The mild winter here in the northeast has given us the most wonderful February Bloom Day ever. From the dusky tones of Erica carnea, which started showing color at Thanksgiving, to the flaming red of Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane', which has just burst into bloom this week, the garden is really coming to life.
Witch hazel Diane
Here's a list!
- Helleborus niger
- Helleborus x hybridus
- Helleborus foetidus
- Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn
- Hamamellis 'Diane'
- Hamamellis 'Arnold Promise'
- Erica carnea
- Jasminum nudiflorum
- Galanthus nivalis - snowdrops
- Lonicera fragrantissima, winter honeysuckle
Helleborus x hybridus
Here's an updated link to May Dreams Gardens' Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts.
This we dream about?
The long dank winter here always finds me dreaming of sunny July days. Now that July is almost over, I'm longing for some cool weather, and so are many of the plants in my garden.
It's been such an extraordinary season on the Cape and elsewhere in New England; the unprecedented heat moved many late summer plants to flower in June, and I do wonder how the garden will look in August and September - usually the peak of bloom in my garden.
One of the stand-out plants for this kind of weather is Vitex agnus castus, commonly called Chastetree. Not hardy much north or inland from here, it's done well in all but one of the 20 or so years I've been growing it. The scent of the foliage is somewhat like eucalyptus, refreshing and not too strong. I have it planted near the house in an area with impeccable drainage, just behind my favorite hydranges, H. preziosa. The color combination varies as the season progresses, and is a little different each year as the plants react differently to vagaries of heat and moisture. The Hydrangea flowers start out white, as do the Vitex; the former then progresses through speckled pale pink to red and then to a dusky purple. The latter becomes pale blue, the color deepening as the flowers age.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day
“We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.”
~ Elizabeth Lawrence
It's March 15, Bloom Day, the day when all the garden bloggers report on what's in flower in their own gardens, on the May Dreams Garden
site. Actually, last month I had one or two things to report, but by now the late winter flowers are in full swing.
Here's the list, in no particular order:
Hamamellis 'Diane' - a nice red Witch Hazel
Hamamellis 'Arnold Promise' - one of the most reliable and popular witch hazels
Viburnum Viburnum bodnantense - Dawn Viburnum
Erica carnea - winter heath, a subshrub in pink, purple, white
Jasminum nudiflorum - winter jasmine, a lax shrub that puts forsythia to shame
Helleborus niger - the Christmas rose
Helleborus foetidus - stinking hellebore
Helleborus x hybridus - oriental hellebore
Galanthus nivalis - snowdrops
Crocus - these beauties are just beginning
Eranthis hyemalis - winter aconite, a cute little yellow spring ephemeral
Almost as exciting as the flowers are the emerging foliage of plants that will put on their show later in the season. Some of the sedums have beautiful, tiny rosettes of pale green leaves emerging now; I do believe I like them now more than in summer when they're at their theoretical peak. Also going on now, the peonies are budding up, with those great bright red buds, and the spring viburnums' flower buds, which have been tightly furled all winter, are starting to expand.
Gardening ... in December
I was just griping on the GardenWeb
New England forum, because I dropped by a local nursery yesterday and fell for a couple of hardy camellias. Now what? I asked - plant them, hold them in my inhospitable (to plants) house, or try keeping them in the old drafty garage? Well, I split the difference and planted one, a 'Pink Perfection
' that was already nicely budded up.
Now don't get me wrong, I know camellias are iffy here on the Cape. I've tried them before and lost them, one at a time. Even if they survive, sudden temperature swings can blast the flower buds, too. The one I haven't planted yet, 'April Remembered
' blooms later in the year, so it's probably safe. The winter-blooming varieties need to be in evergreen shade, so they don't jump the gun when the sun warms them on sunny winter days.
The new hardier varieties have turned out to be a mixed blessing for New Englanders. My sister grows them beautifully in her Long Island garden; she has some in bloom pretty much all winter. It pains me that I can't do that here, which I guess is why I keep trying.
Now, to the point of this post. At last. Having to get outside and plant that darn camellia was such a boost. While I was outside, I got back to the fall cleanup I'd done so quickly and haphazardly back in November. The weather was amazing - a bit of sun, no wind, and temperatures in the 50s.
What was left to do? I'd left a couple of ornamental (read: unplanned, inappropriately placed, volunteer) asparagus plants standing this fall, and they had collapsed in the recent snow. There's one on the east side of the house, in full sun, in what would be the foundation planting in any normal garden. The second is to the west of what's left of the lawn, next to a little cedar arch that supports a couple of clematis; this one is, I think, the older of the two - maybe 10 years now since it appeared. The conditions are approximately the same for the two specimens, with some afternoon shade, normal garden soil. So, I ask you, why was the one out front full of gorgeous red berries? It turns out, these are Asparagus officinalis is dioecious; the individuals are either male or female. Who knew? I guess they're close enough, even with the house standing between them, for pollination. Here's a more detailed description:
The asparagus inflorescence has been variously referred to as pseudohermaphrodite male and pseudohermaphrodite female (Kerner 1897*, p. 299); dioecious, rarely hermaphrodite (Knuth 1909*, p. 464); dioecious, sometimes changing to monoecious (Hexamer 1908); normally dioecious (Jones and Rosa 1928*); and dioecious (Hawthorn and Pollard 1954 *). Intergrades from strongly pistillate to strongly staminate have been observed (Jones and Robbins 1928). In their early stages, the flowers are similar, with both sets of sexual organs present. Later, however, one set usually aborts, leaving a "male" flower with an outer and inner whorl of three stamens each, or a "female" flower with a three-lobed pistil and three-locule ovary, and the other parts rudimentary (fig. 45). Both kinds of flowers have nectaries at the base of the corolla. The individual, whitish-green flowers, from one to four in each axil, are pendulous, bell-shaped, about one-quarter inch long (the male is slightly larger than the female flower) with a characteristic odor (Knuth, 1909*, p. 464). They are freely visited by honey bees and other bees (Norton 1913, Jones and Robbins 1928, Eckert 1956, Pellett 1947*, Jones and Rosa 1928*).
In cutting back one of the asparagus, I had to trim the clematis that had entwined itself around and through the giant ferny foliage. The one in the foundation bed led me into a weeding frenzy, digging out the Muhlenbergia shreberi, or nimblewill, the warm season grassy weed from hell. And that led me to see that the hellebores were starting to bud up, and many to show signs of fungal infection, so I got into stripping the leaves to minimize the chance of damage to the new growth.
All in all, a wonderful day in the garden, a rare treat in late December.
Is it Spring yet?
The January thaw came a little early this year, and I wasn't ready. Not that I couldn't find my gloves and wheelbarrow, but I wasn't ready emotionally. I haven't been cooped up in the boring house nearly long enough yet, haven't gotten so stir crazy that I felt a driving need to get up to my knees in compost. In fact, the compost pile hasn't even frozen yet, and I've been out there turning it just about every week.
It was warm enough to spend some time surveying the shrubs, finding crossed branches, water sprouts to be cut back, and sections that are overhanging some paths too much. These can cut back any time now that the plants are dormant, but I like to wait until March. There should be some nice days that month, among the cold, windy, dreadful ones, and by then I'll be desperate for some kind of garden work. Saving this chore for later will also help keep me out of trouble with my favorite on-line plant suppliers.
Just today I found a link to a great source of shade plants - it's the Naylor Creek
nursery. Not a fancy site, and the catalog is in PDF, but they have 19 different Rodgersias. I'm hooked.