May 26, 2014

Not Quite Billowing and Encompassing, But On Its Way

It is amazing how quickly the gardens change this time of year.  In just a few weeks the perennials have made a lot of growth and the trees and shrubs have finished leafing out.  So I am posting more wide views of the garden to show the progress.

I am starting with a couple of shots from the west garden, which was planted in 2010 and is more established than the backyard, which was mostly completed last year in 2013.  The clumps of gold and violet iris are finally really big and pretty.  Violet 'May Night' salvia (everyone should grow this plant) is just starting to bloom, while 'Walker's Low' catmint sprawls everywhere.  The catmint should not be fertilized, but it's growing next to my roses so its roots soak up some of the fertilizer meant for the roses and then get floppy.  Oh well.

This area just inside the gate is meant to be a sort of foyer.  When the trees mature enough to create a ceiling and the shrubs grow large enough to feel like walls, there will be a comfortable sense of enclosure with hints of the view beyond to draw you into the garden.  Now that the big elements are in place, I have plans to divide and transplant perennials along the edge of the path to add more color.  My goal is for the mature garden to be billowing and full, just on the edge of overgrown, so you feel surrounded instead of just looking down at it.

Looking north from the gate, the maroon leaves of 'Royal Raindrops' crabapples contrast with all the green. They grow quickly, so it shouldn't take too much longer before the branches grow into each other to make one large canopy.  I really like these trees, and the two weeks that they bloom each year are spectacular, but they do have some drawbacks.  They require a lot of pruning because the branches keep growing too low and I have to remind them that they're trees, not shrubs.  The other drawback to this tree is the thousands of tiny seedlings that are coming up from the thousands of cute little crabapples that are produced each fall.  Even Preen hasn't stopped the problem.

This is the current unimpressive view of the main garden bed.  I have been sitting in that chair in back while pondering on what else this focal area needs.  There are plenty of perennials and shrubs for color later in the season, but I need more interest during April and May.  Deep rose 'Don Quichotte' and purple 'Negrita' tulips bloom in April and are known to be reliable perennials, especially in a raised bed like this one.  'Renown' tulips are similar in color to 'Don Quichotte' but bloom in May and are also good perennials (not all tulips come back each year).  'Globemaster' and 'Purple Caila' alliums bloom in late May, while 'Ambassador' alliums bloom in June.  Such a large area needs a lot of bulbs to fill the space, so I have a huge bulb order coming this fall from Van Engelen and Zonneveld.  I'm not looking forward to all the planting, but at least it's very easy to dig in this imported soil.

The key to getting better photos of a young landscape is to squat, so you get less of the bare soil in the view.  I have enough shrubs and perennials planted that in a few years the gardens will be very full, but it just takes time.  Here is another shot looking toward the northwest corner, taken while scuttling about like a crab.  Of course I have to point out the darling ruffled leaves of the 'Victoria' rhubarb in the back. 

 The 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle is slowly making progress up the sides of the swing set and should eventually cover the whole thing.  I have been using large black zip ties to hold the stems to the metal.  When the trees mature to form a ceiling, the chartreuse 'Sutherland Gold' elderberries on either side of the swings grow to 9' tall and a little less wide (thanks to pruning if needed), and the 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum in the far corner reaches 6' tall and 8-10' wide, the bench will feel nestled into the garden instead of sitting out in the open.

Hopefully the same thing will happen around this bench as the dogwood tree behind it matures along with the surrounding shrubs and perennials.  This bench faces the main garden bed, so next year it will be a perfect place to sit and enjoy the hundreds of tulips and alliums I'm going to plant this fall.

Why are the sides of the house so much prettier right now than the main focal points of the garden?  Well, the west side is just more mature, and this east side has so many perennials packed into it that it already feels full.  As a gardener friend pointed out with a chuckle, I'll soon have plenty of divisions to share.  If you are in Spokane next spring and want to come get a few, just let me know!

May 21, 2014

Plenty of Pink Blooms

The backyard gardens have plenty of pink flowers opening right now.  Also a little orange, violet and lavender, but mostly pink.  Among them are 'Harmony Series - Orchid' Anemone coronaria, which are supposed to be hardy here in zone 5.  Most A. coronaria cannot withstand our winter cold, but this pretty little plant is more sturdy.  When I saw it at Lowes last week, I immediately snatched up a couple of pots.

Here is another shot of the Anemone.  Gorgeous color, lots of fluffy petals, delicate black center - I'm in love.  And if this is part of a series, then other colors may come out soon?  How exciting for us cold climate folks.

There are several shades of pink creeping phlox blooming around the edges of the pathway.  In this view you can also see spiky leaves of Siberian iris and chartreuse 'Ogon'/'Mellow Yellow' spirea in the background.

The 'Capital Red' tree peonies have finally produced a couple of blooms, despite being stepped on and broken (my fault while pruning the crabapples) and having their leaves stripped (my youngest son's doing).  They also struggle with Botrytis fungus that cause the leaves to turn black, wither, and fall.  I sprayed with an organic fungicide - Actinovate - but have still noticed a few leaves succumbing.  Anyway, the flowers aren't full sized yet and are deep pink instead of red, but they're lovely.

The three baby 'Helsinki University' rhododendrons have only two flower heads between them, but they all have a lot of leaf buds emerging.  At this point I'd rather sacrifice flowers for leaf growth anyway, so it's perfect. 

Good old 'Dusseldorf Pride' Armeria makes a cheerful little edger along the path.  I have been thinking a lot about what plants I could add to fill in around the edges of the path.  There is still plenty of empty space there.

'Asao' is the first of my eleven clematis vines to start blooming.  I have planted several more of them this spring.  There isn't much room for more shrubs or perennials, but I found space to squeeze in more vines.

Here is the first fully opened bloom.  I am looking forward to using clematis in flower arrangements, which I haven't yet tried.  It is going to be a fun year for floral arranging with plenty of material from the garden thanks to the landscaping project last spring.

May 13, 2014

Tulip, Hellebore and Lilac Floral Arrangement

This spring the garden has offered some interesting flowers for arrangements.  Tulips, hellebores and lilacs are the main players in the vase above.  I have made several similar ones over the past week.

Peony-flowering 'Blue Spectacle' tulips add mauvey-plum or plummy-mauve or some color like that.  I love how their stems curve to make a soft and flowing arrangement.

'Double Queen' hellebores have aged from cream to green but they still work well in an arrangement.  Hellebore blooms last a long time in the garden or in the vase.

'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs make a good filler and add that yummy lilac scent to the creation. 

Muscari paradoxum are a deeper color than regular grape hyacinths.  The buds have a turquoise sheen, then they open to pure navy.

The fluffy white stuff is 'Victoria' rhubarb.  Have I mentioned that I'm completely in love with rhubarb for its ornamental qualities?  Everyone who visits the garden comments on it - it's about five feet tall right now in bloom.  The huge ruffled leaves are beautiful and the flowers work well in arrangements.

I also used several stems of 'June Bride' heuchera buds to add a dainty touch.  In this arrangement I forgot to include variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum), but it is a useful foliage addition to vases.

If I had unlimited resources, I would bring spring flowers to everyone.  But since I am not superwomen, please enjoy this vase via photos.  Happy spring!

May 9, 2014

May Garden Views

Come take a tour of the garden with all its May flowers.  Above you can see lots of spring green - except for the trees, which are still in the process of leafing out.  'Salmon Impression' and yellow 'Jaap Groot' tulips hang above 'Emerald Blue' creeping phlox.  The tulips have multiplied in the few years since I planted them.  They are very happy in the well-drained mounded beds.

That first photo was from a week ago, and this closeup shows the 'Blue Spectacle' tulips that are now blooming in pots on the front porch.  I meant to get these into the ground last fall but ran out of time and energy, so pots saved the day.  The new foliage of an 'Abraham Darby' English rose lines the bottom of the shot.

The west path bed is vibrant with basket of gold (Alyssum 'Compactum') contrasting with 'Axcent Blue' Aubrieta, plus deep pink and red-orange tulips.  Clusters of 'Blue Spike' Muscari round out the rainbow color scheme.  Soon the catmint, salvia and iris will fill this area with taller blooms in shades of violet and gold.

Just inside the back gate we find double pink tulips under a 'Spring Snow' crabapple.  This angle doesn't show it, but the blooms of an old fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) match the tulips.  The harmonious scheme is totally unplanned but much appreciated.

 Farther along the back path but still looking toward the south, we see the spring 'snow' has fallen that gives these crabapples their name.  Clumps of bearded iris and still-small peonies are getting ready to bloom in a few weeks.  Sweetly fragrant 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs are also in bloom right now.

As the 'Spring Snow' crabs finish blooming, the deep pink 'Royal Raindrops' crabapples in the NW corner start their show.  Majestic 'Victoria' rhubarb blooms beneath them, while a fluffy dwarf Arctic willow sways in the breeze just to the east (right).  Chartreuse 'Sem' Sorbaria sorbifolia peeks out from behind a 'Kopper Kettle' Itoh peony.  I bought this peony for its gorgeous flowers, but its deep maroon spring leaves are a nice bonus. 

Here is the view looking toward the east, with little lavenders in front of a basalt boulder.  Farther down 'Little Lime' hydrangeas leaf out in between a 'Green Tower' boxwood and several 'Green Mountain' boxwoods.  Just out of the photo is a vigorous 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum.  In a few years the stark white fence will be broken up by clematis and climbing roses.  Right now those plants are just babies. 

Here is a final shot of the garden directly east of the house.  A white dogwood (Cornus florida) blooms above chartreuse 'Ogon' spirea and assorted perennials and alliums.  I just installed the white screen this week to hide the air conditioner.  Eventually a 'Helsinki University' rhododendron will grow large enough to block most of the screen so it won't seem so stark. 
Though the backyard still has plenty of maturing to do, it has progressed quite a bit from this time last year (see photos here), when we had just finished a major landscaping project.  Documenting its progress on this blog has been a fun way to keep track of the changes.