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Spring’s Wildflower Bounty

May 27, 2015

There are not yet many flowers in bloom in my garden, but this is prime season for the spring wildflowers that grow at the edges of the woodlands around my garden. So this month I’m joining Gail at Clay and Limestone in celebration of Wildflower Wednesday.

wildflower white violet wildflower strawberry wildflower bluets

There are several wildflowers that grow in my garden at this time of year. I’m quite happy to let clumps of sweet white violets (Viola blanda) grow where they seed themselves on the back slope. Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), which love the glacial sand of my neighborhood, also grow on the back slope – as well as in many other places on my property. Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) bloom in clumps in open, sunny spots.

wildflower canada mayflowerIn addition to these obvious wildflower denizens of my garden, however, there are other wildflowers that will reveal themselves if you look more closely. The Canada mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense), while tiny, are easy to see because they grow in large mats at the edges of the woods and in open spots on the forest floor. Despite their name, these flowers don’t usually appear here until June. This year, however, our long cold winter has been followed by an unusually warm spring, and the mayflowers have actually bloomed in May. Where you find Canada mayflower on my property, you will usually also find it’s companion, the diminutive starflower (Trientalis borealis).

wildflower starflower

Although those strawberry look-alikes, the barren strawberries (Waldsteinia fragarioides) are trying to blend in among the strawberries, their yellow flowers give them away. wildflower barren strawberry
wildflower sasparilla Much harder to see are the white-green flowers of wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), as they peek out from under the shade of their overhanging leaves.
One day, as I was walking up the driveway after my morning walk, I went over to investigate a flash of bright pink on the edge of the woods and found the small flowers of gaywings (Polygala paucifolia). I think these look like little airplanes, with their wings and tiny propellers. wildflower polygala

may wildflowers_1

A bit further afield from my garden, this is also the time of year when the walk down my dirt road to the mailbox rewards close attention. There I found (clockwise from bottom right) a clump of  blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium), unidentified small blue violets, the lovely yellow-green flowers of blue-bead lily (Clintonia borealis), and a white version of gaywings (Polygala paucifolia). Best of all, I found several specimens of that elusive woodland beauty, the pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule).

wildflower lady slipper

Soon these spring wildflowers will fade, yielding pride of place to cultivated perennials growing in flower beds. Right now, however, their blooms provide a delightful preview of the garden season.

Growing By Leaps and Bounds

May 20, 2015

amsonia growingIt is hard to believe that there were still patches of snow in my garden only three weeks ago. In the weeks since, we have had warm weather and sunshine, and plants have been growing by leaps and bounds.

Two weeks ago, the various Amsonia plants had not yet sent up new growth; now this one in the blue and yellow border is about 18” tall and already has flower buds.


amsonia flower buds
The goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), which is one of the earlier plants to emerge in my garden, is now almost four feet tall and growing fast. By the time it blooms, it will top six feet and its feathery plumes will float over the garden. goatsbeard growing
hostas unfurling Late-emerging plants like  hostas are now all up and their leaves are unfurling.
Even the balloon flowers (Platycodon), always the last plants to send up new growth in my garden, have put in their appearance and are no longer looking like asparagus spears. platycodon up

I think our early and deep snow and the slow melt of the snowpack get some credit for this burst of growth. Snow cover provides insulation in the garden, protecting plants from freeze and thaw cycles. Because we had snow cover before the ground really froze this year, plants were protected from the unusually cold temperatures that followed. Although cleared areas like streets saw exceptionally deep frost levels, the insulating snow in the garden would have kept the freeze there relatively shallow. Our slow gradual melt also provided plants with a steady time-release infusion of moisture and nutrients as they started to break dormancy. It’s no wonder that, when they finally had sun to warm the soil and support photosynthesis, they were ready to take off.

With my plants growing so quickly, I need to also get myself moving more quickly. There is still a lot to do to prepare for the gardening season. For starters, that goatsbeard needs to be staked and fast-growing peonies and clumps of Tradescantia need peony hoops to support them.

peonies & tradescantia

Spring Finally Arrives: GBBD, May 2015

May 15, 2015

lilac bloomsWhile, for some gardeners, May features floral abundance, that doesn’t happen in my garden until June. For me, May is the month when spring really and truly arrives. Spring in Maine is known for being long anticipated and short in duration. How quickly it unfolds can be attested to by the fact that, two weeks after the last of the snow melted, the lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) have already begun to bloom.

Most of my flower beds do not yet have blooms. The exception is the serenity garden, where the hellebores are blooming and the bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’) are making a lovely display.

hellebores may bleeding hearts goldheart2
At this time of year, most of my blooms are from wildflower volunteers, like these white violets (Viola blanda) that grow on the back slope. white violets 2015
bluets 2015 Clumps of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have popped up in open areas. Dandelions (Krigia dandelion) are adding splashes of yellow color here and there.

Wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) and blueberries (Vaccinium augustifolium) are also beginning to bloom, making sweet promises of delicious berries in the coming months.

strawberry blossoms 2015 blueberry blossoms

A little further afield from my garden, this native Viburnum lantanoides (hobblebush) is blooming at the side of my dirt road, along my walk to the mailbox.


Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol who dreams of May blooms at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see the wonders of May in gardens around the world.

Following A Tree

May 10, 2015

red mapleThis month I am joining Lucy’s tree-following meme at Loose and Leafy. I was inspired both by other bloggers’ posts about the trees they are  following and by a six-week course on the “Forests and Fields of Maine” that I recently completed. Unlike many other gardeners, I don’t have trees planted in my garden; rather, my home is on land carved out of the forest and my garden is surrounded by trees. Choosing which of my hundreds of trees to follow would have been difficult if the instructor of my Fields and Forests course had not noted one day that she would like to undertake a closer study of the red maple (Acer rubrum) because it is such a common tree in our Maine landscape.

So, with her encouragement, I am choosing to follow an Acer rubrum. There are many trees of this species in my woods, but I chose one that grows beside the driveway for two reasons: First, it is the largest of my red maple trees. Second, when I look out my large bedroom window from the bed, this tree fills the view. It is the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning and the last thing I see before I go to sleep at night, making it a major presence in my life.

The first thing you might notice about this tree is that, like almost all the deciduous trees on my property, it has multiple trunks. I have learned from Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels (Countryman Press, 1997) that the presence of all these multiple-trunked trees is a sign that my land was once cleared, probably for pasture (since the land was previously part of a farm). The four existing trunks would have sprouted from the stump left behind after logging.  Given the size of the existing tree, I’m guessing that its predecessor was cut down many decades ago. That tree must have been a mature specimen because the circumference of the existing cluster of trunks suggest that old tree was about 3 feet in diameter, which is large for a red maple. red maple trunks

red maple flowersIn early May, the deciduous trees have not leafed out yet, but red maples are among the first trees to bloom. Their crimson flowers make them easy to distinguish from the other six varieties of maple trees that grow in Maine, all of which have yellow-green flowers. There were no flowers growing close enough to the ground for me to get a good picture of, but these spent flowers in the driveway provide some sense of the color, shape and size. Even without being able to distinguish individual flowers, the sight of those red-flowered canopies against a blue spring sky can be very striking.

red maple flowering canopy

We have been having unusually warm weather for the past week, with the result that the flowers are fading fast on my maple tree and new leaves have begun to appear. By the time we return to this tree next month, it will be fully leafed out.

Ice Out!

May 4, 2015

May brought the true arrival of spring in Maine. On May 1, the last of the ice and snow banks disappeared from my garden. By Friday morning, the mountain of snow by my front porch had dwindled to this

snow remnant

…and by the end of the day it was gone.

spring cleanupAs I waited for the snow to melt and for the excess moisture to drain from the soil, I worked on spring clean-up of flower beds. I forget how much mess is buried under all that snow during the winter. But, after many wheelbarrow loads of stems, spent foliage, and fallen leaves have been removed, I have the satisfaction of seeing new growth and flower beds ready for the new garden season.

gold heart new growthMay has also brought sunshine and warmer than average temperatures. As the soil warms, plants are shooting up and flowers are appearing. In the serenity garden, the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) cultivar ‘Gold Heart’ has put on a growth spurt and the hellebores are blooming. (I know these last are considered winter flowers in many places, but here they signal the arrival of spring.)

hellebores in bloom

Welcome, spring!!

Dreams of a New Front Garden

April 23, 2015

house with bare groundWhile I wait for the snow to finish melting, I have been enjoying the mild weather by beginning spring clean-up in flower beds that are already free of snow and by wandering around the front of my property dreaming about the new front garden I plan to create there. As you can see, almost all the plants were removed before construction started, so I am essentially beginning with a blank slate.

entry garden iris siteCreating a garden here will be a multi-year project, and right now I’m focusing my dreaming and planning on the area above the retaining walls. The new front entrance, on the side of the house facing the driveway, will be surrounded by an entry garden consisting of several flower beds. In the space between the front steps and the house, I plan to reinvent the planting of Siberian irises that grew under the old front window. Because the new space is somewhat larger than the old iris bed, I will be able to extend the bloom season by combining Siberian irises with tradescantia (in shades of blue and white) and with one variety of a later-blooming companion plant (still to be chosen).

entry garden border sitesOn the other side of the front steps, a narrow walkway (mostly hidden by the remaining snow pile) leads to a small patio (8’ x 8’) at the top of the retaining walls. This walkway will separate the remaining two flower beds of the entry garden, the porch border and the patio border. I haven’t yet decided on the plants for these flower beds, but the planting will be in shades of pink, white and lavender, and I want to include plants tall enough to provide a sense of enclosure in the garden as one approaches the front door.

fragrant garden siteAlong the front of the house, a large area under the bedroom window and bounded by the side of the front deck at one end and the corner of the house at the other will be the site for my new fragrant garden. My dream is to have wonderful fragrances wafting into the bedroom through open windows on summer nights. This garden will include both woody perennials (shrubs) and herbaceous perennials and needs to be very carefully designed. I will begin work on this design this year, but I don’t expect to actually get the ground prepared and plants in until next year.

lavender walk siteIn addition to the entry garden, I do hope to get one other garden area completed this year: the lavender walk. I have long wanted to grow lavender, and this dry, sunny area along the top of the retaining wall seems like a perfect place for it. The lavender will be planted along both sides of a second walkway leading to the patio. On the side in front of the deck, which is just around the corner from the porch border, I would like to interplant the lavender with some pink flowers, perhaps Echinacea purpurea. On the retaining wall side, I would also like to combine the lavender with one or two other plants, but I am not yet sure what those will be.

Before I can begin to dig and plant any of these garden areas, the hardscape will need to be completed. All the walkways and the patio, which were prepared by the excavators with compacted sand and gravel, will be finished with one-foot square concrete paving stones. I am hoping to find enough money in my budget to hire someone to do all or most of this work. (I can do it myself if I have to, but it takes me forever and is hard on my back.)

I have lots to think and dream about as I wait not very patiently for the snow to finish melting and the ground to dry out.  Having a new front garden to dream and plan is exciting!

A Welcome Bloom: GBBD, April 2015

April 16, 2015

house with bare groundI am a day late posting for bloom day because I just got home yesterday after a week and a half away. What a difference ten days can make at this time of year! When I left, the temperature was about 31F and snow was in the forecast. (I was more than happy to get out in time to miss winter’s last gasp in the form of the annual April snow storm.) When I returned, it was 65 (F) and sunny.

The garden I left was mostly snow-covered, albeit with quite a few areas of bare ground. Now the ground is mostly bare, although there are still some patches of snow in the woods and unmelted snow piles by the front porch, snowpile front
snowpile back … along the back of the house,
… and along the edges of the driveway. driveway snowbank


hyacinth in bud As soon as I had finished unpacking the car, I went out to see if there were any blooms to mark the arrival of spring. I found some hyacinth buds ready to open.


And then, in the serenity garden, my first bloom of the new garden season and a perfect welcome home gift – a single crocus flower.

crocus bloom

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see more blooms from those whose spring comes earlier than mine.


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