Two days of rain means that the garden is suddenly starting to pop. With the promise of sun and warmer days to come, it should explode next week. Can't wait.
According to my gauge, we received 1.13 inches (2.87 cm) of rain overnight on Tuesday and 1.04 inches Wednesday night and during the day today (2.64 cm), as of 3 p.m. Luckily no plants are up enough to have been damaged by the hail I heard pelting the house more than once last night.
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.
My street-side bed has a good covering of mulch but by the end of winter all you can see is sand, salt and street grit that has accumulated from repeated dumpings by the city snowplows. What looks whitish in these photos is the residue after the snow melts.
Saturday was sunny with temps that were nice enough that I went out to try to clear the grit off of this bed before it rains this week. I began with three different rakes (top photo), two orange traffic cones to alert drivers that I was working in the street, a bag of chopped leaves, and my pruners and kneeling pad. I really don't want any more of that nasty residue sinking into the garden soil that I can manage to avoid. So I raked off the messes, roughly re-edged the bed at the curb and then put down three big bags of chopped leaves.
Spent about two hours getting this all done and decided not to press my luck for my first day gardening. Could not believe how achy and creaky I was the rest of the day.
We knew we were not going to escape without one more snowfall. Current temp at 7 a.m. is 24 degrees F. ( -4.44 C.) and it looks like about 4 inches (10.16 cm) has fallen since last night. Still snowing lightly and blowing.
The annual Spring Flower Show at Olbrich Botanical Gardens is nicely themed towards families with young children. But there is an abundance of inspiration for home gardeners as well. The following are some of the ideas that caught my eye.
An arbor that's not made of flowering vines but a pair of some variety of Chamaecyparis obtusa held in place by stems of dogwood.
This gate (above and below) could easily be made by a handy homeowner. It could also be put in position just like this, without being part of a larger fence.
My garden has been overrun by Peter Rabbit and his siblings. They don't seem to pay attention to signs. But I would love to try a fence like this looping circle composed of dogwood twigs held together with a few upright stems.
One of my favorite displays was this overturned stump that sheltered tiny storybook characters. But I could also picture it as pure garden sculpture or as the base for a Clematis.
One of the things that can be frustrating about flower shows like this one is that many of the plants aren't hardy here and must be grown in a greenhouse. But these exotic-looking checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) are hardy and easily grown here.
This grouping of pink and white Hyacinth bulbs and pale blue Muscari along with a silvery Heuchera is a subtly beautiful combination. Most of my Heucheras look good almost immediately in early spring but I never thought to pair them with bulbs.
Soft pussy willow catkins against the sky reminded me that I should find room for another willow in the garden.
The Spring exhibit included a little garden shed tucked into a corner, something that almost every gardener dreams about. At the very least, I always have some terra cotta garden pots on hand. Some old, some unusual, always useful. Plus they remind me of the long history of gardening that I am part of.
Even one rain barrel with an adjacent watering can comes in handy. I am a sucker for an old container like this rather than a new plastic one — even black plastic!
I'm not a fan of PJM rhododendrons but I love old tin pails and watering cans. And nothing's nicer in a vegetable garden than terra cotta rhubarb forcers.
This is the garden season where we are making lists of everything we have to do as soon as we can work outside. Be sure to schedule some time to sit back and enjoy your garden, perhaps with a carrot and the daily paper.
And remember that there's no better place for thinking about the garden, designing it or making garden notes than right out in the midst of it!
Our burst of warm sunny weather has brought the snowdrops peeking through the surface in my garden and it feels like Spring. But it will be a long time before my garden looks like the bright and beautiful Spring fantasy that is currently on display at Madison's Olbrich Botanical Gardens through March 22.
The theme of this year's Spring Flower Show is "Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'." It's a treat for families with young children. There is also lots to engage grown-up gardeners as well. Information on days, hours and price can be found here.
A number of the characters from Potter's many books have been rendered as three-dimensional creatures made of chicken wire (above and below).
Jemima Puddle-Duck is my favorite among all the animals depicted in wire. She's immediately recognizable.
Some animals are hidden in plain sight, including Peter Rabbit himself.
Many of the most familiar characters from Potter's books appear in tiny tableaux interspersed throughout the springtime flower displays.
Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of any Spring flower show — and certainly of this one — are the combinations of flowers, herbs and veggies that can't really happen in nature because the plants bloom in different seasons and different climates. But for this one moment, they are all gloriously flowering together in breathtaking displays.
What could be more satisfying than the fragrance of rosemary or jasmine in March?
Or the sight of Beatrix Potter's desk adrift in a sea of flowers?
Depending on where in the world you garden this may not be big news to you. But melting snow is quickly revealing the bed on the south side of the house where my double snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis Flore Pleno) are planted. The high temperatures forecast through the beginning of next week suggest I should see flowers by St. Patrick's Day — if not before. A very likely possibility as I saw tiny green tips poking out this morning that were not there yesterday when I snapped this photo.
Our Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii') is the star of our front garden. At sixteen years old, she's beyond mature width which Michael Dirr lists as 9-12' wide. This photo from 2011 doesn't do her 16+ foot width justice. Height-wise she's in Dirr's ballpark of 8-10' high. Normally at this season she just glows with double rows of white lacecap flowers.
Though this shrub is on the north side of the house surrounded by mature deciduous trees and backed by an old yew hedge, our winter seems to have done her in. Mariesii is listed as a Zone 5 shrub and I don't really remember any dieback in prior years. Mostly we prune any vertical growth since it is a plant that emphasizes the horizontal.
This spring we've only seen leaves on the lowest branches, along with vertical suckers coming from the base. I was pretty distraught about this situation initially. At first we thought we'd just stand back and wait to see what happens. Since it was pretty obvious what was happening — the top of the shrub was completely dead — Mark decided to prune it back to live wood. At this point we're talking about putting off any decision about taking it out completely until next spring.
At one time we had planned to put stone steps up into this garden from the driveway, but then filled the space with trees and shrubs. We abandoned that plan because we couldn't come to a mutual decision about what to cut down for the necessary pathway. At this point, I think we're becoming resigned to the possibility of losing this Viburnum and gaining a new entrance point to the garden.