Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Topsy Turvy Calendar - GBBD, May, 2012

March winds and April showers 
bring forth May flowers.
                              ~ Old English Proverb

This calendar rhyme has held true for generations here in New England.  March is typically blustery and chilly.  According to another proverb, it "blows in like a lion and goes out like a lamb."  April is often the rainy month, and April showers give rise to the greening of the grass, budding of trees, and sprouting of bulbs that result in beautiful spring flowers in May.

These year, however, Mother Nature skidded back end over teakettle on the slippery of slope of winter into spring and got the entire thing wrong.  March rolled in on a heat wave.  Trees began to leaf out and spring bulbs sprouted and bloomed as temperatures climbed into the 80's with gentle breezes.  Magnolias and daffodils bloomed six weeks early.  Then it got cold, and for many of us things went somewhere in a handbag.

April was sunny and dry.  So dry, in fact, that we had fire warnings for much of the month.  The temperatures were more seasonable but the lack of water saw me actually watering the beds and everything new that we'd planted.

May has been warm, wet and windy... as strange combination indeed.  Breakfasts under the deck canopy were impossible with the wind frequently gusting to 25-35 mph.

In the garden, I've found signs of mildew on some of the roses and one of the yellow magnolias and aphids found the honeysuckle, but it's been hard to spray when the dry days have been so scarce!

In northeastern Massachusetts, you can count on common lilacs to bloom for Mother's Day.  Most of the lilacs bloomed weeks early - the common lilacs at right were fully open and beginning to fade by April 20th.

We had planted some later blooming varieties in order to be able to enjoy the sweet lilac fragrance well into Juneso we had some fragrant blooms for Mother's Day after all.

Photographed at the end of the first week of May, these lilacs bloomed in early June last year, a full four weeks later into the season.  Unfortunately, with all of the rain we've had, we barely got to enjoy them.

Colby's Wishing Star will bloom again later in the summer.

May brings a lovely medley of columbine, sage, coral bells (heuchera), and dicentra to the cottage garden.

The columbine began blooming several weeks ago and continues to thrill and impress as new blooms in an ever widening range of colors open in all of our perennial beds..

Evidence of self-hybridizing is everywhere. I saw some familiar varieties from last year and in some of the same places in the garden where they had b loomed before.  But in others, the colors were different, evidence that the columbine self-seeded and the blooms were a result of open pollination in the previous plants.

We also added some new varieties this year, including some with double petals in the center of the blooms. But may favorite is still the soft, pastel blue and ivory blooms that sprouted out of nowhere last year in our all white shade garden.


The last of the apple blossoms are winding down along with the last of the spring bulbs. We still have a handful of grape hyacinths and late flowering jonquils in bloom, but the star of the tree grove is the dark pink dogwood, Cherokee Chief.  .

Cherokee Chief, blooming in the tree grove behind the waterfall.

The last of the jonquils and daffodils.
A few last grape hyacinths bloom in the shade of the climbing hydrangea.
Another early bloomer is the wisteria.  The Chinese wisteria started blooming a full five weeks ahead of last year and the American wisteria, "Amethyst Falls".   The American wisteria usually blooms a few weeks after the Chinese wisteria and the large buds look as though they will be opening any time. 

The Chinese wisteria vines bloom in these shades of purple and lavender as well a deep, rich mauve and burgundy.
The buds of "Amethyst Falls" will be opening any day now.
We lost nearly an entire bed of iris to the destructive activities of voles, a consequence of a very mild winter and a warm, early spring.  In the main cottage bed, we were left with a few scattered iris tubers that sent up young, non-blooming plants.  Across the driveway, the news was much better;  the mauve clump on the island and the purple and white and pale lavender on the far side of the parking area were spared and are blooming beautifully.
The floribunda Scentimental blooms behind the iris on the island in the driveway.
In the water garden, the variegated yellow iris are beginning to bloom as well.
The cottage and perennial beds are boasting a bounty of color thanks to perennials that have continued to bloom over the past 6-8 weeks as well as newer blooms bursting forth from other plants every day. The hellebores and fragaria have been blooming for over two months and the dicentra have been blooming for several weeks as well. The  anemones just started blooming this week as have the bachelor's buttons and English laurel.

English Laurel "Otto Luyken", Prunus laurocerasus and fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra exemia
"Otto Luyken was a sleeper in a small bed behind our gazebo until it bloomed last year.  Prior to that, the shrubs languished and showed very slow growth.  After blooming last year, they have been revitalized and not only increased in overall size by more than 50% over last season, but are covered with their typical bottle brush blooms.
Fragaria "Lipstick", a wild strawberry cross, which produces very small but very flavorful and sweet strawberries.
In the shade cottage garden, white dicentra arches over variegated hostas and white hellebores.
Pink dicentra is a mainstay in both the cottage gardens and woodland garden.
The Snowdrop Anemones,  Anemone sylvestris, just started blooming.
Lilies of the valley make a fragrant ground cover in the cottage and woodland gardens and along the hill down to the back gardens.
The woodland garden likewise did not disappoint.  Our beds of trillium have continued to multiply, and the wiegela and Solomon's seal is blooming as well.

The azaleas added a pop of color in the woodland garden as well.
Trillium grandiflorum, brilliant white against the dark green foliage, is stunning in the woodland garden.
Our bed of red trillium has spread under the variegated willow.
Yellow trillium
The dark red blossom of the red trillium is a bright spot in dense shade.
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum commutatum)
Foamflower  (Tiarella) is an early surprise in this corner of the woodland garden.
Both the European and Canadian wild gingers are blooming as well, their rather unusual blooms tucked out of sight under their leaves.
Canadian Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense
The Canadian Wild Ginger bloom is larger and more dramaticthan the European bloom.
European Wild Ginger, Asarum europeum
The blooms of the European Wild Ginger are insignificant and easy to miss.
The azaleas, dogwoods, tree peony, yellow magnolia. and rhododendrons have also been blooming with abandon both in the tree grove and in the front of the house. 

Rhododendron "Capistrano", is a soft butter yellow.
Rhododendron "Nova Zembla"
Magnolia acuminata "Yellow Bird"
Tree Peony
Blooms of the red tree peony.
The blooms of the kousa dogwood just opened.  Over the next several weeks they will get creamier in color.
A few other surprises include some fragrant white honeysuckle, tall spikes of ajuga, sedum, and beautiful bachelor's buttons.

White honeysuckle has the delightful scent of vanilla.
The ajuga is a colorful ground cover for a shady area.
Yellow flowering stonecrop
The bees enjoy the bachelor's buttons as much as we do!
Elsewhere in the perennial beds, even the weeds are providing swaths of brilliant color.  Below, buttercups self-seeded throughout one of our perennial beds, and while we need to rein them in before they choke out everything else, they make a striking contrast with the penstemon.

Some of the showstoppers in the garden this spring are none other than the roses. Ordinarily, we don't see our first blooms until after Memorial Day, although the rugosas can occasionally bloom a bit earlier.  This spring, the rugosas began blooming nearly three weeks early, following the trend of the rest of the garden. They were soon followed by the floribunda "Scentimental", and then almost immediately the Knock-Out "Blushing".  Within a week nearly every rose in the garden sported plump buds, but it was "Zephirine Drouhin" and another unidentified climber who tied for the fourth place honorable mention for an early bloom.

Rosa rugosa rubra
The floribunda, "Scentimental", fragrant and stunning.
KNock-Out "Blushing"
"Zephirine Drouhin's" first bloom of the season.
We don't know the name of this climber but it is an early bloomer that continues to bloom all summer long.
This winter, the voles attacked many of our roses and hostas.  We lost nearly 20 roses, not to the New England winter, but to the hungry appetites of the many voles who tunneled through our bed, feasting on the tender roots and main stems of the rose shrubs.  We began replacing them immediately.  New additions to the rose beds often come budded and many have also started to bloom early, giving us a bright burst of color in nearly every bed. 

Clockwise from top left:  "Pat Austin", "Graham Thomas", "Heritage" (all David Austin English roses), and "Love's Magic" (Hybrid Tea)

Each month, gardeners from all over the world share what is blooming in their gardens with a Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.  Hosted by Blotanist Carol of Indiana, you can find links to visit all of the gardens that participate in this monthly bloomfest on her blog at May Dreams Gardens.


  1. So many beauties you have in this odd year. I just love all of your columbines and trilliums! Terrible pests those voles - not sure I could cope if they ate 20 roses! I lost two shrubs to gnawing teeth last winter, and am still rankling about it...

  2. Thanks so much for visiting! Let me tell you, we aren't coping very well either LOL. Replacing all of those roses has been a huge (and expensive) job. But the solar powered ultrasonic gizmos we bought seem to be helping.

  3. So many lovely blooms you have. Most plants bloomed early in Virginia as well. I am looking forward to growing so many of these plants once again now that I am back in Virginia. When I had voles years ago, I put battery-powered stakes that vibrated in the garden. The voles left and never came back. Are the solar-powered gizmos you mentioned similar?


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