May 21, 2015

Fritillaria persica 'Ivory Bells'

Ten bulbs of Fritillaria persica 'Ivory Bells' were added to the garden last fall.  The bulbs were as large as softballs and had to be planted sideways so they didn't catch water in the top and rot.

By mid-April large shoots had emerged above the soil.  The bulbs from Zonneveld were big enough to produce two shoots each.  This bulb is also available from Van Engelen.

Soon the flower buds were visible at the top of the grey-green stalks.  This ivory type is more rare than the plum-colored variety, and both are hardy in zones 4-8.

Different types of Fritillaria require more or less sunlight, and these seemed happy in afternoon sun.

One morning after they opened fully (to 2.5' tall), my youngest son and I saw a hummingbird methodically drinking from each of the small flowers.  Later my son told my husband, "Daddy, we saw a honey-bird on the Fwitiwarwia!"  It was pretty cute.

These stately beauties are a great addition to the May garden, and I'm trying to think of where I could add some of the plum variety.  Maybe we could attract many honey-birds that way!

May 12, 2015

The Sad Tale of the Lilac Bouquets

Last week was teacher appreciation week at my daughters' school, so one morning we cut two large bouquets of fragrant, lovely 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilac blooms to bring to their teachers.  I even connected with my crafty side and pulled out the glue gun to beautify the peanut butter jar vases with ribbon.

Unfortunately, there were a few hitchhikers on the lilac blooms.  You can't see them above, but I was told that nine spiders emerged from one of the bouquets once it arrived at the classroom.  Most of them were tiny brown spiders, but there were also a few of the penny-sized white spiders that we often see in the garden.

My daughter told me that chaos ensued with kids shrieking and pointing at the spiders that now infested their classroom.  The kids were sure the spiders were very poisonous.  No one would sit on the floor for reading time.  I'm sure her teacher felt very appreciated.  We're definitely on her list of favorite people right now.

So that bouquet - and the other one, just in case - were gingerly carried outside and laid to rest in the dumpster.  I don't think of myself as particularly tough, but I have become used to these little spiders and the many other bugs I encounter each time I'm out in the garden, though I am rightly wary of the aggressive paper wasps, and earwigs still creep me out.  I would have smashed the spiders with a tissue (because although they're welcome in the garden, the penalty for coming indoors is death!)  and carried on, but I wasn't there to save the day.

So we're just enjoying the lilacs in the garden for now, and next year we'll think of something different to bring for teacher appreciation week.  Even if I remembered to soak the blooms in a bucket to kill and wash away the spiders, memories of this year's debacle would probably ruin any future enjoyment of the lilac's beauty and scent.

Watch out, there are probably countless creepy-crawlies hidden in this seemingly innocent scene!

Yup, they're hiding here as well.  Isn't there something tickling your neck right now . . .

I wonder if this teacher will still let me bring in peonies and filler flowers to teach the children how to make bouquets next month.  The class might still be too traumatized.  We say it's the thought that counts with gifts, but I'm not sure that applies when spiders are part of the deal.
Good news!  The bouquet-making is still on, though I will take care to shake and wash off the flowers so the kids don't have another creepy experience.  Maybe I'll also take a few minutes to teach them about some of the insects common in gardens around here.  With photos, not live subjects.  

May 7, 2015

Another Walk Through the Garden

The garden changes so quickly this time of year that I thought I'd share another round of wide view photos.  Above you see the 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees at their height of bloom, with purple 'Negrita' tulips in front.

By a week later the crab blossoms had faded to this pale pink color, and pink 'Don Quichotte' and 'Renown' tulips were taking over from 'Negrita.'

The view looking south toward the gate features double pink 'Foxtrot' tulips, which have surprised me by reblooming for several years.  I assumed the double tulips wouldn't be good perennials, but they must be happy in this spot with the sandy soil to keep the bulbs dry while dormant in summer.

The same view from a seat on the NW arbor bench is full of pretty spring green.  We really love this new bench, and I find excuses to pop out and enjoy it at least once a day.

The view looking the other direction from the arbor bench features giant 'Victoria' rhubarb leaves and some 'Early Emporer' globe alliums off in the distance.  Yes, 'Early Emperor' really does bloom a few weeks before the other types, so it is a great way to extend allium season.

And here are those alliums from the other direction.  I love the mauve alliums next to the chartreuse 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry shrub, which will grow into a giant backdrop in a few years.  Each week there is more color in the garden as it builds toward the heavy June climax, then settles down to fewer flowers (and less deadheading, hooray) in the heat of summer.  Early fall brings another flush of bloom from the roses and some perennials before the deciduous plants shut down for winter.

'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle continues to climb farther up the swing set, and the honey locusts on either side are finally leafing out.  I really love my 'Shademaster' honey locusts, but I wish they put their leaves out earlier.

The NE corner behind the swing set is starting to look less barren, though of course it will just take a few years for the large shrubs to grow into their spaces.

The east garden is especially colorful right now with more 'Negrita' tulips blooming above creeping phlox.  The 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs perfume the air while the white dogwood tree unfolds its blooms above.  Have you noticed how dogwood (Cornus florida) blooms look like little square presents before they unfold their petals?

A few shots from the front reveal that the heaviest tulip display is over, though a few white 'Maureen' tulips still grace the garden.  Soon the lavender 'Walker's Low' catmint and 'Coral Supreme' peonies will take over the show - perhaps by next week, since we have lovely weather in the forecast.

My husband lovingly refers to these tulips as the hard-boiled egg flowers.

Here is a final photo of the pink dogwood tree that has been transplanted twice in the past decade, poor thing.  It has survived and should be very happy once its roots grow into the rich soil under the compost pile on the other side of the fence.