Six On Saturday: Flowers In Bloom

Our first white coneflowers, Echinacea, opened yesterday.  Each flower lasts for a very long time. Pollinators frequent the flowers over several weeks. Once the petals finally drop, goldfinches delight in picking out the tasty seeds. Coneflower remains a presence in our garden all summer, producing new flowers deep into the season.

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The few weeks after Azaleas fade and Iris finish bring a brief lull in the garden.  Our trees are fully covered now in deep green and shrubs cover themselves with tender new growth.  Now is a good time to take softwood cuttings, if you want to clone any woodies.

Most gardeners keep secateurs close at hand as we deadhead spent flowers and sometimes need to clip a path for ourselves through vigorous new growth.

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African blue basil remains one of my favorite annual flowering herbs. I grow it for the sweetly scented flowers and rarely cut it for cooking. Once the flowers finish, goldfinches swoop in to claim the seeds. This basil continue flowering and growing all summer long.

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I’ve done more trimming than planting this week as I continue to tame the rampant goldenrod and obedient plant claiming too much real estate in our front perennial beds and the thuggish cutleaf coneflower shading out its companions in the butterfly garden.  Abundant rain and warm weather fuels this early summer growth spurt, as plants increase by inches a day.

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Verbena bonariensis, a South American native Verbena, is one of my favorite perennials at the moment. I have planted it in beds and pots this year. I’ve learned that it self-sows generously, and returns more vigorously with each passing year. I saw a friend’s plant that had grown into a small woody shrub and fooled me, as I thought it was a butterfly bush leafing out last month!  All Verbenas prove magnets for butterflies and other pollinators.

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But looking across the front garden I don’t see as much color this week.  And so I walked our garden paths, camera in hand, to see what new flowers have appeared as we transition from spring ephemerals to summer’s perennials.

Most of these flowers will continue for several weeks more, if not for several months.  Some will bloom on from now until frost.  Spring’s exuberance settles now into summer’s steadiness.

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Garlic chives are always the first of our Alliums to bloom in May. They spread a bit more each year. These are an edible herb, a good pollinator plant, and add color during early summer.

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I brought home a new rose colored Salvia today and a beautiful new coral Agastache.  I am looking forward to their bold color shining in the garden for many weeks ahead.

Spring is all about the flowers, but summer color comes more reliably from interesting foliage.  Flowers come and go, bloom and fade and fall.  They bring in the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, but they fade all too quickly.

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Spiraea japonica blooms reliably each May, and will re-bloom if deadheaded. This is a very traditional shrub, left by a previous gardener, and may be cut for the vase.

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I’m most excited this week about all of the deep red Canna plants growing by the day, tubs of Caladiums and Alocasias ready to take their places throughout the garden, and a growing collection of beautiful coleus.  But our winter Violas are still going strong in their pots, and they are so colorful I am loathe to pull them before they fade.  Our summer foliage plants continue to wait on the Violas and snaps for their turn in our summer pots.

Another steamy summer settles over the garden, and the garden is transforming itself yet again, as our perennials emerge and grow.

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Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’ keeps these deep ruby leaves all year long, even through winter.  It is a special treat when its flowers emerge in early summer.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

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“At last came the golden month of the wild folk-

– honey-sweet May,

when the birds come back,

and the flowers come out,

and the air is full of the sunrise scents

and songs of the dawning year.”
.

Samuel Scoville Jr

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Six on Saturday: Plants With a History

Yellow flag Iris psuedacorus is one of the earliest Iris species recorded in our history.  Native in parts of Europe and North Africa, it was grown in palace and  temple gardens in ancient Egypt .  Considered invasive in North America, it produces very high quantities of nectar when in bloom.

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Why does May hold such nostalgia?  All seems right with the world when early summer settles over the neighborhood; the air is sweetened by blooming hollies, roses, and honeysuckle, and something is blooming in nearly every yard.

May is a month for Mother’s Day, college graduations, weddings and family trips.  We allow ourselves a mental break from the news of the day as we reconnect with loved ones and simply enjoy the pleasures of May.

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Peonies remain some of the most popular garden plants and cut flowers. They bloom for only a few weeks each spring, but remain a favorite artistic motif in temperate climates around the world.

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Many of the shrubs and perennials that bloom each May carry with them an air of nostalgia, too.  They may remind us of our mother’s or our grandmother’s gardens.

My great grandmother had an old craftsman style house in an established Richmond neighborhood.  Her back garden was filled with luxurious climbing roses, blue spiderwort, peonies and a giant old mulberry tree.

I have vivid memories of wandering around her yard when I was a very young child, enjoying the flowers while the grown-ups talked inside.  The grass grew long and lush as she could no longer mow it herself.   I’d pick the mulberries in season and she would serve them over heaping bowls of ice cream.  She was elderly when I knew her, already an invalid.  But her garden told me all I needed to know about her loving spirit and her joie de vivre.

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Native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, grows wild across much of Virginia on large shrubs, sometimes growing into small trees.  It grows best in the mountains, and follows the Appalachians from New England to the Gulf Coast.  Native Americans used this poisonous shrub for many purposes, including medicinally.  The wood is extremely hard and was carved into many useful household items.

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The beauty of antique, heritage flowers is their persistence.   Most are so easy to grow that once planted, they largely care for themselves.  A gardener’s skilled hand can certainly help bring out their full potential, but they generally outlive their gardeners and can fend for themselves decade after decade.

Heritage plants bring us comfort, through their beauty and fragrance, as they return us to people and places and times long passed.  They have a long and rich history themselves, even as they help us follow the threads of memory to recall our own personal history.  Yet they bloom fresh and beautiful each year, insinuating themselves into our hearts anew each time we encounter them.

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We always had Azaleas in our yard to admire each spring,  These Southern Indica hybrid Azaleas, dating back to the 1830’s, have especially large flowers and will grow to 10′ tall.  We enjoyed viewing them at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and Richmond’s Bryan Park when I was a child.  Here, ‘Formosa’ and ‘Delaware White’ were planted by a previous gardener on our property. 

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Plants carry our history more surely than any diary or text.  They form a living archive of our lives:  the flowers we grow, the foods that recall childhood pleasures.  The trees we played under and in when young, and trees planted at our homes along the way.

All are a part of our story, and we a part of theirs.  And when better to remember the joy they brought us than when the world is renewed each May.

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Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, ‘ the poet’s or pheasant’s eye daffodil, is native to the mountains of Europe.  One of the earliest cultivated species daffodils from the ancient Mediterranean world,  it is one of the latest daffodils to bloom each spring.  Here, it greets visitors at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“If you don’t know history,

then you don’t know anything.

You are a leaf that doesn’t know

it is part of a tree. ”
.

Michael Crichton

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Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

 

 

 

May 1: Beltane Blessings

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“At last came the golden month of the wild folk-

– honey-sweet May,

when the birds come back,

and the flowers come out,

and the air is full of the sunrise scents

and songs of the dawning year.”

.

Samuel Scoville Jr.

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“May,

more than any other month of the year,

wants us to feel most alive.”

.

Fennel Hudson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, May 1, 2019

“And after winter folweth grene May.”

Geoffrey Chaucer,

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Iris x germanica ‘Indian Chief’ with columbine

 

On the Eve of May

The first rays of morning sun fuel our garden this last day of April.

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May is already upon us.  The garden has filled with flowers, and there are more waiting each morning as we walk outside, to see what has changed overnight.

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Iris ‘Echo Location’

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This is Iris season, and Columbine season, and the grass is filled with wildflowers season.

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Native fleabane, probably Erigeron pulchellus, grow in our front lawn. A short lived perennial, this patch grows a bit larger each year. After it finishes flowering, we will mow this part of the ‘lawn’ once again.

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It all grows unbelievably fast in late April and early May, and I am busily trying to work with the season.

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Erigeron is a native wildflower in our area.  Too pretty to cut back, we have let it have its real estate in the front yard.

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That said, it was only 41F when I followed the sun out of bed this morning.  Neighbors in nearby towns had temperatures near freezing over night, and so I don’t yet trust the weather with so many of our tender, tropical plants.  I am crossing my fingers and toes, and planting out as much as I dare, just as quickly as I can.

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I was a bit surprised to notice the trellis filled with blooming Clematis this morning.

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Spring rolls over us like a wave, before cresting into full on summer.  And I am working to ride that wave as the garden awakens.

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This is the time to set things right; to establish what will grow where, and how, for the next six months.

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Columbine

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But everywhere I look, I see something new.  I see opening leaves, emerging perennials, and unfolding buds.

May’s magic lives in our garden, and I hope it lives in yours, as well.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

After experimenting for the past several days with my new Canon Power Shot Elph 180, I am back to my Nikon Coolpix S3500.  Trying to focus in on the fleabane flowers proved the utility of my little Nikon, which lives in the inside pocket of my gardening vest.  It has crossed the country with me a couple of times now, and is officially obsolete in the world of pocket cameras.  But it still takes a great photo and leaves me satisfied.

 

 

In A Vase on Monday: Harvest of Roses

R. "Crown Princess Margareta"

R. “Crown Princess Margareta”

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Roses.  Sweetly fragrant, full-petaled, vividly colored roses.

What more is there to say?

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R. "Golden Celebration" to the left, and R. "Lady of Shallott" to the right.  Perennial Geranium in the center

R. “Golden Celebration” to the left, and R. “Lady of Shallott” to the right

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Ten months of the year, you might hear me nattering on about the importance of interesting foliage in a garden.  I’ll tell you that flowers are short lived and that unusually colorful leaves and interesting structure carry us through the gardening year.  I’ll go on about Caladiums and Begonias, Hosta and Coleus.

But then the Iris, roses, peonies and geraniums open in May; their perfume carried on the warm morning breezes; and I know the truth of it.  

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May 11, 2015 vase 008~

I love these fragrant beauties, and savor our early summer days when they fill the garden with beautiful abundance.  These roses are all English shrub roses,  bred and marketed by Englishman David Austin and his family.

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R. "Lady of Shallott" yesterday afternoon

R. “Lady of Shallott” yesterday afternoon

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When adding a rose to the garden I nearly always choose one of David Austin’s introductions because they outperform other roses in every way.  The shrubs resist disease and need virtually no spraying; they grow prolifically; bloom generously; and retain strong, delicious old-world rose fragrances.  Many can be purchased growing on their own roots.   And the forms of the fully opened roses are gorgeous.  These plump buds full of petals open into intricate patterns and last for many days.

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May 11, 2015 vase 005

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Today’s vase holds R. “Golden Celebration,”   R. “Crown Princess Margareta”  and R. “Lady of Shallott.”

Last May Barbara, of Silver in the Barn, brought me a clump of Siberian Iris from her garden, and now they are covered in blooms.

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May 11, 2015 vase 006

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I cut three for today’s vase. Barbara is one of my true gardening sisters.  And like a good sister, she knows what I need without me even speaking of it.

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Siberian Iris given to us by Barbara and her husband last May; now blooming abundantly.

Siberian Iris given to us by Barbara and her husband last May; now blooming abundantly.

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She brought me these beautiful Iris  which perfectly replace some favorite Siberian Iris left behind in a former garden.

I’ve missed them sorely, and am thrilled to have these transplanted from her garden to mine.

A few stems of perennial Geranium found their way into the vase today, because I loved their violet pink flowers against today’s roses.  There is also Artemesia and some lovely anise scented fennel leaves tucked in around the other stems.

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May 11, 2015 vase 002

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Today’s vase is an heirloom family piece which normally sits empty on top of the china cabinet.  It was dusted off and pressed into service to hold the roses today. Today’s mineral is an unusual cluster  of Amethyst spirit quartz.

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May 11, 2015 vase 008

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Another gardening sister visited yesterday, and after coffee we went together out into the garden to cut roses for her for Mother’s Day.   We were celebrating the healthy birth of her newest grandson, only a day old yesterday.  This morning, she sent me photos of the lovely arrangement she made with the roses, which you will enjoy, too.

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FullSizeRender~

Many thanks to Cathy for hosting In A Vase On Monday each week.  She has returned from her travels, and I hope you will visit her to see what is blooming in her garden this week and to follow the links in her comments to many other beautiful May arrangements.

Cathy has gone all “raspberry” on us today, and the results are truly spectacular!

We’ve had off and on rain for nearly two days now, thanks to Ana off the  East Coast.  It is working its way northwards and then out to sea.

It was raining as I cut these stems today, and the skies opened once I was finished and back inside.  Drops of rain still lingered as I took photos of today’s vase.

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May 11, 2015 vase 007

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We’ve such an abundance of flowers now that I may be inspired to cut and arrange more than once a week for a while.

One day the technology will progress enough that I can record the wonderful fragrance of this vase as easily as I can attach a clip of background music today.

Until then, I hope your imagination will supply the fragrance… or better yet, that you are enjoying roses in your own garden today, too.

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May 10, 2015 Roses 005

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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The First Rose of Summer

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 006

The first roses of summer were blooming when we came outside this morning.

I’m always happy to greet these first fragrant opening blossoms.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 029

It is a sign that we are entering the most flower filled season of the year when spring has not quite yet melted into summer.

We are still enjoying cool nights, and the occasional cool day.  We made it to 90 in Williamsburg today, according to the thermometer in the car, as we drove out on afternoon errands.

Although it feels like “instant July,” we know more wonderfully cool days lie ahead before the heat settles in for high summer in late June.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 022

Irises are in full bloom in many neighbors’ yards, and late blooming Azaleas are hitting their peak as the Rhododendron shrubs begin to bloom.

Our next door neighbors have a new Rhododendron growing near our Azaleas.   We noticed its buds opening this morning, and noticed that our shrubs match perfectly in a lovely, deep rosy pink.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 026

Roses always bloom in coastal Virginia for Mother’s Day.

Their blossoms lend an extra, fragrant,  note of celebration during this special weekend.  The College of William and Mary holds its commencement on Sunday, and our community is full of visitors.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 007

The air is sweet with the smell of flowers, and ripe with the love of families celebrating their special days together.  The aroma of freshly cut and trimmed grass wafts through our neighborhood.

But my attention is held, today, by the unfolding roses. 

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 009

One May, nearly 20 years ago now, I was asked to choose what I would like to receive for Mother’s Day that year.  I chose a climbing rose shrub to plant by the front door.

I knew that whatever else might be happening in my life, I would have a gift of fresh roses for Mother’s Day every year from then on.

That Mother’s Day gift was an “Eden” rose, still a favorite for its fragrance.  I literally filled that garden with roses over the years.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 028

Antique Bourbon roses climbed up into the nearby Crepe Myrtle tree, and pegged themselves to put down roots and grow new shrubs throughout a large border filled with herbs, Irises, and more roses.

That garden has passed on to other hands, now, and I hope they enjoy the roses (and care for them) as I did.  That garden didn’t have deer visiting from time to time to graze on tasty flower buds.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 036

This one does, and so each rose which blooms holds a special gift.  Against all odds, it survived in this Forest Garden. 

All of my partner’s work on fences to keep out the deer, and all my efforts to improve the soil, plant and prune come together in the fragrance and beauty of each opening bud.

Our shrubs are full of buds at the moment, so we may enjoy roses for many weeks to come.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 001

Or not.  I’ve learned to not count my roses before they bloom around here.  But for today, they are lovely, and I hope you enjoy sharing them with me.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has survived the joys and trials of parenthood. 

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 023

Remember, especially if your children are still quite young:  All of the effort, pain, hard work, sacrifice, and time will find their reward in those sweet moments when you, “Smell the roses.”

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 004

Whether at a kindergarten program, a first communion, an athletic triumph, a commencement ceremony, or a special weekend spent together; the fragrance of the rose allows us to overlook the thorns.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 008

The magic of unfolding  beauty is its own reward for the time and love invested in nurturing it.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 005

 

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