Articles for the Month of April 2009

Accelerating through Spring

Narcissus 'Arguros' 

 

Narcissus 'Arguros'

 

After a torrid heat wave that whipped through the East last weekend, the Spring that was ambling along at a very nice pace took off like it suddenly had a train to catch.  The double-flowered cherries were swiftly moving to closure and the last of the daffodils are appearing.  Narcissus ‘Arguros’ was a new one for us and particularly striking.  The mottled green and yellow cup is a real attention-getter in the house and the fragrance is especially nice.  It’s also much bigger than many at this late part of the season.  Another larger contributor to the late daffodil season is Narcissus ‘Pay Day’.

Narcissus 'Pay Day'

Narcissus 'Pay Day'

It’s big yellow blossoms are surrounded by a white halo at the base.  It came as part of some large mixed daffodils packs so we have quite a number of them for flower vases.  

Day after day we see the poppies shining forth with their colorful flowers.  The Celandine poppies are everywhere.

Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

 

 

And the Iceland Poppies are the most colorful element in the rock garden.  They have interest at increasing levels of detail.

Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule)

 

Iceland Poppy inside view

Iceland Poppy inside view

 

Iceland Poppy pistil detail

Iceland Poppy pistil detail

 

 

The hot weather also brought the Alliums into bloom.  The first is the very large-flowered Allium rosenbachium (ours are from Scheepers — I think the naming is a bit of a confusion on these big Alliums)

Allium rosenbachium

Allium rosenbachium

 

Allium rosenbachium top view

Allium rosenbachium top view

 

Allium rosenbachium sideview

Allium rosenbachium sideview

And I have a new combination for the catalog of handsome combos.

Iris cristata & Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum'

Iris cristata & Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum'

 

 

There are many other flowers in bloom right now.  Here are just a few more that caught my eye.  Maybe with the rains that started today and the cooler weather again they will stick around a little longer.

Primula sieboldii 'Chubby One'

Primula sieboldii 'Chubby One'

 

Anemone coronaria 'Lord Lieutenant'

Anemone coronaria 'Lord Lieutenant'

 

Quince (Cydonia oblonga) has a flower much larger than apple or cherry blossoms

Quince (Cydonia oblonga) has a flower much larger than apple or cherry blossoms

 

Tiarella cordifolia 'Neon Lights' blossom detail

Tiarella cordifolia 'Neon Lights' blossom detail

 

Tulipa 'Angelique'

Tulipa 'Angelique'

 

 And it’s hard not to take note of the Dogwoods bursting into bloom everywhere

Pink Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Pink Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Epimediums: Gifts That Keep on Giving

 

Epidmedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Seedling'

Epidmedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Seedling'

Last year, I think it was for Mothers Day, the kids bought Beth two Epimedium plants that they had obtained by going directly to Daryl Probst who runs Garden Vision Nursery in Massachusetts.  He specializes in breeding and growing these delightful little shade lovers.  By the time they brought the plants down in July they were long past flowering so that it is just now that we are seeing the blooms.  And what wonderful blooms they are.  If you don’t take the trouble to look closely you would never realize that they are like tiny orchids (although the ‘Lilac Seedling’ is easily twice as big as any other Epimedium that we have.  Even aside from the flowers though the leaves are quite nice and you could grow them for the foliage alone.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Seedling' leaves

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Seedling' leaves

The other gift plant was a hybrid of Epimedium  rubrum.  It is quite pretty in it’s own right even if ‘Lilac Seedling is the big scene stealer.

Epimedium x rubrum 'Sweetheart'

Epimedium x rubrum 'Sweetheart'

Sweetheart also has pretty leaves, but again not quite as striking as Lilac Seedling.

Epimedium 'Sweetheart' leaves

Epimedium 'Sweetheart' leaves

Our experience is that Epimediums are tough little plants.  Like ferns they look delicate but come back season after season.  We keep adding more every year.  Even out in the woods they are proving to be survivors.  So far the animals don’t touch them.

Epimedium rubrum out in the woods

Epimedium rubrum out in the woods

How One Thing Leads to Another…

“]”]Northern Sea Oats)  

 

 

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) photo by Jonathan Willis

This episode goes back to a visit to Boston last year when I saw Northern Sea Oats growing for the first time.  The bronzed seed heads were lovely and all the steps along the way were attractive too.  I added it to our order list from Bluestone in January and got three lovely plants that were especially large for 1 Qt containers.  In the meantime we began reading about how, as pretty as they are, they can be somewhat invasive for many people.   Armitage in his Native Plants says that this is one plant that wears its invasiveness with pride.  So we decided to be a little cautious and not put this, as originally intended , in the rock garden.  But then, the question was where to put them with a full sun opportunity to shine.  

 

And so the need for another garden space arose.  We have a sunny bank where the Walnut Tree used to be (yes, I know the walnut roots may still be in the soil but I’m not one to be stopped by details), and even more specifically there is a bare place that used to be a Red Pine.  Time for the Kubota Tractor.

Using the post-hole digger to start a garden bed

Using the post-hole digger to start a garden bed

The post-hole digger finds out real quick where we can go deep enough for a garden and where not.  Most of this area, except for one rock shelf, we were able to go down about 2-3 feet without too much trouble.  And once you get started it seems like a shame to limit this to just a few Sea Oats, so it got bigger…

The rototiller follows the post-hole digger

The rototiller follows the post-hole digger

The only difficulty with the Troy-bilt Rototiller on the slope is that the soil gradually  moves down the hill and then you have to rake it back up again.

Add a layer of topsoil and then compost

Add a layer of topsoil and then compost

Fortunately I have a pile of topsoil left over from the previous year and the compost is pretty easy to get from the landfill now and I’m finding lots of uses for it.

A critical tool is the  landscaping rake

A critical tool is the landscaping rake

In the end you still need to rake all this level.  And I find that the landscaping tool is wonderful for that purpose.  Years ago a contractor left this behind on the property and I’ve found it invaluable.

Landscaping rake has serious big teeth

Landscaping rake has serious big teeth

So even with the power equipment it took over a half-day to get the new garden where I wanted it to be.

Final result

Final result

A Stump is added in lieu of a boulder that should go there some day, but I haven’t found a good one yet.

A home for the Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

A home for the Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

And that dear reader is how one thing leads to another.  The area is big enough that we can already see that it needs a Caryopteris (Blue Mist) on one side and a Potentilla (Gold Drop) on the other.  I hear the local nurseries singing their siren song…

And in Turkey there are Flowers

 

Tulips are indigenous to Turkey

Tulips are indigenous to Turkey

Well, we have decided to travel to Turkey this Fall.  Although I was keen on doing a horticultural trip to Turkey we have decided on an initial survey trip that will hit the touring highlights with a follow-on trip to look at wildflowers at some time in the future.  All of which leaves me still interested in following the adventures of Ketzel Levine, former NPR gardening guru who is leading a botanically minded tour of Turkey at this very moment.  She intends to update folks with regular posts as she travels.  This trip was originated by Holly Chase, an expert in Turkey travel arrangements.  She emailed me recently with a description of the Turkish spring awakening holiday of Hidrellez.  

Hidrelez from Holly Chase post

Hidrelez photo by Philip Salzman on Holly's website

It was a reminder of how universal is the desire to celebrate the rebirth of the plants and flowers at this time of year.  Particularly for gardeners who sense it right down to our grubby little fingers as we tuck seed and plants into the freshly turned soil.

A Woodland Tulip and it’s Relatives

 

Tulipa sylvestris

Tulipa sylvestris

From the beginning planting the Woodland Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris) was a bit of an experiment.  Not only had I never seen Tulips in a forest environment before but we have a good population of deer hereabouts.  But when I saw the name (literally Tulip of the woods) and read in the Brent and Becky’s catalog that they had naturalized at Mount Vernon … well, I had to give them a go.  Out of ten bulbs planted only 5 came up (squirrels?) and offered their buds early in the spring.  The first time it looked like they were going to flower, I walked out to find that the about to open flowers had all been snipped off and eaten.  My immediate guess was that it was the deer in retaliation for my fencing off the rest of the vegetable garden.  But it could have been the rabbits.  In any case they left me two buds that were not as far along.  Apparently they prefer the full-fledged flower and not the foliage.  I waited and watched.  This time (so far so good) I’ve been able to enjoy the two remaining flowers.

 

 

Tulipa sylvestris alternate view

Tulipa sylvestris alternate view

Apparently they spread by stolons (in the manner of strawberries or bermuda grass) if they like their environment so I can hope that the plants will spread even if they didn’t get their full flowering this year.  I think I will plant some in the orchard in the Fall to increase the survival options as I do like the idea of tulips that mulitply.

Speaking multiplying Tulips, the Tulipa tarda planted in the rock garden 2 years ago are multiplying quite nicely.  They are a small species tulip with a bright yellow face when the sun is out.

Tulip tarda

Tulipa tarda

In the same rock garden a new planting this year is the Double Early Tulip ‘Monte Carlo’.

Tulip 'Monte Carlo'

Tulip 'Monte Carlo'

This turned out to an inspired color choice (which I ascribe to blind luck) because it stands right next to the Iris bucharica.

Iris bucharica

Iris bucharica

And together they make a happening in the rock garden right now.

Tulip 'Monte Carlo' and Iris bucharica

Tulip 'Monte Carlo' and Iris bucharica

The other Tulip happening is under the Crabapples where I planted Tulip ‘Flaming Purissima’ with my elder son two years ago.  The result is pure splendor when viewed in the morning light.

Tulip fosteriana 'Flaming Purissima'

Tulipa fosteriana 'Flaming Purissima'

And here they are seen as a group.

Tulipa fosteriana 'Flaming Purissima'

A Group of Tulipa fosteriana 'Flaming Purissima'

Picture This Wildflower in Your Garden

 

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadiensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadiensis)

The folks at Gardens Gone Wild have come up with a friendly photo contest called Picture This.  They propose that people should post their favorite pictures illustrating a native plant.  Any photo of any native plant, either a close up or in the landscape, that you think merits attention will qualify.  This time of year our little collection of Bloodroot comes to mind.  Left alone they will form a nice colony that spreads slowly year by year.  Be aware that the sap is toxic, but we don’t generally recommend sampling wildflowers as a matter of course.

Bloodroot colony

Bloodroot colony

We planted them side by side with Trout Lillies (Erythronium Americanum).  They flower at the same time and make quite a nice introduction to the spring.  

Trout Lillies (Erythronium americanum)

Trout Lillies (Erythronium americanum)

We’re in the process of ordering the double flowered Bloodroot which looks to be a spectacular beauty and have been adding to other parts of the yard and woods the various Erythroniums.  The hybrid ‘Pagoda’ has prettier foliage and looks to have much more staying power than the americanum species (which pretty much define the word ephemeral).

Erythronium x 'Pagoda' detail

Erythronium x 'Pagoda' detail

 And for inspiration here’s a shot of the white Erythroniums that I took at Sissinghurst last year.

Erythronium 'White Beauty' detail

Erythronium 'White Beauty' detail

Wet April Blooms

 

Tulip 'Monte Carlo'

Tulip 'Monte Carlo'

It has been a drizzling wet last couple days on the hill.  Everything is very green as we try to duplicate Oregon’s climate.  Not all the flowers open while it’s raining but I am more than grateful for the rain.  Even though our part of Maryland has an average rainfall of 40 inches per year and the distribution is almost even over the twelve months (February has the lowest average at about 2.5 inches per month) my experience is that “average” never happens and we are always moving from one dry period to the next.  Last year I lost several plants in the woods to a dry spell.  So let it rain while it may.  None the less it puts a bit of a crimp into our Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.

Daffodils dominate our flowering right now, as it probably does for everyone on the East Coast.  They come in so many shapes and sizes it is hard to represent the beauty or the length of bloom.  There are still some emerging while others are near finished.  

Narcissus 'Smiling Twin'

Narcissus 'Smiling Twin'

 

Narcissus 'Smiling Twin' in cluster

Narcissus 'Smiling Twin' in cluster

 

Narcissus 'Delibes'

Narcissus 'Delibes'

 

Narcissus 'Delibes' makes a stunning addition to the woodland path

Narcissus 'Delibes' makes a stunning addition to the woodland path

To the progression of fruit tree blossoms that are happening now we must add the Japanese Pear where the blossoms emerge along with colorful leaves.

Japanese Pear blossoms

Japanese Pear blossoms

Some of the other flowers that caught my eye, even in the rain, are shown below.

Pink Darwin Tulips with Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea Maxima'

Pink Darwin Tulips with Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea Maxima'

 

Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) follows 3 weeks after the Snowdrops

Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) follows 3 weeks after the Snowdrops

 

Columbine 'Cameo White' is a nice addition to go with the Anemone sylvestris

Columbine 'Cameo White' is a nice addition to go with the Anemone sylvestris

 

Erythronium 'Pagoda' hybrid Trout lily is more elegant than the americanum species

Erythronium 'Pagoda' hybrid Trout lily is more elegant than the americanum species

 

Corydalis flexuosa is a nice addition to the woodland path

Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf' goes nice in the woods

And I will close with an image of the Daffodils on the hillside surrounding the new Coral-bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku).  We’re looking forward to that red bark providing color on winter days.

Daffodils surrounding new Coral-bark Maple

Daffodils surrounding new Coral-bark Maple

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

Rhododendron x P.J.M.

Rhododendron x P.J.M.

Easter is the time of flowering for so many plant groups and for us the hybrid Rhododendron P.J.M. leads the way.  It is very hardy with small dark green leaves that never look bad.  They don’t suffer from the Lace Bug that hits the Azaleas and over 30 years our plant has never had a bad year.  This is a hybrid of the Korean Rhododendron (R. Mucronulatum) with our native Carolina Rhododendron (R. carolinianum).  It’s interesting to read the story of the discovery of this series of hybrids at Weston Nurseries in 1945 as relayed by Peter J. Mezitt’s son Edmund.  In just about every way the P.J.M. exceeds its parents.  

P.J.M. hybrid becomes a sizable shrub after 30 years.

P.J.M. hybrid Rhododendron