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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

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen Bear permalink
    May 20, 2015 9:17 pm

    Love reading your blog and loved hearing your talk at the Hawthorne Garden Club meeting on Monday. Ellen Bear

    • May 20, 2015 10:03 pm

      Ellen, I really enjoyed giving the talk — so thanks to Barbara and the rest of your club for inviting me. I found the questions and discussion at the end particularly lively. I’m hoping to get back to Raymond on June 27th for the garden tour.

  2. joenesgarden permalink
    May 20, 2015 10:29 pm

    Jean, I chuckled that we both posted, nearly simultaneously, about amsonia. It’s a garden work horse that requires little attention, has no bug issues, is completely deer-resistant, sports lovely, dainty pale blue blossoms each May, and turns a pleasing golden hue each autumn. No fuss, no muss … an all-round great perennial.

    • May 23, 2015 8:02 pm

      Joene, When I first planted amsonia in my garden, I had never seen it growing and knew almost nothing about it. I chose it from a perennial reference book as a good “architectural plant” with blue flowers that was hardy in my zone. It was like one of those arranged marriages in which you fall in love after-the-fact. Now I have three different varieties of amsonia growing in three different areas of the garden.

  3. May 20, 2015 10:35 pm

    Sounds like your plants are trying to make up for lost time. Sometimes I get the sense that is happening in my garden as well. Your Goatsbeard is much more impressive than mine, but my Amsonia is also just starting to bloom.

    • May 23, 2015 8:09 pm

      Jason, This is a very impressive goatsbeard; it can easily balance the large rhododendron at the other end of this flower bed. I have goatsbeard planted in other flower beds, but those plants have not achieved the stature of this one.

  4. May 21, 2015 7:22 am

    It really is a miracle every year!

    • May 23, 2015 8:10 pm

      Carolyn, It is. This sense of wonder is the reward we get for winters like this one. 🙂

  5. May 21, 2015 7:36 am

    Oh, to have to put supports on peonies! They can’t get enough chill here, so remain one of those things I admire from afar even before buds are visible.

    • May 23, 2015 8:14 pm

      Nell Jean, If it’s any consolation, peonies are often more wonderful in anticipation and in photographs than in experience. It seems to be a law of nature here that as soon as the peonies bloom, we’ll get a heavy rain. (You notice, though, that doesn’t keep me from growing them 🙂 )

  6. Janelle Wintersteen permalink
    May 21, 2015 11:28 am

    Idaho started spring by the middle of January. I weed for extra money and that usually does not start until March. However this year i was working in mid January and watching posts from New England with a sense of unreality. Our hostas are up and fully grown and it is fascinating to see yours just begining.

    • May 23, 2015 8:20 pm

      Janelle, Wow! I’m guessing Idaho must have been part of that snow drought that affected so much of the west this year. It remains to be seen whether these weather patterns of the past couple years are some kind of “new normal.” I don’t think it ever occurred to most New Englanders that the melting of the arctic ice and the warming of the North Atlantic would make our winters longer and colder.

  7. May 21, 2015 3:29 pm

    I bet you can almost see and hear the plants growing!

    • May 23, 2015 8:22 pm

      Kris, I can definitely see the plants growing! A few days ago, I commented on Joene Hendry’s blog that I didn’t have any flower buds yet on my amsonia and she told me to go look again. Sure enough, the buds had appeared sometime in the few hours since I’d toured the garden that morning!

  8. May 21, 2015 4:11 pm

    Beautiful Jean….and the snow cover definitely has a lot to do with the healthy growth of your garden and mine…we had a warm December and then the cold and snow came insulating everything for months….I have surprise blooms everywhere this year because of the snow.

    • May 23, 2015 8:23 pm

      Donna, One year when we had early and heavy snow cover like this year, I found parsley that had wintered over under the snow!

  9. May 21, 2015 4:47 pm

    Hi Jean, you’re catching up so quickly, it’s amazing! After a promising start, Spring has turned into a cool and lacklustre season with delayed “April Showers”. Never the less, the Iris Sibirica are coming into flower and they’re looking great! I’m sure we’ll both have caught up by the time the roses start to open, the buds are showing colour already.

    • May 23, 2015 8:26 pm

      Sunil, The catching up is happening so fast, it’s dizzying! Even here, going from snow to lilacs in two weeks must be some kind of new record.
      Many of those Iris Sibirica cultivars will tolerate dry, but they love wet — so I’m not surprised they’ve responded well to your delayed “April” showers.

  10. May 21, 2015 6:12 pm

    SUCH fun to be able to enjoy the gentle process of your garden unfolding, day by day.

    • May 23, 2015 8:28 pm

      LOL, Diana, not exactly gentle this year — more like time lapse photography.

  11. debsgarden permalink
    May 22, 2015 10:36 pm

    Your plants are so lush! Soon you will have flowers everywhere. Thanks for the explanation about snow cover and it benefits to the garden.

    • May 23, 2015 8:31 pm

      Deb, Especially after our prolonged period of winter white, having all that lush green in the landscape is very heady. I’m starting to see lots of flower buds as I tour the garden each morning and am eagerly awaiting the flowers.
      Especially in a bitterly cold winter like this one, snow provides valuable protection to plants. I know a number of people who experienced winterkill on the parts of shrubs that rose above the snow cover, while the parts of the plants that were under the snow are fine.

  12. May 23, 2015 8:29 am

    I am always amazed how quickly plants come up after the last bit of snow melts in New England. I’m sure you are enjoying all the green of spring.

    • May 23, 2015 8:32 pm

      Karen, Even by northern New England standards, the speed this year has been dizzying!

      • May 23, 2015 8:36 pm

        I totally agree. I’ve also never seen so many blossoms in our orchard.

  13. May 26, 2015 7:20 am

    Jean, I forgot that you are in zone five, so only one below me. You are definitely ahead, though, and we had a frost a few nights ago. Think I’m safe to plant up some baskets in the next few days. Your photos are beautiful. Can’t wait to watch what happens next.

    • May 26, 2015 7:18 pm

      Diane, We are still in danger of frost at this time of year, and we had a frost advisory last week (but no frost here). Meanwhile, we’ve been having unusually warm weather throughout the month of May and everything has been happening fast. What we need now is a good soaking rain (not like what they’ve been having in Texas and Oklahoma, though!).

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