Ok, it’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for May and I’m already late (again). Everything is flowering (or so it seems). The peonies, iris, azaleas, rhododendrons, alliums, and so on. Let me share some of the main headliners and then get to some of the more unusual flowers.
Rhododendrons are represented by three of our standards. First the ultra-reliable R. chionoides which spends more and more of its time lying on the ground with various prostrate branches.
Then a scintillating pink that we have mixed into our camellia bed.
And I always have to share one of my favorites, R. ‘Viscosepala’, which has a magnificent fragrance.
This was the happy result of crossing R. molle and R. viscosum in 1844 at the famous Waterer nursery at Knaphill in England. I think it deserves more recognition. You can sit on the deck in the evening and smell this honeysuckle-like fragrance surrounding you.
The peonies always go through a progression of tree peonies to species to Itoh hyrids to herbaceous. The tree peonies and species types are just finishing now after serveral weeks of simply splendid flowers.
And the Itoh hybrids are lovely to look at right now.
The unopened bud of the Itoh hybrid ‘Sequestered Sunshine’ looks like a giant rose.
The first large bearded Iris are in bloom now and I just noticed a number of flowers on the Japanese Roof Iris yesterday.
Now let’s explore some of the less common flowers around the yard.
The Lamium orvala never fails to elicit comments when I point out the orchid-like flowers hidden under its leaves.
In one of the shade beds I see that one instance of the Rue Anemone has semi-double flowers that also seem to be bigger than its relatives.
In the front bed my planting of Dianthus spiculifolius in the large tufa rock seems to have taken hold.
Also in the front yard I had planted a Snow Poppy several years ago. It has spread but I had never seen it flower. Until this year.
The Snow Poppies are in a shady area near where the Woods Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) have long since taken over, and where the large Japanese Maple limits the sun and moisture in the summer time. I’m happy to have them spread at a reasonable pace.
At the GreenSprings Garden Plant Sale on Saturday I picked up a very nice little Calanthe hybrid orchid for the monument bed.
As we walk back to the Alpine garden I discovered a little ornithogalum growing with the little alpines and I couldn’t imagine how it got there until I reread my bulb order from last year. Ornitogalum exscapum is described as compact and flowering from the base and indeed that seems to be the case so far.
Nearby two of the Lewisia are in bloom.
And in the trough in front of the greenhouse one of my favorite campanula relatives is just coming into flower.
This makes a compact little cushion that is a wonderful example of why I like growing alpines. That’s a little Dianthus alpina that is showing nearby.
And in the Greenhouse I was delighted to discover last week that two of the three rare Scillas that I planted last January are starting to grow.
These are very beautiful plants and I’m hoping to see flowers before they go dormant for the summer.
Let me close with an Iris relative, Gelasine elongata, also growing in the greenhouse.
This flowers at the end of a 2 ft. long stalk. It is said to be marginally hardy here so I may give it a try outside.
Well it’s very appropriate that this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day leads off with a blossom that is two to three weeks ahead of schedule. I went back to look through previous years and April 30 was the earliest I saw the Tree Peonies in bloom before. Their flower size and wonderful foliage are always amazing if you haven’t encountered them before. It’s been that kind of year with most plants well in advance of their expected performance date. It’s been very dry which is the only thing which may retard some of the plant growth. I know that I’m still waiting for some Arisaema’s to stick their heads up.
It’s always a pleasure when something new shows up on our hill, especially if it’s been here for some time without flowering. This year I found that Gentiana acaulis ‘Krebs’ has put forth several incredibly blue flowers. It’s been hidden among the species tulips and may have flowered in the past without me catching it in the act.
The blue is every bit as outstanding as one might hope for from a Gentian. The markings inside the trumpet are almost like a digital code. I can see that several little babies are in the vicinity which makes me suspect that it has bloomed before. This is one plant that I’ve very happy to have spread.
Another beautiful blue is on the Camassia which is just starting to flower.
This a particularly strong blue from a set of mixed Camassias that I purchased a few years back after seeing them for the first time at the Garden in the Woods in Massachusetts. At the same time I was very taken with the little Iris cristata and came back with violet and white versions.
They are a very strong and determined spreader with a continually expanding mat of iris plants.
Another choice little item that we brought back from Massachusetts is the common blue Forget-Me-Not.
The odd thing about these little beauties is that they grow rampantly on the kids’ property in Boston but when we tried to transplant them here nothing showed up in the garden beds where we put them. Nada, not a one. And then this year as I was tending the flower bed I noticed that there were several Forget-Me-Nots growing vigorously in the grass. Still nothing in the garden beds. So maybe they just like a little adversity. No matter. We are happy to have them competing with the dandelions and buttercups.
Another little plant doing well right now is the Creeping Phlox.
We’ve always liked this little Phlox plants that remind us of the mountains but we couldn’t seem to find the right spot to show them off until last year. Now they seem happy on the hillside next to the garage in a bright sunny spot that is actually kind of dry.
At the back of the garage the Fothergilla is in bloom.
I have questioned the garden space given over to this shrub but I have to admit the funny little white flower buttons are growing on me.
The Sieboldii Primroses are starting to bloom now.
This one came from the now unfortunately closed Seneca Hill Nursery.
Next to it sits a nice little spread of Lathyrus vernus.
A little stroll in the woods produces one of the last of the daffodils to bloom — the wonderful little La Belle is dainty and charming but survives a rugged setting in the woods.
And the Virginia Bluebells are just about done.
While the Spanish Bluebells are coming into full stride blooming in many spots in the yard as well as where they have been scattered in the woods.
Also in the woods right now are Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Black Haw.
Just a few others to mention in this compendium of April flowering. I picked up a tiny little Androsace at Stone Crop’s Alpine sale last year and, most wonderfully, it has come into flower for me.
I’ve put this in a little dry sandy spot that I’ve labeled the stone garden and, at least so far, it seems to be working.
And while not in flower anymore, I wanted to share this image of the Himalayan May apple that I imported from Canada this year (Fraser’s Thimble Farms). The flower was exotic but the leaves are equally so… I’m looking forward to the fruit.
Well it is an April Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and as you might expect there are a plethora of flowers to choose from in reporting what is blooming. This is the crossover point between the smaller spring ephemerals, the bulk of the Tulips and Daffodils, and the major flowering trees and shrubs. There is no way that I’m going to enumerate everything that is blooming today and I’m not going to repeat some of beauties I’ve reported on recently. Instead I’m going to single out some of the most photogenic of the lot and that is, of course, a very subjective filtering.
The little gems are well represented, not only by the Hepatica above but by the following.
That is my absolute favorite Trillium.
A particularly rewarding little guy is the White Trout Lily which we had never succeeded with before.
I don’t want to ignore the Daffodils and Tulips.
This one sits just outside the backdoor. And out in the front yard is a wonderful display of Tulip tarda.
Two of the classic flowering trees have started — our double white cherry and the volunteer dogwood by the front porch.
And for shrubs it’s hard not to mention the Spirea at the back of the garage or the Flowering Quince beside the garage.
It’s also true that some things look almost as good before the buds open.
And as a final mention I should note that some of the Camellia flowers are getting full enjoyment in the house including this giant single.
We had our first snowfall this weekend. It was no more than a couple of inches but it did cause me to bring into the basement the last of the plants that I had left outside (the jasmine, a lantana, and a hibiscus). Temperatures dropped below 25 which is my threshold for those plants that I had known from Southern California. The clean white snow shows everything to good advantage so I went around taking a few pictures before it all melted.
I know I should take those chairs in for the Winter but they look so good out there on the hillside.
When we returned from Boston there was a lot of growth around the yard from 5 days of sun and a little rain. The Catmint has taken over the Rose garden and the the vegetables we planted before leaving have gotten off to a strong start. All the seeds in the vegetable garden are off and running, including the corn. It certainly goes faster when it is this warm. We picked the first strawberries from the old bed and a passel of asparagus, both of which went for dinner yesterday. And the Iris — OhmyGawd — they are blooming like mad and their fragrance is cast about the whole house. But the flower that captured my eye was a a yellow-orange Tree Peony that is tinged with red. This is the first time this particular plant has flowered after four seasons in the ground. It’s in a particularly unsuitable spot with not enough light, but flower it did and I am more than grateful.
Time to take stock on mid-May flowering around Ball Rd. We’ve been having great weather for the plants — rain every couple days and temps in the 70’s. Front and center for us is the arrival of the first of the Bearded Iris.
We have a long row of Iris and this is the first of four to come in so far. The fragrance of the Iris is designed to make you forget about Daffodils.
Many other flowers are coming in for this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Roses, Clematis, Azaleas, Euphorbias, Peonies, Gallardias, and Alliums. But I wanted to call particular attention to a couple of the flowering trees that fill our woods. The premier tree right now is the Black Locust.
Think of the Black Locust as Wisteria that you don’t have to take care of and that doesn’t run wild all over your yard. The flowers and leaves clearly show the relationship to the Pea Family and the fragrance is very nice. There are insect issues later in the year with the locust leaf miner that gives the leaves a burned look and the locust borer that eventually does in the trees, but right now they are glorious. The flowers also lead to to wonderfully famous honey.
At the same time the woods are also full of Black Cherry.
The tree itself has many uses. The fruit is edible for birds and humans. The wood is premier for furniture working. And the bark is also known for herbal remedies.
One of the unusual flowering plants this week is Enkianthus.
The Redvein Enkianthus is a new one for us, but I have seen its dramatic fall color and it has a reputation of being an exceptionally sturdy plant once established. Like Pieris, a close relative, it should be a good fit to our area. The flowers remind me of Pieris, Manzanita, and Blueberries and other Heath Family members.
Another more unusual plant flowering right now is the Meadow Rue ‘Thudercloud’
These are acting as lovely permanent companions to our Camellias. As the name implies it has the foliage of columbine to go with these floating purple flowers.
Finally a few of the other flowers and then a look at the fully colored Goldfinches. May is a good month indeed.
And then lastly the amber waves of grain
Those were son Jonathan’s words as I posted on January 10th regarding my experiment with the Scilla peruviana this year. Despite reading (for instance on the Van Engelen site) that this plant was not frost hardy, I liked it enough that I wanted to give it go in Maryland. My original concern was that the plant poked it’s head well above ground in December so that I thought this one is so anxious to flower that it’s never going to make it. Well the plants survived the winter just fine but as of April my concern was that they weren’t going to flower. According to the Pacific Bulb Society they are notorious for skipping the flowering part of their growth cycle. However it seems that I just had to be patient for all the little Scillas to finish blooming. I guess these guys just don’t want to share the stage.
They are not only much, much larger than other Scilla but they put up multiple flowering stocks per plant, 4-5 apiece. Most of the spring bulbs are finished at this point. Just a few straggling daffodils and now these glorious Scilla peruvianas.
This extensive plant and multiple flowering stalks is the result of one $4 bulb from Brent and Becky’s. Based on our experience you can try this plant down to 10 degrees and expect it to not only winter over, but thrive.
The most recent flower to arrive on the scene today is a Japanese Roof Iris that had been overshadowed by an American Holly and surrounding shrubs for most its life. Thanks to the loss of the Holly that the falling apple tree knocked over (talk about your chain of events) the little patch of Roof Iris is getting sun they never imagined before. And flowering nicely as a consequence.
In a testimony to keeping your senses alive to that which surrounds you, I was walking in the woods this past week after talking to friends about trees that are flowering along with the dogwoods in the local woods. I had identified them as Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium) by reference to the web. I expressed the wish at the time that we too should have some of these pretty shrubs. And so I’m walking along, staring at my feet for unexpected wild flowers and I noticed some white flower petals. And I looked up to see not one, but three Black Haws on our property. Now, mind you, I have been walking these woods for 33 years and have never noticed what were obviously very old Viburnum prunifolium. So the lesson, dear reader, is that you need to be continually open to the surprises that nature has for you. And that no matter how much you think you know what you are about to see, each moment has its own gifts to offer should you choose to accept them.
Not two days later I was walking at dusk along the pasture perimeter and a strong fragrance (almost like honeysuckle) just stopped me in my tracks. I traced it to a small tree and then realized that I had discovered once again the Russian Olives that are randomly placed in some of the tree-lined borders. They have an intensity of flowering that makes you understand how they can be invasive but also a fragrance that makes you want to ignore the fact that they may be illegal aliens.
Yesterday we had a brief spate of intermittent sun. Enough time to grab a few shots of the developing garden and to throw a little more mulch on the developing weeds.
We have several large Tree Peonies that were added over the years. All are unknown varieties that were picked off the nursery tables and grown to full flowering size. They make a spectacular impression both in the garden and as cut flowers. More recently we’ve added intersectional hybrids (more on those to come…)
The first Clematis are beginning to appear as well. Last year we planted Clematis montana at the back of the rose garden and it showing rapid growth. We’ll have to decide whether to allow it to grow into the neighboring double flowered cherry tree which is what is seems intent upon doing.
As I mentioned in my last post this should be the high point for the azaleas which are blooming all over the yard, but they are looking a bit bedraggled by the constant rain. Azaleas should be a given in the DC area. They just grow and grow with little in the way of negatives. The lace bug does leave tracks in the veins of the leaves some years but mostly they are spectacular in flower and then look like boxwoods when they are not in flower.
They still managed to have a color impact on the yard when seen from a distance.
And then of course there are still more of the Allium which we have increasingly found to be a spectacular addition to spring flowering
and which lend themselves to detail photography.