Plants are putting forth leaves in abundance right now.
And of course there are flowers…
Plants are putting forth leaves in abundance right now.
And of course there are flowers…
Every spring is different. Now that I’ve gardened this same patch of ground for nearly 30 years, I think I’ve experienced the full range of variations. Except that with a changing climate, there may be shocks and surprises along the way.
This has been a slow, cool spring, quite different from 2021 (the year of the Heat Dome). Last spring was dry, with April temperatures in the 20s (degrees C; that’s 70s F). This year we’ve had more rain than normal (and that after an extremely wet fall and winter), and below normal temperatures. On April 12, wet snow fell for several hours. Strong winds from all four directions (on different days) battered plants and scattered twigs.
But late April and most of May are the best months in this garden. Spring bulbs are in bloom and there’s lots of fresh foliage. Things are green and juicy. The cool weather means tulips, narcissi, and other flowers have remained in good condition for weeks.
A few months ago I was unhappy about my hellebores, which seemed to be suffering the effects of excessive autumn wetness followed by severe cold at the end of December. I am happy to report that they shook off the doldrums (assuming hellebores can get doldrums). Most bloomed as usual, and are now approaching the stage where I remove the flower stems to prevent seeding.
Inevitably, there are a few disappointments. The pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) that used to bloom together with white candytuft and flowering currant seems to have vanished from the scene. It appeared to be in decline last spring, so I thoughtfully dug it up and reset it in improved soil. Either it didn’t appreciate that treatment, or the June heat wave did it in. For whatever reason, there is no sign of it this spring, which is both sad and annoying.
On the other hand, the gentians (Gentiana acaulis), which sulked last spring, are doing really well. Half a dozen flowers opened this week, with twice as many buds still forming. (I sometimes berate myself for counting buds and blooms, but do it anyway.)
This is really the best time to be a gardener here. Cleanup and mulching are done. The miserable business of pruning is finished and the tyranny of the hose and watering can hasn’t yet arrived (although soaker hoses are in place and ready). The hardest job is mowing the grass, which looks deceptively good right now. The gardener strolls around, admiring and self-congratulating. Even common, weedy plants look good.
Whether because of the excessive heat last June or some other reason, huge numbers of laburnum seedlings have appeared. I must have pulled up hundreds of them by now, and I see more every time I visit certain parts of the garden. Some of Nature’s excesses demand intervention by the gardener. Others are to be invited and celebrated.
One plant that’s doing better than usual is the Bleeding Heart (now called Lamprocapnos spectabilis by botanists, although I still think of it as Dicentra spectabilis). Mine has always bloomed on disappointingly short stems, but this year it looks more or less as it should. When I see its dangling little heart-shaped flowers, I always think of garden writer Henry Mitchell’s description of them: “Like Valentines hung out to dry.”
When I’m feeling grumpy about the look of the garden after hot, dry weeks in August, I should look at this post and tell myself it will be like this again.
Last chance to pre-order my latest novel, She Who Returns. It launches on May 1st!
I took these photos over several weeks in April and early May. Of course, gardens never stay the same. By now, tulip time is over and we’re into iris time.
Out in the garden after a nice spring rain, I found a mixture of small delights.
First, a group of tulips I have no memory of planting. I doubt if I would have picked this variety. The petals are white with pink edges. They look as though most of the colour has been bleached or faded away. Did they come from self-planted seeds? Tulips do produce seeds, but I don’t think I ever let mine do that. Or maybe stray bulblets? But in that case, where are the originals? Anyway, there they are, and quite picturesque too. I’m certainly not going to remove them. More about these tulips at the end of the post!
These bergenias grow really close to the trunks of those two big Norway maples I complain about all the time. For some reason, they’re blooming really well this year.
Epimedium x perralchicum “Frohnleiten” is one of the most dependable plants in the garden. I cut the old foliage down a few weeks ago, and now it’s in full bloom with fresh, bronze-tinted foliage emerging. The leaves will expand and grow green and leathery as the season progresses.
At risk of being boring, I’ll just mention that hellebore flowers are almost past their best, with seed structures expanding and colours morphing into the subfusc. (Actually, I added this bit about the hellebores just so I could use that word. While normally it’s applied to British academic dress, garden writer Ann Lovejoy uses it to describe plant colours. So I can do that too.)
Finally, another look at one of the surprise tulip flowers. Close up this time.
The really strange thing about these tulips is how they look just one day later.
Even after decades of gardening, plants can still surprise me.
The title of the post just before this one is “Rooting,” so it’s a piece of luck that this one is appropriately titled “Roofing.” Sometimes things work out perfectly.
After twenty years, the shingles on our roof looked a bit eroded, so we arranged to have them removed and replaced. The job took about a week, and the company we hired did a fine job. So did the fellow who came afterward to install new eavestroughs and downspouts. No complaints there.
A few things for gardeners to think about before workers arrive:
After the house was roofed and downspouted, the professionals departed, and work began on re-shingling the garage. My husband was keen on doing that job himself. I didn’t share his enthusiasm, but was dragooned to assist nevertheless. So I’ve spent a good portion of the past week lugging shingles up ladders and moving said ladders from one spot to another, and then back again. A certain amount of shouting and muttering has occurred, especially following the radical pruning of a winter-blooming honeysuckle (Lonicera X purpusii or possibly Lonicera fragrantissima) that was declared an obstacle. The plant has shown a fair bit of vigor after previous
butcherings prunings, as well as last winter’s icy winds, so I hope it will recover.
In the meantime, the garden carried on with spring.
Indoors, I continue to beat out the first draft of my work-in-progress, a novel to follow the Herbert West Series. Every month since January, I have committed to my critique group to send out another 6,000 words. That self-imposed deadline has worked so far; by mid-May I expect to hit — or at least get within hailing distance of — the 30,000 word mark. I’m finding this a tough job, tougher than writing my other novels, but so far I’ve managed to keep at it. Sort of like getting the roof done, shingle by shingle.
I know other parts of Canada are still dealing with snow and cold, or even worse, flooding, but here spring is definitely underway.
Tulips have been blooming for a while. The small species tulips seem to do better here than the large varieties, but I do have a few remnants of various plantings that manage to bloom year after year, such as these two very different types
The first roses of the year have started to bloom — rugosas I grew from cuttings, except this one was an accidental seedling.
Not everything has come through the winter unscathed. The last of my Gaura lindheimeri looks seriously dead (but I have bought some seeds and intend to grow replacements). A small and elegant blue-flowered relative of bindweed, Convolvulus sabatius, has also failed to sprout so far; I suspect it succumbed to a cold spell last December when temperatures descended to -9 C (16 F).
Those losses aside, my little paradise looks lush and lovely right now, and smells wonderfully of lilacs. I really can’t think of anything to complain about.
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