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A Late Spring: GBBD, May 2017

May 17, 2017

pin cherry blossomsI’m a couple of days late for bloom day, but that seems fitting in a month when my blooms are also late.

In Maine, spring is not normally a season of slow, gentle unfolding (as it is at latitudes to our south). Here, a long wait for spring and much anticipation precedes an explosion of new growth and bloom that morphs into early summer so quickly that it feels like you can miss spring if you blink. But this year has been different. Warm weather in the first half of April got everything started early, but then was followed by several weeks of cool, dreary rain and drizzle with high temperatures 10-15 degrees below normal. The garden seemed to be in a state of suspended animation.

Except that it wasn’t. Although the changes were almost imperceptible as I walked through the garden each morning, one day I noticed that the spring bulbs had finished their bloom period. Another day, I realized that daylily foliage was well up out of the ground; and yet another day, I saw the first nubs of hosta breaking the soil.

And then, yesterday, the succession of low pressure areas that have dominated our weather since April finally got chased out over the Atlantic and replaced by a dome of high pressure that brought sunshine and sudden warmth. Spring flowers that had been waiting for the right conditions to bloom began to open.

As I walked around the garden yesterday, I found very few cultivated garden flowers in bloom. In the Serenity Garden at the edge of woods, hellebores were blooming and the first flowers of the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) cultivar ‘Gold Heart’ had just appeared.

hellebores 2017 Gold Heart 2017

The real stars of my garden in mid-May are the spring wildflowers that sow themselves around my property. The little volunteer pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) tree that I noticed growing outside my study window last year and decided to encourage is blooming enthusiastically this year, as are the clumps of sweet white violets (Viola blanda) that grow primarily on the back slope.

flowering pin cherry white violets 2017

Today, I transplanted violet seedlings that had planted themselves in inconvenient places to the top part of the side slope, where I hope they will naturalize as a groundcover. The wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), which have just begun to bloom, will be planted as groundcover on the bottom half of the slope. Clumps of what are probably common blue violets (Viola sororia) and carpets of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) can be found scattered around the cleared areas at the edges of my garden.

blue violets bluets 2017
In the woods alongside the driveway, the delicate flowers of bellwort (Uvularia sessifolia) have begun to bloom. (It’s easy to miss these if you aren’t looking carefully.) uvularia

I also keep an eye out for wildflowers blooming along the dirt road that leads to my house. On one side of the road, the blossoms of a native viburnum (Viburnum lantanoides) are quite conspicuous. On the other side of the road, yesterday’s sunshine revealed masses of little white flowers blooming on mossy hummocks; I believe these are goldthread (Coptis trifolia).

hobblebush blossom goldthread

As May turns into June, the wildflowers will be upstaged by the flowers of cultivated perennials.

If you would like to see blooms from places where the garden season is well underway, visit May Dreams Gardens where Carol hosts Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2017 5:20 am

    Very pretty!
    I love seeing the wild violets – no care needed, they just come up and bloom!
    Have a great day!

    • May 29, 2017 9:49 pm

      Lea, A bonus with the violets is that they have a longer bloom period than many spring flowers. Two weeks after I posted this, both white and blue violets are still blooming.

  2. May 18, 2017 7:40 am

    Nice! We’ve had a slow spring here as well, but the flowes are actually a little early because the ground didn’t freeze much under our deep snow cover!

    • May 29, 2017 9:54 pm

      Joanna, The ground also didn’t freeze very deeply here this year. I love it when all kinds of green growth emerges from under the melting snow.

  3. May 18, 2017 7:42 am

    What beautiful wildflowers! We live near a native plant nursery and I have been making good use of it in our new garden. I have enjoyed watching you plan and plant a brand new garden – as we try to do the same. I think you are a little more systematic, with beautiful results.

    • May 29, 2017 9:58 pm

      Pat, I love keeping an eye on the wildflowers at this time of year. Many that need moister conditions than my glacial sand can provide bloom along the side of the road near my house — right now bright pink gaywings and the first pink lady slipper of the season. I’ve been taking a course at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens about incorporating native herbaceous plants into the garden and I’m particularly interested in spring wildflowers that might make good groundcovers. This week, I’ve been transplanting wild strawberries, which grow profusely here, to my new side slope where I’m hoping they will naturalize and spread.

  4. May 18, 2017 7:42 am

    Isn’t it wonderful and satisfying, walking around the garden and noticing all the changes, especially in spring?

    • May 29, 2017 9:59 pm

      Catmint, Things happen so fast in the garden at this time of year that I sometimes find myself taking two walks through the garden in the same day, just to see what has happened in the hours in between!

  5. May 18, 2017 2:40 pm

    I’m glad to see that the wildflowers are leading the spring march in your garden, Jean. Even here, spring requires close attention so one doesn’t miss all the subtle changes emerging from day to day. We’re already on the cusp of summer here and, if weekend temperatures really reach into the 90s as predicted, we may have to declare that summer has arrived. I noticed the first blooms on my burgundy daylily yesterday and more Agapanthus blooms appear every day.

    • May 29, 2017 10:01 pm

      Kris, Two days after I wrote this, the temperature went up into the nineties here. It was just for one day, but the garden exploded with new growth.

  6. May 19, 2017 11:33 am

    You perfectly described this spring’s slow unfolding. These past two days of heat have caused an explosion of apple and lilac blossoms here. Intoxicating.

    • May 29, 2017 10:02 pm

      Brenda, I spent yesterday afternoon volunteering at the McLaughlin Garden’s annual Lilac Festival, and I was almost drunk on the glorious scent of lilacs.

      • May 30, 2017 6:16 am

        I believe it! I haven’t been to McLaughlin Garden yet, but it’s on my list for a June trip.

  7. May 22, 2017 1:46 pm

    Hello Jean, I know you’ll catch up to us very quickly now as we come into summer, I’m always amazed at how we can be having late spring flowers while your garden is still under snow, but only a few weeks later it can be neck-and-neck!

    • May 29, 2017 10:04 pm

      Sunil, Yes, things are happening fast here. I’m not sure when it is that our gardens are at about the same stage — maybe mid-July? — and then I’ll race ahead of you, with my garden season ending well before yours.

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