Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring in Champaign-Urbana

This is such an unusually beautiful spring all over town that I wanted to share some photos with you, dear readers, of flowering trees and bulbs that we discovered while driving around yesterday. First, the saucer magnolias are really full this year and very much in full bloom.
There are a lot of magnolias in both Champaign and Urbana. Almost anywhere we drive on the way to some local store or to friend's house, we see several of these in any given block right now.
I've recently found a darker colored variety that I like very much in a nearby neighborhood.

It's especially nice to see the purple-pink blooms near a white flowering tree.
This seems to be a terrific year for the PJM rhododendrons as well. They are very full flowering!
Like all early rhododendrons here, they are sometimes spoiled by late spring frosts. But these are great, and there seem to be quite a few around town, often planted in groups of three or four shrubs.
Many areas in our twin cities have the beautifully shaped white-flowering ornamental pear trees in bloom right now as well. Here's a row of them near the Urbana Free Library.
There are many varietes of wonderful viburnums, of course, and one of my favorites is the early spring blooming fragrant Viburnum carlesii, also called the "Korean spice bush."
There are several places where the viburnums have been planted in rows or hedges, and the scent comes flooding in through open car windows as you drive by.

But the best is to get up close and smell as single blossom and its sweet white gardenia-like fragrance.
Some of the early spring wildflowers are starting to bloom now too. Here's a nice clump of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in someone's yard.

Another lovely blue flower is the grape hyacinth, coming from a bulb. Here's a nice grouping in a nearby garden.
Although the warm days have started to cause some of the early daffodils to finish up, there are still plenty around in our own yard and all around town.
The daffodils are often planted with tulips nearby.
This is the best time right now for tulips, in fact, and there are so many different colors and varieties!
It may be that, in other climate zones, the different kinds of tulips bloom at slightly different times, but here I think it's all at once more or less. There are so many types of tulips: "single early," Darwins, Triumph, doubles, peony-flowered, fringed, lily-flowered, Rembrandt, "late single," and parrot tulips.
I love them all. I have a few in my own garden, but sometimes the rabbits bite off (but don't eat!) the blooms as soon as they open. So I enjoy seeing masses of them in other people's yards about town.
Probably these lovely displays are the result of a planting the fall before. Some people dig up their tulips and replant them, but most replace with new bulbs each year. I think the soil is too wet in winter for the same bulbs to survive well over a period of years.
I was lucky once, in an earlier garden of my own, to have found a spot that drained just right and ripened enough in the sun to leave tulips bulbs in place for bloom over many years. Since then, I haven't had that same experience again.
If you want to have big blooms on your tulips, be sure to keep the bulbs cool before planting in the fall. The ones that are sitting on shelves in stores in heat never bloom as well as those you order from nurseries that keep them in a cooler until shipping and that you keep in the fridge (produce drawer) before planting out.

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