Sunday, May 23, 2010

Late Spring Blooms

It's the same old story every year in east central Illinois -- late spring one day, hot and humid high summer the next! It hit ninety yesterday, after several weeks of cool nights, rains, and late spring blooms. Here's the last of the garden's spring bounty before the next season's flowers take the stage.

As with many of the flowering trees and shrubs this year, the rhododendrons were especially beautiful and covered with blossoms. The hardiest one we have here is this nice big Rhododendron roseum elegans. The rose red one is Rhododendron nova zembla.

Close-ups reveal what amazing flowers rhodondendrons have, with their delicate dotting on the inside of the upper petal and the airy stamens.

The Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) bloom considerably later than the better-know Cornus florida trees. Mine were covered with more blooms than ever before.

Another shrub that totally outdid itself this time is the beauty bush (Kolwitzia amabilis).

The weigelas were full-flowering this year too. This one is a hybrid called "Wine and Roses."

The tree peonies finished quite a while back now, but the "regular" peonies, also called "herbaceous" peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are now having their show. Here are some of the Japanese-flowered types, single flowers with contrasting centers.

Next to the red single is a fully double white one that is very fragrant.

The double pink also has a wonderful scent. Peonies make great cut flowers for the house (unless you have six cats who remove them and tip over the vase of water repeatedly), but be sure to remove the ants first. Ants help pollinate peonies, so they are always in great supply.

Remember too that herbaceous peonies should not be planted deep. They should be planted in the fall and then they take some time to establish, so don't move them around if you don't have to. Unlike the tree peonies, these babies want to have their foliage cut to the ground each year so the new shoots can get some spring sunshine.

Here's a gorgeous red one, a hybrid named Eliza Lundy, acquired long ago from plantsman Steve Varner. Steve passed away some years back, but he was well-known for his named hybrids of Siberian and German irises and daylilies.

Speaking of Siberian iris, they bloom with the herbaceous peonies and are at their peak here (or were before the heat arrived ... my photos and blog posts are always a bit behind). They are charming, easy perennials with upright sword-like foliage. The "falls" (lower part of the flower) have beautiful markings.

They mostly come in shades of purplish blue or light blue, but there are a few white and some wine-red hybrids as well.

Although the tall bearded German irises are better known, the Siberians are becoming popular. Unlike their German cousins who want to planted shallowly in gritty soil in full sun, the Siberians take more traditional planting and can tolerate a bit more shade and standard loose humusy garden soil.

In more shade among the ferns, the meadow rue (Thalictrum) are blooming now. There are meadow rues that are dwarf and ones that are giant. These white ones are about three feet tall.

Another plant with white flowers that's blooming now is the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), which spreads readily and can become a problem in some situations.

Here's a newcomer that was just planted this year in my scree bed, a dwarf broom (Genista lydia), covered with bright bright blossoms.

It's time too for the columbine (Aquilegia), which come in a wide range of sizes and colors. I've heard that they are "promiscuous" and interpollinate all over the garden, resulting in new colors cropping up each year in unexpected places (like the gravel path between raised beds or the front walkway).

Although the annual Dianthus, sometimes called "pinks" in the containers are just getting started, these tiny alpine perennial ones are in full bloom. The brilliant flowers have a sweet, clove-like fragrance.

I like garlic and onion in all forms ... in soups, stews, and in the garden! These relatives of chives are a lot bigger! Giant onions (Allium giganteum) grow from bulbs planted in the fall. This bunch has been around a long time now.

In this close-up, you can see how the big round allium head is made up of many delicate star-shaped florets.

Even though there are some summer perennials yet to come, this is the time for annuals to be the stars of the show. In my garden, they are mainly in containers around the yard and in hanging baskets, like this lovely purple Calibrachoa, sometimes called "million bells."

If they're the dwarf kind, snapdragons can make a nice basket too.
These pots will look a lot fuller in just a few weeks. Annuals grow fast in the summer!
I like a mix of colors in each pot, but I repeat the same annuals in the pot directly across the frontwalk for the sake of symmetry.
Hope you enjoyed this batch of garden photos. Stay cool and have a good summer!


  1. Beautiful! Nice article Susan--My uncle was ready to rip all of our Allium out as it is spreading everywhere. Then he saw the hummingbirds, finally back for the summer and they were all over the Allim. We were surprised and had never noticed that before. Needless to say, we are going to let it spread a little more!

  2. What a marvelous and beautiful garden you have!
    Such a joy!