Articles for the Month of May 2012

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day May 2012

Iris tectorum

The Japanese Roof Iris is actually from China where it is widely distributed.  It is just finishing blooming and GBBD seems an appropriate time to take note of it.  It’s many bearded cousins are in full bloom right now and we have many different varieties — all with that delightful iris fragrance.  We’ve failed to weed them at all this year and they have simply blithely grown up right through the weeds.

One of many bearded Iris

As I noted in my previous post the herbaceous peonies are fully engaged right now.  None more spectacular for us than ‘Honey Gold’ as it recovered from this morning’s rain.

Peony 'Honey Gold'

The other group of flowers that is busting out right now are the roses.  We’ve never had so many happening at once.  The knockout Roses are just that and several of the David Austins are also in gear.

David Austin Rose 'Charlotte'

It was way too long a day for me to note all the flowers in bloom right now (I finally finished planting all the perennials that I had bought in various places) but just a few still worth mentioning.  The Persian Cornflower (Centaurea dealbata) is a delightful strong grower in full sun.  It makes a nice companion to the more common Centaureas.

Persian Corn Flower (Centaurea dealbata)

Years ago we planted Tradescantia that we obtained from White Flower Farm.  It has easily spread to various places in the yard and the flowers are always welcome.  The plants fit well with iris and day lilies and they are very hardy.

Spider Wort (Tradescantia)

Another strongly colored perennial is the Baptisia, in this case ‘Purple Smoke’.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Looking out over the yard the Kousa Dogwood fully claims one’s attention right now — though it’s best seen from above.

Kousa Dogwood

And then finally a couple of wildflowers to wind up this posting.  One of my favorites as a transplanted californian is the lovely California Poppy.  It’s persisted for about 5 years now after an initial wildflower planting.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

And along side the poppies are Mexican Evening Primrose (which look very poppy-like themselves).  They are also a result of the same wildflower mix and at this point, like the California Poppies, simply reseed themselves.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

If you have enjoyed these flowers I suggest visiting May Dreams Gardens, the central site for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, to see what other gardens are growing…


A Paean to Paeonia

Tree Peony with golden stamens

We came back from the first of two weekends in New York to find that the Itoh Peonies were well advanced and then by now reaching the end of their bloom.  But the herbaceous peonies are just getting started.  It made me stop and think about what a wonderfully long extended season the peonies have.  From the first glimpse of Molly the Witch in early april to the final Peony Honey Gold blooms will be over 6 weeks.  Just as with daffodils the choice of varieties lets you have flowers in bloom for a very long time.  And, like daffodils, the peonies are not troubled by deer which is a big plus in our area.  I’ve shared pictures earlier of the gorgeous big tree peonies but we also have a small tree peony which yields some of the richest yellows I’ve seen and comes 2-3 weeks after the big guys.

Very Double Yellow Tree Peony

I don’t know the name of this one, but I’m liking it more every year.  It’s about half the size of the other tree peonies, almost herbaceous in aspect, but that could be cultural — it sits under some pines that suck the moisture out of the ground.

The mid-season for us is mostly Itoh intersectional hybrids — the fortunate blend of some of the best characteristics of the tree and herbaceous types.  The famous one is Bartzella.

Itoh Peony 'Bartzella'

But I have to say I like some of the others much better.  Singing in the Rain has single petals and unique coloration that changes as the flower ages.

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Julia Rose is a wonderfully rose hue that blends nicely with the golden stamens.

Itoh Peony 'Julia Rose'

And Morning Lilac has much larger flowers with a prolific bloom.

Itoh Peony 'Morning Lilac'

We were originally attracted to Peonies by Festiva Maxima which we found growing abundantly at the house we once owned in Alexandria, Virginia.  It’s a classic white herbaceous with streaks of blood red in the center and scent that puts many flowers to shame. We moved it with us to Maryland and it remains one of our favorites.  It’s extremely hardy and a prolific bloomer that will flop all over with it’s many flowers — but hey, nobody’s perfect…

Peony 'Festiva Maxima'

A more modern herbaceous (in that it’s only 50 years old) is Honey Gold — big luscious white flowers with a cup of honey colored petals in the center.

Peony 'Honey Gold'

As I began to appreciate all these positive attributes of the Peony family I’ve become more interested in growing the various species from which these lovely hybrids have been developed.  Their variations in leaf and flower are interesting in and of themselves.

I’ve already mentioned Paeonia mlokosewitschii with it’s wonderful foliage.  Another that has bloomed for us this year for the first time is Paeonia Veitchii.

Paeonia veitchii

I think it makes a good argument for why the species types are worthy additions to any garden.

My wife asked how many peonies we have at this point so I just did a head count.  My tally is 33 different species and varieties and it seems like we’re just getting started.  Many of the species types have not bloomed for us yet so there is much to look forward to…