Friday, March 30, 2012

Narcissus 'Topolino'

Narcissus 'Topolino' in the Front Woodland garden with Crocus 'Spring Beauty'
All of our plantings are ahead of season this year, with the daffodils blooming in mid-March instead of mid-April (see last year). I wanted to be sure not to miss posting on Narcissus 'Topolino', as she is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Inside Reports on Spring Gardening at Christopher Lloyd's Great Dixter, East Sussex, UK

The orchard meadow (to the left) and Long Border (right) at Great Dixter just two weeks ago.
If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, you will know that I have a great love for the challenge of succession planting at Gilmore Gardens. You may also have figured out that I have done most of my study on the subject by reading about the great gardens and gardeners of our time, especially those that have used these principles (see a partial book list here).

The garden that epitomizes this ideal of year-round gardening is Great Dixter in East Sussex lead by the late Christopher Lloyd.  There are over a dozen books from Christopher that I have enjoyed over the years, but my favorite must be Succession Planting for Year-Round Pleasure. (Which I hope to review very soon...) He is largely responsible for many of our current garden trends, including returning Cannas and other exotic plants to our gardens.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Protecting Plants from Spring Frosts

Tenting in a Clematis on a trellis in the Circle Lawn with an industrial-sized garbage bag during the warmer daytime temperatures to prepare for this evening's cold snap.
After two weeks of unseasonably warm weather in Pennsylvania, we are preparing for the temperature to plummet down to 24 degrees F (-4 C) this evening. Some thoughts on temperature fluctuations in a garden during spring:

1. Do not panic - For the most part, plants that come out of dormancy in the springtime are accustomed to coping with sudden cold temperatures. Most plants in zone 5 and colder are even able to withstand several inches of snow; once it is melted, they will continue their bloom again where they left off before the snow storm.  (I have seen tulips ready to bloom flopped on to the ground, covered in snow, that stood up to bloom when the sun came out again.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unseasonably warm weather in Pennsylvania Gardens

The Hill Garden: Tulipa 'Ice Stick', Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete' and Crocus vernus 'Grand Maitre'
Can this really be March??

Pink weeping cherry (Prunus) tree in the Cherry Corner Garden at the front of our lot.
Persian lilac (Syringa x persica) leafing out in the Driveway Garden.
In Cherry Corner: Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete', Crocus vernus 'Grand Maitre' and variegated loosestrife's pink shoots (Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander').
Old rose bush leafing out in the Driveway Garden.
By the walk in the Driveway Garden: Hyacinthus orientalis 'Aiolos' with Festuca 'Elijah Blue'.
Crazy kids loving the sun and baby pool in March!
A pot on the back stoop with Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete' and Tulipa 'Persian Pearl'.
See March of last year for a real contrast (Hill Garden and Driveway Garden). Even just a few weeks ago! Snow, snow, snow.

We are enjoying the sun: playing at the park, holding reading class outside, and a trip to the local ice cream shop. I have continued not to feel well, but has been so enjoyable to be able to be outside. Just walking about the garden with my camera is a treat.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Crocus biflorus ssp. isauricus 'Spring Beauty'

Crocus biflorus ssp. isauricus 'Spring Beauty' with beautiful purple flames on alternating petals.
In our urban Front Woodland garden, which is situated in the wide curb strip at the front of our property, I planted one hundred of these pretty little crocuses that have a name taller than they are, Crocus biflorus ssp. isauricus 'Spring Beauty'.

Crocus 'Spring Beauty' surrounded by tufts of forget-me-nots (Myosotis).
Anyone with crocuses will know the joy and incredible patience that it takes to wait for them to open. They prefer a sunny day that is above 45 degrees F (7 C). One of the wonderful things about this crocus is that even when they are closed for a cold or gloomy day, their striping gives you something interesting to look at.  It is quite striking in a setting where it has some early green about it.
Crocus 'Spring Beauty' still closed up as the sun rises, showing their stripes.
When open, Crocus 'Spring Beauty' looks much like Crocus tommasinianus.
Crocus 'Spring Beauty' planted on a dry mound around our mature maple tree with Sedum 'Acre'.
Crocus 'Spring Beauty' should relish in the baking that it will get in this pavement-surrounded garden in our Front Woodland.
Crocus 'Spring Beauty' should thrive in this dry shade/sun garden for years to come. Bulbs often need a good baking for the summer. And these will diminish as the other parts of the Front Woodland planting come up to show their stuff for the season.

Glad to be able to share this crocus with you. I have been anticipating it for months, and I was not disappointed!

For more early spring flowers see: Crocus 'Goldilocks'
Crocus tommasinianus
Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Here is a feature for my new favorite rock iris, Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'. She is a beauty, especially close up. But she also stands out so well against the damp spring earth. I planted fifty bulbs that I got from John Scheepers last autumn in the Shade Path garden. I had tried Iris reticulata 'Cantab' in this garden the year before, but I found that their medium blue color did not stand out well in the shade.  These I am much happier with their punch... if pastels can punch that is. Perhaps it is more like glowing.

Those who love spring irises know that one reason they stand out as more desirable than crocuses is rock irises open and stay open. This means that even on a gloomy, rainy spring day, they are open to be enjoyed. Crocuses only open when it is sufficiently warm and sunny.

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' open even in the shade of early morning on the Shade Path.
A view of Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' in the afternoon sun.
Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' are planted on the outside border away from the house for the ease of seeing them through a window on cold or gloomy day in early spring. 
I love this color combination: deep purple Hellebores orientalis, light blue of Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' and the medium purple Crocus vernus.
Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' with a bit of green ground cover provided by forget-me-not foliage (Myosotis) and Sedum 'Acre', both being early spring risers.
I am thrilled with this variety, even en mass. I do regret however that there is not more green on the ground under this planting. You can tell in the fourth photo that much of the ground is bare with only mulch. I would consider planting these in one of my areas that have a very low growing cover for spring already, such as in my curb strip.  The bulbs would get their sun and then be done before the Sedum 'Acre' really got growing... Or planting the forget-me-nots about more thickly would work for a fix. Clumped by evergreen ferns or Hellebores, they would be a win.

See what else blooms around this time in a Pennsylvania, zone 5 garden by reading about Gilmore Gardens in March.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shade Path Garden Succession 2011

The Shade Path at Gilmore Gardens consists of the area between our backyard gate and the Circle Lawn. (See the map of Gilmore Gardens.) It is 32 feet in length (9.7 meters), with the border closest to the sidewalk being 7 ft wide (2.1 m) and the one by the house being 5 1/2 ft wide (1.7 m).  The grass path in the middle is more narrow at the gate and wider at the end, which elongates the look of this area by exaggerating the perspective.

It is the first area of our garden that I envisioned in 2007 when we bought our house, and the first to have its sod ripped out by hand for fall planting. Only a 2 1/2 foot curb strip (once turf, but now Sedum 'Acre') and a sidewalk are between this side yard and the busy road. I wanted a garden walk through this area that would draw you to the front of the property, there by distracting you from the traffic just a few feet away. This garden proves that even a narrow "side-yard" can become something spectacular with some vision.

The dry shade in this area has been challenging; no moist woodland plants here! Well, I do keep trying a few hoping they will survive, but without much luck so far. This garden has some maturing to do in the shrub department, which I guessing is also slowed because of the lack of light and moisture. We have mulched with organic matter every year in spring, to set off the flowers and hold the more moisture in the soil. And it usually gets a freshly dug edge every year in spring as well.

Here are some photos from the 2011 growing season to illustrate how the succession planting has succeeded so far. I have tried to include the names of the plant varieties that are pictured, as well as a list of tasks that I might be doing at that time of year to help my tightly placed plants to play nicely together.

It is good to use an especially mild day at the beginning of March to clean up any remaining garden debris from last year. I remove tattered Hellebores and Epimedium leaves,  hosta and foxglove stalks (which I have left as plant markers until now). Leaves can stay as they can be covered with a layer of mushroom compost at this time. Oh, and it is nice to get the edging done BEFORE mulching... but I always forget. :)
Crocus sieberi Firefly in the Circle Lawn, which is adjacent to the Shade Path. March 21st.
Crocus vernus Grand MaƮtre and Galanthus 'Flore Pleno' around the Hellebores orientalis

In 2011, the color did not really start until April because most of March was deep in snow. I expect a different circumstance this year with our mild weather. Not much to do this month, maybe a little weeding, and enjoying the show!

Iris reticulata, Hellebores orientalis and a few crocuses remain. April 4th.
Just a few weeks later, the plants have all jumped into growth. This is one of the keys to succession planting: cover the ground as early as possible with foliage and flowers. One of my favorite authors, Christopher Lloyd, introduced me to this idea.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

GBBD at Gilmore Gardens ~ March 2012

Crocus tommasinianus in our backyard at Gilmore Gardens
Welcome to our small-town garden in Pennsylvania, zone 5. We are so pleased to be welcoming spring earlier this year, and are thoroughly enjoying the temperatures in the upper 60 degrees F (16 C) this week! I am sure that we will have snow again, more than one more time. But we are not going to think about that right now.
Everything is popping around Gilmore Gardens. Here are a few shots that I captured this week:
This Crocus vernus in a hot place near our back door is the first of its kind this year. I planted a couple hundred in the front borders, but I expect them later since it is quite a bit colder on the north side of our house.
Another photo of Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' in the Driveway Garden. This one show the striping on the side petals.
Moving around to the slope outside of our fence, you can see what I have called the "Tapestry Garden." This is an area where we killed off the turf (mowing on this slope, ugh!), and then planted hardy ivy, which has proven to be incredibly slow growing here. So, other easily divided plant alternatives have been added: Geranium macrorrhizum, Ajuga reptans, Stachys byzantine.
Crocus tommasinianus has found its way to a nice combination on this slope with Ajuga reptans and moss.
In the Circle Lawn, Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' is starting to bloom.  And in the back of this photo you can see the Shade Path, which has a few little pretties also...
Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'
Galanthus elwesii on the Shade Path
A beauty that I have been waiting for since I first say it last year in Rosie's bloom day: Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'. Just a few are blooming now; such delicate markings.
Galanthus 'Flore Pleno' stands out with the fresh compost already in place for the season.

As I walked down to the Front Woodland to check for some crocuses, I was accompanied by my little photography buddy. She soon had spotted what I was looking for and set to business getting the shot:
My daughter in proper garden photography style!
After I waited for my turn, I was able to take this photo:
Crocus biflorus ssp. isauricus 'Spring Beauty' with beautiful purple flames on alternating petals.
We are a homeschooling family, so this is what we call Botany class. :)
We also found this vivid moss sending up its flowering shoots. Such a green delight in March!
Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!
Check out what is blooming in other gardens around the world at May Dreams.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Christopher Lloyd's dare to be Adventurous with Color

The Front Walk at Gilmore Gardens in May
"I often practice colour harmonies myself. But just consider what you may be missing if you stick only in that groove... I do believe that excitement is an essential element in the most successful gardening."
Christopher Lloyd

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks'

Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' coming up amongst Sedum 'Acre'.
A crocus for those who prefer a color punch in early spring to the cool purples. (That would be my husband, more than myself.)  And even if it is bit bright in March for some of us, it still has its good points: it brings in the pollinators; it can be seen clear down the driveway; it captures the suns rays and reflects them back again in like brilliance.

I have been contemplating making a planting of its paler cousin Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' to surround the few C. 'Goldilocks' that I have. It would make a more soothing scene.   Crocus 'Goldilocks' does have wonderful striping on the lower portion of its outer petals, which is just barely visible in these top down photographs. They are have persisted for five years in our Driveway Garden.

Mr. B enjoying his March drink.
Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' is studded along our Driveway Garden in March.
Would not an overall wash of Crocus 'Cream Beauty' look lovely throughout this area with the gold more intensified in the Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' spots? I think so.

They made a nice little combination with Iris reticulata 'Gordon', though the iris seems to be later this season or have vanished. See the pair last year.
Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' open for the sun and 65 degrees F temperature yesterday - a rare March treat!
The striping on the petals of Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' in the afternoon sun in our Driveway garden.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Early March Flowers... and some snow

Crocus 'Goldilocks' in the Driveway Garden... can you see the purple haze in the backyard beyond? March 1st.
More of early bloomer Crocus tommasinianus in the Back Woodland and the children playing round and round on the patio.
First Hellebores orientalis bloom of the season.
A nice, new, though a bit wobbly, garden edge in the Driveway Garden dusted with snow.
Shoots of Crocus 'Goldilocks', tulips and daffodils uncovered in the Driveway Garden and braving the snow.
The Driveway Garden with a bit of snow, which is often seen coming and going these days. March 5th.
Spring is creeping up on us, though the temperature keep trying to hold it back (20 F this morning). But still it comes.

I have been dealing with some inner ear issues that have made the world swirl about me, but hopefully everything (playing with kids, cooking meals and trying to read, especially on the computer!) will be easier for me by the end of the week. I am still hoping to get out a few more succession planting posts before spring is in full swing; on the other hand, I can't wait to get out in the garden! But both are on hold. My life is a practice of enjoying what there is to enjoy in each day, whether sick or well, snow or sun. I hope that I may lay hold of what is good in life today and be thankful for it!

Happy March!
May the flowers soon be blooming on your doorstep~
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