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!

…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!

A Mayday Celebration

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

perennial tulips

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

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

potager garden

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

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

darwin mix tulips from home depot

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

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

narcissus bright angel

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

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

narcissus irish linen

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

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

narcissus winston churchill requiem

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

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

narcissus requiem

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

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

narcissus mission bells

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

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

magic carpet double tulips

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

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

magic carpet double tulips

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

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

valentine bleeding heart from seed

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

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

primula seed exchange

Seed grown primula from the American Primrose Society seed exchange.

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

primula seed exchange

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

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

camassia

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

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

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

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

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

tulip green river

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

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

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

Bright flowers, green grass, and springtime sunshine.

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

Too much money

Some complaints will never get you any sympathy, and to complain that tulips are coming up and blooming in all sorts of odd places probably ranks right up there.  Truth be told it’s not a problem, but when every batch of compost seems to hold a new crop of bulbs, the spring planting in the parterre becomes a little more complicated.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Once again the vegetable garden is a complicated mess of far too many flowers and far too few edibles.

For all my failures in the garden, tulips seem to be one plant which enjoys the poorly draining, heavy soil of the flower beds.  It’s a surprise to see this considering many references suggest a loamy, free draining soil for your best chances at success, and even then it’s a safer bet to treat tulips as one or two year treat.  Fortunately no one has whispered this little secret into the ears of my bulbs and they keep coming back and multiplying.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Having a few tulips in the way is just the excuse I need to skip digging too deeply when it comes to planting the spring vegetables. 

I think I do know the secret though.  The soil may be heavy but it’s also thin and dries out relatively quickly once the heat of summer settles in, and if I do manage to drag my lazy self away from the pool to water it’s never a solid deep watering, it’s always a guilty stand around with a hose until things look less dead kind of triage.  I can’t imagine much of the water ever penetrates deeper than two or three inches and for this the heavy soil works to an advantage.  My tulips like a hot, dry summer similar to their ancestral haunts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and most years (unfortunately) this is what my garden resembles.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Tulips in the onions, tulips in the lettuce.  I try to replant stray bulbs closer to the edges, but there are always more little bulblets in the compost or stray bulbs dug around in the soil.

When I was more ambitious I used to fill several of the beds each fall and then dig them again in June after the foliage died down.  It was a glorious spring explosion but one bad experience soured me to the whole deal and I ended up tossing hundreds of fat promising bulbs.  They really do need a good drying out over the summer and when mine all molded up and rotted one damp August I put a stop to the project.  But…. I can’t promise it won’t happen again some day 🙂

lettuce self sown seedlings

If all goes well this batch of tulip leaves should put out two or three blooms next year.  Not bad for a weed, and if you notice there are more weeds in the lawn, in this case lettuce seedlings from last years neglected plantings.

So to sum it up my tulips don’t mind a nice heavy fertile soil while they’re growing, the just need to follow it up with a warm dry summer rest.  Planting them in a spot which dries out and doesn’t get summertime irrigation is one option, actually digging them up and storing them in a hot, dry, ventilated area until fall planting is another.  Just be prepared to have more tulips than you know what to do with since most tulips will at least double in number every growing season.

double early tulip

Leftover Easter flowers from two or three years ago.  Let them bloom and grow as long as possible in their pot and then stick them into some out of the way spot, preferably one where they will not be overrun with bearded iris 🙂

Although most people recommend species tulips and Darwin types for the best chance at perennializing,  I don’t notice that much of a difference between the types.  Give them all a try is my advice, but for best results regardless of type you will have to dig and divide the bulbs every three or four years  when they begin to get crowded.

perennial Darwin hybrid tulips

A few stray tulips snuck in with the compost for this new snowdrop bed.  With snowdrop season long gone I’m quite happy to see the tulips flowering in a carpet of my favorite annual weed, purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum). 

Alas, even plants relatively happy with their homes do not always lead perfect lives.  The tulip season may be a little sparse next year for two reasons, both of which revolve around the weather.  The first is our harsh April freeze which damaged many of the buds and much of the blooms for this year’s show.  That in itself could be tolerable, but in the weeks since the weather has remained damp and cool, and many of the damaged plants are now falling victim to gray mold (Botrytis).  Botrytis is bad news and seems to stick around for a few years even after better weather returns.  I’m wondering how many of the affected plants will be going on to tulip heaven…

tulip virus candy apple

Not to go on and on about this late freeze, but here’s yet another example of damaged foliage and stunted blooms.  To top it off I also suspect virus in the streaked blossoms of what should really be a solid colored flower. 

All is not lost though.   I still love tulips and would grow a few even if they only made it a year or so before falling victim to whatever tragedies visit my garden next.

tulip marit

Tulip ‘Marit’ is a favorite this year.  I don’t remember such round flowers last year but the shape and color this year really won me over. 

In the meantime I will keep my fingers crossed.  I far prefer being spoiled for choice as far as tulips go, and if it means working around a few bulbs here and there that’s fine with me.

tulip pink impression

Tulip ‘pink impression’ in the front border.  They’re huge and pink and although battered by the weather they’re still the crowning glory of the border.

Have a great Sunday and happy mother’s day to the moms!

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

 

 

Tulip Time!

There must be some Dutch in me because I’m a little wacky about tulips.  Not real bad, I don’t collect every kind and have them all over the place (my criteria for plant wackiness), but I’m always adding a few new ones…. and then I feel some kind of urge to tend them and multiply them and replant them.  It should end once this relatively new garden starts to fill up, but for now I can indulge that inner Dutch.

The rain and cold kept them shut for a while, but even then they looked nice (these are pictures from early last week).  Four years ago I bought this blend on clearance as a generic “darwin mix”… it was nearly all orange, so I threw in a couple pinks just beacause I had them.darwin tulips

"sweetheart" tulip "geranium daffodil

The “sweatheart” tulips were new this year, don’t know why I bought a lemon meringue colored tulip when I have so many daffodils in similar colors…..

Also new was the “Princely mix” from Van Engelen.  Not sure what’s in it, but again…. on clearance… can’t beat this color for around$15.  Plus I spread the other half of the box around the rest of the beds :)The random white peeling post is our attractive front light.  The less you see of that the better.

princely mix tulips

pink impression tulips“Pink Impression” (also new) is always a winner.  I’ve bought it before but have gotten other, similar tulips instead.  This looks to be the real thing  and the flowers are huge!

Tulips will last much longer in cool weather, but when a warm sunny day finally hits (like we had last week) the flowers open wide and you know it’s finally full, head-on spring.orange darwin tulips

I just go around on days like this and get nothing done.  It’s too tempting to just sit around, enjoy the sun and admire the season.  Since the vegetable garden is the easiest place to plant out your excess tulips, that’s where most end up.  I’ll regret this in a couple of weeks as I’m scratching my head looking for a spot to stick a tomato.  mixed darwin tulips

I don’t really cut too many for the house, most of the picking is done by the kids.  A couple end up at grandma’s, some get planted in the mulch, many get pulled apart and thrown, and random neighbors often get deliveries in exchange for an ice pop or cookie.tulip pickers

double early tulipsDaddy sometimes gets a flower, but much of his time is spent protecting the double tulips, since they seem to be particularly attractive to flower collectors.  The doubles have started to grow on me though.  Ever since I bought this mix of early doubles called “magic carpet”, I’m finding an excuse to keep them around (even though the singles are still so much more graceful).  To me the doubles look like huge fluffy wads of tissue paper…. but wow!  that’s some fluff!

temple of beauty tulipMy favorites might be the ones just coming into bloom now.  The late tulips seem to have the most subtle blends and nicest forms.  If you ignore the color clashes in this planting and just look at the color and almost lily shape of these fruity colored “Temple of Beauty” tulips, I think you might like them a little too, even with the crappy camera focus.

 

Tulip season is a little past peak now with the earliest ones already going by.  The pickers are still keeping busy and I’ll be busy too when I need to dig them all up out of the veggie garden.  That’s a job for June though,  May is for enjoying flowers.tulip picking