Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May Wildflower Wednesday

It's been a wild and crazy week and a half here, preparing for a big event next weekend.  There's been a frenzy of planting, weeding, and trimming, trying to beat the rains forecast for 5 days . . . rain that never came, meaning the garden hoses had to be lugged around each day as well, before the newly planted annuals drooped hopelessly in the hot sun.  Today the dark skies are really threatening and the wind is blowing at full force, so I must hurry in order to participate in the monthly celebration of Wildflower Wednesday hosted by the champion of pollinators, Gail at Clay and Limestone.

A quick look at some of the natives and native relatives finally appearing here in the garden:

Ever since I first saw drifts of Baptisia austalis, or Blue Wild Indigo, during the Chicago Spring Fling in '09, I knew I had to have this plant in my own garden.  According to Illinois Wildflowers, it is not a common native in this part of Illinois and not usually found in the wild.  But its popularity has grown, and certainly after being named the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2010, it can be found in many Illinois gardens.

An awkward long shot of the Baptisia in my roadside garden shows you just how large it has become in two years, when comparing it to the giant alliums to its right.  Whenever I look at these blooms in the spring, I'm always reminded of the magic of the Lurie Gardens in May.

Another native first seen at the Lurie two years ago and one of my new favorites is Amsonia Tabernaemontana, or Bluestar.  It has been blooming for a good two weeks in my garden, though it is just beginning to fade.   Its relative, Amsonia hubrichtii, has been named the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2011, but Amsonia T. is the only native bluestar in Illinois.  According to Illinois Wildflowers again, it is attractive to ruby-throated hummingbirds and to various long-tongued insects.  The foliage, however, contains a white latex that is toxic to mammals--in other words, this is the perfect plant for those bothered by deer.

Although not technically a native, Garden Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, is included on the Illinois Wildflowers website, so I thought I would include it today.  This plant is often included in herb gardens for its
medicinal effects.  Deer are also not fond of valerian, but it is attractive to a host of bees and butterflies.

The butterfly garden is in a state of chaos right now, as I tend to other more visible parts of the garden first.  Part of my problem in weeding out the undesirables and thinning the prolific self-seeders here is knowing which are which.  But there is no mistaking these seedlings about to bloom--Nigella, also known as Love-in-a-Mist.  These are not natives at all--in fact, my original seeds came all the way from the UK from blogging friend Cheryl--but I thought it was interesting that Illinois Wildflowers includes it in its list of "weedy wildflowers."  Apparently, it has escaped cultivation here and can occasionally be found in the wild here in the Midwest.

However, one of the plants that I didn't recognize as it began to grow in the butterfly garden and nearly pulled out was this one.  I'm so glad I didn't, because when it began to bloom, I recognized it as Penstemon X, a gift from our wildflower hostess Gail.  As evidenced on Gail's posts, this plant is a bee magnet.

Another gift from Gail is Phlox pilosa, now commonly referred to as PPPP.  Gail has been very generous with providing starts for so many friends that this surely must be one of the most celebrated plants in all of the blogosphere! I thought this description of PPPP from Illinois Wildflowers was interesting:

"The flower structure of the Phlox genus is a classical example of a butterfly flower. Such flowers feature flared petals that function as a landing pad for these insects, and a long narrow tube that is accessible to the long proboscis of butterflies, as well as skippers and moths." 

 Also interesting is that there is a very rare species of this phlox, Phlox pilosa var. sangamonensis (Sangamon Phlox), found in our county and one nearby county--I'll have to be on the lookout for this. For more information, check out one of Gail's many posts on this lovely native.

There are many other natives waiting in the wings for their appearance in June and July, but before you go, I can't resist showing one non-native that is looking its best right now--my clematis 'Nelly Moser.'  Even my non-gardening son and daughter-in-law commented on all the blooms this week.  I think I should hint that a taller obelisk would make a good birthday present this year, don't you think?

Every month I learn something new about natives and wildflowers from reading other posts--why not check out some of these participants?  You'll find them listed by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Just a note--for some reason I can't leave comments on certain blogs.  So if I haven't visited lately, I'm not ignoring you . . . I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Bloom Day: What a Change!

Spring is a time of anticipation . . . anxiously waiting for the first daffodils and then the tulip buds to open. Searching for the first signs of perennials; watching the small green shoots of hostas emerging upright from the soil and curlicued ferns, like green question marks, holding tightly to their fronds.  But like the proverbial boiling pot, if you don't watch each day, the garden transforms itself quickly this time of year.

When we left home two weeks ago for my daughter's wedding, the tulips were still reigning supreme over the garden.  Coming home a week later, the scene had changed completely.

A late white tulip still looks elegant, but most of the tulips are either gone
or look like the faded blooms in the background.

This tulip may be past its prime, but I thought the remaining petals made an interesting image.

The biggest thrill for me when I arrived home was to see the first iris blooms.  Quite a few irises were added to the lily bed last fall, and I really wasn't sure if they would bloom this first year here.  All of the irises are passalongs, so I have no idea of their names; this lovely yellow one, which is full of blooms, was given to me by a fellow Master Gardener last spring.

Other passalongs came from my aunt and from my parents.  I had no idea what color each of them was; this one is actually more of a rusty bronze than what it appears here in the fading sunlight.  Another purple iris is just opening today, so hopefully I'll have even more surprises in the coming week.

Also fully in bloom when we arrived home was the Amsonia tabernaemontana.  This plant was one of the near-freebies I got from the MG Idea Garden last spring and started as a tiny division last year.  I love the light blue color of its blooms; I wish I could find more plants with this baby blue hue.

The reblooming lilac 'Bloomerang' is looking its best this year, too.  Its fragrance is not quite as strong as the old-fashioned varieties, but it still has that definite sweet smell.

The butterfly garden seems to have had an obedient plant and aster population explosion this year . . . but that's a story for another post.   A few stalwarts have refused to give in to those mobsters, however, including this Valerian, another near-freebie from the Idea Garden last year.

Still another division from last year's Idea Garden--Meadow Rue, Thalictrum aquilegiifolium.

The star of the butterfly garden right now--even though it's nearly obscured by what I hope are asters and not weeds--is Phlox pilosa, or as Gail calls it, PPPP.  I wonder how many gardens across the country have some of Gail's offspring blooming this month?:)

Also oblivious to the native invaders is this Salvia 'Eveline', returning for its third year.

It was dark when we returned from our trip to Cancun, so I didn't notice for a few days some changes in the roadside garden as well.  The giant alliums, 'Purple Sensation,' I think, bend, but don't bow to the strong winds.

The baptisia has settled in nicely and blooming its head off in this, its second year in the garden.

Even the vegetable garden has a few blooms.  To my surprise, last year's kale overwintered and is full of blooms.  Someone told me last fall that it only blooms in its second year, which must be true; still, I had no idea it would be able to stand our harsh winters.  It must have been all the snow we had that protected it.

The chives are full of blooms, too.


And those small hosta and fern shoots I mentioned?  The shade garden has made the biggest transformation of all.  In a week it has gone from potential growth to its present state where hostas, ferns, and heucheras rub elbow to elbow, vying for space.

There, the blooms of old-fashioned coral bells replace the blooms of narcissus and tulips.

But the biggest thrill of all for me was this--my first ever columbine bloom from seeds I winter sowed a year ago.  "Patience," she says, "All in good time."

They may not be as exotic or as precious as the blooms on my last post, but these are certainly making the daily routine these days of weeding and planting a delightful way to spend the month of May.

To see what else is blooming in mid-May, be sure to check out the list of other Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day participants at Carol's at May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Memories Are Made of This

While gardener bloggers across the world are celebrating what is blooming in their gardens on this May Bloom Day, I have been celebrating another occasion this past week.  I am still coming back down to reality after a week away with family in beautiful Cancun, Mexico. 

No thoughts of weeding or planting, but rather sleeping in or even getting up early, if I chose, to watch the sun rise over the Caribbean.

I could get used to being totally pampered:)  The only work involved was walking to one of the many restaurants for a delicious meal, enjoying the ocean view along the way.

Time moves slowly here, especially when lazing by the pool or in a cozy lounge chair on the beach, reading and listening to the lapping waves.

There was time to leisurely enjoy the flora . . .

. . . and some very different fauna.  The iguanas were frequent visitors outside our room, but there were occasional sightings of lemurs as well.  One lemur even startled my granddaughter by jumping in the golf cart with her!

Not the adventurous sort, I preferred to sit on the sidelines watching others taking risks.  That's my husband floating high above the ocean, while I nervously paced the shoreline wondering if all his affairs were in order.  I also watched my granddaughter swim with the dolphins, but unfortunately cameras were not allowed in the pool area.

One regret I do have is that I didn't join my husband and daughters for a day trip to visit Chichen Itza, the site of Mayan ruins.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stand the intense heat of the afternoon, but judging by my husband's accounts and the photos he took, I missed an amazing sight.

But I certainly didn't miss out on the most important event of our stay--my daughter's wedding.  The ceremony was held right on the beach as the sun began to set.  The setting was beautiful, even if my vision was blurred a bit by a few tears.  Tears of happiness, of course, remembering what seems like such a short time ago when she was a pig-tailed little tomboy.  Most of all, we are thrilled that she found such a wonderful man to spend the rest of her life with.

There were lots of laughs during the stay, too, including enjoying Grandson who found playing in the sand the best part of being a ringbearer.

I have many new blooms in my garden to share with you one of these days,
but these are my best "blooms" of all!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Farewell Tour

While the rest of the world has been immersed in the royal wedding, I have been more interested in a wedding coming up soon--my daughter's.   Between last minute details and packing for the beach ceremony,  I haven't had much time for gardening or blogging.  I will be offline for a short while, but before I leave, I wanted to share some of my favorite blooms from this spring's garden.

Everything changes so quickly this time of year, that I'm sure the garden won't look the same when I come back.  The tightly coiled leaves of the 'Sum and Substance' hosta are starting to unfurl already.

Other smaller hostas in the shade garden are already spreading out after a few weeks of seasonable temperatures and a lot of rain.

Besides the spring bulbs, the Brunnera 'Jack Frost' is one of my favorites in the shade garden.  I can't get enough of these blue, blue blooms.  The beetle on the foliage was a surprise when I downloaded this picture.  I've seen a few bees and saw the first butterfly today; in another week or two they should be more plentiful.

The slender narcissus, which someone (sorry, I forgot who!) suggested might be 'Pippin,' is still blooming, much to my delight.  And the bleeding heart has nearly doubled in size and number of blooms since last year.

This is the first year for the new fothergilla 'Blue Shadow.'  I planted it for its fall color, but these white puffball blooms are just as welcome this spring.

There are wildflowers called spring ephemerals, but so much of spring's beauty is ephemeral. 

 The flowering crabapples were gorgeous this year, but with heavy rains and strong winds at times last week, the blooms didn't last long, and soon the driveway was strewn with pink petals.  I won't complain, though; here in central Illinois we were very fortunate compared to other areas of the country, especially the South, who experienced so much destruction from the storms.

The crabapples were at their best over Easter weekend, but I didn't take time to get a good photo then.  I guess I was distracted by other priorities.

The white crabapple blooms a little later and lasts longer than the other varieties, but I noticed today that even it had lost most of its petals after another blustery day.

The old apple tree has seen better days, but its spring show is spectacular.

Last summer was the first time I did a serious pruning of the old lilac, and it rewarded me with the most blooms I've ever seen on it.  Pruning will definitely be on my to-do list again in June.

But all this has been leading up to what I promised in my last post--showing off all my tulips.  There was nothing ephemeral about these bulbs this year--one variety or another has been blooming nonstop for at least three weeks, and I have been loving every minute of it.   Pink is definitely the predominant color.

In the roadside garden a collection of tulips from Breck's called 'Monet's Garden' compete with the rapidly growing coneflowers and daylilies.

The collection is intended to echo a common color scheme of Monet
 with shades of pink, white, and dark purple. 

This pale pink one didn't fit in the previous photo.  Did I mention I like pink?:)

Somehow a few red tulips also snuck in another area of the roadside garden.  This may be from a previous year's planting (most likely) or from a bargain collection I purchased somewhere last fall and neglected to write down in my garden journal.

Another unnamed tulip in the roadside garden, this time yellow with streaks of red.

Near the shade garden a different bi-color tulip which also appeared in the lily garden.  Part of the fun of seeing the tulips bloom each spring is the surprise factor- a late fall rush to find a place to plant them all often means I forget what I've planted and where.

But I didn't forget two new purchases last fall from Brent and Becky's bulbs.  I couldn't resist buying something named 'Fur Elise,' but I had forgotten that it was a shorter tulip than most of my others.

The other new tulip I've shown before is 'Professor Rontgen,' a  parrot tulip that is every bit as gorgeous in person as it appears in their catalog.

And the shorter 'Fur Elise' worked out perfectly as the forefront for these taller showstoppers.

Although I tried and tried, I couldn't get a decent long shot of the whole lily garden.  But from this photo you can see that there is no color scheme in this garden--it's been a kaleidoscope of clashing colors all spring. From creamy white to nearly black, nearly every color of the rainbow is represented by this year's tulips.

No tulip post is complete for me without my favorite tulip, the last to bloom of all--sweet 'Angelique.'

Enjoy the beauties of spring while they last, and Happy Gardening!