Not long ago the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society started a members' FB page where folks have been sharing photos of plants, asking questions and offering advice. The group also is offering informal workshops given by members on subjects like "Growing and Arranging Spring Cut Flowers" and "Expanding Your Shade Garden Palette." I thought it would be fun to do a workshop focusing on my early blooming woodland Peonies. However, our weather suggests they are going to bloom earlier than the date I picked for the event, May 11th! I came up with the date based on bloom times for the last nine years. We'll see how that works out.
Paeonia Mairei after it rained: Tuesday, April 11, 9:04 a.m.
The Peony pictured in this post is unlikely to have any flowers left by the time we meet. Since this is the first time it's bloomed for me, I have been taking pictures of its progress. I think I fell for these early peonies because there are so few shrubby plants with big flowers blooming this early in the season. They stand out in the garden in a way that more typical Memorial Day peonies do not.
Paeonia Mairei: Wednesday, April 18 at 8:58 a.m.
Peony Mairei is a Chinese peony discovered by Rene Maire in 1913. Hillside Nursery, where I bought it, said that it was the first to bloom in the spring. They were spot on. They also noted that the flowers start off dark pink and get lighter after opening.
The flowers close overnight and look like big soft raspberry marshmallows in the early morning.
Paeonia Mairei: Monday, April 24 at 8:43 a.m.
The leaves at this point are about 22 inches high with the tallest flower reaching 28 inches. The pictures below clearly show the flowers getting lighter as they open.
Paeonia Mairei: Monday, April 24 at 11:58 a.m.
Hillside Nursery says they grow in part shade to shade and Martin Page says "protect from hot sunshine." The black walnut in my neighbor's garden that shaded my peony was cut down a couple of year's ago. Since this plant is now getting western sun, I bought a peony umbrella last year to protect it as need be. At the moment, however, the umbrella is rather jerry-rigged in order to get the proper angle to actually provide any shade.
Paeonia Mairei: Tuesday, April 25 at 7:57 a.m.
The buds on Peonies japonica and obvata 'Alba' are just beginning to show a little color. Since rain is forecast beginning tomorrow through next Monday who knows when they may open.
Sunday morning a group of friends met to celebrate a milestone birthday for one of the members of our group. Then we went to Olbrich Botanical Gardens to enjoy a perfect spring morning. Brunch was fabulous and the gardens were looking gorgeous; in fact, they were thronged with families. I drove with the birthday girl and when she dropped me off at my house, I dug a clump of sessile Trilliums for her and gave her a bouquet of spring flowers from my garden that I'd picked earlier in the morning. I made one for myself when I made hers.
I decided all the yellow flowers in the garden deserved a yellow vase. I bought this little charmer back at Christmas at the Olbrich Growing Gifts Shop. I loved the idea of a different flower in each container. But I did not stop to think about the fact that they all needed to be filled separately. The other vases that I own that have multiple openings all share a large water reservoir. They are easy to fill and top up. I may need to get an eye-dropper to use to fill this new one!
But it was fun to use and it limited the amount of flowers I needed and the amount of work I had to do to create a display. The flowers include Epimedium versicolor 'Sulphureum' and E. pubigerum (white), Erythronium 'Pagoda', Helleborus x hybrida 'Sparkling Diamond', Hyacinthinus orientalis 'City of Haarlem', Narcissus 'Beersheba' and Primula veris. The leaves include Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart', Epimedium, unknown Spirea and Euonymous.
My first mail order plant — Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost' (foreground below) — arrived yesterday afternoon even as I was getting an email that another order had just shipped. I hope last night's low temperature of 35 degrees F. ( -15 C. ) is the last one like that I'll see this Spring. I want to be able to plant things as they arrive without having to harden them off!
I don't expect 'Miss Wilmott' will do much this first year other than get settled into her home. But I hope that she looks as ghostly in my garden when she flowers the first time as she does in all her photographs. I guess time will tell.
Last week Mark spent a morning reducing the water level in the pond and pulling out containers of water lilies in preparation to repot them — something that we haven't done for a few years. At midday I suggested we go to Saigon Noodles for big bowls of Pho so Mark could warm up after his morning climbing in and out of the pond. After lunch he suggested we stop at Odana Antique Mall since we had to drive right by it on our way home.
And look what we found! In one of the endless nooks and crannies we stumbled across this contemporary Chinese cement lantern. We snapped phone photos of it and took its measurements. Then we went home to decide if it would work in our garden.
We made our decision using a technique that we've employed many times over the years. We made a model to size so we could see how it would look in place. Mark used the phone photo of the lantern to make a drawing of it on a piece of cardboard. He quickly sketched in the design details, cut it out and stapled it to a stake so we could stick it directly in the ground.
Sometimes we walk around the garden sticking our cardboard model here and there until we find the perfect location. This time we liked the first spot we tried the cardboard lantern and so put the real thing quickly in its place. We wanted it visible from indoors and near the pond which is the traditional location for a lantern of this style.
This is a loose representation of a Yukimi or snow-viewing lantern. The roof on this kind of lantern is much broader than in other styles of Japanese lanterns. The term 'snow-viewing' refers to its resemblance to a bamboo hat with an accumulation of snow on the top. Though it's made of concrete, it is much darker and more subdued in tone than new lanterns. If we are lucky, lichens and moss will colonize it. Now I just need to clean up the dead garden debris that is detracting from the scene for it to be perfect.
I've been growing this tiny Iris in my gardenfor ten years. Iris lacustris 'Alba' is a dwarf lake Iris native to the shores of Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior and thus adapted to harsh and exposed growing condition. It typically grows in gravel — unlike its woodland relative I. cristata — and so that's where I planted mine.
In the last few years moss has been spreading outward from the hard clay path into the Iris gravel. I may need to move the Iris as I don't think this much moist moss is going to be good for it. But I love the look!