Hands down, Paeonia obvata var. alba has the best seedpods of any plant I grow in my garden. The best seedpods of any plant I know. They are as beautiful in their own season as the flowers are in the early Spring. They were positively glowing in the late afternoon sunlight!
I have loved Agapanthus since the first time I saw one spending the summer in a big pot in a garden out of doors. I don't have the patience to care for such a tender plant in our house and we also like to take a break from gardening in the winter. So I gave up on ever having an Agapanthus.
Until I discovered this gem in the catalog of the late Seneca Hill Perennials. It's Agapanthus campanulatus and I acquired it in 2007 for $12.99 According to then-nursery-owner Ellen Hornig, this plant was "acquired from Wayside Gardens over 30 years ago and is hardy in the open garden in Zone 5, central Illinois."
She also noted that it was a modest size but a "robust grower" with the typical Agapanthus foliage and medium blue open flowers. I moved my plant a couple of years ago as it was failing to flower. It has significantly increased in size and this year I have four flowers. It's my pride and joy and I could not be happier to see it bloom this summer.
Alas, even though I've had it quite a while, I have never divided it. Though I might try to split a bit off to create a partner clump across the path this fall. But for the moment, I'm just going to enjoy the sight of these gorgeous flowers and fondly remember Seneca Hill!
I think it's time I accept that whatever I used to know about the weather at a particular time of year or in a given month, is only a memory and bears no relationship to current reality. Today is June first and we've had more days with temperatures in the 80s than I care to count. Yesterday it was 88 degrees F. (31 C.) at 4 p.m. What all this means is that certain flowers that one waits all winter to enjoy, bloom and disappear in a flash.
My white peony (Paeonia rockii type seedling from Seneca Hill) opened all at once at the beginning of the week and then got dashed a couple of days later by the rain. As for the rain, we only got half an inch at our house while other parts of Madison were being inundated by 3 and 4 inches (7-10 cm.). See what I mean about the weather.
Thanks goodness for the camera which lets me revel in my favorite flowers regardless of the weather or time of year.
Woodland peonies produce seedpods that are as gorgeous in this season as the flowers are in April.
These are all from my Paeonia obvata var. alba.
My Paeonia japonica produces similar seedpods but a bit smaller. These photos were taken about a week ago and the seedpods are even more open and exotic-looking now.
Though this plant is from the late Seneca Hill Perennials you can find similar plants at Song Sparrow, Hillside Nursery, and Plant Delights — just not every year. It may take a bit of searching but they are worth the effort.
If you'd like to see them in bloom, click on peonies in the category list.
It's also worth noting that the leaves on woodland peonies do not have the fungal problems that my regular garden peonies seem to suffer from by late summer. All my woodland peonies are still fully leafed-out and looking good.
It's the rare gardener who has not been seduced by Vita Sackville-West's famed White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle. Certainly I count myself among their numbers. But though I love white flowers, I like too many other colors to be disciplined enough to limit myself to a one-color garden. Instead I let my white flowers act as dramatic accents.
A recent article in The Guardian newspaper about The White Garden mentioned that many of its plants are too large for most modern gardens. This full-size, almost 60-year-old McIntosh apple tree is my equivalent. It's huge and scents the entire garden when covered with blossoms as it was this week.
The view of the tree from our neighbor's garden.
Equally fragrant, equally beautiful and even more dramatic in bloom is the diminutive crabapple, Malus sargentii 'Tina'
Tina has red buds which open white. She was blooming in the front garden while the big apple was in flower in the back garden.
I do have one small bed that's mostly white flowers including a white bleeding heart, Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White' and this Korean azalea, Rhododendron yedoense poukhanense 'Alba'
This Paeonia rockii from Seneca Hill has buds like giant marshmallows and massive ruffled flowers.
I've had good luck with foxgloves and just added this one, Digitalis purpurea 'Pam's Choice'
Primula sieboldii invaded by self-sown Trilliums
This massive Trillium grandiflorum was in the garden when we moved here.
One of the tiny "bells" from our Carolina Silverbell tree, Halesia tetrapetra. The falling petals carpet everything around the tree when they come down. We've surprised a lot of visitors with our "flowering" pine tree.
The tremendous heat and dryness we've experienced in Southern Wisconsin, coupled with our accelerated bloom schedule this year, means that not much is in flower this month. Street trees are dying and I'm seeing Serviceberries in gardens dressed in fall color and getting ready to drop their leaves. As of July 10th, the U.S. Drought Monitor had bumped southern Wisconsin up to "severe drought."
But I do have one flower that is giving me a thrill in the garden this year, especially since it hasn't bloomed for the last couple of seasons. As you may have guessed, this is an Agapanthus. But it's a perennial version of the more common tropical Lily of the Nile. Agapanthus campanulatus, or Bell Agapanthus, is hardy in colder climates. I bought mine from the late Seneca Hill Perennials, which noted that it was "hardy in open gardens in central Illinois," and suggested it as a Zone 5 plant.
But some of what I have since read suggests it is not really cold hardy to Zone 5, which may explain why mine grows but does not always flower. I have been assuming it needs more sun, but I'm not sure if that's the problem. Given our intense heat this year, maybe what it really wants is dryness and tropical temps. Whatever the reason, its beautiful blue blossoms are one of the few bright spots in the garden this month.
To see what's blooming in other gardens, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts this monthly meme.
There is nothing Mark likes better than flowers that are past their prime. When he goes out into the garden to take pictures for the blog, I never know what to expect. Same thing when it comes to cut flowers in arrangements in the house. He's taken dozens of shots of this white peony from Seneca Hill Perennials as it fades and the petals becomes more and more elongated and transparent. Since this is a young plant, I brought the second bloom indoors to enjoy as I didn't want the peony to use any energy setting seed. He won't let me toss the arrangment as there's lots more life to it from his photographic point of view!
Two years ago I ordered a rockii type peony seedling from the late great Seneca Hill Perennials in upstate New York. Here's how the catalog described it (and yes, I actually copied it down on my plant i.d. index card for future reference needs just like this):
" Just for fun . . . these are robust seedlings of a gorgeous plant that we raised from seed over a decade ago, and that utterly floored us by growing into a fine shrub laden with huge lazily-ruffled bright pink flowers with deep maroon basal blotches. Who knew? The only seedling of this plant that we've bloomed is pink like its mom, but with much more strongly ruffled petals. No guarantees, but there's no reason these seedlings shouldn't all make good plants. $14.99"
Two years later I've got a plant that is so stunning Mark and I both photographed it. However, it is not pink. It's snow white which I actually prefer. But no basal blotches on these first two blooms. Maybe some of the future flowers will sport blotches which I would love.
On the other hand, after only two years it is a huge shrub and, as you can see for yourself, the flowers are breathtaking. I was literally running out to the garden every fifteen minutes watching the first bud unfurl. The big flower held up surprising well to the wind and rain that followed the sun and warmth that made the it open so quickly.
Since it is an unnamed seedling, I am christening mine in honor of the nursery, "Seneca Hill Snowstorm." If anyone reading this is growing one of these seedlings, I'd love to hear about your experience.
For those who are interested, you will note I have a Seneca Hill Perennials catagory on the blog where you can find posts about all the plants I grow that I purchased at that nursery.
In March of 2011, I noted that the snowdrops had arrived just in time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. This year, the snowdrops have been blooming for almost a month. With rain on Monday, followed by a record high of 79 degrees F. yesterday, the garden is exploding.
The Hellebores are up, the woodland peonies are visible, as are Trilliums and primroses. But it's still only March and even though lots of plants have suddenly made an early appearance, the same is not true for their blooms. Still, this is much more of a show than we usually see on March 15th.
Giant snowdrop (note leaf size):
Crocus 'Snow Bunting':
Yellow primrose (unnamed variety):
Assorted hybrid Hellebores:
Thanksgiving Hellebore from Seneca Hill: Every time the snow melts, this Hellebore perks up. It's been doing that since it began to bloom in December:
To see what's blooming in gardens around the world on the 15th of each month, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens. She hosts this monthly Bloom Day for Garden Bloggers.
Though I always turn to Klehm first when I am thinking of peonies, this year Plant Delights Nursery is offering three of my favorites that are not always easy to find. I'm talking about woodland peonies, which I've had growing in my garden for a number of years. They are very early bloomers and seem to be able to withstand April snowstorms when they are in bud as well as bloom — assuming it's light snow and disappears quickly. There's nothing quite like a peony to say "Spring," especially when it blooms long before the more traditional big blowzy beauties.
The other great thing about woodland peonies should be obvious from their name: they can take a bit of shade. Mine are growing at the edge of the canopy of a Washington hawthorne, near striped maples and old Austrian pines — and not far from my two neighbors' black walnut trees. These are not easy to find and most catalogs seem to only offer them sporadically, so finding all three in the PDN catalog is a real boon. They are not cheap but I think they are worth the price. Now that I have them I can't imagine the garden without them.
The other plants that I want from PDN are all things that they were able to acquire when plantswoman Ellen Hornig closed her wonderful nursery, Seneca Hill Perennials, in 2011. Some of my favorite plants came from Seneca Hill and I was sad to see it close, especially knowing it was due to the ill health of Hornig's spouse. Last summer she sent out a notice that the house and the noteworthy display gardens that surrounded it were for sale. For a brief moment, I fantasized about moving back to New York and living amidst her glorious garden.
That dream can't come true, but I can order a few things in memory of Hornig and Seneca Hill. So my PDN order will include three Hepaticas from Hornig: 'European Pink,' 'Lithuanian Blue' and one with speckled leaves from the Spanish Pyrenees. I'm also getting Primula sieboldii 'Drag Queen,' a 2010 release from Seneca Hill (shown directly above). I've had great luck with both Hepaticas and Primulas and always intended to order more from Seneca Hill, so I appreciate knowing that not all of Seneca Hill's great plants will disappear with the closing of the nursery. And that positive give and take with other gardeners is another reason why I patronize independent mail-order nurseries like PDN. So, keep up the great work PDN — and the great catalog covers. This year's was a particularly effective coupling of plants and politics.