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May 2014

April 2014

Heaven Scent


Viola odorataI have been busy in the garden as many of you are as well but I have found time to lie prone with my nose buried in this patch of Viola odorata. Really, if you haven't had the pleasure of this fragrance let me tell you that it is as heady as that of the lilac or lily of the valley but it is unique. I picked many Mother's Day bouquets of common violet and always wondered about that fragrance in bottles of violet perfume. Where did that come from? The common violet had no fragrance. It seems to me that violet perfume was the rage many years ago just as violet nosegays were the rage in Victorian times. I cannot imagine the time it would take to pick enough of these very short stemmed beauties to make a nosegay. If violets were as ubiquitous as people with no jobs then I guess it was all profit but how much could one charge for this bouquet? I could not put a price on this scent. It is now, for me, one of the treats of spring. VioletsViola odorata is native to Europe and Asia. It is a perennial, hardy to Zone 5. It prefers rich soil in partial shade although it will grow in sun where the soil is not dry. It is pollinated by bees but I do think I have done a bit of pollination myself with my nose stuck in those flowers. The common violet can be a nuisance in the garden but not Viola odorata. It will spread but it is certainly not as vigorous as the common violet, Viola sororia, which happens to be the state flower of RI. All parts of both species of violet are edible. I long to have enough violets to make this cake. What about you? Have you experienced the scent of Viola odorata? Mine came from Logee's Greenhouse and they also have a pretty pink variety for sale. It is a small and dainty plant but its fragrance will follow you forever.    


Bloom Day - April 15, 2014

Iris Katherine HodgkinApril Bloom Day has arrived with April showers which is just as it should be. It is time to reap the rewards of past fall bulb plantings along with celebrating the earliest bloomers. The snowdrops have lost their pretty white flowers but there is much of interest to take their place in the gardens which are still being uncovered. Most of you know of Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'. She is tiny and her color is pale but satisfying. These clumps are a testimony to her happiness and mine. PansyWhat is spring without some smiling pansies? I have planted the containers by the back door with this little seasonal annual and while the plants need to fill out a bit, the cheery faces of the pansies and the bright spots of color lift the spirits. DaffodilsOther blooming bulbs include daffodils, White and purple crocuspurple and white crocus which are naturalizing in the front entry bed and Scilla siberica which also fills in and reseeds in the garden. Scilla sibericaSome call it invasive but this little ground cover provides early nectar and intense bright blue flashes of color. I prefer to call it a 'naturalizer' since it would be easy to eradicate and doesn't take the place of any low growing native. It is worth noting that this little flower has a sweet and unique fragrance which is best experienced lying prone on the ground with one's nose in the flowers. Beware, you may come out of this looking a bit smurf like since the pollen is blue and may show up on the tip of your nose. Kids love this little demonstration.  Glory of the snowAnother great naturalizer is the Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa forbesii. It faithfully blooms every year on Patriot's Day and it contrasts well with the yellow of daffodils or as a skirt around the witch hazels.  Hearts a Fire tulipOne other little bulb, this Tulipa Hearts a Fire, is not yet in bloom but with foliage this dramatic, who needs blooms? Cardinal helleboreIn the borders the hellebores are blooming. Hellebores are available in a wide range of flower colors and species and they are deer resistant. Golden helleboreI did witness a bit of chomping on the Helleborus foetidus flowers. They were nibbled off and left for litter on the ground right next to the plant. No matter, H. foetidus is really valuable for the fine fingered foliage while these others have lovely flowers and foliage which is less dramatic but still a wonderful texture. Witch hazelThe earliest blooming shrub in my garden is witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'.   This is still a small shrub having been planted just two years ago. Since this is its third year in the ground I am expecting leaps of growth this year. There is a frenzy of activity in the garden this time of year. Much of it is taking place underground as roots stretch, grow and absorb life giving nutrients but this gardener is keeping busy as well with cleanup, fertilizing, spreading compost, planting and, soon, dividing. Does anyone need any bee balm? It seems to be taking over the central garden bed. It is not difficult to keep busy this time of year. I look forward to seeing what is blooming in your garden and thank Carol of May Dreams, once again, for hosting another Bloom Day.


Fire and Ice


Great Wall
l-r. Sister Sue, Layanee, Cousin Mary Lou

I have been on vacation.  That is one excuse for not posting for three weeks. The other is the flu. Good reasons right? Well, vacation is over and the flu is gone and while there is still a bit of chunky ice here and there along the drive, spring cleanup has begun. I started with a bit of pruning. The Hydrangea paniculatas get a heavy haircut this time of year. This keeps them looking a bit neater while controlling the size as well as forcing some new and vigorous growth. They flower profusely when pruned in early spring. Entry Garden
The borders need tidying. Entry Garden cleanedThe leaves must be raked out of the gardens and since I have mostly oak trees, leaves continue to drop most of the winter. Even now there are a few leaf stragglers still clinging to the trees waiting for a bit of bud push to drop them to the ground.  Grass GardenThe ornamental grasses stand alone by the fish pond and cutting them back is a big job. Lighting them is so much easier and quite entertaining. Grass fireWithin three minutes the fire consumes the old growth leaving ash to sweeten the soil. I know, some of you are gasping but fire has been used to manage grasslands for centuries. Should you wish to burn your grasses, make sure to check your local fire ordinances and burn only if your grasses are off by themselves. One year I burned the grasses and some of the heaths which were in close proximity. Live and learn. Fishpond burningThe leaves have been raked, fertilizer has been spread and a thin layer of compost added to the entry bed. I usually clean the southerly facing gardens first and work my way around to those which face north. There is a very visible difference in plant growth in these beds. Burned grassesThe long border is the last to be cleaned and I often find a bit of snow hidden in the decaying leaves as I clean it. It will take weeks to get everything in order but for one who loves to garden, cleaning is a welcome if sometimes overwhelming chore. Three gardens done, seven to go. One bed at a time is this gardener's motto.