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.
I was pleased to see a bud coming out of my planting of Tulipa sprengeri this past week. But what emerged is very likely Zephyranthes dichromata. That’s pretty much par for the course on starting some of these unusual plants from seed. You can wait years for a seedling to emerge and then discover that it was either a mislabeled package or some friendly neighboring pot contributed some viable seed. It’s likely that the Zephyranthes jumped from a neighboring pot because they do seed freely. But then there are the successful outcomes like the big Paradisea that is just finishing in the greenhouse right now.
This is a beautiful lily-like plant more than 2 feet high that came from seed distributed by the Pacific Bulb Society in the spring of 2013. It grows wild in the mountains of Portugal and might be barely hardy here. Another successful seed sowing from the PBS in 2013 was Dichelostemma multiflorum which grows wild in California.
I’ve planted a lot of seeds over the past few years and managed to lose of lot of my seedlings last year when the water timer failed while we were on vacation. I’ve kept all those pots just in case, but decided last week to go through the hundreds of pots and reclaim the soil and pots.
I was delighted to find that some of those pots had seedlings just starting.
This all serves as a reminder that you have to patient to allow good things to happen. Another sort of patience comes with waiting for the first flowers. Four years ago I bought a tiny little seedling of Paeonia rockii from Wrightman Alpines. It has taken until this year to produce it’s first flowers. I think you will agree that it was worth the wait.
Another delightful species Peony that is flowering right now was obtained from Plant Delights
So returning to topic of planting seeds I should note that many of the seeds come up in abundance. They are often very cute as they so immediately resemble the plants that they will eventually become.
Altogether, looking at the three alpine seed exchanges that I participate in, the results are just short of 50% of the seeds successfully started so far. In other words, so far, so good.
The other part of the seed topic is collecting the ones that are appearing right now. Many of the spring ephemerals are putting out seeds in quantity now.
Often the spring emphemerals have elaiosomes on the seeds that make them attractive to ants. So there is a brief 3-5 day window when you can just knock off the seeds to collect them. Otherwise, if they fall, the ants will gather them up and take them home for planting.
And, of course, every seed is not only a potential new plant, but also acts as currency if you are involved in seed exchanges.
Let me close with a few more of the flowers that have bloomed over the past two weeks.
And lastly a beautiful new Allium from Odyssey Bulbs