Monday, 16 May 2016

A Spirit of Youth

"April hath put a spirit of youth in every thing," as Shakespeare once said. After rainy March, we certainly got an early spring, and with the weather increasingly warm and dry, many of my plants woke early.
In early April the backyard looked like this:

And by May, with many of the bare spots filled in, it was like this:

Several clematis were among the first to produce flowers.

 'Miss Bateman' bloomed earlier than usual.

These are the young flowers with their green stripes; as they mature, the petals become pure white and the centre becomes a darker purple. It's lovely in both phases.

Clematis 'Willy' on the back fence timed its bloom to coincide with the blue flowers of its rosemary host this year.


 A new acquisition to adorn the western fence is the very showy 'Haku Ookan'.
 I prefer flowers with more subtlety than this, so I'm not sure whether I'll keep it. It is sharing wall space with later-blooming clematis varieties, and much will depend on how they all perform together.

My favourite tulips demonstrated yet again why they are my favourites. 'Spring Green' is actually whiter than it looks in this photo: 

In the front garden 'Ballerina' has such a tall, graceful presence that it wins me over every year.  I have some mixed feelings about orange flowers in general, but not about this elegant beauty. I like it best alone in a green setting without competing colours muscling in on its solo performance.
Here, it comes up just as the creeping willow, Salix nakamura var. yezoalpina, leafs out behind it with furry, pale-yellow candles that echo the tulip's upright stance.

On the opposite side of the front path, a few petals of 'Queen of the Night' catch the rays of a late sun as the stems rise through the spreading foliage of Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea', a gift from my friend and gardener extraordinaire, Brenda Peterson.

In the the shadiest bed close to the house, Dicentra 'Valentine Heart' dangles over the old-gold foliage of Heuchera 'Marmalade'.

Meanwhile, as always, more action was going on around the back of the house. Rosa pimpinellifolia, which usually blooms in mid- May, opened three weeks earlier in late April.

Its scent fills the air; so does the buzz of bees drawn to flowers so rich in pollen that it often drips down the petals, as if the flowers are moved to tears by their own beauty.

Not far away, several perennials were either in bud or blooming already. Among them are pale yellow Paeonia mlokosevitchii  and the buds of an unnamed pink peony,  Geum 'Leonard's Variety', and Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue'.

Another peony, the lovely P. obovata 'Alba' sets its pure white flowers off against soft, dark leaves.

Meanwhile in a shadier bed, hosta and fern foliage was waking from dormancy.

 Similar greens and purples have combined where Angelica sylvestris 'Vicar's Mead' has surrounded a young Hydrangea serrata 'Beni'.

A little colour is already sprinkled through this bed, thanks to Astrantia 'Ruby Wedding' 

and woodland treasures like Trillium grandiflorum , which opens white and darkens slowly to hot pink.

Epimedium 'Free Spirit Spring Hearts' goes the other way, pink buds giving way to white flowers. Chocolate-fringed leaves add another dimension of interest to this lovely little plant.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Perils and Pleasures of March

March was such a rainy month. I stood at the window, watching the rain pummel my struggling young flowers, when I would much rather have been out in the garden enjoying their blooms and their fragrance. I suppose the consolation - if you can call it that - is finding out the down side of some new purchases. Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle' is a case in point. What a neat little double daffodil, I thought.
But add some raindrops to those small yellow sunbursts and they become too heavy for their slender stems. Mine spent most of their time like this.

 I'll transfer them to a pot that I can keep under cover next year, but I won't buy more.
I will, however, probably invest in another batch of a small early tulip called 'Peppermint Stick'. It stood up bravely to the rain, although I had to rinse off splashes of dirt to take this pristine picture.

So many of Spring's little treasures reward a close inspection, revealing infinitesimal detail and elusive fragrance only when you get down on their level.
 Double primula 'Sue Jervis' is one of these, just starting to bloom in front of blue Anemone nemorosa 'Allenii'. Its flowers are a strange rosy pink, and if you can bend all the way down to sniff, they have a suitably spring-like scent.

All of the little wood anemones, like 'Allenii' are welcome in my garden. Another now blooming is Anemone bracteata. Its white daisy flowers are only part of its attraction; the bracts with their cobalt-blue bases are hardly visible unless you inspect them from a worm's eye level.

I also have Anemone vindobonensis, which is a yellow form, rather like a buttercup but much more refined.

All these little gems arrive early and disappear by the end of spring, which makes them ideal for planting under perennials or shrubs that don't leaf out until late in April. Hostas make great companions for them, as they like the same dappled shade and break ground just as the anemones are done. My all-time favourite hosta, 'Krossa Regal', is one that starts late but soon takes over with dramatic new shoots that rapidly engulf everything around its feet.