In many places, mid-June is very clearly summer; but in my Maine garden we are just on the cusp of summer. The garden has not yet reached its full flush of early summer blooms, but it is moving in that direction. Now that cool rain has given way to blue skies, sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s (F), new blooms are joining the summer garden show every day. Among today’s new stars is the first peony of the season.
|In the Iris Bed, where the old-fashioned blue Siberian irises bloom first, they are just about finished; but on the back slope (the last place that this variety blooms), they are in their glory.|
Other flowers that deserve special notice in the Blue and Yellow Border are the amazingly blue blooms of Linum perenne and the pale yellow inflorescences of Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight.’
Another important player in the early summer garden is Tradescantia (spiderwort), which grows in all my flower beds except one. The cultivar ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ opens its flowers first, but it is quickly followed by the blue-violet volunteers and by the other named varieties, all of which have now opened their first flowers.
Geranium ‘Biokovo’ is also the most visible bloom in the Serenity Garden, now in its second year and beginning to fill in. If you look closely, though, you can find a few other flowers blooming. Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ which dropped all its blooms in the unusual hot weather here at the end of May, has reconsidered in the cool temperatures of early June and put out a few tentative pink hearts among its chartreuse foliage.
Tiger swallowtail butterflies are very much in evidence these days. They flit among the trees on the edges of the garden and then float down into the garden to nectar on flowers of Amsonia hubrichtii, Rhododendron catawbiense, Geranium x cantabrigiense and Iris sibirica .
Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see June blooms from gardens around the world.
In the rush of end-of-semester grading, I didn’t manage to review garden blogs in May; so I’m making up for lost time with my June selections. The three blogs I’ve chosen to highlight are not necessarily new blogs, but all are new to me (within the past two months).
Late to the Garden Party is Kris Peterson’s chronicle of renovating an established garden in southern California. In 2010, Peterson moved from a house with a small garden that she had lovingly developed over 20 years to a property with much more room for gardening. The new house already had a garden – one that had been part of what attracted her to the house, but also one that was not entirely to her taste and that she needed to make her own. Two years later, in December 2012, she began blogging to document and share that process, noting that “Although I’ve devoted hundreds of hours to the garden (and managed to do serious damage to my right knee in the process), I feel as though I’ve barely made a dent in what I want to accomplish.” Kris’s blog posts are very engagingly written and include the problems (heavy clay soil and multitudinous rocks) and pleasures (having room to grow fruit and vegetables) of renovating this garden. Along the way, readers share her excitement about the garden, are asked for advice, and also get snippets of life philosophy. One of my favorite posts is a recent one, The “B” Side, which uses the metaphor of the “flip side” of a hit record to compare the public view of a garden with the more personal perspectives that only the gardener normally sees. This is a delightful blog, and I am looking forward to sharing more of Kris Peterson’s garden.
The Garden in Rainy Valley is also about buying a house and renovating the garden, this time in southeast Wales. This blog is only a few months old, begun about 18 months after moving into an old stone house that was accompanied by “a fairly run of the mill garden.” The garden project here is primarily one of restoration; as the blog’s author explains, “We are determined to restore a wilder character to the garden and some of the features that would have existed in 1870, which is the oldest recorded mention of the house I can find in local records.” Readers are treated to accounts of projects and garden choices and to beautiful images of the Welsh countryside. I was entranced by the beautiful dry stone walls that the owners of this property found hidden behind hedges. But my favorite posts thus far are those about choosing heirloom varieties to plant in a newly created orchard (It’s an Orchard – Actually and Buying Our Trees). This kind of restoration work is an adventure that requires research, sensitivity, determination, patience and hard work; I am looking forward to sharing the adventure and to learning from it.
Of Gardens is a much more established blog than the other two highlighted here and also a very different type of garden blog. Amy, the blog’s author is both a master gardener and an art historian with a specialization in the history of photography. These skills have come together into an interest in garden history and in photographing gardens. Amy is based in Boston, Massachusetts, which she describes as “one of the best cities in the world to study garden history.” She also travels widely to visit gardens in other locations. The blog combines her own garden with gardens she visits, award-winning photography, and reflections on the meanings of plants and gardens in our lives. While I enjoy the virtual garden visits that this blog provides, my favorite posts are the reflective ones. I was charmed by Amy’s reluctant relationship with an annual geranium (Pelargonium) as recounted in The Geranium Project, and I found her recent reflections on garden and memory (Memorial Gardens) both thoughtful and thought-provoking.
For many of us, this is the busy garden season, and there doesn’t seem to be enough time for both gardening and blogging. But even for us, there are rainy days where garden blogs can provide some relaxing virtual gardening. And for those in climates where this is not garden season, these blogs can provide a promise of things to come.
**Once again this month, I chose blogs to feature by trolling the recent listings (April and May) at Blotanical. In doing so, however, I noticed that site seems to be in its death throes, with fewer and fewer garden bloggers visiting there and more and more features no longer working. I have received several announcements recently of interactive garden directories, and I hope to use some of my summer break time to check them out. Meanwhile, if any readers have found particularly good sites for discovering and interacting with other garden bloggers, I would love to hear about them.
What’s in Bloom
Many plants that had just opened their first flowers a week ago are now fully in bloom. These include the Amsonia that was displaying one lone star last week, the old-fashioned Siberian irises and Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’
Of the 11 different varieties of Siberian iris that grow in my garden, two are now in bloom and at least three others have well-developed buds that should open within the next few days. The old-fashioned blue irises, given to me many years ago as divisions from a friend’s garden, may be a very early cultivar or (given their tendency to self-sow with abandon) may simply be the species. Whatever their identity, these are always the first to bloom in my garden and have gone from a single flower among the Tradescantia last week to masses of blue flowers this week in both the Iris Bed and the Blue and Yellow Border. ‘Chartreuse Encore,’ purchased more than a decade ago when I first discovered the world of Siberian iris breeding and the amazing variety of cultivars, has never grown very vigorously in my garden, so I am happy to see it with multiple blooms this year.
Of the 14 different varieties of hardy geranium growing in my garden, 5 are now in bloom. ‘Biokovo,’ which had just opened its first flower last week, is now blooming in three different flower beds. This cultivar is most prominent in the Deck Border, where it grows in a long band along the front edge and blooms in a wave that begins at the end closest to the deck and then spreads toward the far end.
The Tradescantia flowers which had just begun to bloom in the Iris Bed last week are now blooming in four different flower beds. The flowers of ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ have been joined by blue-violet self-sown plants and by the beautiful white and blue flowers of ‘Osprey.’
This week, I’ve also celebrated the first daylily blooms, on the very early species Hemerocallis flava. These are usually the only daylilies that bloom in June in my garden, and they will finish flowering more than a week before any of the other daylily varieties begin to open. Yesterday, however, I did notice flower scapes growing on one of the first daylilies to bloom in July, the common orange daylily Hemerocallis fulva.
I took advantage of good weather in the first part of the week to make progress on my early season garden chores. The first task was to uproot the two young plants of Tatarian honeysuckle (an invasive exotic here) blooming at the edge of the woods. I also planted a number of new acquisitions, most to replace short-lived plants (like Linum perenne) that had not returned this year.
Although I didn’t accomplish everything I had hoped to, I did remove the rest of the deer protection from the Serenity Garden. In addition, all flower beds except the Deck Border have now been weeded, and the Circular Bed, the Fence Border, and a small portion of the Blue and Yellow Border have been mulched.
Completing mulching and getting all plant supports in place will be the high priority chores for the coming week. I have been mulching with leftover organic compost from last year, but this week I will need to order this year’s truckload of compost to complete the job.
Although I have yet to see the resident woodchuck, the phlox continue to get chomped on. I held my breath after I removed the last of the deer protection from the Serenity Garden, but I am happy to have seen no sign of deer damage in the garden. Unfortunately, I did find my first sign of iris budfly damage among the Siberian irises this week. This insect pest lays its eggs on the buds of irises each spring; as the bud develops, the larvae drill into the side and eat it from the inside (see Battling the Iris Budfly). The result is deformed flowers or buds that simply collapse without opening. The budfly first appeared in my garden seven or eight years ago; and while I have managed to keep it under control, I have not succeeded in eradicating it. Some years see more budfly damage than others, and I am hoping that this is not going to be one of the bad years.
Pollinators, on the other hand, are welcome visitors to the garden. The bees (primarily bumblebees) have been busy among the rhododendron and Biokovo geranium blooms. At least one of the tiger swallowtail butterflies that were flitting among the treetops last week has descended into the garden, particularly attracted to the nectar of the blooming Amsonia. And I was thrilled to see my first ruby throated hummingbird of the season in the garden this week.
During the past week, I’ve also seen several phoebes in the garden. These flycatchers sometimes nest just above my basement door; and they are always welcome to dine on the hordes of blackflies and mosquitoes. (At this time of year, I have to wear a full net shirt, including netting over my face, to protect myself from blackfly bites when I work in the garden.) I have neither seen nor heard the tufted titmouse again, but I have heard the calls of the great crested flycatcher.
Normally I only post an overview of what is happening in my garden once a month, for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month, but so much is happening so quickly in the garden at this time of year that a lot gets missed between Bloom Day posts. So, at least during the height of the garden season, I plan to provide a weekly overview of what is happening in my garden.
This was my second week in Maine; and during this seven day period, the weather first improved from cold and rainy to sunny and seasonably warm, then reverted to cold and rain for a day, followed by several days with temperatures in the 90s (F). The past seven days provided plenty of evidence to support Mark Twain’s quip that “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.”
What’s in Bloom
In the heat of the last few days, the garden has been making a rapid transition from late spring to early summer. The large rhododendron (variety unknown) on the back slope is in its full glory and a busy site of bumble bee activity. In the Deck Border, Rhododendron catawbiense album has just begun to open its first flowers. The buds of these turn deep pink as they mature; the flowers then open a pale lavender and fade to white.
Varieties of hardy geranium also began to bloom this week. The first to open were two cultivars of Geranium maculatum – ‘Espresso’ in the Serenity Garden and Geranium maculatum album at the front of the Bedroom Border. This morning, other geranium species began to join in as the first flowers opened on Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ and Geranium sanguineum.
My morning tour of the garden today also revealed the first open flower on Amsonia hubrichtii and the first Siberian iris bloom. (Iris sibirica always blooms first along the south-facing foundation at the back of the Iris Bed, where it joins the flowers of Tradescantia ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ that began blooming earlier this week.)
Not all blooms are so welcome. Blackberries, which grow anywhere that I don’t pull them out, are in bloom in several places where I don’t want them. I have also seen tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) blooming in two different locations at the edge of the woods. This plant is an invasive pest in Maine that thrives in edge places. It is well established along rural roadsides in my part of Maine and is spreading along a stream that flows through my neighborhood. I’m sure it got into my garden courtesy of the birds. While its blooms are making it highly visible, I will take advantage of the opportunity to cut down and uproot the plants on my property. I can’t eradicate this plant, but vigilant action can keep it from getting a foothold in my garden.
During the beautiful gardening weather between the cold rain and the hot muggies, I managed to make considerable headway on early season garden chores. First I got the knee-high grass mowed in both the front and back yards. Then I bought annuals at a local nursery and planted them in containers on the deck and a hanging planter at the back door. I got the screen house set up on the deck so that I can begin eating meals outdoors. Relying on notes from last year, I moved several plants around – moving hosta ‘June’ forward a few inches to get it out from under the foliage of Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ in the Serenity Garden, swapping the places of Tradescantia ‘Osprey’ and Hemerocallis ‘Final Touch’ in the Fence Border, and switching around two hostas and an astilbe in the Deck Border. I also planted morning glory seeds along the fence at the back of the Fence Border and cleaned up the small herb bed by the back door, adding a seedling of Italian parsley and a chunk of oregano moved from an inconvenient location where it had self-sowed on the back slope.
There are still many chores waiting to be done. High on my list for the coming week are dealing with those tatarian honeysuckle plants, removing the last of the deer protection from the Serenity Garden, replacing a few plants that were no-shows this year, getting this year’s truckload of compost delivered, and getting all flower beds weeded and mulched.
I haven’t seen any deer in the garden (or any evidence of their presence), but I have seen the repeated predations of my garden nemesis, the woodchuck (Marmota monax – also called a groundhog in some parts of the United States). I have learned over the years that woodchucks have individual tastes, and the damage to my garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) leads me to believe that this is the same individual that has been residing in a burrow under my deck for the past three years. All the phlox plants in the back garden – ‘Blue Paradise’ and two plants of ‘David’ in the Blue and Yellow Border and another ‘David’ in the Fence Border – have been eaten down pretty much to the ground and seem to get munched anew every night. I have been tempted to try spraying the phlox with something like cayenne pepper to make the plants less appealing, but I am afraid that the woodchuck will then transfer its attentions to other plants that are currently unmolested. (Delphinium, Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’, Echinacea and Baptisia have all been victims in other years.) So I’ve decided to write off phlox for this year in hopes that it will satisfy the voracious woodchuck appetite.
On a pleasanter note, the arrival of warm weather means that I am now able to sleep with the windows open, being serenaded by a chorus of tree frogs as I fall asleep and a chorus of birds as I wake up. I saw a number of familiar birds in the garden this week, including robins, a crow, blue jays, phoebes, and a mockingbird. I also encountered a tufted titmouse (not a frequent visitor) in the mock orange outside my bedroom window. I only regret that I didn’t have my camera at hand; this is a bird with a face so expressive that it looks like a cartoon character. The warm weather has brought out the bees, and I have seen several tiger swallowtail butterflies fluttering around the trees. I look forward to the arrival of more bees, birds, and butterflies in the weeks to come.
Lilacs (the genus Syringa) are not native to North America, but you’d never know that by driving around New England in May. Lilacs may not be indigenous to this region, but they are long-established here. Native to southeast Europe and Asia, they were introduced to European gardens and then travelled to North America with European colonists. Most sources date their arrival in North America to the 1700s, but some claim the 1600s. At this time of year, lilacs are a major presence in the Maine landscape. It seems as though almost every house in my neighborhood has lilacs in bloom, and a drive along country roads reveals lilacs growing by houses and barns, in fields, and just along the side of the road. Once a lilac is established, it can be very long-lived; in New England, it is not uncommon to stumble across the cellar hole of a long-abandoned farmstead and find lilacs blooming in what used to be the dooryard. Most of the lilacs you will see along country roads are the old-fashioned common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, and most are the pale purple color known as “lilac.” But you will also see cultivars and hybrids in hues ranging from white to deep purple. What makes lilacs special, of course, is not so much the sight of lilac flowers as their wonderful fragrance.
The best place to see (and smell) lilacs in my part of Maine is the McLaughlin Garden in South Paris, about 15 miles away from my house. The McLaughlin Garden held their annual lilac festival last weekend. I didn’t go to the festival because it was cold and rainy and because, if the weather were better, the garden would be crowded. How much better to head out to South Paris on sunny summery morning in mid-week, when I would have the garden almost completely to myself.
As soon as I stepped through the garden gate, I was surrounded by the sight and scent of lilacs. Lilacs stretched along grassy paths as far as the eye could see; and when you turned a corner, still more lilacs awaited. The lilacs bloom here in amazing variety, from white to pale violets and pinks, to rich reds and purples. Some even had two-toned blooms, with lavender or red edged in white.
Of course, lilacs were not the only flowers blooming in the garden. They were surrounded by companion plants like these Trollius (globeflowers). The garden also has an impressive variety of woodland plants, like these Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) peeking out from under their leafy parasols.
After stopping at the plant sales area and the gift shop, I said goodbye to the McLaughlin Garden for today. But I know that its quiet beauty will draw me back again and again.
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.