Articles for the Month of May 2011

The Birds are arriving at the Mulberry Bar and Grill

Pair of Cedar Waxwings

On Wednesday of this week I had been planning to drive to Cape May for an overnight to check out the migrating bird populations.  Cape May is a wonderful place for bird watching and general photography.  But as I walked around the yard on Wednesday morning the air was cool and the birds were singing loudly — in the end I decided to forego the 4 hour drive and just enjoy the local environment.  I went over to the Worthington Farm at Monocacy National Battlefield Park and did some bird watching for a little while.  In no time I found  an Oriole, a couple of Bluebirds, a Warbling Vireo, and a couple of Indigo Buntings.  This was the first time I had seen either the Vireo or the Buntings at Worthington.

Baltimore Oriole at Worthington

Warbler Vireo at Worthington

Indigo Bunting at Worthington

When I came back I took at little walk in our woods and spied a Pileated Woodpecker but he refused to pose for the camera.  They are big colorful birds but I find them camera shy.

The next morning I was delighted to find that birds are eating at our mulberry tree (Morus rubra) again.  At ground level the berries still look green but the birds are finding the riper ones up in the tree.  The mulberry tree is absolutely wonderful for attracting all kinds of birds.  If nature didn’t give us one at the edge of the forest we would have had to plant one.  In the last couple of mornings I’ve seen the Red Bellied Woodpecker, Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, an Indigo Bunting, Robins, House Finches, and Catbirds.  The Cedar Waxwings, with their perfectly coiffed feathers, come in bunches.

Cedar Waxwing family moment - one was feeding the other

Red-bellied Woodpecker


Bluebird in Mulberry Tree

Northern Mockingbird

The Mockingbird puts on a singing show for everyone.  But as it turns out another accomplish singer is the Indigo Bunting.  Although it would not pose directly in the Mulberry tree, it did go to the top of the Pine Tree and put on quite a singing show.  This one was fully colored and it’s a shame I couldn’t a closer shot of those beautiful blue feathers.

Indigo Bunting










Maximum May Slugfest

A Catmint/Baptesia/Coral Bells Rose Garden

There is a lot going on in the gardens right now.  Everyday a new flower emerges and Beth rearranges what is showing in the house as well.  Even as things change there is one constant theme for May and that is a struggle for our attention between the Iris and the Peonies.  This is the first year for the Itoh Peonies to bloom for us.  They are a wonderful combination of the best of the foliage and form of the Tree Peonies and the fullness of the normal herbaceous lactiflora varieties.  And, unlike the full-flowered lactifloras, they do not flop.  Not that I would complain about any of the Peonies — they are all wonderful — but we are really liking the Itohs, especially Julie Rose.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Last flower from the Yellow Tree Peony

Paonia lactiflora 'Honey Gold'

We often bring the Peonies inside for closer enjoyment.  They last fairly well and many have a nice fragrance (especially Festiva Maxima).  But it is hard to compete with the eye-stopping display that the Bearded Iris provide.

Bearded Iris

They need constant attention — the buds in flower change daily and the dead flowers have powerful dyes when they drop.  But the colors are superb and the fragrance grabs your attention when you walk by.  In the garden they pull you toward their sentinel flowers from a distance seem to be impervious (like the Peonies) to deer predation.  This purely cranberry colored Iris is one of my favorites.

Cranberry colored Bearded Iris

In addition to their fragrance and color the Iris are also so very distinctive in the architecture of the flowers.  They have exquisite detail that rewards close examination.

Iris 'Ginger Snap' profile

Iris Beard

Orange Iris Beard

Even with all the attention given to the Iris and Peonies, I would be not be serving by constituent flowers fairly if I didn’t mention a couple of other star performers right now.  The Baptisia are looking better than ever and the variety ‘Twilight’ makes a lovely photo subject.

Bapteisia 'Twilight'

And for an ex-California I was delighted to see that the California Poppies that I planted last spring have decided to come up this year.

Calif Poppy in bud

I should also mention the creatures that have been visiting.  The first hummingbird of the year has come zooming past with it’s motorboat-sounding wings.  There have also been a lot more clearwing moths than I remember previously.

Clearwing Moth

I enjoy their high tech sunglasses and long proboscis.

And then there was the Black Snake that we noticed while eating dinner on the deck last night.

Black Snake Planter

Think of this as a new design for planters…

This is also the time for the monthly photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild and the focus this month is on lighting with Macro Images.  I looked at using one of the images above but I’m going to return instead to a favorite closeup shot of a backlit Tulip where the light just seemed to emanate from the base of the flower.

Tulip 'Flaming Purissima'

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day May 2011

Tree Peony deluxe...

It’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for May and what could be better to lead off this posting than a Peony that has never flowered for me before.  I’ve had the above Tree Peony for a number of years but it’s in a sort of shady spot and has never yielded a blossom before.  And I’ve no idea what variety but I was entranced to see how pretty it is.  I’ve cut off some overhanging branches and I hope to see further blossoms in the future.  It’s been a particularly good year for the peonies.  All of our Tree Peonies have bloomed at this point – purple, pink, white and yellow.  It’s been a feast for the eyes…

Purple Tree Peony

Light Pink Tree Peony

White Tree Peony

Even without flowering the Tree Peonies are special with their elegant foliage that is a multi-month pleasure.  In between the Tree Peonies and the normal Herbaceous Hybrids are the Itoh Hybrids.  I bought several a few years ago in small size (I’ve seen blooming sized versions priced at $100, although the prices are coming down).  Anyway they never bloomed before and we had to make do with their lovely foliage.  But this year they are all coming in with flowers.  The first two are shown below.  Beth has put one in the downstairs bath so that we give it full appreciation.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Singing in the rain is so appropos.

I can see that I’m not going to have time to mention all the flowers in bloom right now but a few special ones of note include the Lady Slipper Orchid ‘Gisela Pastel’ and a few others that are first time bloomers for us.

Cypripedium 'Gisela Pastel'

Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica)

Exbury Hybrid Azalea 'Klondyke'

And then there are a few of the favorites for this time of year.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum)

Clematis 'Waterfall'

Alliums, Centaurea, and Salvia with a backdrop of Buttercups

Bearded Iris 'Fatal Attraction'

And in one final note, even though the vegetable garden is hopelessly delayed by the frequent rainfall, the strawberries have had a field day and we are harvest beauties right now…

First strawberry 'Earliglow'