MERRY MAIDEN INDEED, THAT SPRING

THE ESPALIER APPLES ARE BLOOMING NICELY – SPRING IS NOW HERE, BUT FROST IS STILL IS A RISK

Oh spring. Last night temperatures dipped near freezing (33º F here in Worcester, but during the day, it warmed up to nearly 80º. As I drove home from work, it reminded me of a deep freeze that we had in 1996 – I remember this as we spent the evening with the late Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garret from Great Dixter that evening as they spoke at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. The frost was so severe, that many trees were lost in the forests around central Massachusetts, as they could not recover from the late freeze after the new growth has emerged.

No worries this time – ‘near freezing’ is normal in mid-May, as is a bit of snow in some years. The oaks, maples and birches can handle a bit of cold as long as the thermometer doesn’t dip below 25º. Earlier this week, while driving home from Michigan, I was noticing how different each valley seemed to be weeks apart in how they were emerging – even Ontario had trillium grandiflorum in bloom, while some lower valleys in PA it looked more like mid March with the native maples just blooming. Other valleys and hillsides looked as if it was early June. This was most noticeable in Pennsylvania, but even here in New England, spring can be in a very different stage from one local to another. Elevation, weather and many other factors can cause these micro climates, but one thing was certain – spring was well on its way.

IN PENNSYLVANIA, WHILE DRIVING HOME EARLIER THIS WEEK, SPRING NEVER LOOKED SO BEAUTIFUL

So much is in bloom right now ( as it most likely is in your gardens as well), that I can’t seem to keep up with updates – so this post may seem a little random, but I am clumping together a little of this a that, so that you don’t miss any of the highlights.

CAMAS LILY, CAMASSIA LEICHTINII IS AN UNDERUSED BULB THAT PUTS ON A TREMENDOUS SHOW IN THE MAY GARDEN. I THINK PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO CATCH ON THOUGH, THEY SEEM TO SELL OUT QUICKLY IN THE FALL BULB CATALOGS.

Note to self – order more Camassia this autumn. A lot more.

Last year I planted many Camassia in the front garden, a more naturalized area with heaths and heathers, mixed drifts of perennials in larger clumps and inter-planted with bulbs and lilies. I love this sort of planting, as you know – no lawn, just masses of various plants. The addition of Camassia has taken some time, as it seems that every time I try to order some bulbs of this American native bulb, it is sold out – obviously due to it’s use and even popularity in contemporary landscape schemes, in particular those by Piet Oudolf. I can’t say enough about this plant, not only does it get better every year, it really puts on a show. Order some now ( but wait until I do, please!).

THIS TREASURE IS BLOOMING IN THE GREENHOUSE – RHODODENDRON ‘FRAGRANTISSIMUM’

I’ve grown a few tender Rhododendrons in the past, but by far my favorite is Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’, a semi-tender white (sometime pinkish) loose growing rhody which indeed is highly fragrant. Typically it blooms here in the winter, providing it’s spicy white flowers just in time for a good, January snow storm, when under glass, they are most welcome, but this year our plant has decided to bloom late, oddly enough, just when many of our native rhododendrons are blooming. No worries though, this treasure still beats them all.

Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ has parents that hail from Asia (near the Himalaya). These tender rhododendrons add a certain horticultural elegance to a greenhouse, as if I should have used a black and white box camera, as the plant just looks like something from an old, vintage photo from Kew. This selection is old, however – it received a first class certificate in 1868 from the RHS so it is hardly new on the scene. This is one of the aspects of gardening that I find so fascinating – that one can inhale the same fragrance that people in 1868 did. Amazing, heirloom scent, like breathing in a bit of antiquity.

LIBERTIA ‘AMAZING GRACE’. GRACES A POT ON THE WALK. I AM ENJOYING ITS SHOW.

Another interesting addition last year is this Libertia ”Amazing Grace’, a hybrid of a pretty little New Zealand native that seems to be doing find in a large pot. A closer look provides hints that this is a relative of the iris, but it looks more like a tradescantia crossed with a blackberry lily, which I suppose is still half-way like an iris.

Texturally the foliage along is lovely, but in bloom, it is providing a nice burst of color and freshness to the greenhouse walk. Tender, I keep it under cool glass. This year I will be experimenting with a few more unusual semi-tropical perennials such as this, that few seem to use in containers.

THE LIBERTIA ADDS A NICE SPIKY TEXTURE TO A COLLECTION OF POTTED PLANTS
A PROSTANTHERA OVALIFOLIA OR AUSTRALIAN MINT SHRUB ROUNDS OUT THIS LITTLE COLLECTION OF PLANTS BLOOMING FROM AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND.
DAPHNE KEEPS AN EYE OUT FOR CHIPMUNKS
DAPH’S LITTLE BROTHER AND SISTER WATCH HER FROM THE DECK. THE BOY WILL BE GOING TO HIS NEW HOME IN BOSTON THIS WEEKEND.
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF ANIMALS, BABY CHICKS HAVE ARRIVED. SORRY FOR THE HOT SHOT, BUT THE INFRARED LIGHT KEEPS THEM WARM.
THE CHINESE MAYAPPLES ARE BLOOMING TOO, THIS PODOPHYLLUM PLEIANTHUM REALLY CATCHES THE ATTENTION ON THE LONG WALK.
LADYSLIPPER ORCHIDS ENJOY A LITTLE SPRINKLER ACTION.
OUR IRIS CRISTATA SEEMS TO REALLY ENJOY ITS NEW LOCATION, BUT THE HOSTA WILL NEED TO BE MOVED, AS THEY WILL COMPETE FOR SPACE.
I AM WONDERING ABOUT THE LILY BEETLE POPULATION THIS YEAR, AS WE STARTED TO SEE A DECLINE LAST YEAR. ONLY A COUPLE OF HOLES, AND THIS IS THEIR FAV SPECIES (MARTAGON) TO SNACK ON. ANYONE ELSE DISCOVERING THIS?
MOST OF THE CITRUS HAVE BEEN RELOCATED OUTDOORS SO THAT THE HONEY BEES CAN POLLINATE THEM. THE LAST WILL GET MOVE OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE ON SATURDAY. THIS MANDARIN ORANGE IS LOADED WITH FLOWER BUDS.

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