My Bloom Day post featured flowers categorized by bright colors which left these two much more subtly-colored plants out of the running. I would describe them as more neutral in color but I am not neutral about their virtues.
I've been growing Fritillaria pontica for ten years and it's one of my favorites. The stems are a good twelve inches tall with nice-sized flowers making it more visible in the garden than many of the woodland Fritillaries. Excuse the rusty wire cage as this little Frit is not only a favorite of mine but also that of the marauding bunnies currently stalking my garden.
I often put these flowers in a vase with dusky or orangey Heuchera leaves. One of these years I need to plant such a Heuchera or a Tiarella in the midst of the Frits as I am sure they could grow through the foliage and then I would not be left with an empty spot when they fade away.
This Geum hybrida 'Mai Tai' was an impulse buy at the end of the summer in 2014. It struggled all last summer until I finally moved it under a Chamaecyparus obtuse 'Fernspray Gold.' It came up in a nice healthy clump this spring with lots of flowers. It's doing so well that I think I will try to divide it in the fall and spread it around a bit.
Most of the flowers in the "cocktail series" of Geums are quite brightly colored and flashy. 'Mai Tai' seems to go with everything and is much easier to place in the garden since it does not scream for attention. Both of these plants are superb supporting players; a concept that we gardeners often overlook in our quest for garden drama.
I only ordered two plants each from Rare Find Nursery and Old House Gardens, so I've combined my reviews into one post. Links to reviews of my earlier purchases from other mail ordered nurseries are at the end of this post.
I've ordered from OHG and written about them so many times that they are actually in my category list. I love their bulbs and all the history and stories behind them. But this is the first time I ordered anything for spring delivery. Again, I got an email with shipping and tracking info. This order came via the US Postal Service and arrived on schedule and in great shape.
As with each of my prior deliveries, the order form was on top so I could double check my order if I needed to. This was such a small order that I did not need to do that. But I looked at the paperwork anyway because Scott Kunst, the plantsman behind OHG, always writes me a note on my order form. This time was no exception.
But what is important to point out is that there were bright purple info sheets stapled to the order where you could not miss their messages: Replant your daylilies and true lilies ASAP and replant your iris TODAY! Since I bought three iris plants (Iris florentina) I did just that — and it started raining on me while I worked. So I felt very virtuous.
As for the item you can see in the box, I decided to dip my toe into the Dahlia water and ordered one Dahlia bulb, 'Cafe au Lait.' So, after planting the Iris I settled in to read the Dahlia instructions. The printed information was very complete and it also lists lots of links to more specific details on the OHG website.
One last bit of info: I receive a discount on my orders from OHG as a professional garden writer. That said, I continue to order from them each year because I love what they offer and have been very satisfied with all my purchases.
I'm not sure how I discovered this nursery — it may have been in a Google search for unusual plants — but I'm very glad I did. They have some fabulous trees and shrubs but I limited myself to two since they were an unknown quantity to me. But my first sight of the delivery box encouraged me. Then I got giddy when I opened it and saw what was inside.
These are a pair of bare root shrubs that have big root balls wrapped in plastic bags. Those weighty bases were taped and tied into place and did not appear to have moved during their trip from the East coast. The flexible new top growth was lightly bent to fit into the container. The paperwork included good information on planting and care for my new shrubs.
Look at these beauties. The larger plant is Hamamelis virginiana 'Green Thumb' which they sold in different sizes. I decided to order the largest one which came in a 3 gal. pot and was described as a 3-4' plant. This is a Witch Hazel with a variegated leaf and with the root ball measures 55" tall. It's shorter companion is Hamamelis vernalis 'Quasimodo'. I opted for the plant that came in a 2 gal. pot and was listed as being an 18-24" plant. With it's root ball it measures 28" tall.
Clearly these are exactly as described and worth the price ($55.00 each). They will each make an immediate statement in the garden. I am so happy with these two shrubs that I will have a hard time being so restrained when I visit the Rare Find website in the future.
Last Monday's high was almost 20 degrees ABOVE normal. We both worked in the garden and enjoyed lunch on the deck. The rest of the week the temps kept going down so that by Thursday our high for the day was 20 degrees BELOW normal. We also got some much needed rain at the end of the week. The result is that it was too wet in the garden to properly gather flowers for a bouquet. Instead I braved the weather and went to an estate sale Sunday morning to see what treasures were left and to take advantage of everything being half of the original price. I came home with this little bouquet of morning glories.
It's enamel set into a pewter bowl, made in China apparently for Neiman Marcus, the fancy Texas emporium.
My husband thought the colors were a perfect match for my fingerless gloves which I wear almost constantly until it really warms up. My hands are always cold when I'm reading a book or working at the computer. I thought the little Heath vase of Muscari that was sitting by the kitchen sink was a better match. So we combined them into one display.
Last fall I ordered three varieties of early Daffodils from Old House Gardens. I planted them in the new driveway border where we can enjoy them up close every time we go in or out the door. They are abundant enough that I felt free to bring a group into the house for a Monday bouquet. Since almost everything that's blooming in my garden at the moment is pink, yellow or white, the choice of vase was obvious.
I decided to use one of an unmatched pair of oversize mugs designed “To Commemorate the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1953, Wedgwood, Made in England,” as they note on the bottom. They’re both 4” high x 4 ¼” in diameter with motifs in pink, yellow and metallic glazes on a white ground. One was designed by Richard Guyatt, the one I used by Eric Ravilious.
During the Depression in the 1930s, the venerable Wedgwood and Sons decided to invest in new designs as a way to deal with the economic slowdown. The company hired Ravilious to bring a fresh look to pictorial design. He designed my Coronation mug, first issued for Edward VIII in 1936 (before he became the Duke of Windsor), altered it for George VI in 1937, and it was reproduced in 1953 for George’s daughter, Elizabeth.
By this time Ravilious himself was dead. He became an official war artist in 1940 and failed to return from an air-sea rescue mission off Iceland in 1942. To me the design is pure 1950s so it is always a bit of a shock to realize Ravilious designed it much earlier. Though I own nothing else by Ravilious, the mug introduced me to his wonderful landscape and garden paintings as well as his war work.
I always reach for one of these mugs at this time of year because they seem the perfect container for the first riches of Spring. It seemed especially appropriate this time as the Queen just celebrated her 90th birthday.
Flowers include Narcissus 'Beersheba' (1923), N. moschatus (1604) and N. 'W.P. Milner' (1869). The history of all the flowers they offer is included in the Old House Gardens catalog descriptions. I am a sucker for flowers with history as you can see from my inclusion of the dates each of these Daffs was introduced. 'Beersheba' is the largest one and its trumpet opens yellow and quickly fades to cream. Also in the grouping are Helleborus Royal Heritage Strain and H. 'Sympathy'. There's a spray of Dicentra spectabalis foliage and a stem of Hyacinth 'City of Haarlem'.
Last fall I planted five Eremerus 'Cleopatra' (foxtail lilies) and all of them have come up. Whether they will flower this year is an unknown, but at this point in the gardening year I'm more than happy to merely see they made it though their first winter, especially since we had so little snow cover and I did not mulch them as much as I now know I need to do in the future. This one is growing in front of a massive clump of Lilium martagon 'Mrs. R.O. Backhouse'. Though it looks like I planted two bulbs too close together, that is just one plant.
. . . it will come. Come to your garden, that is, whether you want it or not. It took me a long time but I've finally realized all those images of bulbs carpeting woodlands on English estates or suburban American lawns look wonderful because they have little competition. It's that majestic sweep that makes us want to create a similar look for ourselves.
Over the years my Crocus tommasinianus has migrated to every nook and cranny in the garden except for where I planted it. The snowdrops are better behaved and luckily for me have moved very little. But this blue flower — Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) — arrived unbidden and unwanted. It's in paths and the rocky dry stream bed, in carefully tended moss and Cottoneaster groundcover. Our garden has almost no grass left. It's designed as many small gardens separated by paths and hedges with virtually no grand sweeps begging for tiny blue bulbs. The front garden has the same problem but with Scilla that arrived in the roots of a tree a neighbor gave us years ago.
Both these beastly bulbs come up every spring and I try not to get annoyed. There's nothing that can be done and I am glad their season is short-lived. It's the bane of this gardener that the bulbs I am nurturing and spending the big bucks on don't increase half as well or as fast as these trespassers.
Walking around the garden Sunday afternoon, there were still vestiges of Saturday's snowfall. Lots of green things were pushing up but not much is in flower yet. The fact that blue was the predominant color visible pretty much determined what my vase would look like this week. To brighten things up I decided to add a few of the remaining snowdrops and create a blue and white theme.
I started with a blue-framed image from a magazine of a bouquet of blue flowers. Then I added a few antique pieces of blue and white china to suggest afternoon coffee and cookies. In truth, my husband and I always get together for a 3 o'clock cup of coffee and a little sweet treat so this is not as fanciful an image as it might seem.
All these flowers are petite — you know how spring flowers are — so I picked the smallest containers I could find. The Chinodoxa are in an antique Chinese snuff bottle (left) while the tiny Tommies are in a blue and white pitcher not quite as big as a shot glass. The Iris are in a deep purple vase.
Once I started to put the flowers into the containers and put them next to my other blue and white objects, it became quite apparent to me that "blue" is a color that looks one way in the garden but turns into something completely different when put with indoor "blues." In retrospect I felt most of these flowers are leaning more toward blue violet if not purple itself.
The addition of something red might push them back into the blue camp, but red flowers — other than Hellebores — are rare in my spring garden. Or perhaps lots more white might neutralize them. Conclusion: I don't think I can call these blue bouquets when I compare them to the surrounding blues, but I am happy to have something to pick this Monday and am not going to quibble any more about color!
Snowdrops are blooming in my garden! Just outside the library window on the south side of the house are a number of clumps of the common double Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis flore pleno, below) while a hidden corner of the garden has a nice little group of G. 'Magnet.' I wrote about 'Magnet' last year when they bloomed beautifully in their first season in the garden. They have become an instant favorite! The Snowdrops are numerous enough that I felt free to bring a few indoors for a Monday bouquet. Flore pleno are on the right and Magnet on the left in the photo below.
I have had this pair of Chinese cloisonné vases on little stands since I left home after graduating from college. I used to pick violets for my mother to put in them when I was growing up. She inherited the vases from her mother. Each Spring I still use them for violets: white in one vase and purple in the other. Their delicate stature means they are perfect for many spring ephemerals. Their small size also means they will fit in spots that are not big enough to hold most of my other containers.
This sandstone Buddha is on a pedestal at the end of the hall that leads from our bedroom to the rest of the house. So his smiling countenance greets us every morning. The perfect way to start the day.
He's 18th Century Burmese (Shan period) and is making a characteristic hand gesture known as a mudra. This particular mudra is the Vajrapradama Mudra and symbolizes unshakable self-confidence.
Our crazy warm weather has had me in the garden cutting back the old foliage on all my Epimediums before they start to send up this season's flowers. I've taken lots of photos but somehow have not managed to get them on the computer. You know how that is.
It feels way too early to be seeing Hellebores popping up and woodland Peony buds pushing out of the ground. Iris pumilla (below) is starting new growth which is fairly typical.
Seeing all these plants suddenly visible up sent me to my records to look at when they typically bloom in my garden. Snowdrops appear anywhere from mid-March to mid-April, though they've also arrived as early as February in 2012 when we had a warm, early Spring. Hellebores usually start blooming between mid-April and mid-May while the earliest the Epimediums have ever flowered was mid-April in 2012. So I will need to keep an eye on everything for my record-books.
While I was rambling around the garden looking at everything I discovered something I've never seen before in years of gardening. Something dug out Iris tubers and ate the better part of them! I grow at least six different varieties of Irises and have never had a problem like this before. I probably would not mind it so much if this wasn't a special old-fashioned pale yellow Iris germanica that I begged from my neighbor. Every Spring I look over the fence and admire it in her garden.
When I got a few tubers last summer, I watched them all season to make sure they settled in with no problems. And then I went looking for them this Spring to be sure they made it through the winter. They've been doing nicely until the last few days when I discovered the horrid mess you see in these photos.
Anyone ever have this happen to their Iris or have an idea about who might be doing it? Rabbits? Squirrels? Not the way I want to start Spring in the garden.