Saturday, May 18, 2013

Suddenly Spring, Part II: May 2013 Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

The forsythia and cherries are starting to wind down, but the bulbs continue to provide a burst of color everywhere you look.
It's almost mind boggling that most of the blooms featured in today's post were in bloom in time for the April Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post last year.  Granted, spring came very early last year and has been late in arriving this time around, but when the weather finally turned, almost overnight, color burst forth everywhere in the garden.

Ordinarily, the spring bloom occurs slowly and gradually from mid-March through the beginning of June.  This year, most blooms were at least 2-3 weeks behind (although we've almost caught up completely), and many things that ordinarily bloom sequentially like all of our apples, cherries, and crab apples) bloomed nearly simultaneously.

The hellebores were late and most of the earliest spring bulbs were also late -- ordinarily, the crocus and daffodils bloom weeks ahead of the tulips.  But I'm not complaining!  The garden is gorgeous, so lets take a quick stroll through some of the beds and see what is blooming -- or about to be -- on this sunny Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

In the front cottage garden, most of the petals have fallen from the flowering cherry, but the sand cherry has once again blessed us with a wonderful fragrance and gorgeous sprays of delicate pink flowers. Considering that we nearly lost this tree (you can read about that HERE), we enjoy every minute that this lovely tree is in  bloom.

The fragrant blooms perfume the entire front yard.  Note the golden blossoms of the geum growing over the curbing in front of the shrubs.
The red eyes of the sand cherry blossoms are stunning.  The delicate blooms of the Mountain Geum (Geum montanum) are a bright contrast to the dark foliage.

The sun cottage garden is a riot of color and perfume. The last of the forsythia shines brightly in the background while creeping phlox, columbine, tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths fill the foreground.  The apple tree blooms in the upper left corner and the sand cherry puts on yet another amazing display this year.

The columbine has started to bloom and I am excited that most of my favorite colors have come back this year.  Since columbine hybridizes and self seeds freely, I am always worried that the original plants, although perennial, won't come back and the seeds that sprout won't resemble the original parent plants.  Many more varieties are just beginning to bud, so we will be enjoying these beautiful little blossoms for weeks to come.

The red columbine are among my favorite, second only to the powdery blue triple blossoms and the solid indigo blooms.
The shade cottage garden hasn't peaked.  While the pink and white bleeding hearts and all of the hellebores are blooming, the rhododendrons, Solomon's seal, variegated Jacob's ladder, and coral bells are still a week or two away from blooming.

Brunnera macrophylla "Jack Frost" and the hellebores are dusted with cherry blossom petals.
Candytuft blooms in the foreground.  White dicentra will provide a lovely backdrop for the variegated Jacob's ladder that is a few days away from blooming.  The hostas have transformed from tiny spears poking through the earth to dense clumps in a matter of only 3-4 days. Missing is the dense ground cover of my favorite spring bloom - violets - which were carefully weeded out (in error) by a too helpful friend.

The mauve hellebores are among my favorites.  The deep burgundy ones are hidden between the mauve and white, hard to capture in a photograph, but stunning nonetheless.
Veronica "Georgia Blue" in the foreground and blue forget-me-nots make a stunning ground cover under the pink dicentra.

Heucheras in every color are forming soft mounds in and among the remaining tulip, grape hyacinth, and daffodil blooms.  The petals of the cherry blossom fell like confetti in the brisk winds this week. Veronica is visible in the background.

Our blueberry bed is under-planted with spring bulbs, and the blue forget-me-nots add even more color in this small but colorful bed. Although the spring bulbs have been in bloom for several weeks, there is no shortage of color.

One of the blueberry shrubs, covered with the nondescript blooms that will become berries in a few months.
Blueberry blossoms aren't particularly attractive but like strawberry blooms, they tell of sweet things to come.
The dicentra is particularly stunning this year, as are the apple blossoms.

Blue and white is one of my favorite spring color combinations.  Here, miniature white tulips, grape hyacinths, white snowdrops, and white creeping phlox create a colorful contrast to the Japanese barberry and New Dawn climber (out of view in this photograph).
The yellow magnolia Yellow Bird blooms weeks after our saucer magnolia and our other yellow magnolia, Elizabeth.
Yellow Bird's blooms are a deep, lemony yellow, in contrast to Elizabeth's paler, butter yellow blossoms.  Against a bright blue sky, the effect is striking and dramatic.
This is my favorite white lilac.  From Select Lilacs Plus in Canada, it is one of the few shrubs that is blooming earlier than usual;  it usually blooms after the common lilacs.  It has a lovely vanilla scent.  It opened over the course of three days against the colorful backdrop of the quince, also in bloom.
The flower plumes and individual blossoms are twice the size of our other lilacs, the fragrance equally heavenly.
The flowering quince makes a stunning display in spring.
The bright coral blooms are exquisite.
On the island where we have our Black Hawk Tail #517 memorial, the peonies are budded and daylilies and tall phlox have grown a foot in the past week.  Foliage of the daffodils that bloomed earlier provide a backdrop to the flag.  Peaking in from the left is the catmint, which is a colorful and graceful companion plant to the roses on the island, once the spring flowers have finished blooming.
But our huge Blushing Knock-Outs, which anchored the right side of the island, were dealt a serious blow by a well-meaning but overzealous friend who reduced the five foot high and wide shrubs to a cane or two.  The Zepherine Drouin that once cascaded over the mailbox suffered a similar fate, and our beautiful white honeysuckle was also cut down at its base, just as it was about to bloom.

Also blooming on the island right now are our first of the taller iris.

The miniature iris bloomed a month ago - they are among our first harbingers of spring.

Most of our the tall bearded iris and rebloomers are little more than green spike just finding their way to the sun.  But these beauties, which seemed to barely have started to grow just a couple of weeks ago showed buds on the weekend and the first two blooms opened Wednesday morning, just in time for the Bloom Day photographs.

The Zen garden is also starting to come alive.  The dicentra is blooming and the hostas grow inch by inch, day by day. We still have to move the large urn that serves as a tranquil fountain from storage and set it up over the reservoir, another chore planned for this weekend.

Above, the ajuga has come into its own as well, creating a beautiful ground cover along the front of  the Zen garden where a short walk leads to the front patio.  You can see a few blossoms of the raspberry pulmonaria on the left, which makes a dramatic contrast with the ajuga in this bed.

The silver-spotted leaves of the pulmonaria "Raspberry Splash" are as gorgeous as the beautiful coral-purple shaded blooms.
 Dicentra, lungwort (pulmoneria) "Raspberry Splash", ajuga in the Zen garden.

From the Zen garden, an undulating swath of sweet woodruff  (Galium odoratum) grows along the path that leads down the hill from the cottage gardens to the all white shade garden, forming  a scalloped border along the hostas that also mark the border of the walkway.

These columbines are a unique pale blue with an unusual double to triple blossom.
Our shade gardens have been temporarily in far less than partial shade  since the stand of large weeping willows on the neighboring property was taken down over the past two years.

Hopefully the shade will be restored by the tulip tree that sprouted in the shade garden, which we had moved to a more appropriate location next to the shade beds but not quite as close to the house as where it originally sprouted.

Unfortunately, digging up and removing the tree resulted in some significant damage to the perennials surrounding it, so we will be replacing them later in the month.  But I was able to protect the powder blue double columbines that have become my favorites.  (Yes, I know, powder blue in our supposedly "all white" garden.)

These columbines bloom later than the others and are just now sending their flower spikes shooting skyward.  When they were originally planted, they were white, but my guess is that they self-hybridized and self-seeded and the resulting plants now produce the most exquisite baby blue almost ruffled flowers.  I am loathe to move them for fear they won't survive transplanting and anything else that sprouts won't be the sweet blue blooms I have come to adore.

Usually the lilies of the valley have bloomed by now and while other spring perennials have at least caught up and in some cases, are blooming ever so slightly ahead of schedule, these gals are lagging behind.  The white ones are just budded and the pink ones have not even sent flower spikes up yet.

The good news is that both varieties have continued to spread in the areas where we wanted them to, and in a few years, we should be able to pick bouquets!

Every now and again, a spot of color shows up in the all white garden.  We acquired some "end of season sale" bulbs that were deeply discounted.  Some had no tags, others, we found, were tagged incorrectly, such as these remains of red tulips that were mis-tagged as white tulips .  We'll move them in the fall.

Entering the back gardens through the gate next to the walkway is akin to entering another world.

The honeysuckle on the fence (Lonicera x heckrotti "Gold Flame"first bloomed several weeks ago, just as the leaves were beginning to bud.  I trimmed it back a little at that time (it does tend to get unruly) and it is now once again covered with fresh growth, abundant buds, and happily, no aphids.

Despite it's tendency to attract aphids, which are easily treated with a spray of soapy water,  this honeysuckle has been a stellar performer since we first planted it in 2004. Gentle trims (mostly to keep it under control) after each bloom cycle throughout the growing season are rewarded by even more fragrant blossoms.

I've noticed that some people are not as fond of the perfume as Steve and I are.   While we find it sweet and aromatic, several guests have asked at various times what that "smell" is.  I don't fully understand how fragrances can be perceived so differently, but at least for us, it's a gorgeous, pleasantly fragrant vine.

Even after a period of extremely cold weather and heavy "killing" frosts, if the weather warms even slightly, Gold Flame will come out of dormancy and reward us with a few fragrant blooms. And this spring, she did the same when we had a preview of spring in early April.

One thing I have noted, however, is that the color of the blossoms on our Gold Flame seem more softly muted and less harsh than both the tag that was with the plant when we acquired it and the on-line photographs I've seen.  I was initially reticent to purchase this vine based solely on the photograph on the tag tbecause I thought the color was too close to a scarlet to blend well with the other blooms in the area where we wanted to plant it.  However, whether it's because it grows in partial shade or because of some subtle mineral effect in the soil, I find the blooms to be a much softer magenta-pink than most photographs suggest.

Just inside the gate under the honeysuckle and next to some lilacs, we planted the beautiful shrub Daphne x transatlantica "Beulah Cross".  

In full bloom, the intense fragrance of the Daphne reminds me of jasmine and gardenias and combines with the fragrant lilacs to create an exquisite natural perfume.

"Beaulah Cross" is the variegated sport of Daphne x transatlantica "Jim's Pride".  Jim Cross was a well-known and highly acclaimed plant propagator and hybridizer and the daphne "Beaulah Cross" is named for his mother.

"Beulah Cross" is our second Jim Cross daphne.  Several years ago, a lovely azalea that bloomed along the curve of our sunny cottage garden was destroyed by an overly aggressive snow plow while our driveway was being cleared during a winter storm.  

The owner of the plow service, Dave, was also the landscaper, who did such a wonderful job with the hardscape in our garden. Dave felt very badly that his employee had ruined the shrub and later that spring, he surprised us one day by digging out the dead azalea and replacing it with our first daphne, "Summer Ice". 

"Summer Ice" is also a variegated shrub with white blossoms brushed with pale pink.  Even in cold New England,  "Summer Ice" blooms from early spring through fall.  It's fragrance is as lovely as Beaulah's but a little spicier (just my humble opinion).   Unfortunately, "Summer Ice"  suffered the same fate as the azalea.  After two glorious seasons of fragrant flowers, she fell victim to the snow plow, even though we had carefully marked the boundaries of the bed with tall florescent orange plow guides.  We learned our lesson, however, and replanted the area with perennials that won't be at the mercy of the plows in winter.

Daphne x transatlantica "Beulah Cross"
Behind the daphne are white and purple lilacs which we received as a wedding gift from my mother in 2003.  Two small shrubs in gallon containers are now over ten feet tall and glorious.

The swimming pool pump, filter, and heater are located here as well amid a thick bed of strawberries and are camophlaged by a trellis covered by climbing hydrangea and several clematis.

The walkway into the back gardens from the gate had been edged with a thick border of Palace Purple heuchera, but they were likewise casualties of a misguided but well-meaning friend of ours who decided to move several of them to another area of one of the gardens.

We will re-plant this year as the heuchera were very effective in keeping the strawberries from wandering out of their bed into the walk.

Strawberries and lavender make a wonderful border around the base of the clematis on the trellis, keeping the roots cool.
The herb garden is greening up nicely.   I had been concerned that the mints and lemon balm would not survive the winter.

At the end of the summer,  we moved them into whiskey half-barrels that we partially buried in the bed and I was concerned that we had done this too late in the season for them to be established.  I needn't have worried.  The herbs are confined in their new homes and the entire garden is flourishing.

Opposite the daphne,  New Dawn grows enthusiastically along the fence.  It's a favorite haven for sparrows that have built several nests there.

Last fall we also planted several clumps of allium and grape hyacinths to add a dash of color to the bed in spring. I don't know the variety (they weren't labeled) but they are deep purple early bloomers whose flower heads opened well before the garlic chives whose buds are still very tight.
Purple allium contrast well with the lambs ear.  The purple and gray-green color combination is one of my favorites.
Garlic chives make a wonderful substitute for ramps and scallions in salad and
Wild strawberries, Fragaria x ananassa, make a colorful ground cover in the herb and rock gardens. The berries produced by this variety are small but very sweet and tasty and a favorite treat of the dogs, who routinely scour for ripe berries.
The perennial beds are still awash with color with mid-season daffodils and tulips.   Above, Spirea bumalda "Anthony Waterer" sits quietly in the background waiting for his turn to bloom. The spirea usually begins to bloom  in June and then continues off and on through the summer.

Roses and peonies are leafing out.  Many of the peonies have developed buds, but they are still weeks away from blooming.  Near the fence, another clump of allium is budded but they aren't in bloom yet. 
All of the beds in the formal garden are edged with a Munstead lavender hedge.  In the early spring, the hedge looks gray and lifeless but left to its own devices, the lavender slowly starts to green up.  We have found that early pruning is a huge mistake -- it's impossible to know what is dead and what is dormant -- so unless something is obviously damaged and broken, we don't prune the hedge until Memorial Day and we are usually rewarded with our first crop of lavender blooms four weeks later.

Munstead lavender slowly transforms from a gray and lifeless looking shrub to a vibrant gray green with bright green new growth.  With Munstead, new shoots often have soft, very long atypical narrow leaves that are easily confused with weeds. You know it's lavender as you can trace the shoot's origin to the parent plant and if you pull off a leaf and sniff it, it has the characteristic lavender fragrance.  As the shoot matures, it becomes more twig-like and the leaves become more typical.

The flowering crab apples and dogwood fill the tree grove with color.  From late March - early April thorugh latge October and sometimes into November.  At left is a Coralberry crab apple.  In center is another flowering crab.
The flowering fruit trees wrap the yard in color this time of year.  Usually we see the cherry trees bloom first along with the Cleveland pears, then the Santa Rosa plum and quince, followed by the crab apples and the big old apple tree.  This year everything bloomed nearly simultaneously which made for a striking display,

Blooms from the coralberry crab apple are a blend of pink and white petals opening from deep coral pink buds.
 The common lilacs opened first, followed by the hybrids.  The early hybrids are blooming now and the mid and late season shrubs should be a mass of blooms in another week, judging from the buds.

One of my favorite hybrids is this fragrant mauve lilac with double blooms.
The wisteria began blooming this as well.  We have both a lavender and a mauve Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) growing together.  The racemes of the lavender wisteria are fully open.  The mauve, which is my favorite, is not quite in bloom this week but will be following quickly behind.

The mauve blooms are just beginning to open.
The lavender blooms have been open for a week or more.
The grape arbor is also  starting to come alive.  We planted kiwi in this area last year as well (more about that later in the season!) and it over-wintered quite nicely.

Our English Laurel also known as Dwarf Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) surprised us with early blooms this year.  Last year it bloomed twice,  and I won't even guess at what it will do this year.  These shrubs were headed for the trash pile at a gardening center when we rescued them in 2006. They bloomed for the first time in 2011 despite being grown in nearly full shade.

English laurel, also known as Dwarf Cherry Laurel "Otto Luyken".  The shrubs are now more than 2 feet high spreading 3 feet across.
This is the earliest we've seen them in bloom; usually they bloom the first week of June,
The water garden is slowly waking up as well.  Usually, it has been cleaned and the plants repotted by this time, but the late spring has delayed the official "opening" (and cleaning).

Back to front, the cat tails, water mint, and varigated Siberian iris are thriving.
The bog beans (marsh trefoil) are among my favorite bog plants.
The woodland garden is never more beautiful at any other time of the year than it is in spring.  When we planted it, our goal was to always have at least one tree or a shrub in bloom from spring through fall.  We've definitely accomplished that, although we've had our share of fits and starts.

Seen through the branches of other trees in the woodland grove, the red blossoms of the native American dogwood, Cornus florida "Cherokee Chief," are beautiful, even in the rain.  Last year, we bought a "Cherokee Brave" which we planted in one of the perennial beds to help soften the effects of the sun.  We acquired it mid-season, long past the time for flowering, so we are eagerly awaiting blossoms this spring.
In addition to the early spring blooming shrubs and trees, the magnolias, crab apples, viburnum, dogwoods, and azaleas, our pride and joy, the trillium, never fail to thrill us.

It appears, however, that we have probably lost our yellow lady's slippers, and that is quite a disappointment.  They had not bloomed for the past two years but seemed to be thriving nonetheless. 

We're watching the spot where they usually appear each spring, but unless they poke their heads up very late in the season, I don't expect to see them again.  Both trillium and lady's slippers are protected in Massachusetts and it is illegal to harvest them from woodlands here in the state to move into one's garden.  We purchased most of ours from a  Canadian grower, Select Lilacs Plus, in 2006.  

We acquired some of the white grandiflora trillium at a member's only plant sale held as a benefit for the Trustees of the Reservations, which manages large tracts of public open lands and some historic estates here in Massachusetts.  They had been cultivated in Connecticut and made available for sale here.  We arrived very early for the sale and were fortunate to be able to acquire two of the few available at the sale.  Both have thrived and multiplied, but not with wild abandon.

I can understand why they need to be protected.  The purple, red and yellow ones were added more than 5 years ago and are just now beginning to self-propagate and spread under the trees, but there is something so very special about these gorgeous plants when they begin to bloom in spring.

Here, they grow nestled in  euonymus "Emerald Gaity" and a red azalea where they are protected from inadvertently being trampled by our dogs and cats who enjoy playing in the tree grove.
A bloom of one of our red trillium. 
They were slow to bloom and spread, but now they carpet the area under one of the variegated willows.
The yellow trillium are among my favorites.
Purple trillium and azaleas provide spring color under one of the variegated willows.
A path meanders through the tree grove and after a sharp turn around a sturdy southern magnolia, you come upon this lovely little sitting area where Steve and I enjoy reading and relaxing.  The temperature in the shade of the tree grove is often as much as 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the yard on a very hot sunny day.
Many people raised their eyebrows when we planted these araleas in the shade of the tree grove. Since we first planted them, they've bloomed enthusiastically each the spring and been a haven for birds who have built nests in them from time to time.
The bloom of the Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia
Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia, is a spot of color in deep shade.
Another shade-lover, foam flower, tiarela
Canadian wild ginger and Japanese painted fern
The blooms of both the Canadian and the European wild gingers are inconspicuous and close to the ground, hidden under the leaves.  They are easy to miss unless you watch for them and check every few days in the very early spring.
Under the canopy of the trees in the wood grove is a world completely separate from our other garden beds.  In the spring, the floor of the tree grove is filled with the blooms of bleeding heart (dicentra), Jacob's ladder, azaleas, trillium, wood and labrador violets, lily of the valley, tiarela, shooting stars, hellebores, viburnum, and lilacs.
In addition to all of the wonderful plants, shrubs, and trees growing in our gardens, there are also the less welcome, uninvited garden visitors.

The rainy days of the past couple weeks have resulted in an explosion of weeds, which occupied us most of this weekend.

Fortunately, Steve and I enjoy weeding as a relaxing pastime. But this large common burdock is definitely one over-the-top monster.  It actually does a nice job of camouflaging the ozone equipment for the pond, and I would almost be inclined to leave it if it didn't cause so many problems.

Besides seeding and spreading everywhere, it produces nasty burrs that the dogs get into.   And a very deep tap root makes it tough to eradicate.

Each month, on the fifteenth day of the 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. Lovely to see you back and posting!
    Over here we call the common pulmonaria Soldiers and Sailors after the blue and red flowers!
    You have so many of my favourite plants in your garden. Have you got any Muscari latifolia? I much prefer that to the common version.
    Heuchera? My collection is growing by the day.
    Looking forward to reading many, many more of your garden blogs and I'll try and send you pictures of my new garden when we move (cross fingers) love Helen

    1. Helen, Thanks for dropping by! No, we don't have any of the Muscari latifolia and in all honesty, I have not seen it any of the garden centers. Ours has the very thin leaves. Like you, I love heuchera -- the variety of leaf patterns and colors is astounding! I use it to make edgings around the cottage beds. Good luck with the move!

  2. What a stunning garden you have !!!!

  3. I am in awe with the strategic beauty of your gardens i am almost in happy tears .I too enjoy gardening but definitely
    at a much smaller scale.I am so happy my daughter gave me your link i will be following and learning from you very closely thank you for sharing your labor of love LYNDA RICHARDSON

    1. Lynda, thanks for dropping by. We're delighted to meet you!

      A garden doesn't have to be large to be amazing. If you go to the list of Blog Topics and Tags on the right side of the blog at the top of the page and click on "City Garden", you can see pictures of a garden that some friends of ours made in the middle of the city on a hill - it's amazing what they have been able to do with a yard the size of our patio!

      I look forward to your visits and am happy you found some useful information!


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