May 27, 2012: With temps slated to hit the 90 degree mark over the holiday weekend, I decided to bring some of the beautiful bounty of the garden indoors where we could enjoy it. I remembered creating a bouquet a few years ago in this same chartreuse vase that had peonies and the little stems of pink flowers from coral bells (Heuchera). When I went looking to see what I had done in that bouquet that I so fondly remembered, I discovered that I used a much more limited color palette. This time I added a 'Border Charm' yellow intersectional peony, some catmint, old German irises, bronze fennel and a bit of sprirea whose flowers haven't opened yet.
In addition to the color differences, I discovered that the flowers I used in my 2012 bouquet were blooming almost three weeks earlier than when I created the display below on June 15, 2009. Just one more sign of our accelerated spring! The pink peony is the same one in each picture but picked early below and near the end of the bloom sequence when the color is much paler above. And the Heuchera bells are from a different variety as well. The daylily above is 'Cricket' while the species or lemon lily is on the left and Dumort's in the center below. The limey green flowers are Lady's Mantle and a few flowers of Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' are peeking out here and there.
Mark usually tackles the job of pruning our two old apple trees in late February or early March, when there is still snow on the ground but it's warm enough to spend an afternoon working outdoors. This year there wasn't the usual late winter kind of day to do that job, so it got done as the garden was actually springing to life.
Over the years we've made a habit of saving those apple tree prunings to use as an edging for garden paths. This year was no different and I put them in a number of locations as I cleaned up and mulched the beds in April.
For whatever reason — the warm winter, late pruning, unseasonably hot spring — a number of the apple hoops that I stuck in the ground have sent out new leaves. Just another sign of a year in which none of us know what kind of weather to expect next — or how it will affect the garden!
I planted Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' late last summer to fill a hole where I had removed a plant that could not take the burst of late afternoon sun that typcially hits a few locations in my shade garden. It's performing beautifully already this first season. Even though I planted the meadow rue because it could take sun, I was unprepared for the effect of its flowers up at eye level catching that late light. I was equally surprised with the color repetition with the dame's rocket in my neighbor's garden which is just visible through our fence. Always a great feeling when planting ideas turn out so much nicer than anticipated!
For the first time since protests against Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, began on Valentine's Day in 2011, the New York Times newspaper has written about the events here and got the story right. It is worth reading since it provides the backstory as well as current information. It is also worth reading for those of you who live elsewhere, because if everyday Wisconsinites can't beat the vast sums of corporate money that are being spent to influence this recall election, then democracy is doomed. And they will be coming for you next. Read the full NYT story — "How Did Wisconsin Become the Most Politically Divisive Place in America?" — here.
Illustration: Jens Mortensen for The New York Times
I ordered this 'Coral Sunset' peony from Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery last fall. Amazingly I had a flower this very first year, opening on May 18. And though it was only one bloom, it was spectacular. The bud started opening a lipstick coral and it only got brighter as it unfurled. Then it aged through an array of pinks. Three very hot, sunny days after opening it still looked good but by then was a delectable baby pink moving towards white! I can hardly imagine how gorgeous this plant will be in a few years.
The catalog described it perfectly: "Intense coral blossoms with overtones of rose and accented by full, deep yellow stamen centers. Outstanding plant habit. Roy's (Klehm) favorite coral. Slightly fragrant. American Peony Society Gold Medal Selection." Worth every penny! And so bright you can spot it across the garden peeking out from behind a group of yew spheres (top).
If you love peonies, stop by the West Madison Ag Reseach Station at 8502 Mineral Point Rd. When I was there on Friday (5/18) to help set up the WHPS sale, there were two peonies blooming right outside the office at the end of the parking lot. They were identified as "Coral N' Gold", which had an amazing gold center, and 'Abalone Pearl' which was pink fading to white. Both were outstanding in flower shape, color and the plants were huge and holding up the flowers very well. It's a great chance to see unusual cultivars in full bloom.
I picked 'Coral Sunset' to contrast with a weeping purple beech tree that is its neighbor (above). Here it is in the early moring light four days after it first opened (below). This group of pictures gives you a sense of what a mature plant of this variety might look like as the flowers come and go.
Even though time of day and the light can make colors look different depending on when a photo is taken, these pictures are all untouched 'Coral Sunset' peony.
The unusual weather we've had this Spring has made for some strange combinations as plants bloomed early and off schedule. First there were daffodils and clematis blooming together, and now I've got my earliest yellow daylily (Hemerocallis 'Gold Dust') open at the same time as yellow Trilliums (Trillium luteum) and an Epimedium (Epimedium grandiflorum sp. koreana 'La Rocaille') that is now putting on a second show of flowers after the first flush.
One of the things that has happened in Wisconsin as a result of Gov. Scott Walker's actions over the last 16 months is that residents are almost evenly divided on how they feel about Walker. There is only a small group of folks in the middle who have not made up their minds. Much of the conversation about dealing with Walker still centers on whether a recall is the appropriate way to resolve this situation.
The New York Times solicited letters on this topic a few weeks ago in respone to one from Mike Brost, a political science student from UW-Eau Claire, who was against the use of recalls. The Times published my response and I repeat it here for all those undecided Wisconsin voters:
PHOTO: WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTION
Though Mr. Brost suggests that recall elections "should be reserved for instances of nefarious activity" rather than unpopular legislation, in fact, “no reason need be given for the recall in the case of a state, congressional, legislative, state judicial, or county officer,” according to the Wisconsin Blue Book 2011-12.
Our most illustrious native son, Robert M. La Follette, put it best when he said, “The recall enables the people to dismiss from public service those representatives who dishonor their commissions by betraying the public interest.” Having personally collected some of the million signatures gathered to recall Governor Walker, I can attest that there were a multitude of reasons people gave for taking this step, but breaking the public trust was one of the most common.
Wisconsinites still invoke La Follette almost 90 years after his death, because he showed us what to strive for in representative government and how to do it. “Democracy is a life,” he said, “and involves continual struggle.”
Here in Wisconsin, we have taken up that life and struggle with a vengeance. A recall election may not be the path that Mr. Brost favors, but it is just as much an indicator of a healthy democracy as his “loyal opposition.” A million of us believe that it is the best way to ensure the health and longevity of democracy in Wisconsin.
LINDA BRAZILL Madison, Wis., April 25, 2012
You can read the letter that sparked the discussion as well as all the replies giving reasons to recall (or not) here. You can read a serious history of this subject by noted authority John D. Buenker, Emeritus Professor of History, UW-Parkside here.
Location: West Madison Ag Research Station, 8502 Mineral Point Rd. (on the right just past the stoplight on Hwy M). Lots of parking, rain or shine. The plants are under a covered shelter which makes shopping more pleasant.
If you're wondering what kind of plants you'll find there, let me just say that they are from members' gardens which means they are hardy here. Many are unusual since this is a sophisticated bunch of gardeners and many of them are in the horticulture industry as nursery folks and Hort profs at UW.
I haven't donated plants for a number of years but this spring gave me such an early start on the garden that I had time to thin a number of things. I don't know what other members may be contributing but my selection includes: old-fashioned bleeding heart, a Boomerang lilac, variegated toad lilies, primulas and pulmonarias, lily of the valley 'Hardwick Hall' whose leaves are edged in gold (originally from Klehm) and another lily of the valley with striped leaves (from the late Seneca Hill Perennials). And this nice weather means I may have time to add a few more things to my personal list of donations.
Looking forward to seeing you Saturday!
Full disclosure: I am a member of WHPS and on their board. I am also a member of Olbrich and the UW-Arboretum, as well as being friends with many gardeners associated with these and other garden groups. But in no instance am I receiving any remuneration, financial or otherwise, for my comments and support of these groups posted on this blog.