April is my most favorite month of all.
In our horticultural zone, April is Mid-spring. Everything is fresh and new. The weather is finally not so frigid! And maybe... probably... because it always makes me think of rainy spring walks under an umbrella... like the first ones that my now shrub-trimming husband and I took one mid-spring long ago.
At this point in time, the most influential garden designers in my little garden world are Rosemary Verey, Claude Monet and Christopher Lloyd. They are all long "gone to seed" as they say, but in my reading and re-reading of their writings, the viewing and pondering of their gardens, they have left a mark here at Gilmore Gardens... as they have in many others around the green earth.
In Mid-spring we have some great examples of the principles I have taken away from each gardener, all represented in this four week period. It is not that I rigidly set out to incorporate all their ideas, but in most cases I later found that what I had done, by mistake or on purpose, was done also by these three. And they all add up to a garden that I love to work in.
When I think of Rosemary Verey and her garden at Barnsley House in the Cotswolds of England, I remember luxuriant plantings within formal boundaries and the use of long views in the garden.
Here in our side-yard between the house and sidewalk, we have created a Shade Path Garden ending in the Circle Lawn (right). The path is narrow at the gate entrance and widens to three-and-a-half feet at the connection to the Circle. This change in width visually lengthens the space. There is a view all the way from the rear of the property to the Circle and the weeping cherry tree that graces it. The geometry of the design gives everything a orderly feel, though it is filled to overflowing from the end of April til November.
In mid-spring, it is an endless patch of forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) dotted with Narcissus 'Thalia' (the orchid daffodil) that overflow the formal path. Thus we borrow not only from Rosemary Verey, but also from the two most prominent characteristics of Claude Monet's gardening: long sight lines of color and the impressionist shimmer.
Monet's Clos Normand garden in Giverny, France was planted with long thin beds of massed flowers to help give an exaggerated sense of perspective. To this he added shimmer, points of light, usually using white or pastel flowers. This is of course seen in his paintings as well as his plantings. His garden was very often his art studio, with his easel moving from location to location depending on where the flowers were in peak bloom.
A few lovely combinations each with our river of forget-me-nots (from top left): Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'; Narcissus 'Thalia'; an unidentified Epimedium hybrid.
The Hill Garden at the front of our driveway has hundreds of grape hyacinths (Muscari armenicum) in bloom along with a growing carpet of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) in a light purple hue and the peeping grey foliage of lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) between them. More forget-me-nots sparkle in the background. Again, a play of light and dark colors, like an impressionist painting. This planting has filled in dramatically in just a couple of years. I work each spring and especially in fall to spread the phlox on the garden to cover the bare earth under the roses and retain the soil.
The same creeping phlox has filled in the Driveway Garden to greet us every time we come home. This garden functions to divide the grassy yard and paved patio area from our large driveway. Here the purple color is echoed almost perfectly by the Persian lilac bush (Syringa x persica) which will fill in the gap above to block the view of parked cars.
Seen from further away, Tulipa 'Cum Laude' joins in the purple parade at the right.
Finally, a lesson from Christopher Lloyd. His garden at Great Dixter in Sussex, England is known for daring plantings, particularly those of bold color combinations.
The Front Path contains a great example of this, with the rather unexpected combination of purple Tulipa 'Shirley' and T. 'Cum Laude' with the brassy emerging leaves of Spirea 'Goldflame'. This yellow-and-purple is soothed by the blues and greys of mixed-in forget-me-nots and the edging of Dianthus 'Firewitch', which will be in bloom in May.
In the Lower Driveway Garden, mid-spring also boldly combines the purple tulips from the Front Path with the dark Tulipa 'Queen of the Night' and a red Darwin tulip.
Tulipa 'Shirley' and the red Darwin in front of the purple Phlox subulata, seen just a few weeks before the photo above.
Other pretty picks from Mid-spring (clockwise from top left): Scilla siberica in a tiny rock garden beside one if our old silver maple trees; Tulipa 'Shirley'; Anemone blanda 'Blue Shades' flowering along with the just emerged shoots of variegated loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander'); inside Tulipa 'Cum Laude'; Muscari armenicum in the 4-inch crevice behind our back porch; Trillium grandiflorum in the Woodland Garden.