May 26, 2015

A Lot of Amazing Alliums

Globe alliums have been the stars of the backyard garden for the past couple of weeks.  Above you see 'Purple Caila' in front of violet 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris, with 'Globemaster' at back right.  I thought PC was going to be more blue-violet, but it has turned out to be exactly the same color as 'Globemaster.'   The leaves are different, though.

This is the same area from a slightly different angle so you can see the 'Totally Tangerine' geum at right.  I am loving how the rosy-orange flowers contrast with the mauve alliums and violet irises.

Bees large and small love allium, and I have read that butterflies will feed from them as well, though we haven't seen any flutters landing on our alliums.  If you look closely, you can see a little bee at the right of the globe above.  It has been enjoyable to sit on warm afternoons and watch dozens of bees coming and going.

This photo illustrates how the 'Globemaster' foliage turns rosy-pink before dying back.  Its foliage makes a nice color echo of the rosy new foliage of the 'William Shakespeare' rose at left.

Here is a wider view of the northwest corner of the backyard.  The 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees have completely finished blooming and their leaves have darkened to their summer maroon color, which makes a nice backdrop for the mauve alliums and violet irises.

I couldn't resist sharing one more shot of the area, this time facing northeast.  At left the 'Pagan Purple' delphiniums are budding and will make a dramatic backdrop in coming weeks for the crimson 'William Shakespeare' roses at the front of the bed.

'Ambassador' alliums are the last to bloom and have the deepest color of the alliums in my yard.  At their base, spikes of 'Caradonna' salvia are in full bloom.  My husband helped me complete some major restructuring of the back part (actually the area out of view to the right of this shot) of this flower bed yesterday.  He moved the last of the tree peonies away from the reach of the sprinklers, as the moisture on the leaves was causing regular Botrytis die-back.  The drip system will be a better choice for watering them.  He also helped me divide the CB Siberian iris and add a couple more clumps behind the alliums.  I have realized I need to repeat the same plants many times to make this large area cohesive.  Two or three of one type of plant is not enough - I often need a dozen.

In the east garden the 'Gladiator' alliums are finishing up their bloom cycle, while a few 'Globemaster' and 'Purple Sensation' alliums are still going strong.  The 'Early Emperor' alliums at the northeast corner of the yard are completely finished and have been cut down to the ground.  With 'Early Emperor' starting last month and 'Ambassador' continuing for the next couple of weeks, I have enjoyed two months of alliums in the garden.

This final shot shows a few white 'Mount Everest' alliums in front of the unknown white clematis climbing up one of the crabapple trees.  Violet columbines surround the base of the tree.  We are in the heaviest season of bloom for the garden, with roses starting to open along with many other perennials.  I have many more photos to share in coming weeks.

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.