April 30, 2012

Spokane Temple Spring 2012

The spring bulbs are at their peak over at the Spokane LDS Temple. The landscaping director asked me to put together some ideas for which bulbs we should add this fall, so I went there last week to take pictures of what is going on now. The daffodils, grape hyacinths and flowering pear trees around the main entrance look spectacular this spring.

Each year the temple makes a large bulb order from C.J. Zonneveld & Zonen B.V. We already have hundreds of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths at the temple. I am hoping this fall that we'll add a lot of earlier spring color in the form of - you guessed it - small bulbs like crocuses.

I am also going to suggest that we add plenty of Anemone blanda, or windflower. The great thing about this plant, along with its sweet blue or white daisy-like flowers, is its mound of lacy foliage that covers the bare ground at the base of spring bulbs and gives the planting a finished look. The leaves die back not long after it flowers in April and May, leaving room for perennials and annuals to fill out. It will be easy to slip the quarter-sized tubers into current plantings, and it's supposed to be deer-resistant.

We have to keep planting more daffodils at the temple, as they don't last many years for us there. The bulbs aren't very happy in heavy, clay soil that has annuals or perennials growing there in summer and therefore has to be watered during the bulbs' dormant period, when they'd prefer to be dry.

I've been studying the bulbs on the Zonneveld site to find interesting combinations. The combo of yellow, white and blue at the front gate (above) is working well. I have my eye on another spot for some peachy-pink 'Gipsy Queen' hyacinths mixed with peachy-pink and white daffodils like 'Precious'. Plus some blue Anemone blanda . . . it should be dreamy.

There are dozens of tulips to choose from at Zonneveld. They're organized into early, mid and late season bloomers. The most beautiful tulips - doubles (like the ones above), parrots, fringed and lily-flowering - have to be replanted every year or two.

It is a lot of work to plant the fancy tulips each fall, but they are absolutely gorgeous in bloom. They are especially showy when two or three types in coordinating colors are blooming together, so I'm thinking in terms of combos instead of single types. The photo above shows a bloom from one of the Star magnolias on the east side of the temple. Perhpas we can do a combo of pinks and purples in the bulb bed nearby, including pink 'Foxtrot', 'Purple Prince' and 'Blue Diamond' tulips. Plus some anemones, of course.

We have had success with Impression and Darwin-type tulips coming back for several years. Above are 'Red Impression tulips, which started out this soft color but quickly changed to pure red. Also shown are the reddish shoots of peonies.

I hope we can continue to create great color combos like the gold and orange daffodils with deep violet hyacinths above. I'd like to add double 'Orange Princess' tulips to this bed at the southern entrance to the temple. The colors will really pop.

While looking at the photo above, I finally understand why gardeners get so excited about Iris pallida 'Variegata.' The flowers (which show up in May or June) are not as showy as other iris, but the leaves are magical in the evening light. It's good to consider nearby perennial foliage as part of bulb displays. The daffodils here blend well with the striped iris leaves.

Do you have any suggestions for favorite bulbs or bulb combinations? It's always nice to hear what works in other landscapes. Planning bulb displays is such fun, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to present ideas for the director to consider.

April 24, 2012

'Golden Lotus' Hellebore - Winter Jewels Series

This beautiful 'Golden Lotus' hellebore has been blooming for over a month in my spring garden. It is one of the double-flowered 'Winter Jewels' series from the O'Byrnes in Oregon. Since it is a seedling line, the flowers show variation from one plant to another, with some having none of the maroon edging shown here.

It's amazing how long each flower lasts, partly because the temperatures are so cool during bloom time. As they age, the flowers turn green. These photos were taken over several weeks and show the aging progression.

The height is 18 inches and the width is 24 inches when mature. My plant has been in the ground for a year and a half, so it's still working it's way up to full size.

The leaves are lime green. I'm not sure if every plant in this line has light leaves or not, but they're a nice contrast to the darker leaves of some of my other hellebores.

I understand that some breeders are working to develop interesting leaf variegation among hellebores now. I don't think the leaves will ever be able to steal the show from the flowers, though.

It's no wonder that hellebores are so popular right now in the gardening world. Not many plants can boast such gorgeous, long-lasting flowers in early spring on plants that thrive in dry shade.

I have also been taking photos of my other hellebores throughout their bloom sequences to give a better feel for each cultivar, and will post those in coming weeks. I often search for that information myself before buying a new plant, so I'm glad to share it with other gardeners.

April 17, 2012

State of the Spring Garden

My garden is starting to look less barren as more green leaves begin to peek out and the small bulbs continue to show off. The 'Tete a Tete' mini daffodils are the cutest darn things ever. Everyone who visits gets a kick out of them. Doesn't the one above look like it's having a tete-a-tete with the scilla?

The garden still isn't ready for wide view photos. Once the roses leaf out and we spread another layer of fine bark, I'll take some wider shots and post them. But I've been waiting on the bark until the small bulbs are done blooming, since they'll probably get covered up.

I was very happy to find little dieback on my roses and other shrubs when I was pruning last week. Last year a harsh winter cut the roses canes back to a foot high. This year the climbing roses might actually look like climbers, instead of little shrubs just hanging out in front of trellises.

A few days ago my preschooler informed me that we had corn growing in our front yard. Hmmm, not corn, just hyacinth buds forming. The photo above shows 'Gypsy Queen' hyacinths and 'Spring Beauty' scilla.

Not all of the new leaves are green. The leaves on the peonies (above), the roses, the purple-flowering delphiniums and some of the hellebores are reddish right now. One of my two new tree peonies has lots of red leaves growing. The other one looks shriveled and dead at the top, but there is one bud that's starting to grow down below. I really hope I can nurse it into better health, as it was rather expensive.

The 'Ivory Prince' hellebores are blooming along with many of the others. More hellebore pictures are coming soon. Lots more.

The kids and I are looking forward to the giant bumblebees that always show up when the crabapples bloom in a week or two. I saw a butterfly in the front yard last week. There are plenty of robins and other little birds whose names I don't know flying around. Above are blue Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow).

We have had a nice mix of sunny warmth and gentle rain lately, which is perfect for the plants. I'm looking forward to another pretty year out in my garden!

April 11, 2012

9 Reasons You Need Small Spring Bulbs

We all love big daffodils and tulips, but you are missing out if you haven't added small bulbs to your garden! Here are 7 reasons why you should grow them . . .

1. They bloom early. In Spokane, the big tulip and daffodil show doesn't start until late April or May. The earliest crocuses start in late February, a full 2 months earlier. And colder temperatures during bloom time prolongs the display. Above are Crocus 'Golden Bunch' and 'Grand Maitre.'

2. The come in true blue. Seems like I read somewhere that when asked their favorite color, people overwhelmingly pick blue. There are no blue tulips. No blue roses either, for that matter. No matter how that catalog photo has been changed to make the color look blue. Photo above shows blue Scilla 'Spring Beauty.'

3. They're easy to plant. Instead of digging 6 to 10 inches down, you only have to go 4 inches deep. In rocky clay soil like mine, that makes a big difference. Above is Chionodoxa 'Pink Giant.'

4. They come back every year. Plant once and forget about them until they pop up again, and again. Some tulips only bloom well one year, and then you have to plant new bulbs. What a pain in the tush, though of course I do plant some tulips every fall. Above is Chionodoxa luciliae.

5. They increase in number each year in good conditions. The key with almost all bulbs is to avoid soggy, swampy soil. Bulbs want moist but well-drained soil in the spring until the leaves die back, and in the summer while dormant they prefer to be dry and cool. If bulbs are growing amongst other plants, then their roots will suck up the water and help keep the bulbs underneath dry. Above is Crocus 'Grand Maitre.'

6. Their leaves are little. So when you're allowing them to die back naturally to encourage them to store up energy to bloom well next year, you've only got little half-dead leaves instead of big tulip half-dead leaves adorning your early-summer garden. Again, tucking small bulbs around perennials is a great strategy because the growing perennial leaves camoflauge the dying bulb foliage.
Above is more Chionodoxa luciliae.

7. They're cheaper than tulips and other big bulbs. Especially when you consider that they'll come back and multiply for years to come, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. I bought my purple crocus and blue scilla at Costco, so those were even more inexpensive. The others I ordered in bulk online. Above is Crocus 'Grand Maitre.'

8. They're deer-resistant. Deer think tulip flowers look like tasty gumdrops, munch, but deer tend to stay away from crocus, chionodoxa, scilla, and mini-daffodils like the 'Tete-a-Tete' daffs above.

9. Although I haven't pictured any here, there are small bulbs that do well in shade (tulips and daffodils do not). Some examples include: Crocus tommasinianus, Galanthus nivalis (snowdrops), Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite), Muscari (grape hyacinth) and Erythronium (Trout lily or Pagoda lily).

If you're convinced that you need to add small bulbs to your garden, you won't be able to run right out and buy some at this time of year. Most bulb companies open up their bulb ordering websites during the summer. Stores stock bulbs in the fall. So make a note to remind yourself to get yourself some small bulbs then and enjoy them for many springs to come.

April 4, 2012

Plant Giveaway Spring 2012

I have plants to give away this spring . . . the catch is that you have to bring a shovel and dig them up yourself. Here is a list of what is available. All of them are perennials, which means they will come back year after year.

Above is 'Walker's Low' Nepeta (catmint). I have gobs and gobs of this, as all of my front yard plants need to be divided. This is an award-winning plant that is great for sun and heat. 2.5 feet tall, 3 feet wide. Blooms from June until frost if you cut the dead blooms off in July. Bees love it.

I also have dozens of these light pink asiatic lilies to give away. Though they weren't labeled when I bought them, I'm pretty sure they're 'Tiny Todd' asiatic lilies. 12-14 inches tall. Full to part sun. Blooms in June and multiplies every year.

I also have several of these 'Tango Passion Ladylike' dwarf asiatic lilies to give away. 12-14 inches tall. Full to part sun. Blooms in June and multiplies every year.

The photo above shows coral-pink 'Patricia Louise' heuchera and blue-lavender Veronica (speedwell). I have some of both of these plants to share. Both plants make low mounds of leaves (not shown in the photo, sorry) with 1 foot tall flower spikes. Both bloom in May/June and come back every year. They like morning sun and afternoon shade (they'd love the east side of your house).

I have lots and lots of bearded/German iris to give away, including the deep violet 'Titan's Glory' above and also some deep blue 'Mer du Sud' iris. Both of these are full-sized iris, with flower spikes about 3 feet tall. Fragrant. They like sun and heat.

In addition, I have two types of dwarf violet iris to share - one that gets about 6 inches tall and another that gets 1 foot tall (shown below). They multiply quickly, which is why I have so many to spare! Iris are sturdy plants that bloom in May or June every year.

This photo shows 'Banbury Ruffles' dwarf iris (mentioned above) with 'Emerald Cushion Blue' creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) in the background. In May, lavender flowers smother this low creeping plant. It gets 6 inches tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. Full sun. Evergreen. I have several large clumps and some small divisions to share.

I have a tiny peony (Paeonia) growing in a pot. I'm mostly sure it's the red one above, so it will eventually be 2.5 to 3 feet tall and wide and produce lots of these lovely blooms every May. If you're willing to wait a couple of years for it to grow into a full-sized plant, you'll enjoy plenty of flowers for years afterward. Full sun.

I don't have a photo of 'Spanish Glow' daylily (Hemerocallis), but the flowers look very similar to the photo above, except with more ruffles around the edges. I have one clump to give away. It prefers full sun and blooms in July. 2 feet tall and wide. A very sturdy plant.

Here is shown 'Melba Higgins' columbine (Aquilegia), which has reseeded itself around my backyard. It blooms in May and can do sun or shade, though it doesn't like intense afternoon heat. 2 to 2.5 feet tall, 1.5 feet wide.

The photos above and below show Lady's mantle (Alchimella mollis). Above you can see the airy greenish-yellow flowers, and below the pretty leaves. Full to part shade, 1.5 to 2 feet tall and wide.

The best thing about Lady's Mantle is the way its leaves catch water droplets.

I have divisions of 'Elfin' Thyme groundcover to share. It blooms in June and is great for sunny, hot spots. 1 inch tall, 1 foot wide (though it keeps spreading).

I also have divisions of Pearlwort groundcover (Sagina subulata), which has tiny white flowers in June. 1 inch tall, 1 foot wide. Mostly evergreen, though it looks ratty in January and February. Full sun to part shade.

Finally, I don't have photos but also have lots of spearmint, peppermint and strawberry plants to share. All three of these plants are aggressive spreaders, so you'll want to plant them in a container or somewhere they can't take over all your other plants. Especially the mints. The mints are great for bouquets, and of course the strawberries are just yummy. Full sun to part shade. Mints grow 2 feet tall and will grow as wide as they have space. Srawberries get up to 1 foot tall.

So my friends in Spokane - let me know if you want any of these plants! Leave a comment, call, email, post on Facebook or knock on my door. April and May are the best times to transplant.