It is Bloom Day and quite a different Bloom Day than one year ago. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground last March but this year has seen temperatures in the 70's already. Today though it is cold and rainy as befits a 'normal' March day. Is there a 'normal' concerning weather any more? On to blooms. Last fall I planted more crocus and many of you know that my least favorite color is school bus yellow but school bus yellow is a 'fifty mile per hour' color or perhaps a '100 yard' color. It can be seen while driving that fast or from that far away so school bus yellow it is mixed with purple to soften the glare. Snowdrops are also blooming in the photo with the crocus. I am working are larger drifts and pools of them. They do have incredible fragrance and spread quite easily. They are best moved as the flowers fade or while 'in the green'. The little Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' is a wedgwood blue beauty which has bloomed in this location for three years now. This is a tough color to see in the garden with leaves littering its base but up close it is soothing and sensational. The hellebores are sporting flowers and this one with the speckled face is an unknown cultivar. I have cut off the leaves at the base as they become quite ratty looking after snow, ice and cold has attacked them. The flowers show up a bit better as well. I know the foliage stays beautiful in climates a bit warmer than mine so perhaps pruning is not necessary for every garden. Gardening is so regional. Bloom Day this March seems much more promising than last year. Several gardens have been cleaned out already. As a New England gardener, I enjoy the down time of winter but an early spring is very welcome here. Many thanks to Carol of May Dreams blog for hosting Bloom Day. You can visit her blooms and many other gardens by clicking here.
I have been worried about the vernal pool in the back field. It often fills with water in the fall and stays full until mid-summer. Vernal pools provide habitat for frogs and salamanders and a few other creatures. Without the vernal pool some species would have to look elsewhere for breeding areas. This winter it was just a depression in the field after a very dry fall. It finally filled with water about a week ago after a hard, late winter rain. Crisis averted. I look forward to the sound of the spring peepers and finding a spotted salamander or two. The sounds of silence from this dry pool would have been quite sad. I know, you might call this depression in the back field a puddle when it fills with water but it really is an important part of this field ecosystem. You can read more about vernal pools here. Gibbs and I have been walking to the back field each morning. He can run off a bit of energy and I can take stock of the slow changes which happen as winter saunters into spring. I have noticed the lichens and moss on the fieldstone walls and some of those stones seem to defy gravity. The walls have been here for more than 100 years and the freeze/thaw action of winter and spring cause them to move and sometimes tumble. They served as boundaries and fencing for livestock as the fields were cleared many years ago. The EM mows the front field fairly often but the back field is mowed just in the fall to keep them clear. A bit closer to the house the gardens are showing green bits and pieces. The sedum is starting to emerge and the winter aconite's clear yellow blossoms seem to be providing food for someone. There are a few bite marks on these flower petals. Gibbs has not yet learned his place among the flowers as he promptly ate all the flowers off the few crocus blooming by the foundation.
He also likes to find a discarded pot and chew it thoroughly. But that face is so sweet that it is difficult to be mad at him for any length of time. I will have some extra picking up to do this spring. Picking up and training. Puppies are so entertaining and demanding. I was going to end this post here but Gibbs needed to go outside where it is a warm 57F.
News flash-the tommies are blooming in the lawn. That is cause for much celebration.
The are sure signs of spring in the garden after a heavy, warm rain washed away over six inches of snow last week and a warm weekend took hold. Usually, it is the snowdrops which bloom earliest but this year I spotted a dot of yellow under the Chinese Dogwood. Eranthis hymealis or winter aconite has unfurled. Yes, it is tiny but it is bright. I am hoping to see a carpet of these someday but right now there are just a dozen or so and they are coloring up a bit erratically. Still, I am happy to see this yellow. The crows are cawing and the wind has been busy drying up the mud and those are both more sure signs that spring is close at hand. The Helleborus foetidus, Stinking Hellebore, has been in flower for months although it has been snow covered. It doesn't mind at all. The flowers are a plus as this plant is deer proof (I don't say that lightly) and the foliage adds great texture to the borders. This is often the first green of spring. Late winter is the time of glowing emerald moss. It thrives on cool moisture here in my garden. It grows easily on the granite ledge outcroppings.The moss doesn't always grow exactly where I want it but here by the fish pond bench, it provides a soft carpet around the stones in the small patio. The days are noticeably longer and the bright sunsets have been accurate predictors of the delight of the next springlike day. I am not sure how many more we will have before winter asserts its cold presence once again.That presence will not last long once those first flower blooms have been spotted. Now, there is no stopping spring.
This morning, the birds are singing, the grass is greening and the scilla are in full, blue bloom. Scilla siberica, to be exact. This little flowering bulb reaches about 3" in height in my garden and it naturalizes beautifully. I have heard the word 'invasive' in reference to scilla but I prefer 'naturalize'. It does spread. That can be a positive. What makes one plant invasive and another a desired naturalizer? Well, this one has beautiful flowers of bright blue and they attract honeybees. It might crowd out grass but in my 'Freedom Lawn' that is just desirable. I do think its best use is as a naturalized ground cover. There is nothing as blue as the electric, black light blue of the scilla flower en masse. It blooms about the time of the daffodils and what could be better than that complement of yellow to enrich the tone of the blue or vice versa? Scilla is planted in the fall. Plan now to order some if you want your own carpet of blue. This is not a native bulb but then few are native to the USA. It is very hardy and it grows in Zones 4-8. The bulb contains a toxic substance so the deer do not eat it. That is a win around here. The bees however do love it. This plant is the first to bloom on which I see the honeybees. And, the honeybees have blue knees. Blue knees on the honeybees is a sight to see. They work the flowers as bees do and they end up with a nice cap of blue on their pollen baskets. I have long noticed the blue pollen but it was Kris Green, Interpretive Horticulurist and blog writer at Blithewold, who told me to look for the blue bee's knees. Persistence paid off. Yesterday was warm and windy and the bees were busy...well one bee was busy. I spent quite a while trying to get a shot of this busy bee. They move quickly from flower to flower wasting no time at all. I guess that is the definition of 'busy'. On my part, watching the bee was time well spent. I think there might be a children's story in that title, The Bee's Knees, what do you think?
The snow has left the gardens but there are still a couple of mounds in the drive from the winter snowplowing. No matter since now the garden work can begin. The crocus are up and taking turns debuting their outfits. The snowdrops have almost finished blooming which means that in spite of all the raking to be done, they need to be moved around right after the flowers fade. I have found that this is an easy transition time for them and they spread quite readily when given a helping hand. I just lift the larger clumps and carefully pull apart the bulbs. It is then an easy matter to pop them into the empty garden spots. Someday there will be rivers and pools of snowdrops. It is coming. The winter aconites are doing a bit of yoga with this salute to the sun. Theirs is the first bright yellow to appear, usually well before the daffodils which are just beginning to show color here I do see a bit of the tete a tete flowers pushing through one of the fallen, yet to be cut back, grasses. One expects bulbs in the spring but the first of the herbaceous perennials to bloom are the hellebores. This hellebore is a lovely rose veined variety, Helleborus orientalis 'Apricot Blush'. I do have some of the dark flowered hellebores but I find that they are lost among the richness of the soil so it will be these lighter ones which I will plant from now on. In the middle of the week I discovered that I am not the only one who loves the Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'.
Her cool, blue beauty attracted another admirer. In the dark of night either the deer or the rabbits decided to eat the blooms. The deer spray is sitting right there on the step. Live and learn. At least I got a couple of days of joy from them. Another task which has been checked off the spring list is that of starting the tomato seeds. I know it seems late since so many of you are in the warmth already but here it will take six weeks to get them to just the right size so they suffer no root stifling. I have planted them early in the past and have found that to do so results in the extra step of potting them on to a larger sized container. April 15th is the target date for planting the seeds here. I was one day off. The seedlings will be planted in the garden at the end of May. Tomatoes love warm soil so there is no use planting them any earlier. One other task which lightens the load for this gardener is the annual burning of the grasses. I can only really burn these by the fishpond as they are well away from other plantings. Usually this is done around St. Patrick's Day but this year I could not even get near them and they were lying under the snow. You can see how flat they are. These are Miscanthus s. 'Gracillimus' and Miscanthus sinenesis var. purpurascens. They are in excess of six feet tall by the time the fall plumes appear.I did get out the hose and the rake just in case there were any escaping embers but from start to finish, the grasses burn hot in under a minute. The ash sweetens the soil and the area is transformed. The fish didn't seem to mind at all. It was a pretty good week. I hope yours was filled with spring blooms and enjoyable garden tasks.
On Monday, March 30, 2015, it is snowing yet again and this March morning has all the steel gray warmth of an early January day. I did miss most of the snow of this remarkable winter but upon returning to New England in mid-March I have been privileged to witness the effects of the many snow storms of 2015. There is still a foot of snow on the ground in many places and the driveway has five foot piles of snow from the plow. The temperatures are quite chilly with the current temp of around 32F. There will be no raking in March. There will most probably be no garden cleanup until well into April. The days are getting much longer though and the sun is quite warm despite the cool air temperatures. The evidence that spring has arrived is here but it is slim evidence. Much of the garden is still covered but those southerly exposures are clear. The snow is receding ever so slowly leaving in its wake, sticks, mud, packed leaves and even a flower or two. Why didn't I plant five hundred crocus in this area in the back? Nature gives us the best cues if we care to look for them. I do have some Eranthis hyemalis aka winter aconite, blooming in the back and it really only takes a glimpse of this bright yellow to lighten one's spirit. I am marking the calendar right now to order some bulbs for fall planting. Next spring when the snow recedes, a bright carpet of gold will take its place. Gold and maybe some orange. I feel better already.
There are few things glowing in the garden in late October. The Japanese maples are the last of the trees to share their radiant colors and they are just in time for Halloween. This small red maple is planted along the drive under the canopy of a white pine grove. Its name has long been forgotten. The name of this yellow Acer palmatum "Omurayama' is one I happen to remember for some unknown reason. These maples sit in relative anonymity during the summer months although they both have remarkable textural interest for those who pay attention to such things. In the fall, they complement one another as you can see. Behind the fishpond bench shiny tulip bulbs have been planted for spring entertainment. This is a parrot tulip called 'Rococo'. It is described as 'cardinal red with purple and green feathering'. Very appropriate for a parrot tulip. Just in front of the bench, between the flat field stones of the patio, there is a quiet cover of moss which is as inviting as a Persian carpet. It is a bit too chilly to walk barefoot on that moss now that cool weather has descended but sitting on the bench, contemplating the scene, is quite meditative. The grasses by the pond are shining in the lower angle of sunlight creating a sharp vertical element next to the velvet carpet. A short distance away, the purple beautyberry stands out among the shrubs in the back border. This one is Callicarpa japonica. There are several species and cultivars available and this shrub can now be found in many gardens. That purple, well, it is quite royal I think. The berries of this shrub do not persist throughout the winter but they do add needed drama at the end of the season. Here in Rhode Island the days are getting shorter and the angle of the sun is much lower in the sky. The chipmunks are very busy running to and fro to their stone wall which frames the garden. There are just a few acorns this year and they are busy claiming them for their stash. There are still chores to be done but I feel like hibernating already. The next big drama could very well be the first snowfall. I hope there is something in between purple berries and white snow. The garden always makes me wait and see for myself.
It is that time of year again. Katharine has come to visit. She wears a wedgewood blue frock adorned with darker blue gemstones and panels of clear yellow. Her frock darkens ever so slightly in color as the days pass. This cool spring has allowed her a very long visit. And, she has brought relatives.The original clump seems fuller this year which may mean that she is happy with this site in humus rich shade. This iris is a bit stockier than others of her clan having sturdy parentage. A gentleman and part time plant breeder, EB Anderson, crossed Iris histrioides with Iris danfordiae but insects must have intervened as DNA testing shows the other parent is Iris winogradowii. Iris histrioides is native to Turkey and is blue. Iris winogradowii is native to Central Asia where it grows in alpine meadows. It is yellow and tends to be stoloniferous which may be the reason this clump above has increased in size. But who, you might ask, is Katharine Hodgkins? She must have been quite a beauty. She was the wife of Mr. Anderson's friend, Mr. Hodgkins but I can find little information on her. This plant was hybridized in the 60's. It has none of the 60's psychedelic coloration. It is refined and luminous although I do find that it 'disappears' in the garden and is best planted next to a well traveled path. This is its second spring here in my garden and I find her quite bewitching. I recommend her to every gardener as she is lovely and a somewhat unusal addition to the garden of little bulbs.
The blooms have finally begun. The snowdrops have been tightly wrapped until temperatures hit the 50's on Wednesday. I always get muddy knees trying to get a good photograph of the little bulbs and their flowers. The tommies have popped up. These were planted the fall before last so it is their second showing. The newer plantings have not shown their tops yet but they are in a bit less sunny position than these. They are showing color but are not yet open. The winter aconites have started with bright yellow blooms as well. I see daffodil foliage popping up but it will be a while before they bloom. Spring is a few days away and the temperature today was in the low 30's which keeps everything in suspended animation but that will change. It has to as spring is in motion. I can't wait to see what is blooming in your garden. Thanks to Carol of May Dreams for hosting yet another Bloom Day.
Well, they are not really buttercups but the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, is a member of the same family as the buttercup, Ranunculaceae. The one above is currently being buried by yet another layer of snow. Snow which will not last long given the prediction of fifty degree weather for the coming weekend. I hope this is the last snow of the season but, if not, the thought of the cheery yellow aconites and the clear white snowdrops snuggled under this newest downy blanket waiting much more patiently for a warm day than this gardener will keep me hopeful. Spring's march is often slow this month, more like a toddle or a shuffle but soon there will be no holding her back. Spring is an action word, after all.