Sunday, May 2, 2010

Early Summer Blooms

I know I've been inundating you readers with garden posts lately, but who can blame me? Now is the time. The rains are coming, the spring flowering trees are leafed out in brilliant green, and we are stepping over the cusp of spring into early summer. Soon it will be hot and muggy and the garden will be completely taken over by fasting growing weeds of all sorts!
So while the air is fresh and the nights are still cool, let's especially enjoy the ferns! They are lush this year, as you can see in the case of these ostrich ferns.
And it's time for the tree peonies, a week or two ahead of the lactiflora peonies (what most folks call "regular" peonies). The bloom was exceptionally heavy on some of these last year and the rains were heavy at the same time, so there was a lot of weight on branches and as a result a lot of breakage.
Because of that breakage, the flower count was way down this year. But the blooms that are there are certainly lovely.
Some of these tree peonies are quite old now, too, and were moved from a prior garden. Maybe they are tired this spring like I am! Last year this purple one had about fifty blooms, but only about one-fifth as many this time.
Not all tree peony flowers are fragrant, but those on my two white bushes are very sweet-smelling indeed.
I love the variations in color from light pink, to pink, to rose, to deep rose pink.
They are very photogenic flowers and show off nicely in a close-up.
Here's a newer younger bush. The flowers are a delicate blend of pink and lavender with yellow centers.
Another young shrub, this glorious bi-color has two flowers for the first time.
If you want to grow tree peonies, here are a couple of tips. In the Midwest they appreciate a little bit of shade compared to their herbaceous cousins. Also, you can prune off dead wood after flowering, but don't cut back the foliage in the fall the way you do with the regular peonies. And they are grafted, so plant a bit deeper than you would ever dare with their cousins. They take longer to establish too, but I think they are well worth it!
Another garden beauty that hails from Asia is the Japanese maple. We put these two in about fifteen years ago and they are starting to get some nice size. Later in the summer, the leaves will turn green and then brilliant red in the fall.
I do love red things in the garden and so does the only hummingbird in these parts -- the ruby-throated hummingbird. Every year, I see them (when I'm lucky) taking nectar from the slender throats of these flowers on the dropmore scarlet honeysuckle.
Why include plants with tiny flowers and no bright colors? Because they can be fabulous, like this "Jack Frost" brunnera with its frosted veined leaves and forget-me-nots blooms. So elegant in the shade!
Charm comes in small packages sometimes, as with this dwarf deutzia shrub, only a few inches tall (Deutzia gracilis Nikko).
Some plants are not only lovely but interesting for their eccentricities, such as this interrupted fern -- the frond is "interrupted" part of the way up by the spore-making parts of the plant.
The hellebores are long-lived reliable spring-blooming shade plants. Here's one still going strong next to a Japanese painted fern that is just getting started.
The raised beds on the east get a bit more sun, so there's usually some color there. Right now the deep purple dwarf iris are finishing up and being overtaken by this easy-to-grow (too easy?) stoloniferous phlox (Phlox stolonifera Sherwood's Purple) that spreads by underground root-like "stolons."
This iberis, also called "candytuft" is short but delightful and quite easy to grow in well-drained soil.
Now that the full size lilacs are finishing up, it's time for the dwarf "Miss Kim" to take center stage. These are not tiny (over my head if not pruned) but they don't reach the heights of standard Syringa. They are wonderfully fragrant and fill the garden, especially on a damp cool night!
Two shrubs of Miss Kim frame the sides of the east garden gate. You can see that I haven't started planting the annuals in the containers yet. Maybe this coming week, depending on weather and arthritis!
Here's another phlox (Phlox divaricata), quite a bit taller than the stoloniferous kind, that is related to the woodland phlox called "wild sweet william." These take more shade and are sweet-smelling.
As you can see, the tall lilacs aren't all totally finished. Besides flowers, garden need quiet comfy places, like this two-seater glider, to sit and enjoy the surroundings and favorite people, like my husband David.
Although I don't go in much for gnomes or flamingoes (but each to his or her own taste, I always say), I do enjoy some garden statuary among the blooms. This piece is of special value to me because it came from my grandmother's garden. Behind the statue is a goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), which will have tall fairy-like white plumes later on.
Here's a view of the east side raised beds taken from the two-seater glider. As you can see, there is a lot of maintenance work to be done~
The big rhododendrons in the north yard are starting to open (next posting maybe), but meanwhile the hardy azaleas are stealing the show.
A close-up shows the delicacy and the interesting shape of the azalea flowers.
Here's a flower you don't see every day, the Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema sikkokianum). Like the familar Illinois woodland flower, it has a high tail, but on this one it is a striking black with stripes in contrast to the pure white center.
Even though it won't bloom until mid- to late summer, this Patriot hosta is a stunning showoff right now in the shady northwest bed.
We have three bird baths in our garden: west, south, and north yards. This one, a charming Celtic fairy, was made by a local artisan and was a birthday gift one year from me to my husband.
I like to mark the spot where I've planted a clematis vine with a bit of groundcover ajuga. It shades the roots a bit, which they like, and it's a charming little flower of its own as well.
Some people think the lily of the valley is weedy, but it's all a matter of opinion (and geography) as to what's a weed and what's not. Besides, I love the charming white bells and their heady scent!
Well, that's about it for now. Of course, something new will bloom soon and I won't be able to resist taking another photo. I want to bring out the houseplants, but the plant table is still full of annuals waiting to be planted in the containers! Happy gardening!

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