Sunday, April 24, 2011

April Gardening Notes

April  arrived with a sudden change to seasonable and above average warm temperatures and with it, the pansies, azaleas, primrose, and a host of other cool weather plants arrived at nurseries and yes, the grocery store.

We spent our first "real" gardening weekend beginning the month long task of clearing away the dried stalks, leaves, and twigs that found their way into the yard over the winter, sorting out the damage to our beds from a particularly nasty winter, and planting bright pops of color in some of our planters and beds. 

Pansies have long been one of my favorite spring garden plants and primroses are a close second. Every day, we find new spring bulbs opening their lovely blossoms. And everywhere, the hellebores are filling out and flush with blossoms.

The azalea in the urn is a greenhouse shrub "forced" into bloom.  Supposedly hardy, (well, the tag says it is), after it's finished blooming I'll move it to a spot in the blueberry garden. With luck, it will survive the winter and bless us with blossoms again next spring.  
Our losses this winter were severe. Our sand cherry was devastated by an inattentive plow driver and we are not certain that it will survive to bloom as gloriously as it did last spring. 

We also lost much of the platycodon edging along the front of the shade cottage garden, another victim of the plow.  We shored up the bed and added some creeping phlox last week, but I will replace at least part of the original border when the plants are available at the nursery later in the season. I loved the way the border of the dwarf blue and white balloon flowers popped with color and I'm hoping that replacing them and having them interspersed with the phlox, I can extend color in the border well into June.

The tea roses took a tremendous beating. It will be a while before we know the total number that won't make it for certain, but our guess is that we've lost at least eight. In the grand scheme of things, that is a small percentage, but one bed was particularly hard hit (and we don't know why) and will need to do some major replanting in the coming weeks.

Last week, we pruned the sand cherry and tied the sliced portions of the trunk and a major branch together, hoping they will knit. We treated open gashes and the major cuts with white glue. Only time will tell if it will survive

Pansies are a cool weather flower and I have had exquisite luck getting both spring and fall blooms from my plants by cutting them back in June when they start to bolt, planting summer blossoms over and around them while continuing to keep them pinched back all summer. 

They are shaded during the hottest weather and then in late August, when the summer blooms are starting to fade and the night time temperatures begin to drop again, they spring back with thick growth and by early September, are covered with a fresh bouquet of blossoms that continue often into November. I stop deadheading them in mid-October so they can self sow for the spring. Some years I get quite a few, others none, but they are easy enough to plant again and it is usually my first planting.

Although the perennial beds are bursting forth with new growth, I am disappointed that I can not spot any primrose, whose wonderful showy faces I expected to see long before now. I planted several hardy primrose last year and have yet to see any hint of them pushing through the mulch this spring. I have not had a lot of luck with them in the past and usually treat them as annuals. So this spring, as soon as I saw them for sale at the garden center, I bought a half dozen and this weekend we put them out and about. Hope springs eternal, and I will definitely mark the locations and watch next year to see if any of them come back.
Over the past week, even more wood hyacinths have popped open and are in bloom as well as purple mini irises. And the air is heavy with the perfume of the larger garden hyacinths, Hyacinth orientalis, which are blooming in nooks and crannies all over the gardenscape. I couldn't resist - two blooms now sit in the middle of the kitchen table so I can enjoy them inside and out.

Indoors, I began the month with forced forsythia and magnolia blossoms decorating every room. 

This weekend, the  forsythia is in full bloom and the star magnolia is peaking, having opened it's first glorious bloom last weekend. By midweek it was covered with frilly white blooms.  

What will soon be just as stunning is the saucer magnolia. The buds have swelled and are ready to open at any time. This morning, Steve got up early and I did our daily "what's in bloom" trek around the yard while glistening drops from the overnight downpour still sparkled and shimmered on the petals.

The yellow magnolias always bloom later but both are covered with plump buds as well and we should have a beautiful display from each tree.

The deck garden now boasts some lettuce and cilantro and the peas should sprout any day. I'm planting radishes this afternoon. On the "flower" side,  showy rununculus are bordered by pansies and I am hoping to see hollyhocks sprout along the railing. 

But the real treat for me are the potted hydrangea and lilacs. Leaves are sprouting on every branch of the hydrangea and I am delighted that the lilacs have each produced clusters of deep purple buds that should be opening in a week or two.  These gorgeous shrubs have turned a rather bland deck into a beautiful oasis. I can't wait to share pictures of it when everything has filled out and is blooming!

The sun is shining this morning after a full day of pouring rain and a cloudy, wet week. April showers bring May flowers, and we're looking forward to finishing our spring clean up today. 

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