Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Japanese Tree Peonies at Olbrich

I made a trip out to Olbrich Botanical Gardens today, to check out their collection of Japanese and American hybrid tree peonies. Naturally, some were blooming and some were not, and it was a bright sunny day - terrible for taking pictures. But I did manage to spot some beauties!

Tree peony 'Leda'
My favorite was 'Leda', created by Nassos Daphnis. It is an American hybrid: a cross between Japanese tree peonies and the yellow species paeonia lutea. I am not normally too fond of this group - the odd colors seem to grate unpleasantly on my brain. But this one is nice. The color is unusual, but not harsh - an indefinable purplish coral pink. It forms a large healthy bush and blooms profusely. I especially like the lime green foliage edged in burgandy, which complements the flowers perfectly. Here is a close-up of the exquisite flower form:

Tree peony 'Leda'
The flower has dark purple flares at the base of the petals, giving it a tremendous sense of depth.

Amsonia tabernaemontana, allium, and tree peony 'Leda'

It's a lovely color but not one that will go with just anything. At Olbrich they have it planted near the cool blue of Amsonia tabernaemontana, which I think works well.

Tree peony 'Guardian of the Monastery'
'Guardian of the Monastery' was hybridized by William Gratwick, and seems to involve Japanese tree peony and paeonia rockii parentage. This plant has huge flowers with those fabulous rockii flares, but lavender-mauve is just not my favorite color.

Tree peony 'Shimane Chojuraku'
Another lavender-mauve one is 'Shimane Chojuraku' (somebody at Olbrich must like this color!). The name, sometimes spelled 'Shimene Cho Juraka', means "Long Life" in Japanese. Mauve makes me queasy, but I do like the dramatic, almost black flares at the base of this one.

Tree peony 'Shimane Chojuraku'

Unlike many Japanese tree peonies I've seen, 'Shimane Chojuraku' had a great plant habit, lots of good foliage, and excellent flower carriage. (Note to self: boxwood makes a good tree peony companion!)

Tree peony 'Royal Robe'
'Royal Robe' is a Japanese style tree peony raised by Toichi Domoto and Roy Klehm. It suffers from the typical Japanese tree peony problem of dumpiness and awkward habit - enormous flowers which do not seem to belong to the squashed little bush beneath them. But the deep color of these huge blooms was extremely compelling.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tree Peony 'Luoyang Hong'

One of my tree peonies is blooming!

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'
I'm especially excited because this is its first year to bloom for me. I planted it two years ago as a young plant. It is now a 4 or 5 year old - barely a toddler in tree peony years.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'
It made its debut this year with six blooms. The flowers are large, very double, and of a very cheery red-magenta color. The foliage is abundant and a nice mid-green. The flowers are only mildly fragrant compared to my other two tree peonies.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'
'Luoyang Hong' means "Red of Luoyang." Luoyang is a city in China famous for its tree peonies. This is a classic Chinese variety which is known for being a healthy, vigorous grower and prolific bloomer. Supposedly it can eventually grow to be 10 feet tall... in a hundred years or so. I hope it likes it here
in my garden!

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'

Monday, May 20, 2013

Late May stroll

It's mid-May. The loud flush of spring bulbs is over, and now it is time for the softer flowers of perennials and shrubs to take center stage.

In this shady corner at the back of my house, the fothergilla has begun to bloom, surrounded by lamium and some hostas.

Fothergilla major 'Mt. Airy', Lamium maculatum 'Orchid Frost', unknown hosta
The fothergilla is still a toddler - it should grow to a glorious 6-8 feet of splendour, eventually. Here is the same shrub from another angle. Here you can see the rhubarb across the path, with a clematis vine creeping through them.

Fothergilla major 'Mt. Airy', Lamium maculatum 'Orchid Frost', hosta, rhubarb
Here is another shot of the same lamium, blooming incredibly heavily in a sunnier spot. Lamium grows well (sometimes too well) pretty much anywhere, but bloom is better in the sun.

Lamium maculatum 'Orchid Frost'

The large old lilac "shree" (=shrub/tree) is also going strong, filling the air with perfume. This is the best bloom I've seen on this old fellow yet. Perhaps he likes the compost and mulch I gave him, after many years of neglect.
Lilac in bloom

In the sunny front rose garden, Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge) is blooming with an early fernleaf hybrid peony.

Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge) and Peony 'Little Red Gem'
Here is the peony closer up. It was just planted last year so is still quite small. The fernleaf foliage is fantastic. Unlike the straight fernleaf species peonia tenuifolia, this hybrid will supposedly retain its foliage through the summer. We'll see!
Fernleaf hybrid peony 'Little Red Gem'

Another early peony is also blooming. This one is the Mediterranean species paeonia mascula. It has large-textured foliage and gorgeous deep pink flowers. (The picture was taken after a heavy rain, so the flower is unfortunately a bit battered. Naturally, a peony must open just before a storm!) This is the first spring in my garden for both these peonies, so I am pleased that they bloomed.

Paeonia mascula
My iris cristata (Crested Iris) have also begun blooming. This photo is a major macro - the flowers are tiny, about one inch across at most. The cool blue color carries across the garden despite the small size, and the short, grassy foliage remains neat and perky all season.

Iris cristata (Crested Iris)
The shady strip at the side of my house is now flush with the expanding foliage of ferns, heuchera, Solomon's seal, and a dwarf oakleaf hydrangea. Bleeding heart and bergenia are blooming.

Blooming: bergenia cordifolia 'Winterglow', dicentra spectabilis

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's Blooming Today

Last month's Bloom Day post was titled "March Blooms in April", and as of May 15 we are still running quite a bit behind schedule. Most of what's blooming this mid-May day are plants we'd normally expect to see in late April. The heat has been really cranking up lately though - it feels like we're skipping "real" May entirely and advancing directly to June. Argh, my favorite month has been annihilated!

There are some blooms though. In my backyard patio bed, tulips and daffodils are going strong. I just planted this area last year.

Tulips 'Purple Prince', 'Monte Carlo', and 'Sweetheart', Narcissus 'Katie Heath'

My rose-garden-in-progress is still pretty bare. I haven't finished planting it up yet. A few things are blooming though, like these cute little species tulips and a spurge.

Lamb's ears with Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty', Euphorbia polychroma (Cushion Spurge), daffodils

There is also a patch of lamium is in full swing here, with some crunchy looking old hyacinths that need some serious deadheading.
Lamium maculatum 'Orchid Frost', Hyacinth 'Pink Pearl'

Most of the daffodils are worn out or gone now, but in this shady corner a few fresh-looking ones remain. Nearby is the ferny foliage of polemonium caeruleum (Jacob's Ladder), which should start blooming soon.

Narcissus 'Ceylon' and 'Ice Follies'

No peonies in the peony bed yet, but these 'Abba' tulips are blooming there now accompanied by candytuft. I grew the candytuft from seed last year, so this is the first year for it to bloom. Another spurge is developing its showy bracts here as well.

Blooming: Tulip 'Abba', Euphorbia 'First Blush', Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft)

I do actually have one peony bloom already: a species peony, paeonia anomala. This may be unfair because it already had a bud on it when I purchased it recently. I'm not sure if this is its normal bloom time or not, but it is said to be one of the earliest of peonies to bloom, so could be. The flower is small but the contrast between the magenta petals and the golden stamens is striking. This guy looks fairly awful because he was only recently liberated from his pot.

Paeonia anomala
Some perennials are blooming in the shadier parts of my garden too. Here is the shady border along the side of the house, with bergenias, white daffodils, and Bleeding Hearts just ramping up.

Bergenia cordifolia 'Winterglow', Narcissus 'Thalia', Dicentra spectabilis

Blue woodland phlox is looking cool here with 'Thalia'. Male ferns uncurl their fronds nearby.

Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon' and Narcissus 'Thalia'

The pulmonaria has been slowly cranking out blooms for a while now. The flowers start out raspberry pink, then fade to a pleasing dark blue. I think the spots on pulmonaria look icky, but this particular cultivar has nearly clean silver leaves.

Pulmonaria (Lungwort) 'Majeste'

The Canadian redbud tree is in its full glory. The amelanchier flowers have fallen, and the lilac is just beginning to form buds. Last year (admittedly bizarrely early), the lilac put out buds in March and bloomed in early April.

Cercis canadensis (Canadian Redbud)

In my "orchard" (ha), the brand new pie cherry is blooming nicely. Will there be cherries in its first year? Seems too good to be true... so probably not. It's pretty anyway.

Tart cherry 'North Star'
Now head over to Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to see what else is blooming in gardens across the world this month!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Tulips are peaking in my garden now, along with some of the midseason daffodils. They got pummeled by a hard rain, but most have bounced back pretty well.

Tulips 'Monte Carlo' (yellow) and 'Purple Prince' with narcissus 'Katie Heath'
Here's another shot of the same bed from another angle. The rose leafing out is a damask rose 'Ispahan'.

Tulips 'Purple Prince' and 'Monte Carlo', narcissus 'Katie Heath'
Nearby is another yellow tulip, 'Sweetheart'. I really like this one - despite its extremely large and somewhat open flowers, it holds itself up well. The soft coloration is fabulous. The large leaved plant in the background below is rhubarb.

Tulip 'Sweetheart'
Elsewhere I planted some orange fosteriana tulips called 'Juan'. These for some reason got attacked by squirrels, but the ones that survived look striking:

Tulip 'Juan'
My absolute favorites are these double early red tulips called 'Abba'. I just gushed shamelessly about them in a previous post. They are really too gorgeous for words.

Tulip 'Abba' blooming with Iberis sempervirens (candytuft)
The house came with these early tulips planted near the front walk. They are a bit ho-hum but cheery nevertheless. Apparently they have been returning with no help whatsoever for at least 10 years or so. Would not have been my choice, but I can't see my way to removing them since they are so happy with this space.

Early red and yellow tulips, unknown cultivars
Finally, and last of all to come into bloom for me this year, is this teeny little species tulip. The flowers open wide in full sunshine and snap tightly closed in shade, like crocus. I love the blue interior of the petals. Not something you can see from the street, but it is really very cute on close inspection.

Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty'

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Imposters in the Peony Bed

There are no peonies blooming yet in my peony bed, but there are peony-flowered tulips:

Tulip 'Abba' with tree peony
These are not peonies of course, but they do strike a similar chord in my soul. They are double-flowered early tulips, returning from last year. I think they may have even multiplied. This is a type that is supposed to perennialize well, so I had my fingers crossed, but of course you never know with tulips.

Tree peony, 'Abba' tulips, and lamb's ears
They are planted in front of my tree peonies, which will flower later. The tree peony in this picture is 'Luoyang Hong', and it has buds on it for the first time this year. I can't wait to see it bloom!

View of front tip of the peony bed
The bed as a whole is starting to fill in. Last year it was very bare. Some holes remain, but I've been working on planting it up with perennials. In the above picture you can see the lamb's ears and barely blooming iberis sempervirens (candytuft) in front of the tulips, some groundcover sedum to the left, and to the right a geranium wlassovianum, some iris cristata, and new shoots of lilies. A ruta graveolans (rue) which got broken off last year is vaguely starting to regrow.

Pinus mugo 'Slowmound'
There is also a dwarf mugo pine in this bed. Next to the pine are some penstemon, which will add blue summer flowers later.

Tulip 'Abba', Euphorbia epithymoides 'First Blush'
In front of the tulips I planted a variegated spurge, 'First Blush'. Reports suggest it is a temperamental fellow, but so far so good. I think the foliage looks nice with the blue-green of the tulip leaves - of course those will soon be an ugly mess.

One last picture, because I can't resist - of course I am holding my breath for the real deal, but these peony look-alikes make a nice substitute until then, no?

Tulip 'Abba' with tree peony, lily foliage, lamb's ears, mugo pine

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Daffodil Time

The daffodils are blooming and spring is here.

Narcissus 'Sound' and 'King Alfred'
I'm glad I planted lots of them last fall. They are still a bit sparse, since it's their first year, but hopefully they will naturalize and thicken up in the years to come.

Narcissus 'Ice Follies', faded color
It would be hard to pick a favorite, but I'm definitely partial to these 'Ice Follies'. I should be embarrassed about liking something so girly, but there you go. Above is the color once the huge frilly cup has mostly faded to cream. It starts out a strong primrose color:

Narcissus 'Ice Follies', newly opened, with puschkinia libanotica
This then quickly fades to a lovely soft shade:

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' with boxwood

These little 'Ceylon's are a nice medium yellow with what is supposed to be a small orange cup. Mine are more of a deep yellow so far, but still a very elegant daffodil. Here they are planted among the ferny foliage of Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob's Ladder).

Narcissus 'Ceylon'
I also like 'Barrett Browning'. They are white with a small cup and an orange-y rim around the center, and have a clean, perky sort of vibe.

Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'
(You'll have to excuse the horrendously ugly chicken wire spoiling the picture. I have resorted to drastic measures in an attempt to keep out rabbits.) Here's a long view of my back hedge planting, with 'Barrett Browning' in the middle, tulip 'Sweetheart' in front and tulip 'Juan' behind. The copper foliage is Ninebark 'Coppertina' just beginning to leaf out.

Tulip 'Sweetheart', Daffodil 'Barrett Browning', Tulip 'Juan'

I also planted some 'Katie Heath', a small triandrus type of daffodil with reflexed petals. It's very tiny and sweet, although perhaps not so impactful as the larger daffs. You can see it's hardly taller than a hyacinth. The color of the cup is an indefinable pinky-rosy-peach.

Narcissus 'Katie Heath', with hyacinth 'Woodstock' and emerging peony foliage
Here is my new patio bed, planted just last year, with some 'Katie Heath' sprinkled about. The tulips ('Purple Prince', 'Monte Carlo', and 'Sweetheart') are doing most of the work, but I think little Katie adds a nice touch.

Patio Bed in early May. Tulips 'Purple Prince', 'Monte Carlo', 'Sweetheart', Narcissus 'Katie Heath'.
 The tree, just beginning to open its flowers, is an amelanchier.

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