"The garden becomes almost unbearably beautiful. Every second is precious. But time goes so fast, and I can hardly breathe with the pace and excitement of it. I keep thinking, this is it. This is the moment."
— Sarah Don on the month of May from "The Jewel Garden"
Every spring my Rhododendron yedoense pukhanense 'Alba' puts on a stunning show covering itself in dozens of large white flowers. Its neighbor, Rhododendron yakushimanum 'Yaku Angel' does nothing. In twelve years it has sent up one flower bud. It is the type of Rhodie noted for indumentum, the brown fuzzy underside to its large glossy leaves. That alone makes it an attractive shrub so I haven't let its lack of flowers bother me.
But this spring, it sported eleven buds. Since each large pink bud opens into four or five flowers, that meant I would have a nice show from this shrub for a change. And the pictures below show how lovely my Rhodie's flowers are. But in a fit of jealously, 'Alba' does not have one flower. Not a dried up bud, nada, nothing. I haven't a clue what it means. Perhaps they had a quiet talk over the winter and decided to take turns on center stage.
It's May, it's May, the gorgeous month of May. This is the moment all of us understand why Carol calls her blog "May Dreams Gardens." Here's what's blooming in my garden. Visit Carol to see what's blooming in her garden and gardens around the country and farther afield.
Iris cristata (unknown variety)
Isopyrum biternatum (False rue anemone with Bloodroot foliage pushing through)
Tiarella x cordifolia 'Running Tapestry' growing through an Acer pseudosieboldianum seedling
Primula sieboldii with Trillium sessile
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilac Fairy' at the foot of Picea omorika 'Bruns pendula'
Bergenia cordifolia 'Eden's Dark Margin'
Bergenia 'Bressingham Ruby'
Dicentra spectabilis (OK, Lamprocapnos spectabilis but I really don't like that new name)
One of half a dozen Brunneras with variegated leaves in bloom: B. 'Hadspen Cream'
Gardeners in my area are very lucky to have a wealth of independent nurseries. I've visited most of those between here and Milwaukee in the years I've been gardening. But the Flower Factory is still my go-to source for tried and true plants as well as new introductions.
It wouldn't be Spring for me without a trip to The Flower Factory! I was a very good girl and only bought two things that were not on my list. Both were violets in bloom and too charming to pass by: Viola corsica and V. 'Etain.' At the top of my list were more ferns, including the new 'Godzilla' painted fern and cinnamon fern (below).
I have had great luck with Brunnera, so I picked up B. marcrophylla 'Silver Heart' which has a thicker leaf and is supposed to be more resistant to heat and humidity. Also got another dark leaved Astilbe: A. arendsii 'Chocolate Shogun.' (And splurged on a couple of Nasturtiums with variegated leaves at Whole Foods.)
Also bought a dozen or so Hakonechloa macra, the solid green form of Japanese forest grass. I am going to plant this as a ground cover in the moss garden as it transitions to a new concept. It will be interspersed with Cinnamon ferns. We will keep the large apple tree as long as possible and then replace it with a shady grove of we're-not-quite-sure-what!
Did you notice that most of my plant purchases are not very flowery? A good example of what happens the longer you garden: Foliage takes precedence over flowers. I am hoping to get everything planted before the predicted rains next week.
I keep looking at past April records to see if we are behind or ahead of schedule. It's a witless waste of time as the garden is on the schedule it's on and knowing what happened other years won't make a bit of difference. Thus, here's what's blooming THIS April 15!
Unknown Chinodoxa, probably arrived with the squirrels and is now colonizing the garden.
Iris reticulata 'Harmony'
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
Galanthus 'Magnet' (Snowdrop). Wish I had noted when this started blooming as it is still going strong and each bulb appears to have sent up two flowers. I am crazy about this snowdrop!
Helleborus niger 'Sunset Group' (Hellebore). This white variety from the still-mourned Seneca Hill has outward facing flowers which adds to their charm.
Hepatica acutiloba 'Silver Leaf'
Crocus tommasinianus (species crocus)
Helleborus x hybrida (Hellebore, the next two photos)
Hepatica noblis 'European Pink'. I've been waiting for this to do something since I planted it in 2012. Definitely worth the wait! (The larger flower is fading; the smaller one is the true color upon opening).
To see what's blooming in other gardens in the U.S. visit May Dreams Gardens which has been hosting this wonderful meme since before I began blogging in 2008.
Though we've had both rain and warmer temperatures in the last week, nothing has changed enough to create a different bouquet. So I thought I would feature my pale pink potted Pelargonium today. It's not an unusual flower — except that I managed to keep it alive through the winter and it's even flowering.
I bought a pair of these Geraniums for the table last Fourth of July. We were having friends over for brunch in the garden and I wanted something that would echo my hot pink tablecloth. I put the plants in fluted galvanized containers, stuck a tiny American flag in each and called it done. This Geranium also goes nicely with my husband's painting!
The first flowers are making their presence felt in the garden. There are not enough of them nor are they big enough to make much of an impact indoors. So I bought the ingredients for an Easter arrangement when I was out shopping. Though I planned to use an Ikebana basket I did not have a particular one in mind when I decided on the flowers, so I am pleased it turned out so well.
Easter morning I walked outside and just off the deck I found the ingredients to put together a last minute offering from the garden: Tommies, Iris reticulata and an unknown Hellebore flower.
Without the bowl of decorated eggs in the background it's hard to tell how tiny these flowers are if you are not familiar with them. Even the Hellebore is not particularly large.
I also thought it would be fun to float a flower from one of the 'Royal Heritage' strain Hellebores in a little bowl amidst all the Easter rabbits and carrots. The inside of the bowl is actually decorated with a red flower making it more difficult to notice the real flower floating there than I anticipated!
In the winter of 2012/13 we lost a sixty-year-old Austrian pine tree that came down in a December snow storm. It took out a good-sized Washington Hawthorn and a small Magnolia when it fell. I worried that those losses spelled the end of my shade garden with its clumps of mature Hellebores. Most of the Hellebores have done well even though they are now in almost full sun.
But last summer a big clump with red flowers was clearly being stressed by the changed conditions. So I decided to dig it up and move it. Mark suggested putting it in a bed by the house which he thought needed those dramatic Hellebore leaves to perk it up.
I grabbed a shovel and transplanted it to a much shadier location, but one amidst a number of trees and shrubs so lots of root and water competition. I added a second Hellebore next to the first clump but now I can't remember if they were from the same area of the garden. Despite what I consider to be my excellent record-keeping system, some times I really fall down.
Most of the Hellebores in that area of the garden were 'Royal Heritage' strain which is not limited to one color. So now I've got two Hellebores, a known red one and an unknown white one with a pink edge, both up and further along than any others in the garden. Clearly the warmth of the location by the house made up for the shock of transplanting.
Maybe when more Hellebores open elsewhere in the garden I'll be able to figure out the name of this delicate beauty.
Most years my Hellebore leaves look like this group from 'Ivory Prince,' a bit flattened from the snow but still attractive.
This year's cold temps and lack of snow cover mid-winter really flattened and blackened the leaves of most of my Hellebores. The green one on the left is a Thanksgiving blooming Hellebore and the one on the right is so brown and flattened you can barely distinguish it from the surrounding leaves. Time to cut them all off and get on with Spring!
This post is my response to The Patient Gardener's monthly meme suggesting we step back from our flowers and look at an area of the garden in its entirety. I am focusing on the sloping curve that surrounds our Tea House as that is an area I want to work on in the coming gardening year. I finally got started last summer after waiting years until Mark finished all the exterior work on the Tea House. (The side of the Tea House you can't see is still off limits as he has more to finish before I am allowed to plant anything).
This first photo was taken on March 6th standing at our back door at the edge of the deck. I never posted these so I decided to pair them with the end of the month view of the same area to show what spring is like in the Upper Midwest. The garden was obviously snow-covered with not much to see at the beginning of March. But you do get a sense of the rocks and evergreens. This snow had all melted until we got hit again about a week ago. That snow should disappear by the end of the day today.
This pair of photos (below) were taken at the edge of the deck. You can see some winter burn on the shrubs and the whole top of our bamboo is dead again as the result of freezing temps with no snow cover in the early winter. It was just beginning to recover last summer from the winter of 2013/14 so I am hoping it is OK after another rough winter. The tree in the foreground is a Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus Alternifolia) which almost entirely hides this view in the summer.
This last pair of pictures were taken on the west side of the garden where the path splits: You can take stepping stones to the left and go to the deck through a gravel garden or you can bear right and take a pine needle path up behind the Tea House to the little pool at the top of the stream.
I want to make this a low maintenance garden so I'm using plants that I've had good luck with; things that do OK with little attention and never seem to have pests or problems. So there are three tiny trees (Korean maples), lots of ferns (Maidenhair, Fish bone, Japanese painted fern), Hellebores, Arum italicum, Hostas on this side of the Tea House. On the front side with the steps are Yews and Boxwoods, groundcover Irises and Ajuga 'Caitlin's Giant'. Squashed Hellebore leaves, cages around the infant trees, and stakes marking plants to watch for (like Arum italicum which is making its first appearance this year) are all that's visible at this stage of the gardening year.