Friday, April 3, 2015

The First Glimmerings

The earth is slowly warming up, and we have the first glimmerings of spring moving in the garden. Here are some giant purple crocuses:

Crocus vernus 'Flower Record'

The dark purple color makes a nice contrast with the evergreen foliage of this yellow Hinoki False Cypress which is growing across the way.

Chamaecyparis pisifera aurea nana, with Crocus vernus 'Flower Record'

This yellow Crocus is also going strong now. I love the searing color of this one - it almost burns my eyes with its brightness after the bleakness of winter.

Crocus vernus 'Yellow Mammoth'

The snowdrops are already fading now. Most have gone to seed, and only a few flowers remain:

Galanthus elwesii (Giant Snowdrop) with Bergenia

And possibly my favorite of the early bulbs, these gorgeous clear blue Reticulated Irises:

Iris reticulata 'Clairette'

A wide view of the Peony Bed. Little patches of iris and crocus are in bloom, and as you can see the tree peonies are already starting to leaf out!

Peony bed in early April

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wake up, Garden!

Suddenly, it is spring!

One day the garden was covered in snow and ice. And the next - little growing things are peeping here and there! Surprises around every corner. I went out the other day to spread out the last remaining snowmounds, and here is what I found:

Eranthis hyemalis emerging from the near-frozen soil

Galanthus elwesii unfurling among patches of snow
Meanwhile, the rose garden was still covered in snow:

Rose garden in late winter

Just a few days later, the snow is all gone, though the ground is still frozen solid in spots. The snowdrops and Aconites are in their prime, however, and the daffodils and even some tulips have already started to push through the soil in warmer spots:

Eranthis hyemalis in mid-March
Galanthus elwesii (Giant snowdrops) in mid-March

These little bulbs are tiny, few, and not likely to stop traffic. But oh how we cherish these first flowers of spring!

In a warm zone by the house, even these giant crocus have already started blooming. They really should not be the first crocuses to bloom - my little species crocuses should pop first - but these have a head start due to their warm sunny location.

Crocus vernus 'Flower Record in mid-March
I've already started my spring clean-up chores - cutting back old foliage, trimming away dead wood, raking back leaf litter to expose and warm the soil. The warm fresh air reinvigorates the garden and the gardener.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rose Garden in Autumn

I didn't specifically design this garden with Fall Color as the focus, but plenty crept in anyway.

Rose Garden in Fall: Cotinus coggygria 'Purple Cloak', Lamb's Ears, Euphorbia polychroma

The dark purple leaves of the Smoke Bush (Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak') gradually turn intense orange and red, and the nearby Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) also colors up nicely. The Lamb's Ears are evergreen (or ever-silver) and continue to add color to the scene well past frost.

Euphorbia polychroma with Cotinus in October

I love the muted peachy-coral colors of the Spurge in Fall - this is one of my favorite four-season perennials.

Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak' in October

Cotinus foliage is colorful from Spring through Fall as well. I struggle to keep this fellow in bounds, as it wants to grow into a ginormous shrub/tree/monster. I cut it to the ground in spring, and still end up trimming it back several times a year. Highly worth it though for the color it provides.

Anemone 'Alice', Sedum 'Autumn Fire', and Austin Rose 'Sophy's Rose' in October

There are Fall flowers here too - double-flowered pink Japanese Anemone 'Alice' is a fall-bloomer, and it tumbles through the brick red florets of Sedum 'Autumn Fire'. In the background, reddish-pink 'Sophy's Rose' has a second flush of bloom in Fall.

Anemone 'Alice' with Sedum 'Autumn Fire'

Japanese Anemones are wonderful plants, but their tall flower stems do flop all about in an unmannerly sort of way. It looks best if with sturdy neighbors to lean on. Sedum performs this duty admirably.

Sedum 'Autumn Fire' in September

Sedum is of course incredibly common and found even in the gardens of those who do not garden. Its popularity is quite deserved. Though not a "show-stopper" by any means, it is a stalwart four-season plant. It sits there quietly looking charmingly indestructible from spring to fall and even into winter. It is perhaps even more popular with bees than with gardeners, and we are always eager to accommodate these fuzzy little pollinators. Sedum's only potential fault is that if given too rich a soil, too much moisture, and/or too little sun, it will become floppy and open up in the center. A diet of lean soil, strong sunshine, and periodic division should prevent this problem.

Gaura lindheimeri in September, with Yew and Lamium 'Orchid Frost'

Another fall-bloomer in the Rose Garden is Gaura lindheimeri. I wanted a bushy, airy plant for the back of this bed. I am not sure I'm entirely satisfied with the Gaura - it seems to be lacking in "oomf" so far. But it does bloom for a long period, from late summer throughout fall. The pale flowers show up nicely against the dark yew foliage.

September in the Rose Garden: Chrysanthemum 'Mammoth Lavender', 'Blue Point' Juniper, Euonymous fortunei 'Tricolor', Heuchera 'Sashay'

This Chrysanthemum is smothered in bloom in September. It is one of my first Chrysanthemums to bloom, and appears to be hardy (survived the horrendous winter of 2013!) This cultivar has a low, compact, bushy habit (with no pinching), and very large flowers. In reviewing these photos I realize that the fall flowers in the Rose Garden are all pink... I do like the pink color against the bluish foliage of the Juniper and Euonymous here. The foliage of earlier-blooming Iris sibirica and Iris tectorum continue to look fresh and spiky in the background. The giant weedy hole in the picture is where some recently transplanted roses used to be. It is now filled by a large hosta, which will hopefully appreciate the semi-shady conditions better than the roses did.

Geranium 'Patricia' in October

Geranium 'Patricia' continues to produce a smattering of black-eyed magenta flowers throughout Fall as well as Summer. The foliage of this Geranium does not have appreciable Fall color.

Austin rose 'Eglantyne' in Fall

The reblooming Austin roses do continue to spit out blooms well into Fall, although it is not of course their peak season. Here is tall, fragrant 'Eglantyne' lashed to an obelisk in October.

Quince 'Aromatnaya' - Fruit on tree in October

Finally, my Quince tree is located at the back of this bed, and in 2014 it produced 4 large yellow fruits. I made them into a delicious quince candy. Even though Fall is not the focal season of the Rose Garden,  tucking in fall-interest plants here and there means there is still plenty to enjoy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rose Garden in Late Summer

The Rose Garden continues to be interesting throughout the summer, even beyond peak rose bloom.

The Rose Garden in July

First of all, I have tried to include good foliage plants throughout the garden, to carry it through lulls in blooming. There are a purple leaved Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak', snowy white Salix 'Hakuro-Nishiki', silver Lamb's Ears, bushy green Euphorbias, Sedum, and various dwarf evergreens.

LA hybrid Lily 'Red Alert', with Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak' and foliage of Peony 'Bartzella'

But there are some mid- to late-summer bloomers in here too. These stunning red LA Lilies bloom in July. This type of lily is said to be fragrant, but I do not detect much of a scent.

LA hybrid lily 'Red Alert'

I grow LA Lilies not for their fragrance but for their appearance - they have much better flower power and substance than regular Asiatic Lilies, with the same or better bright color range. They seem to increase rapidly.

Clematis 'Etoile Violette'

Clematis viticella 'Etoile Violette' also blooms in mid-summer, from late June to July. It has very dark purple flowers indeed - almost too dark, I'm afraid - they recede a bit too much for me. A lighter background might help to show them off better.

Rose Garden in July: Clematis, Barberry, Yew, and Quince tree

It is a very vigorous and free-flowering clematis, however, like all viticellas. This is only its third year - it will presumably get bigger than this with time. It climbs a trellis in the back of the Rose Garden, behind a young yew, Barberry 'Crimson Pygmy', and Quince 'Aromatnaya'.

Rose Garden in July: Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty' and Sedum

Another July bloomer is Allium tanguticum 'Summer Beauty'. It is an unusual Flowering Allium, having mid-summer blooms and foliage that remains healthy and attractive all season. (Most Alliums bloom in spring and deteriorate horribly immediately afterwards.) Not a show-stopper, by any means, but a valuable contributor for the Dog Days of Summer. It flowers in front of the Quince and Barberry, near Sedum 'Autumn Fire.' The roses in the picture are recently transplated Austin 'Sophy's Rose' - hopefully they will add their red blooms to the picture in future years.

Russian sage (Perovskia atripicifolia) in late summer

Russian sage (Perovskia atripicifolia) blooms in July through August. It is a large, sprawly, wispy plant whose charm I find difficult to capture in a photograph.

Prunella grandiflora 'Freelander Blue' and Euonymous fortunei 'Tricolor'

At the Sage's feet are a vibrant Self-Heal (Prunella grandiflora 'Freelander Blue') and the variegated evergreen Euonymous fortunei 'Tricolor'. The Prunella is new, but so far very satisfactory. It has a low, creeping profile, and smothers itself with dark blue-purple flowers from late June through August. Hopefully it will prove hardy.

Rose 'Eglantyne' and Salix 'Hakuro-Nishiki' in July

Of course, some of the roses continue blooming through the summer as well, although their peak bloom is in June and September. The fragrant pink David Austin rose 'Eglantyne' throws off blooms continuously all summer long as it sprawls all over its neighbors.

Mid and Late summer are not my favorite times in the garden - I find the heat and drought oppressive, and there are no peonies in July... :-) I therefore tend not to emphasize summer bloomers in my plantings. However, I have learned that good foliage plants, plus a smattering of blooms, helps keep the garden together until my next favorite season - Fall - comes along.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rose Garden in Early Summer

The transition from spring to early summer is marked by the flowering of Giant Allium (ornamental onion). These huge purple globes fill the uncomfortable gap between early bulbs like tulips and daffodils, and summer flowering peonies and roses.

Giant Allium bloom in the pause between spring and summer

Allium foliage begins to die even as they bloom, and is an unsightly mess - however I cannot resist their fantastical effect on the garden. It's best to tuck them away behind something bushy. I am counting on my purple-leaved Cotinus shrub to grow a bit more and play the role of concealer.

Nepeta 'Little Trudy' begins to bloom just before the roses do

Another plant that begins blooming in early summer is Catmint (Nepeta). Most Catmints get quite large, but this is 'Little Trudy' - a very tiny cultivar which is under a foot tall. It is relatively new in my garden and I am still evaluating its performance, but so far I am pleased with the flowers and form. The larger ones - such as 'Walker's Low' - are more floriferous, but there is no space for them here. I think 'Little Trudy' makes a nice edger.

Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak', Lamb's Ears, and Abies balsamea 'Piccolo'

By mid-June, the Lamb's Ears are stretching upwards, and the Cotinus is fully clothed in its beautiful leaves. I'm not particularly fond of Lamb's Ear in flower, so I often snip off the stalks (have not done that yet here).

Cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), Cotinus, and Geranium 'Patricia'

The strident yellow bracts of the Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) have now faded, revealing reddish seedheads. I like this plant near the purple-leaved Cotinus - they make an attractive pair in multiple seasons. Geranium 'Patricia' blooms in June as well - this Geranium has very strong magenta flowers that are somewhat softened by the dark purple nearby.

Pulsatilla vulgaris seedheads, Geranium 'Patricia'

The Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), which bloomed so early in Spring, in Summer is adorned with freaky-looking fuzzy seedheads. It has been seeding itself around somewhat aggressively - I'll let them flower and then decide which ones to keep. I like this Geranium for its personable black centers and neat veining, but it is one of the sprawlier Geraniums I grow. I sometimes end up shearing it back multiple times per year.

Heuchera 'Pinot Gris', Alchemilla mollis, and Geranium 'Nimbus'

At the front of the bed, Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and Geranium 'Nimbus' begin flowering in mid-June. 'Nimbus' is one of my favorite Geraniums (so far!) - it has pretty blue-purple flowers, a long flowering period, attractive cut-leaf foliage, and a neat mounding/spreading habit (unlike, for example, the popular but formless 'Rozanne'). Heuchera starts flowering at this time as well - this is 'Pinot Gris', one of my favorite Heucheras for both foliage and elegant, long-lasting flowers. Most Heuchera are good for foliage OR flowers, but this one has both, in my opinion. You can see the grassy foliage of the Crocus that bloomed earlier here too - it hangs about like this for a while, then disappears suddenly almost overnight.

Heuchera 'Pinot Gris', flowering in June

Here is the Heuchera again, now in full flower. It retains its pretty flowers for an extended period.

Iris tectorum var. alba, Amsonia 'Blue Ice', and Alchemilla mollis

More June-bloomers in this area include a white-flowered form of Iris tectorum (Japanese Roof Iris) and Amsonia 'Blue Ice'. They are at the front edge of the border in a fairly shady spot, but seem to be tolerating it well so far. The Amsonia grows slowly and is still quite small. I am very pleased with the Roof Iris - the large, delicate flowers are intricate and graceful. The upright spikes of foliage are a refreshing light green color, and retain their healthy good looks throughout the season. (I am not fond of Bearded Irises due to their icky post-bloom deteriorating foliage.) I have always heard that Roof Iris needs a "sheltered" spot - not quite sure what that means, but so far it seems OK along the edge of the sidewalk here.

Rose Garden in mid-June: Rosa alba, Geranium 'Patricia'

Now for the roses: I named this area the "Rose Garden" because I originally planned to have about 10 different roses planted here. This ended up not working out for a variety of reasons (rabbits, disease, winterkill, too much shade...) and the area currently has only four varieties of roses. Some of the original roses had to be shovel-pruned, and some were relocated to other more hospitable areas. The large rose bush above appears to be a Rosa alba, possibly 'Great Maiden's Blush', although I cannot be sure. I had ordered a Rosa gallica, which this very clearly is not.

Rosa alba, possibly 'Great Maiden's Blush'? - on first opening

It definitely appears to be an alba rose. It has the characteristic alba foliage and divine fragrance. Nice fat buds and lovely button eye in the center. It is a large, shrubby plant - much different in form from my other two albas (which are tall and lanky). Ironclad disease resistant foliage, despite the somewhat shady location. Overall it has the nicest plant habit of my albas and is very well-foliated. It blooms incredibly profusely, and opens its blooms gradually, over an extended period of several weeks. The color starts out a strong pink, but quickly fades to a somewhat pale, washed out color.

Rosa alba (possibly 'Great Maiden's Blush'?) - faded blooms

The color fading is really my only complaint about this rose. That and the fact that I had envisioned a dark purple-crimson Gallica here, which would have looked so fabby with the purples, grays and mauves going on in this area... But, I just can't bring myself to move this dame, as she seems so happy here - whatever her name is. Sigh.

'Eglantyne' Rose with Salix 'Hakuro-Nishiki'

The other roses remaining in this area are all David Austin English roses. Here is 'Eglantyne' - a very tall rose which apparently has at least some Alba parentage. The large flowers are a lovely shade of warm pink suffused with yellow, and the fragrance is very pleasing. This rose does get a fair amount of blackspot for me, and seems to be a favorite of the Japanese beetles, which are a major pest here. It does not ever bloom very profusely, but has a nice steady crop of flowers all summer and into fall. I've also had difficulty figuring out what to do with its lanky form. Here it is growing as a floppy bush, but by late summer it ends up sprawling all over the ground if not supported. It also becomes very defoliated at its lower limbs. I have installed a tall obelisk, and plan to try wrapping it around in twisty curves. We'll see how this works next year!

David Austin rose 'Sophy's Rose'

'Sophy's Rose' is another Austin rose in the Rose Garden. I have three of these smaller shrubs clustered together. This is perhaps my favorite of the Austins so far - the color is eye-popping, the "Chinese" looking scrolled flower form is enticing, and the fragrance is light but unusual and very appealing. This rose has also been much healthier than my other Austins. The attractive, red-edged foliage always looks fresh and healthy. This one seems to bloom in one large flush in early summer, then again in fall. I did not like the original site I selected for it, so last year made the perhaps unwise decision to transplant all three bushes in mid-summer. They were in shock for quite a while, but bounced back by fall and I am looking forward to good things from them next year.

Austin rose 'Winchester Cathedral', with Geranium 'Nimbus' and Allium 'Drumstick'

The last rose in the Rose Garden is the white Austin rose 'Winchester Cathedral'. It is a lovely rose with fine fragrance and enticing pink buds. I have had some serious blackspot issues with it, but that is perhaps because it is sited poorly in too much shade. I plan to move it to a sunnier spot in my back Patio Garden next year, where I hope it will be happier. It's a shame because I do like its purple and chartreuse companions in this spot, but it is clearly not happy here so something must be done.

Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' in the June Rose Garden

Also blooming in early Summer is my 'Bartzella' Intersectional Peony. Intersectional peonies are hybrids between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. 2014 was its first year of bloom - hopefully there will be more of these glorious fluffy yellow orbs in the future. In addition to lovely blooms, Bart has a pleasant light citrusy fragrance, excellent plant habit and flower carriage, and stellar foliage throughout the seasons.

Austin rose 'Winchester Cathedral', with Geranium 'Nimbus', Allium 'Drumstick', and Lady's Mantle

The Rose Garden may have few roses in it, but is coming along nicely. Some areas need a major overhaul, and I will be rearranging things and filling some gaps in the coming seasons.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rose Garden in Late Spring

Late Spring is a time of great excitement. Shrubs leaf out, and perennials, major bulbs, and early peonies begin blooming. I've made sure to include lots of early bloomers in the rose garden, since the roses won't make their contribution until summer.

Late Spring in the Rose Garden: Daffodils, Spurge, and new leaves

This is early May in the Rose Garden. The roses have tiny new leaves, and daffodil blooms are scattered about (this is yellow 'King Alfred', white and orange 'Sound', and white and yellow 'Ice Follies' across the sidewalk). My fernleaf peony hybrid 'Little Red Gem' is an attractive mound of cutleaf foliage - it will bloom soon. The cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) is just beginning its display of flashy yellow bracts. The early crocus have now faded, but blue Scilla blooms on in the background.

Mid-May: 'Princess Irene' Tulips, Heuchera, Daffodils, and Spruce
A week later and early tulip 'Princess Irene' has begun to bloom. This is one of my favorite tulips - the orange color is intensely bright, without being blinding or irritating (unlike some oranges). The slight purple tint on the outer petals deepens and softens the color. I think it echoes the color of Heuchera 'Pinot Gris' wonderfully. The dwarf spruce (Picea abies 'Little Gem') is also looking colorful at this time of year, with its bright yellow new growth.

'Princess Irene' Tulips, Hyacinths, Lamium, and Barberry

Another patch of 'Princess Irene' at the back corner of the Rose Garden. Here it contrasts sharply with the dark new leaves of Barberry 'Crimson Pygmy'. As you can see the White hyacinths are still going strong, and Lamium 'Orchid Frost' has begun to bloom at the foot of my young quince tree. It creeps and expands fairly rapidly, but is not hard to pull out.

Mid May: 'Princess Irene' Tulips, Lamium 'Orchid Frost'

Here is the same area from a different angle, a few days later. Lamium is now in full bloom, the barberry begins to glow, and the quince has fuzzy gray new leaves. Clematis vines start their ascent of the trellis (which needs to be painted!) in the background. The small yew (which needs a trim!) also puts on a new flush of growth.

Mid May: Tulipa humilis and Spurge

Meanwhile, in another corner, another early tulip has begun to bloom. This is the tiny species tulip 'Little Beauty' (Tulipa humilis). Unlike standard tulips, this type has unobtrusive, grass-like foliage that dies away almost imperceptibly when its time has come. The blooms are little but very cute. They are bright enough to stand up to the intensity of the Euphorbia in full glory. They also look good near my purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak'), which begins to leaf out now. The jewel-toned leaves of this shrub look fabulous from spring to fall. I cut it back to the ground every year to keep it small - otherwise it grows into a rather large tree. The dwarf conifer here is a fir - Abies balsamea 'Piccolo'. I will probably have to move this soon as it is too close to the Cotinus - hopefully I will manage to do this without killing it in the process!

Late May: Spurge and 'Little Red Gem' Peony

Finally, at the end of May my 'Little Red Gem' peony blooms. This is a so-called "Rock Garden" peony, which is a hybrid of several small European species peonies. It is much smaller than the Chinese Paeonia lactiflora types, and appears to have some fernleaf in its blood, judging by the fine foliage. It is my earliest herbaceous peony to bloom.

Late May in the Rose Garden: Peony 'Little Red Gem' and 'Princess Irene' Tulips

'Little Red Gem' is not really red - more of a deep pink. A lovely color that stands up well to the bright tulips and spurge which bloom with it. The rose behind it is a large, exuberant Rosa alba. It is very hardy and one of my earliest roses to leaf out in spring. At its feet, some dwarf Catmint (Nepeta 'Little Trudy') are just beginning to show color along the edge of the border.

Next up: June, and some actual roses!

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