula seedlings would get started.  It was almost too easy.  A pot of soil topped off with a thin layer of chicken grit with Primula sieboldii seed sprinkled on top.  Put outside.  Winter snow and ice and sleet and more ice and sleet and… well you get the idea, seedlings appear in spring.  Once large enough to handle, better gardeners would prick out seedlings and grow them on during the summer, but some people have been known to leave them in their seedling pots all season and then desperately cram them into a hole before leaving on a vacation and still have reasonable success.  They will bloom the following spring.

primula sieboldii

Interesting seed will produce interesting flower forms.  A darker reverse with fringed and cut petals can be one nice result.

As you may suspect, Primula sieboldii is not the most difficult thing to grow.  They are a plant of open woodlands and damp meadows through Eastern Siberia, Korea, and Japan and if you match those conditions that’s good enough.  Cooler summers will allow more sun as long as the soil stays moist, but if your soil goes dry in the summer they’ll probably just go dormant (as mine often do) and reappear in the spring.  I think fall or early spring are the recommended times for division, and a fertile, heavier soil is preferred.

primula sieboldii

Primula seedlings were not the only things hastily crammed into this bed, it also doubles as a snowdrop bed and triples as a species lily bed, so maybe it’s about time these babies got a little more room.  I love the seedling variations. 

Mine are due for division and a little more room.  I have a few favorites that I’d like to see flourishing, and they can’t really do that where they are now.  Surely that’s not my fault as all this unexpected rain really has caused them to explode into growth, but I expect some planning and foresight could have avoided this predicament.

primula sieboldii

I do like the fringed ones.  Right now I’m on the lookout for a pure white, but even with a touch of pink they’re pretty cool.

A more disciplined and ruthless gardener would rouge out the plainer forms, but more than likely I’ll just replant them all, see what turns up, and then maybe steel my soul enough to make those tough decisions later.

primula sieboldii

A nice lilac shade of Primula sieboldii

I do have a favorite.  Frilly and pink is not my usual calling, but it’s found a place in Primula sieboldii, and ‘Frilly Pink forms’ is officially my nicest seedling.

primula sieboldii

I think the subtle color streaks and finely cut petals are just perfect in this one.

I’d go outside and see if a few new ones are open but of course it’s raining again and there are Mothers Day breakfasts to be made.  Hopefully the weeds don’t mind yet another stay of execution.

Have a great week!

The Vortex of Gloom

Vortex of gloom might be slightly dramatic, but the endlessly overcast days really seem to be extending far beyond the usual April showers.  Last I checked it’s May and this nonsense should have been all worked out a week ago.

perennial tulips

‘Pink Impression’ tulips doing well along the street, even though the shrubby dogwoods are beginning to take over.

No matter.  The ground has still not degenerated into the slimy muck of last year’s endless monsoon so there’s still hope… but considering the growing season is only just off to a start, there better still be hope!

perennial tulips

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers.  The form can be so elegant, and the colors and patterns so intricate.

I didn’t know what to expect this year as far as the tulips go.  For the past two springs I’ve been dealing with the fungal infection called tulip fire, and when I say ‘dealing with’ I hope you understand I mean more of an emotional coping rather than any kind of actual physical activity.  This lazy gardener did go around and pick off many of the most infected leaves (spotting and distortion) and dug a couple hundred bulbs to thin and replant in the fall, but as far as sprays and other more sure-fire solutions… meh.

The carpet of corydalis is disappearing under the next wave of plants.  They next wave would probably look better dry and not-windswept, but you get the idea.

All in all it’s not a bad show.  The earlier part of April was dry which helped, thinned out clumps probably helped, and since it’s a soil-borne pathogen I think mulching helped as well.  Add to that my insanely strong resolve last fall and the fact that I didn’t add a single new tulip (in spite of clearance sales, flash sales, and glossy catalogs galore) and there might have been a good enough combination of culture and luck that things worked out.  Now if we can only avoid a fungal fueling month of dreary, wet weather there might be some hope for next year as well.

perennial tulips

I’m not sure how I like smoky rich tones of ‘Muvota’, but they might look really cool in a more elegant garden as opposed to my 8-pack Crayola colors garden.

To be honest the ten day forecast does not look good.  For now we’ll just have to enjoy the raindrops and lack of watering chores and look forward to the jungle which shall rise over the next few weeks.  Hopefully it won’t all be weeds.

perennial tulips

My tulip plantings are a mess and I’m fine with that.  Smarter gardeners would pull them each summer and enjoy a cleaner palette of new color-coordinated bulbs planted each fall…. 

perennial tulips

This almost looks planned.  I could dig them after the foliage dies back, thin out the smaller bulbs, replant in the fall as a mix, and it would probably look even better next year… but that does sound like a lot of work considering new bulbs can be bought for under $10. 

As far as useful information in a blog post goes, again I apologize for not providing any, so here’s one bit of selection advice.  Most of the early doubles and parrot tulips don’t appreciate day after day of heavy rains and overly rude winds, so if you garden anywhere that weather happens you should expect these to get floppy.

perennial tulips

More advice:  Don’t plant your new snowdrop bed over where you ‘thought’ you dug up all the tulips, and while we’re at it don’t throw spare bulbs in the compost and then use the compost before it’s done.  

You may have guessed by my tone that it’s still too damp this Saturday morning to get out in the garden, but to be honest it’s still all pretty awesome.  I love spring, rain and rot and everything!

blueberry flowers

Wherever the blueberries have outgrown the reach of the local bunny population, the branches are full of flowers.  Advice alert:  you should do better than me, put a little fencing around in the fall and all of your bushes might flower as nicely. 

Primrose are on the way.  Many are still a little too insulted to grow well in my miserable soil, but a few hardier souls are thrilling me to bits.

primula veris

Primula veris, the cowslip, doesn’t mind a little summer drought and rooty shade.  Gardeners in better soils might even accuse it of weediness.

The last two rainy years have almost tricked me into thinking I can grow a bunch of shade loving things such as native woodland wildflowers, but I won’t fall for that.  The ones I have can enjoy the moisture while it lasts, but let me say it now… I WILL NOT BUY ANY TRILLIUMS.

magnolia macrophylla

My amazing bigleaf Magnolia (M. macrophylla) seedling.  Individual leaves can range from 1-3 feet in length and hold the title for largest simple leaf of any native N. American plant.  Sadly a few hours after this photo was taken a surprise freeze shriveled this foliage, but new ones are on the way!

Come to think of it I shouldn’t buy any new plants, but who seriously expects that?  If there are any promise I can keep this year it’s to actually buy more.  Someone chilled me to the core by mentioning my favorite nursery was actually considering closing after a terrible season last year.  It was a landslide of personal tragedies that can effect any small, locally owned business where the employees are more a family than a work-force, but combined with the bad weather and its influence on outdoor sales, things start to add up and seem overwhelming.  I don’t pretend to know all the circumstances, but I do know I can buy more plants!  Fair warning that rain of shine I’ll be scheduling plenty of visits to Perennial Point this season.  Once a week sounds like a decent start, and after spending a billion dollars to take a couple kids to a movie and buy a few drinks and popcorn, I think a minimum budget of $20 $30 a week is very reasonable 😉

arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum looking a bit rain-battered, but still impossibly white inside.

I’ll cram the new plants in wherever they fit.  I’m never happy with where I put stuff anyway, so why should I always stress over it, and unless I suddenly become gifted with the powers of good-design sense, it should all work out anyway.  Case in point and also Advice Alert:  Move/remove small tree seedlings that sprout too close to the house and you won’t be faced with having to deal with big tree seedlings that have sprouted too close to the house.  If the tree wasn’t there you also wouldn’t have to feel guilty about cutting it down, but on the other hand (and sort of trying to get to the point), it doesn’t seem to matter anyway.  The gardener mentioned that he has to remove it.  The boss stated that she likes it.  The boy claims he likes seeing it out his window.  The tree remarked with some enthusiastic blooms.  The boss restated that she likes it.  Case closed.

dogwood seedling

I didn’t get authorization to trim the evergreen down a few years ago and there words exchanged, so when the dogwood appeared and also grew too big, I figured I’d mention the deed before doing the deed.  It’s staying… but I wonder what will happen when the little Japanese maple seedling at the bottom right of the photo becomes large enough to get noticed 🙂

That’s it from here.  It’s still gloomy, but I’m pretty sure the front porch step is dry enough for sitting with a second cup of coffee, and the birds seem happy enough and the tulips still glow.  I’m sure within a few minutes I’ll be wandering about and the neighbors will again wonder how I can spend so much time looking at dirt, but I’d like to suggest I’m now looking at weeds as well.

allium karataviense red and pink giant

New this year, Allium karataviense ‘Red and Pink Giant’.  I love it already!

I guess I do have to deal with the weeds.  Looking only does so much.

muscari and blue fescue

I think I said all the blue fescue grass needs dividing and replanting…. but not now, it looks so nice with the grape hyacinths (Muscari).

Have a great weekend!

Corydalis and then Some

Warmer weather has finally reached NE Pennsylvania and within days buds are swelling, sprouts are showing, and the earliest spring bloomers are putting large swathes of color into beds which have spent the last few months exploring black and white themes.  Finally I can take those nice leisurely garden tours and not have to harass the same old snowdrop shoots every few hours, looking to see if they’ve changed at all.  New things are coming on faster than I can keep up with and all I can say is it’s great 🙂

corydalis solida

Sitting on the front porch step is my favorite way to take in the front garden.  Right next to the step is where I plant many of my smaller treasures, but in the past couple years the pinks and mauves of Corydalis solida seedlings have started to crowd out just about everything else.

Depending on what the thermometer does we’re just a few days away from bunches of hyacinths and the earliest masses of daffodils, but for the moment Corydalis solida dominates the front garden.

Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’ spreading out along the street border.  It’s a lot more pink than I prefer but after months of brown and snow who cares.

I’d have to look, but it’s only been a few years since I planted about 15 tubers each of pink ‘Beth Evans’ and redder ‘George Baker’, and from there on they’ve exploded across the garden.  They seem to enjoy the better-drained garden beds, in particular spots where other perennials will come up and cover them after they go dormant in a few weeks.  Restraint is not something I think of when these come up, and if you’re of the type who prefer a more ordered garden I would highly recommend avoiding them.  Corydalis solida does its own thing and if they’re happy in your soil you’ll have them showing up everywhere.

corydalis solida

A weak attempt at adding named varieties has left me with just one survivor… and possibly a bunch of just-as-good seedlings.  Keeping named plantings “pure” requires much more diligence than I chose to pursue so of course I just let them go.

In a few days all this color will fade away and the plants will quickly ripen seed and shrivel away to disappear underground for another 11 months.  If I’m on top of things (which has NOT been the case so far this year) I’ll dig a few of the more crowded clumps and tuck them in to all kinds of new territory… or just do it accidentally in August when I dig up a shovel full of the little round yellowish tubers.  In the meantime here are two other surprises from the earliest of spring garden.

primula denticulata drumstick

Drumstick primrose (Primula denticulata) were a steal off the late fall clearance rack.  I have no idea if they’ll last more than a year, but right now I’m thrilled by how early they are and lucky I was to find such well-grown plants. -Thanks Perennial Point!

Near the shelter of the house the hyacinth have started.  This wimpy, washed out pink is my most exciting hyacinth ever since it’s the first to flower of a bunch of seedlings off the clump to the left.  Six or seven years is all it took which sounds terrible but since I never did a thing for them other than leave them alone it hasn’t been bad at all.

hyacinth seedling

Pink.  My favorite color.  Still it’s my firstborn hyacinth and I love it, and look forward to seeing how it develops over the next few years.

So that’s it.  Spring is exploding so that’s really not even close to what’s going on, but like you I’d also rather be in the garden versus on the computer so off I go!  Hopefully after missing most of yesterday for all kinds of events, and today for more events (and plenty of rain in the afternoon), something valid gets done in the garden before the work week returns, but you never know.  I’m fine with just sitting around taking it all in.  Plus, as I discovered yesterday, parts of the compost pile are still frozen so I guess we’re still just starting.

I love the start.  Have a great week!

Snowdrops, Quickly.

Of course my life gets stupidly busy just when the local snowdrop season starts, but how can I complain when each day brings new blooms?  Thursday and Friday were warm and that’s just what these snowdrops were waiting for.

galanthus blonde inge

Galanthus ‘Blonde Inge’ on her first day out in the sun.  She’s still a little pale but her yellow inners just glow in the afternoon light.

For those who yawn at the sight of more mostly white, always tiny flowers I apologize.  I’m in a rush, but I’ll still take the time to be that guy at the party who goes on way too much about something he’s already told you a million times before.  I can’t help myself and even the half hearted ‘uh-huhs’ and sideways glances won’t be enough.  Such is the curse of the galanthaholic.

galanthus rosemary burnham

Galanthus ‘Rosemary Burnham’ starts out tiny, but gets a little bigger as each warmish day passes.  For some reason I don’t think she’s as green as usual this spring but still a beauty.

For the next few days the weather looks perfect for bringing on the main season of snowdrops.  Here in my part of America, snowdrop season is often a real up and down thing, with none of the gentle transitions which mark more moderate climes.  Some types take it all in stride, such as this Galanthus gracilis which a friend brought back for me after a spring visit to Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens.  It comes up early and for the most part shrugs off even the worst ice and cold.

galanthus gracilis

Galanthus gracilis with its trademark twisted foliage.  It’s growing like a weed here in this dry, sunny spot alongside the front walk, but the exposed spot does seem to yellow the flowers a bit.

Not everyone takes the weather in stride.  Just a week ago temperatures dropped down into the single digits,  snow and ice were all over again, and some of the more exposed drops took a hit.  I’ll spare you those pictures but here’s one that’s not too bad, of ‘Gerard Parker’ growing in the front border.

galanthus gerard parker

‘Gerard Parker’ with a few singed blooms and burnt tips.  Still nice enough, but notice ‘Primrose Warburg’ coming up in back with perfect flowers.  Primrose is just a little later and missed the worst of the weather, and Gerald might have to go back to a more sheltered position.

As I work out which drops get to fill in the front street border the yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are working hard to fill in on their own.  It may take more time than I have, but someday I hope to have sheets of yellow and white filling this part of the yard.

snowdrops and winter aconite

Year by year the snowdrops (G. nivalis) and winter aconite fill in.  Hopefully I didn’t put too much mulch down for this year’s crop of seedlings to come up through.

‘Nothing Special’ might be a good choice for the front border.  It’s a strong growing beauty which seeds out a bit as well and I’m sure as a taller snowdrop it might compete better with the winter aconite than the little Galanthus nivalis which are there now.

galanthus nothing special

Galanthus ‘Nothing Special’

So much for quickly, eh?  Speaking of snowdrops and how some are not good competitors here’s ‘Norfolk Blonde’, a tiny pale thing which might be my favorite thing this minute.  I’m just so pleased that it came back a second year and didn’t fade away into the growing heap of snowdrops I regret losing.

galanthus norfolk blonde

The petite ‘Norfolk Blonde’.  I had to prune a few leaves off the cyclamen to keep it from overwhelming my little darling.  You’d judge me if I said how much I paid for this one, especially considering she’s easily doubled in size from last year!

I’ll leave off on an amazingly vigorous drop which a friend gave me two years ago.  It’s considered a cross between two species (elwesii x nivalis) and in its second year it’s already forming little clumps.  I love the foliage and it’s a heavy bloomer as well.

galanthus elwesii x nivalis

Another contender for drift status, this Galanthus elwesii x nivalis hybrid will hopefully continue to multiply and flower strongly over the next few years.

As you know I could go on and on, but it’s bed time and I’ve got a snowdrop adventure planned for tomorrow morning.  Fair warning that there will be more pictures and way more snowdrop talk, so feel free to tune me out until April if need be.

…and Tulips

The daffodil season was here and gone so quickly, I barely noticed.  Hot winds wilted the mid season bloomers and singed any flowers just opening.  It was all a little rude, but you’ll have that when you garden on a hilltop and the weather decides to finally heat up.

tulip garden

A few daffodils escaped the wind.  Having too many helps in this regard.

Fortunately I have way too many bulbs coming along, so even if a few are less than perfect there’s still plenty more where that came from.

narcissus conestoga

Narcissus ‘Conestoga’.  You may notice the birch branches cut as holiday decorations last winter have found a new home as part of the parterre archway.

The daffodils were missed, but to be honest I wasn’t all that in to them this spring.  They’re overcrowded and in need of digging and replanting and as I thought about it this week I decided many will find their way to the compost pile this summer.  As long as we’re being honest here I may have even filled a wheelbarrow with a few hundred ‘less favorite’ bulbs yesterday in an effort to speed up the process.

tulip garden

As the daffodils fade the tulips take over.

I was pretty sure last year that the tulips around here were on their way out.  Tulip Fire has hit the garden, and it’s not uncommon to find the spotted leaves and twisted stalks of bulbs affected by this fungus blight.  Late freezes, hail damage, and a wet spring for two years running have helped spread the disease around the whole garden but this year’s turn to drier weather seems to have slowed the fire.  I had my doubts last spring, but now I’m happy to say there are many more tulips surviving than I thought there would be 🙂

tulip garden

Although the heat brought the tulips on too fast and also fried many of the blooms, the color is still great.  Don’t look too closely though, there are plenty of signs of Tulip Fire here as well.

I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Maybe I shouldn’t just plant any bulb I can find… maybe I should be more faithful to the ones I have… maybe I’m not a good person to look to for tulip advice, since all you’ll learn here is that playing around with too many tulip bulbs might just leave you with a disease.

tulip garden

I promised abstinence last summer, but by the time autumn rolled around there were again more tulips.  Exotic parrots proved irresistible although these came up with a few fringed tulips mixed in.

Fortunately I have enough space to let these things run their course.  Tulip Fire (Botrytis tulipae)  is specific to tulips and shouldn’t bother anything else, and between thinning crowded clumps and removing overly infected leaves, maybe I can control it somewhat without resorting to chemicals.

tulip garden

Other parts of the garden still have plenty of the stray tulips which always seem to hitchhike in with the compost.  The colors might be a mess but it makes me smile!

Enough about my problems.  Out along the front border I didn’t expect much of a tulip show (given all of last summers rain) but to give in to a little bragging, I think they’re glorious.  Not public garden glorious, but for me and my crappy soil, with all my weeds and mediocre budget, and lack of chemical support, I’m going to claim glorious 🙂

tulip garden

Even an ugly duckling which sprouted up out of a patch of shorter tulips can steal the show.  It was supposed to be a ‘Pricess Irene’ mix…

I bought smaller packs of bulbs last fall from a new supplier and results have been mixed, but the year before that it was the ‘Incendiary mix’ from Van Engelen that earned a click on the proceed to checkout button.  They were amazing last spring, but I think they’re even better this spring… who cares if the flowers are a little smaller…

tulip garden

Tulips in the front border.  It’s perfect right now, the spring bulbs are up yet the weeds are still too small to notice.

Ok one more issue.  I noticed a few of the solid orange tulips have ‘broken’.  Broken color means the tulip has been infected with a tulip breaking virus which causes the color to streak.  It’s the virus which brought on several of the most beautiful historical tulips ever, but it’s still a disease.  I shouldn’t let them stay.  For as pretty as it looks I don’t like the way it’s spread this year, and even if I don’t have a tulip growing livelihood to protect I think it’s time to do the right thing.

tulip garden

Orange tulips streaked with flames of yellow.  It wasn’t there last year and is likely a tulip breaking virus.

All these problems are forgotten the minute I look at the next best thing.  There are still late tulips on their way and I think they’ll be just as amazing… even if much fewer in number.

tulip garden

The twisted fat buds of the last of the tulips, the parrots.

We just had a “lively” thunderstorm barrel through and I wonder how the flowers made out with all the wind and rain.  I’m hoping for the best but even if that’s not the case I noticed a few bearded iris nearly open.  There’s always a next best thing at this time of year, but it still goes too fast.

Have a great weekend!