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Advancing the Season: GBBD, May 2022

May 17, 2022

wildflower carpetsMaine’s spring has been long and cool this year, a slow unfolding more characteristic of regions to our south. But the arrival of unseasonably warm weather last week noticeably advanced the season as plants put on a spurt of growth and burst into bloom.

This is the time of year to enjoy colorful carpets of wildflowers, like these bluets (Houstonia caerulea) and moss phlox (Phlox subulata), growing at the foot of the front slope.

bluets 2022 moss phlox carpet

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), which grow abundantly in my sandy soil, are now in flower, promising lots of delicious tiny fruits in late June. I have transplanted these into some of my flower beds as native groundcover plants. But, even if I don’t plant them, they show up on their own. I did not plant these at the corner of the patio, but I’m happy for their weed-suppressing presence there.

strawberry flowers 2022 strawberry groundcover patio

Violets are another native wildflower that I welcome into the garden. Most common on my property are sweet white violets (Viola blanda), but here and there, common blue violets (Viola sororia) have also been popping up.

Viola blanda 2022 viola sororia 2022

At the front of the new woodland border, flowers of wild strawberries and violets mingle with the flowers of other native plants, including columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) and Geranium maculatum.

woodland columbine Geranium maculatum album woodland geranium maculatum

solomons seal 2022Not all the spring flowers blooming in my garden are natives. The serenity garden is currently featuring flowers of variegated solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum variegatum), bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’) and Epimedium.

goldheart bleeding heart epimedium 2022

The woody plants blooming in mid-May include both natives and exotics and both purchased plants and volunteers. The volunteer pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) that I first noticed growing outside my study window half a dozen years ago now holds its spring flowers well above my head. Another member of the Prunus genus, beach plum (P. maritima) is blooming profusely for the first time since I planted it in the new front border in 2019.

pin cherry 2022 beach plum 2022
fothergilla 2022 pinkshell azalea flowers

lilacs 2022In a nearby planting of shrubs, old fashioned lilacs (Syringa vulgaris),  two varieties of Fothergilla, and pinkshell azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) are all adding their lovely blooms to the spring scene.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month (although some of us are chronically late to the party!) by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her web site for links to May blooms from many gardens.

Thinking Spring: GBBD, March 2022

March 18, 2022

mud season 2022I am thinking spring. In Maine, winter is giving way to mud season – that messy, melting precursor to spring. Our daytime temperatures are now above freezing on most days; and even when they’re not, the March sun is warm enough to melt snow. When I walked down to the river this week (for the first time in several months), I found ice out and the water flowing freely. The warmer days bring rising sap, and maple trees along the roadsides have sprouted taps and containers to collect the flowing sap that will be boiled down into our sweetest spring crop, maple syrup.

bare ground and snowThe garden landscape is transforming from patches of bare ground peeking out from the snow here and there to patches of snow dotting the bare ground. Green foliage is visible on Heuchera and wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana).

heuchera foliage 2022 strawberry foliage
And crocus shoots are up in the warming soil along the foundation, promising flowers before the month is out. crocus promise

potted bulbs marchMeanwhile, I am getting my flower fix from potted bulbs in my plant window. The last flowers of two amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs, ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Charisma’ are blooming this week,

dancing queen march charisma march 2022
potted narcussus as are wonderfully fragrant potted Narcissus.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly celebration of flowers hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her web site to see other gardeners’ March blooms.

Anticipation: GBBD, February 2022

February 17, 2022

February crocus shootsFor this Maine gardener, mid-February is a time of anticipation. We are now more than halfway from the winter solstice to the spring equinox, and days are getting noticeably longer. With the sun higher in the sky, wintry weather is alternating with days of sunny warmth and melting. Outside recently on one of those days with a hint of spring in the air, I was amazed to see crocus shoots pushing up through the melting snow and ice along the foundation at the south corner of my house – a promise of blooms to come.

Meanwhile, with outside flowers still weeks away, I am anticipating the more immediate blooms of potted bulbs in my plant window.

This amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulb, ‘Dancing Queen,’ a Christmas gift from a friend, has begun to unfold its flower bud and should bloom within the next week. Dancing Queen unfolding
Charisma bud 2022 ‘Charisma,’ which I have been enjoying in winter for more than a decade, should follow not far behind.
This pot of daffodil bulbs, sent by the same friend who gifted me with ‘Dancing Queen,’ is an unexpected treat. The daffodil shoots have been growing fast and are now sporting flower buds. potted daffodil shoots

And my faithful Cyclamen persica plants continue to greet me each day with their colorful flowers.

February cyclamen2 February cyclamen1

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a garden party hosted each month by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her website for links to February blooms in many gardens.

Garden Dreaming

February 10, 2022

Native Plant Trust catalogWinter, when my dormant garden is safely tucked in under its insulating blanket of snow, is a time for garden dreaming. In recent years, as I focused on creating my new front garden, my winter garden dreaming has often taken the form of browsing plant catalogs or working on the design for a new flower bed. This year, however, with all areas of the front garden finally completed, I needed a different focus for my garden dreaming.

I recently became a paid member of the Native Plant Trust (formerly the New England Wildflower Society). This was probably something I should have done years ago, given how much I use their online resources, especially the plant identification tools of Go Botany. When I received my membership package in the mail, it included a magazine with several interesting articles and a catalog of educational programs.

I love learning new things, and going to school puts me in my happy place, so I eagerly perused the education catalog. There were self-paced online courses, live virtual classes, and in-person classes. Even better, there were basic and advanced certificate programs, with structured sets of required and elective courses. I reveled in the learning experience of my Certificate in Native Plants and Ecological Horticulture from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and I have missed the structure, intensity, and the human interactions of that program since I graduated. The idea of enrolling in another such program was very appealing.

As I looked more closely at the in-person courses I was most interested in, however, I saw two problems. First, the classes typically meet one or two (non-consecutive) days a week at Native Plant Trust facilities in either eastern or western Massachusetts, which means that each class session would require a long round-trip drive and an overnight stay. Second, the catalog I was looking at was for Fall-Winter, which meant that most of the classes had already occurred. I would need to wait for the Spring-Summer catalog to see if I could make these courses work for me.

But waiting did not satisfy my immediate garden dreaming needs – which led me back to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s website to see if they are offering any classes of interest to me this year.  They are! I very quickly identified and registered for seven classes I wanted to take – a short online class on “native plant guilds” in early March, a half-day in-person class on “pruning during dormancy” later in March, an early April in-person class on “backyard amphibians,” and – most exciting for me – a series of four five-hour classes on garden design. The garden design classes will take place at the garden on Saturdays in April and early May, and like the pruning and amphibian classes, they will get me out into the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens before the garden is officially opened for the season. The garden design classes will require an individual project, and my plan is to take advantage of the opportunity to begin the process of redesigning and renovating several flower beds in my back garden.

With winter days noticeably lengthening now that we are more than halfway from the winter solstice to the spring equinox and with these plans to enhance my garden knowledge and skills, I find myself unfazed by icy winter weather as I eagerly look forward to spring.