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!
Will they? Won't they? It's always a guessing game as to what might be in flower for this early Bloom Day roundup. The snowdrops, Iris reticulata and Chionodoxa have all come and gone. Hellebores continue to put on a show but the weather is still fairly cool and cloudy.
That means the garden is full of plants just waiting for a warm day to burst into flower. I dashed out to take a few photos while the sun was shining late Friday afternoon, but I'd barely started when it began to rain. I guess it's true what they say about April showers and May flowers.
Helleborus 'Kingston Cardinal'
To see what's blooming today in gardens around the world, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts this monthly meme.
I have Hepaticas planted in half a dozen locations around the garden. Some are varieties I ordered from specialty nurseries and some are native plants that came over the fence from my neighbor's wildflower garden. The Allen Centennial Gardens on campus recently posted a photo of a beautiful clump of these charming little flowers. Mine, alas, have been very shy about making an appearance. They are definitely sulking with our continuing stretches of cool and cloudy weather.
Luckily they look intriguing even when they are just beginning to appear (above and below).
Straight Hepatica species.
H. acutiloba f. rosea
Despite the tag in the ground next to this plant, I am waiting for its neighbors to appear so I can decide who is who in this group of three plants.
H. acutiloba 'Silver Leaf'
When the sun was out, the light seemed to wash out many of the photos I took. And the minute the sun disappeared, so did the flowers. I was amazed at how tightly they would close up just when I thought the light would be perfect to capture them. Maybe this weekend they will be a little more accommodating to this photographer.
The first time I saw the picture below, I went searching for the designer's name and committed it to memory: Jinny Blom. I've seen lots of images of her garden designs since then, including award winners at Chelsea.
I'm not in a big rush to run out and get it after reading an interview with her in the December 2016 issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine. There was a picture of Blom in her workspace with rows of art, vinyl records and books all lined up behind her. It looked like heaven to me.
I only knew Thomas from his rose books but his obituary in The Guardian newspaper in 2003 describes a career whose length and breadth few plants people in today's garden world will achieve. Here's a snippet from it:
"Graham Stuart Thomas, who has died aged 94, was a deeply knowledgeable horticulturist whose understanding and use of plants shaped many well-known gardens. As a great rosarian, he brought old roses back from retirement, and his books are still studied avidly. He approached the layout and planting of gardens as an art form, and over seven working decades changed our perception of gardens and plants."
I'm reading the third edition of this particular book, published in 1990 by Timber Press. It's a thick, meaty tome and a total pleasure to read or even just to peruse, dipping in and out at will.
It's filled with Thomas own illustrations in color and black and white as well as photos. The first seven chapters are all about garden design, dealing with shade and moisture, practical tips and more. All of it backed by a lifetime of experience and a willingness to make his opinion known!
He actually met the great Gertrude Jekyll late in her life. On a visit to her garden she told Thomas to "pick a piece of anything you would like to talk about, come back and have some tea with me." Hard to even imagine such an experience.
The book is divided into lists of perennial plants with separate sections devoted to grasses/sedges/rushes and one on ferns. With a book like this I like to look at what an author has to say about a few plants I grow and know well. With Thomas' book I looked at Geraniums and Peonies. He covers 24 species of Geraniums. I've grown 11 of the ones he mentioned and he's spot on in his descriptions and discussion (G. cantabriginese 'Biokovo', above).
I laughed out loud when I read at the end of the section on G. macrorrhizum, "There is an ugly variegated from." I've been growing that ugly one the last few years and it was already at the top of the list of plants that had to go before I read that. I feel quite vindicated in my dislike of it.
As for Peonies, he lists 17 species and I am growing 7 of them. These are all early woodland Peonies (like my P. japonica, above) and it's not always easy to find reliable information on them. So I consider this a real find. In the Peony section Thomas also devotes space to famed Peony hybridizers like the Klehm family in Wisconsin (Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery).
If there is a downside to the book, it would be the fact that it was originally published in 1976 and last revised in 1990. That means that plants have come and gone in the years when it first appeared to say nothing of the almost 30 years since 1990.
And yet I found so much useful and helpful plant information. Above all I enjoyed Thomas' voice and experience and suggestions. He likes plants that don't need a lot of work or staking and are still here because they have pleased gardeners for generations. He's not against hybrids but he is definitely a fan of species plants, as am I.
This is the kind of classic gardening book that was the standard for both gardeners and garden writers for many years. It's not the kind of flashy book that is in fashion these days but one that I think is still well-worth searching out.
Our April showers began last week. It feels like winter just doesn't want to let go with rain and wind, or plain cool and cloudy days. Last Tuesday the sun shone just as we were getting ready to go to a friend's house for dinner. I took advantage of the sun to cut a few things from the garden and popped them in this little Italian tomato paste can. I've been saving it for an early bouquet when most of the flowers are small.
This arrangement has a Hellebore, Iris reticulata 'Harmony' and three varieties of Galanthus: Flore Pleno (double), Viridipice (green tips on the inner and outer segments) and Magnet. My other snowdrops are still nothing more than leaves. I'm hoping I will still get blooms on them this year. Saturday was gorgeous but I was indoors at a daylong garden symposium! Sunday it was back to rain. Maybe there will be more choices to put into a vase by next Monday.
To see what other gardeners have taken from their gardens to put into a vase, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this weekly meme.
Is there anything better in this world than opening a book and falling into — and in love with — another world? I could go on at great length about this book — Herterton House and a New Country Garden — since I took about 4 pages of notes. Suffice it to say that it is a rapturous read if you love all the details of English country life, the work of bringing a long-abandoned 17th C. house back to life and every aspect of creating an outstanding garden.
Wonderful stories and characters abound and the photos of the house and garden are breathtaking, including those of the derelict property as it looked when Frank and Marjorie Lawley (below) moved into this National Trust site in the 1970s. Without the "before" images of both the buildings and the grounds it would be impossible to appreciate the feats of design and construction that this couple managed. While the Lawleys did much on their own they also teamed with an array of craftspeople whose work and personalities get equal billing in the book.
As an American I can only dream of creating a garden enclosed by walls that look as old as the house because they were often built using old stone found on the property, or bought or bartered as the years went by. Though Marjorie raised many plants from seeds and cuttings, early on they took advantage of a going-out-of-business sale at a 300-year-old nursery. The Lawleys came home with a treasure trove of plants including a 100-year-old "Harry Lauder's Walking Stick."
They opted to use many yellow-foliaged or yellow and white evergreens to "radiate heat" in the bare garden during the winter months, an idea that many of us cold climate gardeners might follow. As the image below shows, not every part of the garden was filled with flowers. Geometry and structure play a major role throught the property.
The Lawleys had enough room that they could grow on plants for the garden as well as for sale. They sold them wrapped in damp newsprint in plastic bags, the same way I usually package a plant for a friend. The book is graced with Frank Lawley's evocative — and often poetic — writing and Marjorie's detailed drawings and plant lists. As if their amazing gardening feats were not enough to bowl me over, the couple created an equally creative home as evidenced by pictures of them working away at needlepoint upholstery for their fireside chairs. No project inside or out was deemed too small or too large to be undertaken by this talented couple, and always with aesthetics as the first and the final consideration. I enjoyed every moment I spent with the Lawleys and think you will, too.
Monday — the first day of Spring — was warm and sunny with very little breeze. I decided to go out in the garden and try to get a little something done in a couple of hours. The temperature eventually hit 60 degrees F. (15.55 C.) and I spent the better part of six hours on my hands and knees or bending over from a standing position. It was glorious! The first thing on my list was to cut away all the foliage on my Hellebores since the buds were coming right up. This bin is just the clippings from my three original Hellebore plants, all Royal Heritage strain.
They really aren't that special given the wonderful Hellebores now on the market, but I love them because they were my first. And they are the only ones out of all the Hellebores I grow that have produced seedlings. Now I need to decide how serious I want to be about growing them on.
Before I play with the seedlings, I need to discover if the white bud at the top left of the photo above is a mutant from the main red plant or has jumped over from the pale Hellebore a foot or so away and is unrelated. Hard to tell at this stage.
I have three varieties of snowdrops (Galanthus ssp.) in bloom and other varieties sending up clumps of leaves. This is G. nivalis viridapace with very visible green markings. The snowdrops that are flowering are all quite different from each other putting paid to the idea that they all look alike. Even an untrained and uninterested eye would see the difference!
Tuesday was mostly cloudy and a good 20 degrees cooler. I went out for an hour but only to find enough leaves to pile on top of my species peonies which are all showing. This is P. japonica which might not care that the overnight lows are still in the teens. But I decided I was foolish to chance these buds getting frostbite. The daytime and nighttime temps are both about to rise which means the garden will soon need some serious attention. Next up on the list is cutting away all the Epimedium foliage before those flowers start to appear.
The staff at Olbrich Botanical Gardens always pulls out all the creative stops when it comes to their annual spring floral event. Of course, it's a real boost just to walk into a room filled with the scent and color of flowers in March in Wisconsin, but this year's display goes way beyond mere floral beauty. It is a clever, creative and utterly charming spring show. (Do double click to enlarge the pictures so you can enjoy the details.)
This year's theme of "Banquet of Blooms" is exemplified in a myriad of settings. The center of the room is designed for cooking with herbs and edible flowers in a kitchen complete with a vintage stove, sink, and cupboard full of cookbooks and tools. There are multiple locations for enjoying drinks and dinner in the garden as well as beautifully detailed recreations and imaginations of food made out of natural materials. This has to be one of the most labor-intensive spring shows the garden has done with hundreds of small-scale items created for decoration, dining and "eating" everywhere you look.
The addition of this Guy Wolff terra cotta rhubarb forcing pot from 2002 says to me that this display was created by gardeners who grow their own food and cook it! Such a telling detail.
The flowers and greenery are sometimes grouped in contrasting color arrangements and in others, the flowers flow in tones from pale peach to corals and pinks fading into lavender. This particular display of flowers took my breath away until I saw the table they encircled.
Note the silverware and the "flourless chocolate cake."
Below is the dreamy dinning table that won my heart. I think Olbrich should sell raffle tickets as a fund-raising benefit with the prize being the staff recreating this magical willow structure in the winner's garden.
This coming Sunday, March 26, is the last day to see Olbrich's Spring Flower Show. This is one you won't want to miss!