At last spring is here in its full glory. The garden is literally growing before my eyes. Our recent rain will no doubt spur new growth not only of the plants but the lawn. I love spring: everything is so vibrant. The temperatures haven’t started climbing and the plants look their best even if they aren’t blooming.
Never fear though, there is color besides green. Today I have Iris, Geum, Allium, Columbine, Baptista, German catchfly, Solomon’s seal, Blue Phlox, Snow in Summer, and Alyssum ‘Basket of Gold in full bloom. Several of the rose bushes are loaded with buds just ready to burst open. The perennial poppy buds are huge and promise lots of seeds later in the season.
My garden is planted so there is color from early, early spring – Hellebore ‘Lenten Rose’, Shooting Star, hyacinth, and tulips (though the voles seem to have devoured many of the tulip bulbs) through the summer into fall. Something is always in bloom.
Two of my favorite spring perennials are Geums and Alliums. Geums, commonly called Avens, are part of the rose family. They’re wonderful plants – minimal maintenance, very floriferous, and with deadheading they’ll bloom well into the summer. I haven’t detected any insect problems and the pollinators love them, especially now when the Geums are taking center stage with their multitude of flowers. Several varieties that I grow are ‘Lady Stratheden’, ‘Mrs. J. Bradshaw’, ‘Alabama Slammer’, and Totally Tangerine. Geums have been very popular in England and are just now catching on here in the U.S.
If you would like a plant variety that adds plenty of color and interest to your perennial garden, try Geums.
Allium ‘Mt. Everest’
My other favorite spring flower is Allium or ornamental onions. Alliums are grown from bulbs thus requiring no maintenance once they’ve been planted. They’re deer and rodent resistant, and the bumblebees absolutely love them. You’ll see the bumblebees clinging to the flowers and nothing will dislodge them. There are spring varieties of Alliums as well as summer varieties.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’
Right now I have A. hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ and A. ‘Mt. Everest’ in full bloom. A. cristophii’s flowers are just now beginning to open. This variety produces enormous flower heads – at least a couple of feet in diameter, and once the flowers have finished blooming, the flower heads may be dried for use in decorating. An Allium that will definitely get your friends’ attention is A. ‘Hair’. It really does resemble a bad hair day. Later in the summer A. ‘Azure blue’ will pop open with its dazzling deep blue flowers. Allium colors include purple, white, yellow, pink and blue.
Both of these perennials add much interest to the garden. Try them, you won’t be disappointed.
The harsh winter here in Eastern Kentucky has brought unanticipated changes to the garden. Most of the perennials survived the sub-zero temperatures but several rose bushes and shrubs didn't fare as well. So far I've removed three rose bushes. The Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata) which had flourished the past three seasons and rewarded me with vast quantities of fall fragrant blooms is no more. The Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) which produced numerous red berries just in time for Christmas decorations didn't survive the January cold. I've pruned it back nearly to the ground and was pleased to see the stalks were still showing green so I'm hopeful it will revive.
The empty spaces left by the dead bushes will soon be replaced with new varieties of flowers. This is the fourth season for my garden and several of the perennials need to be divided, and I have some aggressive thugs who need to be removed. Here's a bit of advice: never grow loosestrife in the ground. If you choose to add it to your garden, grow it in a container so as to control its spread. Otherwise, it will take over.
The 35 mini-terrariums I made from 2-liter Diet Pepsi bottles are loaded with new seedlings which will go outside in a couple of weeks. I'd say that about 90% of the terrariums have seedlings which equates to lots of new plants.
As the garden awakens from its winter dormancy, it is as though long-time friends have returned for a visit, and I greet each of them with anticipation and excitement.
Gotta go for now. The postal carrier just delivered a plant order.
Greetings fellow gardeners: It has been a long, long winter here in my neck of the woods, and I’m anxious for this gardening season to begin. I do wonder if winter will ever end. Even yesterday we had another 4-5” of snow followed by a cold night.
On the few days when the weather has cooperated, I’ve been outdoors cleaning out the flower beds which is not my favorite gardening chore. This year’s work is even more so because I didn’t get the leaves cleaned up last fall. So far I’ve filled 27 jumbo bags with yard debris, and I still have three more beds to clean out. I’ve composted much of the leaves, but still have many, many more on the ground.
There have been signs of life in the garden despite the weather: crocuses are blooming as are the Hellebores (Lenten Rose) even though they are late this year. My Hellebores usually bloom in February. Maybe they know Easter is late this year too. While the weather has curtailed outdoor gardening, I’ve been busy indoors. I’m trying something new this year: I’m starting many of my plants, both vegetables and flowers, from seed. I’ve devised my own type of greenhouse for the seeds. I use 2-liter Diet Pepsi (my drink of choice) bottles as individual greenhouses. I cut the bottoms off the liter, then put the peat pot with seeds into the bottom and reconnect. I remove the Pepsi label and write the name of the seed and the date onto the bottle. I can remove the lid to the bottle if there’s too much humidity inside. So far this method has worked very well. To date I have sowed chicory, lupines, strawflowers, blue bonnets, blue bells, merrybells, Chinese houses, monarda, borage, pansy, bloodroot, poppy mallow, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and a variety of heirloom tomatoes, all of which have germinated. I have a large, south-facing window and the greenhouses are on plant stands where they get plenty of warmth (well, when the sun is out) and light. Most of the vegetables have gotten their second set of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them into individual pots very soon.
Gardening has taught me patience, something I’ve sorely needed, and this year may be no exception. As I’ve cleared out the flower beds I’m detecting lots of bare space where plants grew last year. I’m hoping the plants are just slow to come out of dormancy and that I haven’t lost so many due to the severe winter. Time will tell. Let’s hope that Old Man Winter has finally retreated and spring weather will come…soon.