I returned to Maine on Monday evening and was welcomed home by spring blooms in the garden.
The last forsythia flowers are fading, and the first blooms on the back slope rhododendron are just beginning to open. Here and there, patches of moss phlox (Phlox subulata) are flowering, and the glorious fragrance of lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) fills the air.
In the Serenity Garden, the bleeding heart plant (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’) is flowering beautifully and has pushed the deer netting (which has done its job well) out of the way in order to reach its impressive size. (It’s hard to believe that this is only the second year for this plant in the garden.) The showy bleeding hearts are accompanied by the quieter beauty of Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum Variegatum) and of hellebores.
It is cool and rainy here, and I am waiting for some dry weather (soon, I hope!) so that I can get out and remove the deer netting, get plant supports installed, do some dividing and transplanting, and mow the knee-high grass.
It’s good to be home — and with time to work in the garden!
In my Gettysburg, Pennsylvania garden, the late spring display is not quite as far advanced as it was last year at this time. Hardy geraniums, for example, are covered with buds but have not yet begun to bloom. But the star of the May garden is, as always, the large bleeding heart plant (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) that dominates the front flower bed.
Each year, I’m amazed all over again at how quickly this plant grows from small red shoots to a 5’ wide shrub-like presence that has whole other plants buried underneath. At one end, the flowers of Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ are peeking out amid the hearts; at the other end, a few last flowers of Pulmonaria provide a similar touch of blue. (Click to enlarge to really see the blue flowers.)
In the back flower bed, it is the flowers of much smaller bleeding heart plants, both white and pink, that peek out around the hosta foliage.
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s in bloom today in gardens from many climates. Post your own blooms there and join the fun.
When I rented the townhouse where I live in Gettysburg (11 years ago this month), I found a half-barrel full of weeds sitting in the middle of the front lawn. The day after I signed the lease, before I had even moved in, I bought some potting soil and annuals and filled the barrel with spring color. Every spring since, I have planted it with dianthus, annual geranium (Pelargonium), petunias and osteospermum, providing colorful blooms all summer long.
This past fall, as the blooms in my barrel were fading and I was dreaming about the garden season to come, I had a vision of the barrel filled with tulips in April. Since it was the season to plant bulbs and I had bulb catalogs at hand to encourage me, I purchased and planted 25 tulip bulbs of four different varieties, all in various shades of pink. All winter long, I imagined the glorious pink blooms that would overflow from my barrel in spring. Instead, I got what you see in the photo above – a total of 4 tulips from my 25 bulbs.
I’m not sure what went wrong. It’s possible that the container didn’t provide the bulbs with enough protection from winter cold. It’s also possible that the drainage wasn’t good enough and most of the bulbs rotted. I think the most likely explanation is that the squirrels got most of them.
Fortunately, by the time I realized what a disappointment my tulip experiment had turned out to be, it was time to plant annuals, and my barrel is once again providing a cheerful bounty of colorful blooms.
In my Gettysburg garden, just north of the Mason-Dixon line, spring is well underway. The crocus blooms are just a memory, the forsythia has dropped most of its blossoms, and the hyacinths and daffodils are looking shriveled and faded. The moss phlox (Phlox subulata) has begun to bloom, and the bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are strung with heart-shaped flowers. On my walk to work, the flowers of magnolia, pear and cherry trees have been replaced by flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).
But a trip home to my Maine garden, 600 miles to the northeast, this weekend was a chance to experience early spring all over again. I arrived in time to see the last fading flowers of crocus and Iris reticulata,
|to see new flowers on Hellebores,|
and to see the forsythia and hyacinths just beginning to bloom.
There are fat buds on daffodils, and the foliage of bleeding hearts is just emerging.
This was my annual April trip to Maine for a long weekend of spring clean-up in the garden, and the weather really cooperated. I had three days of sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures in the 60s (F). I raked fallen leaves, removed old stems and spent foliage from last year, and got to see the new green growth underneath it all. (I find the spring clean-up transformation of flower beds one of the most satisfying of gardening chores.)
|Before and after images of (from top to bottom) the circular bed, the fence border and the blue and yellow border.|
The Serenity Garden at the edge of the woods has proved to be an irresistible temptation for hungry deer in spring. Because I’ll be away for the next three weeks as tender plants emerge, I set up a system of supports with netting to discourage browsing on deer favorites like hosta and Bowman’s root.
I didn’t know anything about vernal pools or that there were two of them in the woods east of my house until I had a lightning strike burn down a tree into its roots and turn into an underground fire one August. The following spring, I ventured out into the woods to see how the site of the fire was recovering and was surprised to find myself standing at the edge of a small pond that hadn’t been there in August.
A vernal pool is a depression in the earth that is not permanently connected with other bodies of water. The depression fills with water at certain times of year (usually in spring – thus the name “vernal,” which is based on the Latin word for spring) and dries up at other times. Vernal pools in my native region of New England are usually found in woodlands. Typically they fill with water from snowmelt in spring and slowly evaporate during the dryer months of summer. They may also fill from heavy rains or from a rising water table during particularly wet periods. How much water is in a vernal pool can vary from one year to another depending on the amount of snowfall and rain. One of the two pools in the woods just east of my property line is quite small and typically dries up by late summer. The other is much larger; in wet springs, it can cover more than a quarter mile out to the nearest road, and it sometimes contains water all summer long.
Because these bodies of water are temporary (all vernal pools dry up at least in dry years) and are not typically connected to larger bodies of water, fish cannot survive in them. This makes them prime breeding grounds for amphibians like frogs, toads, and salamanders that are vulnerable to fish predation. As declining populations of amphibians have become a cause for concern, the ecological value of vernal pools has become more apparent.
Vernal pools are themselves vulnerable to being destroyed by property development. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 90% of California’s vernal pools have already been lost. In 2006, my home state of Maine passed legislation protecting a subset of vernal pools called “Significant Vernal Pools.” To be classified as “significant,” a vernal pool must have abundant populations of certain indicator species (fairy shrimp, blue-spotted salamanders, spotted salamanders and wood frogs) or must be critical to the life cycle of certain rare, endangered or threatened species. Thus far, between 20% and 25% of Maine’s vernal pools have been classified as significant vernal pools. This classification is controversial because the law not only protects the vernal pool itself but also designates a “zone of consultation” on any land within 250 feet of a significant vernal pool. Special permits are required to build in this zone of consultation, and some landowners regard this as unfair “taking” of their property. In the face of this controversy, the University of Maine and Maine Audubon have moved ahead with a program of education about vernal pools and assistance to local municipalities in mapping the vernal pools within their boundaries. Their 100+ page Maine Municipal Guide to Mapping and Conserving Vernal Pool Resources is a wonderful source of information.
As I’ve learned more about vernal pools, I’ve developed a special appreciation of these quiet oases near my house. I make a point of walking out into the woods to visit the pools several times each year, and both their beauty and their contributions to the local ecology enrich my life. They make it possible for me to be serenaded on warm spring nights by a chorus of spring peepers, and they provide breeding grounds for the toads and dragonflies that are regular visitors to my garden.
Spring has finally arrived in my southern Pennsylvania garden, and it is sweet. April is one month of the year that I would much rather be in Gettysburg than in Maine (where there may still be patches of snow in my garden).
Spring was very slow arriving in Gettysburg this year as we had unseasonably cold weather in March and the first week in April. And then, about a week ago, the temperature shot up into the 80s (F) and plants put on a sudden spurt of growth and bloom.
Lots of greenery has appeared in the front flower bed, and the Pulmonaria has begun to bloom.
|In the back garden, daffodils and hyacinths have burst into bloom in the small circle by the patio.|
And the back flower bed is putting on its April display of yellows and blues.
|In the stone circle, blue hyacinths bloom with tete-a-tete daffodils,|
|… and the white bleeding heart is showing its first flowers.|
|In a few days, the forsythia have gone from new blooms to fading blooms and new leaves.|
The sweetness of April in my Pennsylvania garden is enhanced by borrowed blooms,
|like these forsythia along a neighbor’s back property line,|
|… and the charming Muscari (grape hyacinths) that someone planted around the mailboxes.|
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of every month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see what’s in bloom this month in gardens around the world.