Monday, April 15, 2013

Bloom Day-April 2013

Spring continues to be mostly MIA in the northeast.  What few pleasant days we've had have all been during the week when I can't take full advantage and they have been few and far between.  Mostly cloudy skies, below average temperatures and an almost constant cold north to northwest wind seem to be conspiring to keep me in double fleece until May.  Yesterday I enjoyed a brief hail shower in the morning and then went straight from nursery shopping to Starbucks for a hot Caramel Macchiato in the afternoon.

On the bright side, this has been an absolutely fabulous spring for moving plants and I have been taking full advantage.  My "list" is almost complete.  In addition I've moved dozens of other plants to what I hope will be better spots-some have been languishing for years.  In doing so I've opened up space in existing gardens that I didn't even know I had.  Lately all my free time (when I'm not sleeping, working or in the garden) has been spent poring over plant catalogs.  Now if I could just find everything I want...nurseries have been slow to stock.

Even though parts of my garden appear colorful now, very little is actually blooming.  Planting bulbs has not been high on my priority list for the past few falls.  I plan my garden for late season interest and don't allocate much space to spring bloomers.  Usually I'm so busy in the spring I often don't even notice what's in bloom.  So let's take a look...

What few Hellebores I have are looking spiffy.  I have them scattered throughout the garden but as I look at pictures of various gardens I can see the why some people mass them in one spot.  Another project for another list.

Forsythia is not one of my favorite shrubs but this variegated Forsythia x intermedia 'Fiesta' is worth growing for the season spanning foliage.  If I had my act together on the bulb front I'd underplant it with some Chionadoxa or Scilla siberica.

Pieris are also putting on a fine show.  'Valley Valentine' is a favorite.

I think this one is 'Little Heath'.  My other variegated Pieris is much larger and in the ten plus years it's been in my garden I've never seen a flower.  If it didn't have such clean, attractive foliage it would have been banished long ago.

Bulb remnants from the days I used to plant them.  Anemone blanda have naturalized in many parts of my garden by hitching rides on plants I've moved.

To get my fingers into container planting shape I planted a few pansies.

Primrose-why don't I grow more of these?

Not your grandmother's Pachysandra.  P. procumbens is an easy to grow clumping woodland plant.  Although it is evergreen, I usually cut off all the winter weary foliage.

Not blooming I know, but it might as well be.  Sedum 'Angelina' virtually glows this time of year.

And here's one for anyone who thinks I should be better utilizing my camera (i.e. not on the automatic setting).  After eight and a half years I thought it might be to my advantage to peruse the manual.  In just a few minutes I learned all sorts of tricks.  Over the weekend I played around briefly with the manual settings.  Both the picture of the sedum above and the Prunus persica 'Bonfire' buds below were taken with the camera set to "M".  Right now I don't have the time to spend reading and practicing but I do intend to explore it all further. 


My usual thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this useful and entertaining monthly event.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'

Welcome April and welcome to my centennial blog post.  I've planned nothing special to mark the occasion except to thank those of you who have been reading and commenting here for the past eleven or so months.  Although I don't consider this a garden blog, gardening is how I spend most of my free time so by default most of my posts are about gardening and most of my readers are gardeners.  Going forward I hope I can continue to find the time and subject matter to keep things interesting and to keep regular readers coming back.

In my annual spring quest to shuffle plants into what I hope will be more pleasing and creative combinations I spend lots of time perusing photos from last garden season.  During a recent perusal session I came across a plant that I relocated last spring and in the process turned it into one of my garden stars.   

That plant is Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'.

For many years I had this plant tucked away in an obscure corner of the garden behind a Boxwood and under Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice' to provide the shade I thought it required. 

In 2011, I attended the Buffalo Garden Walk as part of my annual "idyllunion" weekend with internet garden friends.  After the walk, we moved the party to Rochester for a few days where we had the opportunity to visit some lovely private gardens including the garden of Jerry Kral.  Jerry is a true plant collector and has created one of the finest residential private gardens I have ever seen.

At the beginning of the tour, as we came around a corner onto the driveway, the first plant that caught my eye was a beautifully grown specimen of 'Axminster Gold' growing happily in what appeared to be full sun.  In late July.  Huh?

When asked, Jerry said as long as it received regular water it was perfectly happy in what I would have considered too sunny a spot.  Jerry also indicated that he was not fond of the flowers so he cut off the flowering stalks.

Immediately my mind went into design mode.  My plant looked great in the spring, flowered and then proceeded to look like crap which is why I never considered moving it into a more front and center position in the garden.  Occasionally I would deadhead and dead leaf it but only if I fell over it.  My mistake.

Last spring I got out early and dug it up.  I had heard they were difficult to propagate and they are expensive to buy so I was a bit concerned when the root mass fell apart.  But I took a chance and made three divisions.  One I planted in mostly shade with a bit of morning sun next to the patio.

The second went into the screen porch garden on the east side of my house, far enough from the house where I it would get a good shot of sun.

Division number three was gifted to one of my very deserving garden friends.

Both of my transplants were planted near annuals and container gardens so I was able to make sure they received regular water.  I did let them flower but was quick to cut off the flowering stalks as soon as they finished as well as any tattered leaves.  They were gorgeous all season.  Here is a perfect example of how important it is to plant the right plant in the right site.

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' produces fresh new foliage all season so although the leaves do get ratty, removing them doesn't diminish the plant in any way.  The foliage is covered in irritating prickly hairs so best to wear gloves when handling it but that's about the only negative.

If you're a foliage nut and not already growing this (and can find one reasonably priced), what are you waiting for?