We returned from our trip to the Dolomites to find that there had been pretty constant rainfall while we were gone (and that has continued). The temperatures have also stayed 5-10 degrees below normal. This meant that we had a LOT of mowing a weed pulling to do, but we also didn’t have to waste a lot of time dragging hoses around the yard. The lilies were in full bloom. It is marvelous to walk out in the yard and get knocked over by the lily fragrance.
Besides other lily varieties there are also the day lilies blooming in gay profusion right now.
Many annuals are also happening right now but of a couple of perennial standouts are as follows:
Yes, the ‘Blue Billow’ is very pink.
From the greenhouse we have a couple of little cuties.
And lastly though the Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is mostly about the flowers, I think it’s worth noting a couple of beneficial insects that I saw on the flowers.
The Tachinid fly parasitizes caterpillars, including monarch larvae, but on balance it’s a very useful contributor to the garden. The Widow Skimmer Dragonfly grabs small flying insects out of the air and it’s like having your localized air force to guard the space over your garden.
We’ve been back a little more than a week now from a wonderful exploration of the Dolomites with Greentours. We spent our days walking through meadows or scrambling up rocky cliffs finding hundreds of species of wildflowers in bloom.
The whole experience was a reminder of why alpines are so captivating for gardeners all over the world. Their relatively short growing season and difficult exposed conditions has produced adaptations characterized by rapid abundant flowering from compact plants that are often nestled in or on rocks where many other plants cannot grow. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the scenery is glorious whenever you take the time to look up from the plants.
The trick is to learn where to look for the different species. Meadows are often filled with various small ground orchids in the same way we would expect to see dandelions in Maryland. Potentilla, Sage, Thyme, and Ranunculus are abundant.
The interplay with the rocks mean that you often seek out rocks in a field to see what has colonized the rocks. Of course Saxifrages are particularly good at this.
But in between you find other treasures like the famous Edelweiss.
The Rampions were a particular favorite of mine. The Round-headed Rampion was found in many locations.
And on three occasions we came upon the famous Devil’s Claw in flower. This alpine flower is found only in Italy, Austria, and Slovenia and we were fortunate to actually be there when it was flowering.
The Physoplexis seemed happiest when growing on a cliff face. It immediately produced a question in our group which apparently has been a serious question for botanists. Namely, how does the Devil’s Claw get pollinated?
Another particularly beautiful flower, like the Rampions, is also in the Campanula family.
Mostly we explored the areas around the mountain passes, but we also got to higher elevations on two occasions. One I wrote about on the previous posting and the other was on the next to the last day when we took a ski lift up to the shoulder of Marmolada at 8500 ft. The ground at the top is all scree below the snowline and at first you would conclude there is nothing gowing there.
But on closer inspection you see that many things thrive in the scree.
Especially prevalent was the Round-leaved Pennycress which seemingly colonizes every spot where someone else is not…
We are experiencing a wonderful surplus of wildflowers this week on a tour of Dolomites with Greentours. I hadn’t intended on reporting on this journey until we returned home but today was such a wonderful experience I just had to share some of what we have been seeing. Every day has been a discovery of new plants that we had never seen, with hundreds of species recorded so far, but today was just over the top for anyone interested in alpines.
We spent the day walking at over 7000 feet looking over majestic scenery and crawling up crags to get close to cushions of alpine plants or walking next to meadows where flowers and butterflies were abundant. I’m just going to share a few of the images at this point to give a sampling of what we are seeing but for anyone who is interested Greentours does a phenomenal job of giving you a rich and thorough exploration of the landscape. We’re on the trail from about 9 to 5 every day and each day seems to exceed the last in wonderful experiences. I expect to provide a more complete sampling of the wildflowers in the future but this is a sampling of today’s encounters.
Last, but not least, we have encountered a number of Gentians and several have the stunning blue color that Gentians are famous for. It seems appropriate to begin with the blue Eritrichium and end with a Gentian.
Hello to Summer. It’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and the Stewartia decided it was an appropriate time to open its flowers for the occasion. It always astounds me that a tree with such beautiful bark manages to have exquisite flowers as well. Unlike other years we have yet to put out all the hose sprinklers because we seem to be getting thunderstorms every other night. The peonies and maincrop irises are all passed now but some of the iris are just happening now. One that has pretty much taken hold of a spot in the garden is a hybrid, Kimboshi.
Another iris that keeps expanding its space every year is the Japanese Iris, Agripinella.
Another flower from the Iris family that is blooming right now is the Prairie Iris.
This one I grew from seed obtained from the SIGNA (Species Iris Group of North America) seed exchange in 2013. There are several of the Zephyranthes, Herbertia, and Moraeas that seem to want to bloom about this time of the year in the greenhouse. This one is said to be zone 8, but I might give it a try outside when I have enough of them.
Another greenhouse item right now is from the Amaryllis family
Like many of its kin, this comes from South Africa.
We also have a number of Ismene and Hymnocallis in bloom. They are easily grown in pots that can be overwintered completely dry and then brought outside for the growing season. My favorite at the moment is Sulfur Queen, which is a hybrid between two Ismene species.
A very special little Astilbe that I picked up at Oliver Nurseries this spring has come into bloom.
This is a very dwarf astilbe with thick shiny green leaves and lovely pink flowers that was originated by Darryl Probst.
Another rather special plant coming into bloom is a Lysimachia with a very tropical aspect.
It withstood a difficult winter with flying colors.
If you are looking to feed the butterflies and bees while satisfying your lust for flower color I would recommend a very nice butterfly weed, ‘Hello Yellow’.
This is very vigorous and covered with dazzling yellow flowers. I saw a large, bright orange butterfly on the plant at one point and it was an OMG moment, but I couldn’t get the camera in time.
Many other flowers are blooming. I’ll let some of them speak for themselves.
While this post is about the flowers blooming today, I would be remiss in my reporting duties if I didn’t observe that it is also maximum fruit day where the strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all flowing into the house. And it is also when the birds are having their mulberry/wild cherry festival just beyond the garden fence.
Last year we replanted strawberries after disease had taken hold in our old row. I first put in 25 Jewel strawberries in a double row 18″ apart with pinebark mulch. Those 25 were allowed to expand and expand they did. I would say that the mesh of strawberries is about three foot wide and so dense as to exclude most weeds.
They have been extraordinarily productive. We’ve been bringing in a very large bowel of strawberries every night and predominantly from this patch. Later on last year, near the end of June I added another 50 plants (Allstar & Cavendish) and those have been contributing too, but not nearly so many as the jewel plants. Somehow in my unreasonable fear that we would not have enough strawberries, I added another 25 strawberry plants this spring (Cabot). I think we will need help picking next year.
Meanwhile on the flower front much has been happening. I was really pleased to see the Martagon lily ‘Arabian Knight’ flowering for the first time.
I love the way the Martagons have a completely different profile from the normal lily hybrids. The foliage itself makes a statement. We’ve also have the first flower on a small Chinese lily that I got from Far Reaches this year.
This is said to spread underground so that should be fun. I wouldn’t mind a clump of these little guys.
I was more than pleased to see that a couple of my favorite Arisaemas (fargesii and candidissimum) have finally decided to emerge. Take a note for future years that I should not expect or dig in these areas until June.
There are a number of little rain lilies popping out in the greenhouse right now. They are all a bit tender for this area, but I may give them a shot at outside exposure when I have enough of them in hand. For the moment I just take out to sit on the back porch.
You can see from the pictures that these little bulbs are multiplying in there pots, but it’s hard to compete with the oxalis which REALLY multiply in the pots. I started separating out the oxalis from 2013 plantings this year as they went dormant and the original 1-3 bulbs have expanded a lot.
They can be kept in a bag until August when they will be ready to go again for fall/winter blooming in the greenhouse. As a reminder the Oxalis in the greenhouse are nothing like the little pests you find in the garden.
Thinking of the greenhouse, there is a South American bulb with gorgeous deep blue flowers that has been blooming steadily for the last two weeks.
I always enjoy seeing these new bulbs or seeds bloom for the first time. I recently planted out several Anemone multifida ‘Rubra’ that I grew from the NARGS seed exchange in 2014.
Similarly this little Dianthus that I planted in tufa was grown from the NARGS 2014 seed exchange.
Speaking of seed exchanges, now is the time to be gathering seed from the early flowering plants. For many of them, like the Jeffersonia, you have to watching carefully to see that you get the seeds before the wind and the insects do…
Identifying the seeds for these large seeded plants is pretty straightforward but many plants are pretty tricky. Helps you appreciated what goes on for a more wide-ranging seed collector like BotanyCA.
I had a perfectly wonderful time at the NARGS annual meeting, but that deserves a posting in itself. I will say that I brought back a number of exotic plants including this little Conandron that I’ve put in the alpine bed.
The alpine bed continues to be very successful. I’ve added another Lewisia since they seem to like it so much.
And the alpine aster has returned from last year.
Out in the main garden beds the astrantia is coming into bloom, along with the horned poppies.
There is one little garden mystery. Somehow a european spotted orchid has appeared on the opposite side of the yard from where it bloomed last year (and where it has no flower buds this year). I have no memory of having planted one in this spot. But nonetheless it seems to be happily blooming away.
Let me close with the first thing I check in the morning — the spuria iris.
Well, I can’t believe that I completely missed the date for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. Especially given that May is one of the most flower-filled months of the year. So given that I am so late I will just hit the highlights without a lot of reflection. The Peonies are well into their cycle with the species peonies and tree peonies just finishing up and the intersectionals (Itohs) just starting.
Many of the garden standards like Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Bearded Iris, Roses, and Clematis are starting up.
One strong growing plant with wonderful foliage in the monument bed is Virginia Waterleaf. Based on last year’s aggressive spreading, I’m planning to cut this back after flowering and before seeds set.
Right behind the waterleaf is an Enkianthus which holds myriad little bells at the moment.
Also a bit uncommon and quite nice is the Indian Aster.
In the alpine bed and troughs there are lots of saxifrage and androsace in bloom.
But I continue to find the Lewisia particularly attractive.
My favorite flower in one of the large troughs right now is a very compact silvery dwarf harebell from Croatia that naturally forms a cushion of flowers.
Well that’s it for this month given that I am already a day late. What a glorious time of year!
The first week of May seems to represent some kind of trifecta of garden flowers, garden chores, and garden harvests. It is at this point where we get to see the fruition of some of the things that we labored on on last year and meanwhile we are tasked to prepare for the coming season. While admiring the Lewisia
which have come through the winter beyond my wildest dreams, I noticed that the hepatica are already seeding like mad and if you don’t grab those seeds now, then you never will.
This week has also involved tilling and planting the garden, mowing multiple times, hauling in more mulch and compost, and extending garden beds to accommodate our ongoing plant lust.
The strawberries look great but we added another 25 plants just in case.
I was happy to see the emergence of one of our Arisaema taiswanense.
The Arisaemas are typically very late in emerging but I was getting concerned that these had not survived the winter.
One thing that was an especially nice happening this spring is the first flower on a Gentiana acaulis that I’ve managed to root in tufa.
There are a lot of other special happenings in the garden right now, like the double flowered trillium
and the new Callirhoe
but I’m leaving for the NARGS annual meeting in Ann Arbor in the morning, so I need to finish packing up.
Let me just share some species peonies photos before I depart.
This last one is the first time for flowering for us. It’s a real beauty…
At this time of year you can go to most places along the potomac watershed and see hosts of bluebells (Mertensia virginica). Our favorite bluebell hot spot is the Worthington Farm, a part of the Monocacy National Battlefield, that is about 2 miles from our house. The trail down to the river runs through a woodland that is covered with spring beauties (Claytonia virginica).
Note the pink stamens.
The path to the bluebells also has many star of Bethlehem
When you get to the river the annual explosion of bluebells is very difficult to capture in the camera lens.
Note how high the river is after a thunderstorm in the mountains the night before.
Individually the bluebells usually have pink buds that turn to blue, but they can be pink or even white.
In any case it’s a great time to go out a see the wildflowers, in addition to growing your own…:)