Friday, May 30, 2014

Tree Peonies in Bloom

The tree peonies have been blooming throughout the past week! Tree peony season is my favorite time of the garden year.

Tree peonies in bloom

A bit later than usual this year, due to the cool spring I suppose. This is Luoyang Hong (Luoyang Red), a very reliable magenta tree peony.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'

It is only 5-6 years old this year, but is blooming quite well for a young'un. I believe it had 7 flowers this year.

Tree peony 'Luoyang Hong'

I adore this white tree peony called Xiang Yu (Fragrant Jade). It is fragrant indeed - sweet and strong yet delicate in texture. It is the most fragrant tree peony I have ever encountered.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

It is a tall, slender peony with large flowers that get tousled by the wind. It is 5-6 years old this year and had 7 blooms.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

I love its striking red carpels and filaments.

Tree peony 'Xiang Yu'

My so-called "black" (really dark maroon-red) tree peony blooms a bit later than the other two in this area. It usually overlaps with them but starts in later. It has not yet opened all its blooms.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui'

The petals of this one have a unique shiny luster. It is difficult to photograph because the color is so dark. "Black" tree peonies are generally slow growing. This one is about 9 years old and has 10 flowers this year. It has an intriguing, musky-sweet fragrance, very "peony" like. This variety has some flowers at the top of the plant, but some buried inside the bush.

Tree peony 'Wu Jin Yao Hui' with Rue, Candytuft, and Lamb's Ears

I'm very excited that my new Rockii peony bloomed this year. This is its first spring in my garden, so it's a treat to have even one bloom.
Paeonia rockii 'Rock's Variety'

Rockii peonies can grow quite large and have many blooms. It has a pleasant, sweet fragrance (although not nearly as strong as Xiang Yu). Aren't those purple blotches fabulous?

Paeonia rockii 'Rock's Variety'

My one small disappointment is that my fifth tree peony (a coral-pink variety called Shan Hu Tai, or Coral Terrace) has no buds this year. Bummer! This is its second spring in my garden, and the plant is probably about 4 years old, so I was hoping for a sample flower. But this is not unusual for tree peonies - some do not bloom until they are 5-6 years old. The foliage looks healthy and the plant is growing well, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for next year...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chipmunk Interlude

I just had to take a break from posting about plants to show you this other little garden feature: Mr. Chipmunk.


He lives under our house, and is very cute. He is a shy fellow who normally runs away whenever we get near, but I was able to take his picture through the glass door - he probably could not see that I was around through the reflection.


He does dig little holes here and about, and leaves behind little messes of nibbled seedpods after eating, but other than that does no harm that I can see, and besides is too adorable to banish!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Woodland Wildflowers at Olbrich

I took a stroll through Olbrich Botanical Gardens today and the spring-blooming woodland wildflowers were in full bloom. (It was a rather overcast day, so the lighting is a bit gloomy in these shots I'm afraid.)

Ferns with Virginia Bluebells and Canada Wild Ginger

Trillium lutea - I personally like this subtly-colored trillium more than the more typical glaring white one. It is quite a sizeable plant as well.

Trillium lutea with ferns and wild ginger

Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) here with Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine Poppy), planted in great sweeps under white birch.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) and Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine Poppy)
Wildflowers look best when planted in broad swathes, and Olbrich has the space to do just that. Here is an underplanting of Celandine Poppy, tousled by the spring breeze. I do not have it in my garden, but am given to understand that it is a major spreader (by seed), although perhaps not too difficult to manage.

Stylophorum diphyllum (Celandine Poppy)

Primula veris (Cowslip primrose) looking cute at the foot of a tree, with a hellebore peeking over its shoulder. I like any kind of primrose, but the little wildlings are especially elegant.

Primula veris (Cowslip primrose)

They had several large fields planted up with little species tulips, grape hyacinths, and daffodils, interspersed with grass. The effect was just lovely - fields of bulbs as far as the eye can see.

Field of bulbs

This old Downy Hawthorne (whose gnarled, twisted branches are being supported in places by wooden posts) is underplanted with what looks like "regular" green brunnera, as well as silver-leaved cultivars. A fine effect as they bloom together.

Crataegus mollis (Downy Hawthorne) and Brunnera

OK, so these are not exactly "wildflowers" but a fabulous woodland planting nonetheless: epimediums, hostas, daffodils, and astilbe under mature trees.

Epimediums, daffodils, hostas, astilbe, allium

As usual, Olbrich does not disappoint!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

More Tulips, and Their Companions

I realized that the correct spelling of this lovely orange tulip is 'Prinses (rather than Princess) Irene'. Whatever her name, she is so breathtaking I keep taking more pictures every day.

Tulip 'Prinses Irene' (aka 'Princess Irene')

The best use for tulips is to highlight nearby companions. I have Irene in two spots in my rose garden: one is in front of a barberry, where the purple streaks of the tulip really pick up the dark barberry leaves.

Tulip 'Prinses Irene' with barberry

The broader picture has an unruly yew and clematis in the background, with nearby purple flowering lamium under a young silvery leaved quince tree.

Tulip 'Prinses Irene', with barberry, yew, lamium

The second spot is in a corner near heuchera 'Pinot Gris'.

Tulip 'Prinses Irene' with Heuchera 'Pinot Gris'

I'm not sure about the color combination on this one - at first I hated it, but now it seems to be growing on me. 'Pinot Gris' is an odd but intriguing color, which I love against green - perhaps my brain is convincing me that anything flatters the Prinses at this point. Here is the combo from a different angle on a rainy day:

Corner of the rose garden with tulip 'Prinses Irene', Heuchera 'Pinot Gris', Picea abies 'Little Gem'

Also blooming now in the rose garden is this little species tulip, tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty'. It is a jewel-toned pink with lovely white and indigo blue interiors. Despite its tiny size, these bright and perky flowers make a big impact in the garden.

Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty' with Lamb's Ears

It is next to lamb's ears and a dwarf abies, and overlapped briefly with the tail end of some white hyacinths.

Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty' with Abies balsamea 'Piccolo', Stachys, and white hyacinth

I love the color contrast with a nearby euphorbia as well. Only the most stalwart of colors can stand up to that level of chartreuse - 'Little Beauty' can handle it. They are bright and striking even when closed.

Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty' with Euphorbia polychroma

The nearby cotinus is also just beginning to leaf out. The red-burgandy leaves combine beautifully with the tulip. The tulips look a bit like little easter eggs sprouting from the ground.

Tulipa humilis 'Little Beauty', with nearby cotinus, euphorbia, Abies balsamea

This combination of pink and white tulips 'Christmas Marvel' and 'Schoonoord' was supposed to bloom together with pink hyacinths. Naturally, the hyacinths disappeared just as the tulips were coming in, so there was very little overlap.

Tulips 'Christmas Marvel' (pink) and 'Schoonord' (double white)

Still, the tulips look nice on the bright green background of my currant and gooseberry bushes. 'Schoonoord' is supposed to be a double creamy white, but it is not terribly double compared to other double tulips I have.

Tulips 'Christmas Marvel' and 'Schoonoord'

Finally, a few more shots of 'Abba' in context, because I just can't resist. This is another one I can't stop photographing.

Double early tulip 'Abba' with Euphorbia 'First Blush', Lamb's Ears, candytuft; in the background are tree peonies and lilies

Double early tulip 'Abba' with Euphorbia 'First Blush' and Lamb's Ears

Monday, May 12, 2014

Perennializing Tulips

Despite the fact that my garden does not bear even the slightest resemblance to the deserts of Turkey, I have actually had some fairly good luck with perennializing certain kinds of tulips.

Tulip 'Abba' in the peony bed, with tree peonies, candytuft, spurge, and lamb's ears

The best seem to be the doubles, for some reason. This is the third year for this early double tulip 'Abba', and it seems to get stronger and more numerous every year.

Tulip 'Abba', with mugo pine, candytuft, and lily foliage
 I just love the tomato red color, the shaggy-lion shape, and the splash of yellow and black in the interior.

Double early tulip 'Abba'

This double early yellow tulip 'Monte Carlo' has also returned undiminished in its second year. This one is a solid clear yellow, with no interior markings.

Double early tulip 'Monte Carlo'

It is in a sunny spot in my backyard patio bed, but it's not a spot I keep particularly dry as there are moisture-loving roses, filipendula, and siberian iris nearby. Some may find the intense ball of yellow overwhelming, but I like strong color in spring.

Tulip 'Monte Carlo', with siberian iris and filipendula

Another good returner is this fosteriana tulip aptly named 'Juan'. It has large, flamboyant red-orange blooms with yellow interiors, and fantastic purple-mottled foliage. The flowers fan out into a lovely star shape when open to the sun, and roll tightly closed on overcast days.

Fosteriana tulip 'Juan'

These are actually in a part shade location at the bottom of a slope - quite possibly the worst location for a tulip - but have returned nicely. For some reason the squirrels seem to enjoy lopping off their heads periodically.

Fosteriana tulip 'Juan' with Hypericum (St. John's Wort)

I have some "plain old tulip" tulips along the front of the house, in a narrow west-facing crevice between the front walk and the building, which are in perhaps the hottest, sunniest, driest spot in my yard. They predate both me and the previous owner of the house, and have been blooming every May like clockwork for at least ten years. These are the only ones I have in truly tulip-friendly conditions.

Unindentified red tulips

I haven't been as lucky with every tulip I've planted. The single early tulip 'Purple Prince', planted in the same spot as 'Monte Carlo', put on a disappointing show in its second year, with only a few scattered bulbs returning. It is a lovely tulip though - the mauvey-purple shade is just perfect with the spring green of fresh foliage. In my book, worth replanting periodically to keep it going.

Patio bed with tulips 'Monte Carlo' and 'Purple Prince'. Last year there were twice as many purples as yellows - most of the purples failed to return.

 Tulip 'Sweetheart' returned somewhat from last year, but noticeably diminished. I planted more of these last year, thank goodness, or there would be only 1-2 total. Again, its delicate loveliness earns it a spot in my garden, even as a semi-annual.

Tulip 'Sweetheart' with narcissus 'Katie Heath', tree peony and geraniums

New this year is tulip 'Princess Irene', a well-known classic. I certainly hope she returns, because she is a stunner for sure! I will do my best to keep her hot and dry. She is next to a barberry, so hopefully that should not be too hard.

Tulip 'Princess Irene' with purple barberry

Have any particular kind of tulips perennialized well in your garden?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Early Spring Flowers

It's early days yet in this chilly, slow spring, and spring bulbs continue to dominate the landscape.

Patio bed in early May: Narcissus and a few early tulips coming along

But a few very early blooming perennials are starting to wake up. Here is Erythronium 'Pagoda', the dog's tooth violet. This is its first year in my garden, and I am hoping it will be happy and increase over time. It's an elegant, delicate flower.

Erythronium (Dog's Tooth Violet) 'Pagoda'

Anemonella thalictroides (bloodroot) is also in full bloom now. A gardener could easily miss this tiny wildflower if she steps past it too quickly, but close inspection is rewarding. The plant blooms very early and then goes dormant in early summer.

Anemonella thalictroides (Bloodroot)

Closeup of Anemonella thalictroides (Bloodroot)

Several hellebores, stalwarts of the early garden, are looking fine. My favorite so far is 'Ivory Prince'. It has gorgeously silver veined blue-green foliage, which complements the red stems and pink and cream flowers just perfectly.

Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Ivory Prince'

Helleborus x nigercors 'Valentine Green' is just beginning to bloom. The flowers are so far more of a pale cream than green.

Helleborus x nigercors 'Valentine Green'

This unknown double orientalis type of hellebore (might possibly be 'Sparkling Diamond', but not sure) was the earliest to begin blooming. It should continue for another few weeks at least.

Hellebore, possibly 'Sparkling Diamond'

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque Flower) is another very early bloomer to light up the spring. This is a pale purple one.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque Flower)

 Finally, the earliest of my shrubs to bloom is the haskap. I've seen plenty of big, fat bees buzzing around it - hopefully they are pollinizing it well!

Haskap (Honeyberry)

 It's been a very slow spring - ordinarily most of these flowers would be in April rather than May. Hopefully everything else won't start blooming at once!

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