May 29, 2012

Twenty-one Trees and Counting

When we moved into this house in 2007, there was just one crispy dogwood tree in the yard. We have since planted twenty-five trees (including the five that died, ugh) and transplanted the dogwood from the hot southwest corner of the house to the east side, where it is very happy. Actually, 'we' nothing. My husband did the hard word with shovel and pick axe to get the trees into the ground. Above is a shot of one of our three 'Royal Raindrops' crabapples, which were stunning a few weeks ago in full bloom. Especially at sunset, when the deep pink blossoms and maroon leaves seemed to be on fire.

We have seven 'Spring Snow' crabapples, and some of them are now tall enough to see when I glance out of our second-story windows. I love that! In our neighborhood you either see a gazillion roofs or trees when you look out the window. I'll take the trees, thanks. The weather was cool while the crabs were in bloom this year, so we didn't get to see many giant bumblebees. I caught this picture of one on a rare warm afternoon when the bees were out. It was as big as my thumb and busy as a . . . well, you know.

The one surviving 'Kwanzan' flowering cherry tree had some pretty pink flowers last month to remind me why I planted so many of these trees to begin with. We planted three in the backyard several years ago, and all three died the next summer. I researched and figured out they were planted a bit too deep in our heavy clay soil, which cherry trees hate (if only I'd known before planting!). Two more were planted in the front in imported, well-drained soil. They started the dying process last summer. The local nursery suggested the one that died one branch at a time must have had a disease. The other one looked like a grenade exploded inside its trunk, poor thing. Trees often die when several stresses combine, and our bottom-of-the-valley late spring frosts were likely a big stress on all these trees. Several other Kwanzans in neighboring yards died last year, so that made me feel better. A little.

Our five 'Shademaster' honey locusts haven't grown much yet but are very full of leaves this spring. I love their elegant branches that look good even in winter.

The two Korean 'Heartthrob' dogwoods that my husband planted for Mother's Day this year bring the dogwood total to five. I'll post some pictures when they bloom next month (Korean dogwoods bloom a month later than Florida dogwoods). Above is a shot of the white Cornus florida that is growing happily on the east of the house, nearby the transplanted pink dogwood. My 'Stellar Pink' Rutger's dogwood has just a few flowers again this year. It's planted on the north of the house and needs to grow taller to get more sunlight before it flowers well.

I was excited this spring to find several dogwood seedlings growing in my flower beds. I potted three of them up and have a spot planned for them when they get larger. I guess most dogwood seedlings are white, so that's probably what color these will be. I wonder how many years it will take before they flower. Won't it be fun to have a few trees in the yard that we grew from seed? Gardening is full of the thrill of anticipation.

May 23, 2012

'Pink Tea Cup' Hellebore

This is the second spring I've enjoyed blooms from my two 'Pink Tea Cup' hellebores. This plant is hardy in zones 5 through 9, its leaves are evergreen and it prefers partial shade. Once established, it can handle dry shade. This cultivar grows about two feet tall and wide.

It's interesting how the color of pink shifts from cool to warm depending on the light. Here you can see the buds, which formed in the first part of April.

Soon the flowers opened their nodding pink heads.

This cultivar is propogated from tissue culture, so all of the plants are uniform, unlike seedling hellebore lines. There are some variations in flower color on each plant, though. The flower above is lighter than most of the others on this plant.

At the end of April, the flowers were still going strong.

You can see that some of the blooms face outward and others look down.

This flower is forming seed pods. I haven't had any seedling hellebores come up yet, but other gardeners have reported plenty of reseeding from their hellebores.

This final shot shows a new leaf emerging. When mature, the plant will form a lovely clump of wide, hand-shaped leaves that will look fresh until the first part of next year.

May 14, 2012

Wide Views of the Front Garden

The challenge with front gardens is that they're on display before they're finished. Two years after our front yard renovation, the garden is looking much better but is still a work in progress. Really, I tell people, it's going to look Much Better when the trees and shrubs fill in.

The two 'Kwanzan' flowering cherry trees were both dying (grrr) and were replaced this month with two 'Heartthrob' Korean dogwood trees. You can see the one on the east of the driveway in the photo above. You can also see the ugly utility boxes, unfortunately. Hopefully the dogwoods will be able to handle the late spring and early fall frosts that we get here at the bottom of the valley. Speaking of which, it frosted last week (mid-May!) and turned my 'Miss Feya' lilies to brown mush. But that's another story.

After a few years of watching and tweaking, this year that there have been at least a couple of things blooming together in a continual stream of coordinated color ever since the first crocuses flowered in late February. The hyacinths and tulips shown above are done flowering now, but the 'Emerald Cushion Blue' creeping phlox and sky blue dwarf irises are blooming together this week.

There is still a lot of creeping phlox in the front yard, even after sharing big clumps with several friends (in total, 10 friends came to get plant divisions this spring at my invitation). On the left of the photo above, you can see the lone surviving 'Kwanzan' cherry. I'm not sure if this one has survived because it isn't grafted or because it's in a more protected spot.

'Tete a Tete' mini daffodils were the darling of the spring garden this year. Softer yellow 'Jaap Groot' tulips are growing in the background. Both of these bulbs are good perennializers, so hopefully they'll be back for many springs to come.

At this time of year there is still a lot of bare ground showing. It would look better if we'd already spread more bark, but that hasn't happened yet this spring. Soon the daylilies and catmint will spread their leaves wide enough to fill in this view.

If only the 'Blue Star' junipers (one shown above) and 'Otto Luyken' laurels would mature as quickly. It will take a few more years for that. The 'Green Tower' boxwood in the picture above has shed its wan winter coloring and is looking vibrant green again.

One of the things I love about the new dogwoods is the way this one hides the bank of mailboxes when I look out the front window. Since dogwoods grow slowly around here, I splurged to get large trees. Now I'm a bit nervous about keeping them healthy and happy while they establish new roots. Wish me luck.

In this shot you can see the reddish leaves of three 'Eglantyne' roses that were planted close together. They're supposed to make one large bush. I also planted three 'Abraham Darby' roses to grow together in the bed closer to the porch.

Here is a shot of the cherry tree on the southwest corner of the house. The 'Coral Supreme' peony in front of the tree has several large buds for the first time, can't wait to see those blooms. You can see a bit of golden yellow basket of gold and orange tulips peeking through from the west flagstone path bed.

I'll finish with a view of the west bed, which has a bolder color scheme than the front yard. Only some of the tulips came back from last year, but the purple aubrieta and basket of gold keep getting bigger and better each year. You can see that the 'Teasing Georgia' rose on the trellis is actually climbing, finally, hooray.
Even though my eyes constantly pick out the parts of the front that need tweaking or more time to mature, it's fun to see the ways that this landscape has grown over the past two years. And it's nice to be able to share the garden with the neighborhood despite my urge to apologize for its faults. But really, it's just going to be so great in a few more years . . .

May 10, 2012

Red Hellebore 'Velvet Lips'

My two year old 'Velvet Lips' hellebore from Heronswood has been lovely this year. Eventually it will grow to about 2 feet tall and wide, and it's very happy in mostly shady conditions.

The flower stalks emerged in early spring like hydra heads on deep maroon stalks. Although the leaves are evergreen, by this point last year's set were looking ratty and had been cut off.

Wine-red buds began to show at the tips . . .

. . . and were especially pretty when backlit by the morning sun.

The flowers opened over the next month.

As they aged, the blooms lightened to a rose color and the leaves lost their reddish coloring.

The flowers look down at an angle. This keeps nasty spring weather from damaging the reproductive parts.

After over a month in bloom, the flowers are now turning greenish.

A few of them are producing seed pods. The seedlings may or may not look similar to the parent plant.

New leaves are stretching out and will last through most of next winter here in zone 5.

Since I'm too impatient to wait until summer to take new pictures, I'll end with this photo from last year of mature leaves. Both leaves and flowers are attractive on this great plant for shade.