Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On with the show; this is it

For the next three weeks my front yard will look as good as it will ever look for the rest of the growing season—though, to be sure, it does look rather nice covered with fallen leaves or snow. The point I’m making is that early spring sun makes it possible for me to have a great bulb show; once the maple trees leaf out, that’s it. Then we’re down to shade perennials (which flower in spring), groundcover, and shade annuals—and we all know what a large selection of those there are!

All this makes me treasure the bulbs of spring—the only time vividly colored flowers that have interesting foliage and that aren’t impatiens can thrive in my front garden. This year, there’s big excitement (for me) in the area of species tulips. I’ve added t. dasystemon, t. greigii Donna Bella (shown top, and above), and finally there seems to be a denser carpet of color than mere clumps here and there. I can improve on it.

Erythronium are spreading throughout the space, and I am hoping to add more native wildflowers like hepatica (or more bloodroot, as shown above). Meanwhile, the existing violas continue to be as lovely as any rare bulb.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My submission for the plant doctors

This week on Garden Rant, I have asked readers to send in their plant problems so that the writers of What’s Wrong With My Plant can diagnose them. Check it out.

And I thought I’d start it off with (one of) my own problems—some weird growths/discolorations I’ve noticed on my wisteria.

Not a biggie; I mean, how do you kill a wisteria. But still, it is funny-looking

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Critical mass approaches

Maybe 10 years from now I’ll finally be satisfied that I’ve planted enough species tulips to make a decent show, but they’re getting there. It does take a lot of these dainty flowers to create any kind of presence. It’s all very well to take macro shots of them, but I’d like them to have more drama to the naked eye. Not to complain: like almost everyone else that is posting today for GBBD, I have more flowers than I would expect for this time of year: bulbs, early perennials, and shrubs alike.

And it seems to be universal: on a drive today, I saw many trees in bloom, including magnolias and cherries (though it seems early for them), as well as forsythia blazing everywhere. I went on an abbreviated wildflower hunt through a local preserve, but didn’t see much other than some mayapples, ferns and shrubs just beginning to leaf out.

It finally occurred to me that I could get the same drama from big hybrid daffodils that I do from hybrid tulips later in the season, so after having rejected them for years, last fall I planted 25 Eudora doubles to join the (what I assume to be) Ice Follies that have been hanging on in the garden since before I moved here. Clearly, daffs will perennialize easily even in my conditions, so it’s about time I gave in to that. Though the Eudoras are likely fussier. It is interesting how they mature from yellow to apricot.

There is also interesting color variation in the hellebores this year. Where once I thought I had two white varieties in the back, this year one clump is distinctly light mauve.

And I’d love to know for sure what these red species types are; I’ve had them for a while and the ordering information is long gone. But that’s what species tulips are for—to have them so long you forget what they are.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where will it end?

When I first started ordering spring bulbs about nine years ago, I was all about the tulips, the bigger, the better. Then I discovered species tulips, miniature daffodils, erythronium, and other smaller bulbs, plants that are not only charming but are more likely to come back year after year.

Now I have a yard full of all kinds of tiny bulbs—as well as a growing collection of hellebores (top)—and I love the dainty flowers, especially the two-tone species tulips like clusiana, humilis Persian Pearl, and orphanidea flava. But it’s time to move on. Now I need to collect all the spring bulbs that have interesting foliage. It’s much harder and likely to be much more frustrating, but here we go.

For the last 4 years, I’ve been growing erythronium Pagoda, which is very hardy with subtle mottling on the lush foliage. Last year I planted the revolutum, which is a West Coast native. It has more pronounced markings, though I find the blooms kind of weak.

And I’m very excited about the Greigii Donna Bellas that are coming up now. Talk about foliage interest—these have vivid purple and green markings that are supposed to last for 3 months. We’ll see, but they look good now. What other spring bulbs have awesome foliage? There must be a few others.

Friday, April 02, 2010

An overview of my garden (pretty much)

I have gotten a few requests for pictures of my garden in its entirety. It would be impossible to show such a thing in one image, or even two, as the garden stretches around the house, including completely separate areas that cannot even be seen from other parts of the garden.

However, I’m doing my best in this post. Here, you see some views from a second-floor window as well as individual shots of various beds.

And there you have it. Front, courtyard overview, side beds, back with sculpture, pots. It's not really everything but it's as close as we'll get for now.

April is busting out all over

Life is good. I, like most easterners, am reveling in an extraordinary spell of warm weather this week. I am also congratulating myself on planting iris reticulata and eranthis in the fall; their bright blue and yellow relieves the otherwise rather dull look of the early spring garden.

It’s the power of suggestion—Anna Pavord inspired me to take another look at reticulata (they are her new obsession), while fellow bloggers have long been growing early spring bulbs I never bothered with before. One reason was that the April frosts and freezes made me less than anxious about flowers outside, though I've always had snowdrops.

But here we are: the hellebores are lush, the erythronium are emerging, and the iris and eranthis are more than living up to their word-of-mouth.

You see here Katharine Hodgkin. Pavord says “Close to, it is extraordinary, but in a garden you need to think carefully where to put it. It … certainly does not need noisy neighbors.”

Well, my early April Buffalo garden is far from noisy. Katharine Hodgkin can shine here—and will shine even more when I plant more in the fall.