Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Look Back at Spring

Its one of those wintery days where a glance at the many photos of the gardens provides cheer and hints of a promise to come in the next growing season.   My students often ask me what my home garden looks like so I think this post will give them a good sense of what I grow at home and how it compares to the smaller school garden that I set up and my AP Environmental classes help to maintain.   I will start with early spring of last year, when the gardens slowly awaken.

As winter ends, the first things to come into flower are the various small bulbs and the hellebores.

Narcissus Rijnveld's Early Sensation is up early on Febuary 1 in the school garden in a nice warm spot by the wall.  Like all narcissus, it multiplies each year, narcissus are probably the most reliable of bulbs in our area in terms of permanence and lack of pest problems.

Iris reticulata can be considerably less permanent than any narcissus but every now and then a particular bulb decides to stick around and multiply.  This one is several years old in the school garden and is up as early as the Narcissus shown above is.   They were early this past year, in bad years (ie cold winters) both can wait till March instead of showing in early February.

This reticulate iris photo was taken last March 24, and it was a surprise in that it had parts in fours instead of the usual threes.  I stuck a small bamboo stake by it to see if it comes up again and if it shows the same pattern next spring.   We have a few clumps of Iris reticulata in the school gardens, most of the ones I planted there years ago have died off but a few thrived and grew into clumps on the sloped part of the school garden  I don't always expect them to be permanent here at home either but some may establish themselves as they have at school.

By the first week of April the Kaufmannia tulips were up, this one clearly multiplied having been planted the year before.  We have tulips in the front yard (almost all a red Darwin type) that were planted before we got the house but they require vigorous defense against the few deer in the area.  I spray all tulips, even like this one in the back which I enclosed with uposts and deer netting to stop all but the most determined deer from getting in with Liquid Fence.  It does help a lot in reducing deer damage, and trains them to stay away from here, most of the time at least.

Cyclamen coum is early with its showy flowers and equally showy foliage.

Viola odorata in a pale apricot form and shades of purple/pink also blooms very early and the Trillium (one of the sessile species) emerges with its attractive foliage.  The violets are slowly spreading by seed and short runners. I have nearly eliminated the much weedier Viola sororia from the property.   Along with onion grass, V sororia is close to impervious to glyphosate so it has to be dug up and not put in the compost pile.

A small Draba species grown from NARGS leftover seeds is among the early bloomers in March.
The Opuntia cacti look pretty flattened as they come out of winter, but it is their defense mechanism against freezing.  They have grown so well I had to seriously thin this batch after it flowered, which I will show them doing later on.

I planted lots of crocus out back, and these tommies (Crocus tommasianus) grow very well in our area and are the best species to naturalize.   They provide nectar and pollen for early bees as well.

In this large pot I have Adonis amurensis, which has survived and bloomed for several years.  I haven't planted it in the open gardens but it seems happy where it is.  I had them before we moved and the rocks were to keep the squirrels from digging them up.  We have even more squirrels here but they are quickly relocated to more appropriate living areas as fast as I can catch them.

Helleborus x hybridus is an easy to grow plant which is virtually pest free.  This is one of more than a hundred seedlings I have grown.  It is probably flowering for the first time.

Corydalis solida comes in many colors, this one is a seedling from a PBS seed exchange.  I lost the label, but it appears to be a form of solida or something close to it.  They must be planted in summer rather than allowed to dry out for a long time, then they sprout the following spring.  About 3 years later the first blossoms appear.

Helionopsis orientalis is another early bloomer, remnants of the wood chip mulch I cover nearby perennial impatiens with get spread around and slowly decompose, improving the soil by adding humus and nutrients to the rather heavy soil here.

A white Draba species comes into bloom.  It is cutest when it first blooms, the flower stalks elongate a bit later on.

Viola jooi is a vigorous seeder but its proportionally large flowers are quite a nice sight on a cool early spring day.

More tulips show up before mid April on a nice sunny day.

Hepaticas begin to bloom, this one is from plants I selected in a place down south where there are thousands of them.  I looked for the darkest blues and pinks I could find, most are white or palest pink in this particular population.  I also rescued some plants that were hit with herbicide another time in that same area when they put in a path in the area as well as some that were about to be eroded out of the soil due to them being at the edge of where they dug upslope that same path when they put it in.   It seems that all have done well here so far, but vigilance against burrowing chipmunks and squirrels is constantly required.

Jeffersonia dubia is an east Asian woodlander that does well here. I got my plants from our rock gardening friends in town.  They have been spectacularly successful with this species to the point that it self sows vigorously for them.  The large seeds need to be in the ground soon after they are shed which is why dry stored seed is much less likely to germinate than fresh seed.  Seedlings appear the following spring and bloom around their third year. 

The double flowered bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is best acquired as a passalong plant, that is a plant that passes from one gardener to another.  I got my plants from friends who live in the same town who grow them superbly, along with many other woodland and rock garden plants.  This is a strange plant in the garden as it is best to divide and move it every couple of years or so since whole colonies have a way of suddenly dying out if not periodically disturbed.   The flowers are fleeting (but less so than the single forms) but exquisite in form.

Corydalis solida, this time in purple, is a diminutive spring ephemeral.  They are long lived and the tubers multiply and eventually they start self sowing.  They disappear underground long before summer arrives.

Ipheon uniflorum is an onion relative from South America that, like Muscari, tends to sprout in fall but really doesnt grow much till spring, then it flowers when the weather is more settled.

A cute little potentilla I acquired at a Berkshire chapter of NARGS plant sale.   I got it half price I think, if not for free as no one else seemed to want it.  Maybe its because it didn't look all that exciting in fall when I brought it but it sure is charming in spring.  Or maybe it just wanted to thank me for saving it

Every year this Lathyrus vernus gets bigger and I successfully transplanted it to our home when we moved in back in late 2012.   It has also cast seeds far and wide so new smaller plants are beginning to reach flowering size in the same general area.

I slowly began to tame the .64 acres this property sits on from the moment we got here.  It took me about three years to fully get rid of the lawns and make all of the property into gardens.  This is part of the back slope under three large hemlocks that mark the border with our neighbor's John and Maggie.   The hemlocks have been attacked by adelgid insects, an invasive species that threatens our native hemlocks continued existence.  I have had some lower branches cut to let more light in and also treated the hemlocks with a systemic that should control the adelgids.  If the trees die I will replace them with smaller trees or bushes that are less competitive with the flowers I plant beneath them.  Nonetheless I have found that bulbs do well here, perhaps because the hemlocks tend to absorb summer moisture from the rocky shallow soil which many dormant bulbs like.  Many other plants are in the same area, such as several species of aquilegia, Alstroemeria aurantiaca, hellebores, and resowing annuals such as Silene armeria and Impatiens bicolor.   Part of this area is slowly becoming a rock garden of sorts too.

Our native pachysandra, Pachysandra procumbens, is not nearly as invasive as the evergreen Asian species planted everywhere in the neighborhood.  Its leaves may not look as good after a hard winter (but this past winter was quite mild) but the foliage is mottled and more interesting, and the flowers are a modest but cute bonus in April.

A Polygonatum species emerges among some violets.  This species came from Oliver's nursery during one of their end of spring plant sales.  I am not sure of the species but neither were they.   It must be one of the many species that have come out of China in recent years.  Its modest but a good multiplier.

Trilliums are much beloved by shade gardeners and those that appreciate nature.   This mottled leaf species might be lutea but the sessile leaved species are a confusing group to identify down to species level.  The fact that they can hybridize only complicates matters but regardless this one has really nice foliage.

Stellaria pubera is a native chickweed species from rich woodlands.  I got this one from down south, it is a refined plant unlike its weedy winter annual cousin that is better known to gardeners.

Not so sure why I don't see this everywhere as it is tough.  Trachystemon orientalis is a good doer and a very long lived perennial. Is also a lovely shade of blue, a not particularly common flower color.  It slowly spreads though I have not noticed any seedlings yet.  The leaves will grow larger after the flowers fade and remain for the rest of the growing season.

A special form of the bloodroot, "Tennessee Form", has more petals than the usual 8 that most wild forms have.  This plant came from Garden Vision nursery and has done well so far.  It does make seeds so I hope more will grow nearby one day.

No comments: