A Frond Indeed

A few years ago I removed the foundation planting of yews that were in front of my house and replaced them with Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Overall, I have been happy with the switch, though it leaves the front of the house bare for several months of the year.

A foundation planting of Ostrich Ferns.

A foundation planting of Ostrich Ferns.

Right about now the Ostrich Ferns have completed unfurling. They stand nearly 4 feet tall, and they will keep stretching upward for a while yet.

Ostrich ferns: strrrreetch!

Ostrich ferns: strrrreetch!

They are majestic plants, but I always wondered why they were named after ostriches, because honestly I don’t see the resemblance. Well, it turns out that the species name struthiopteris comes from the Greek struthio for ostrich and pterion for wing. So, “ostrich wing”. Although, frankly, I still don’t see it.

Ostrich Fern and  Bleeding Heart

Ostrich Fern and Bleeding Heart

Our Ostrich Ferns are quite happy growing up against the north side of the house, where it’s moist and shady. They make a pretty good background plant for the Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) and others growing further out from the wall.

If Ostrich Ferns had elbows I would say they were elbowing their way to the front of the Bleeding Hearts.

If Ostrich Ferns had elbows I would say they were elbowing their way to the front of the Bleeding Hearts.

I say “pretty good” because Ostrich fern definitely has expansionist tendencies, and is a bit disgruntled with its role as a background plant. It’s sending rhizomes out to establish beachheads among and in front of the Bleeding Hearts. After the Bleeding Hearts are done blooming I will have to get my shovel and carry out a containment operation.

Cinnamon Ferns with Virginia Bluebell on a rainy Sunday.

Cinnamon Ferns with Virginia Bluebell on a rainy Sunday.

We have other ferns in the garden: Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) and (I think) Cinnamon Ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea). In fact, I will close with the above photo of Cinnamon Ferns with Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) that Judy took this past Sunday.

I’m linking this post to Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging. Check out the foliage featured by other garden bloggers.

Tulipalooza and other May Flowers

Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day! For those of you who don’t know, GBBD occurs on the 15th of every month, giving garden bloggers everywhere an opportunity to show off their best blooms of the moment. It is hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Happy container tulips greet visitors at the front walk.

Happy container tulips greet visitors at the front walk.

The timing of May’s GBBD is very fortuitous as it occurs at the peak of the tulip season.

A closer look at the container tulips.

A closer look at the container tulips.

This seems to have been an excellent year for tulips and spring bulbs generally, due in part to the cool weather and generous rainfall.

'Princess Irene' is still going strong.

‘Princess Irene’ is still going strong.

Mid-season tulips are lasting later into the late season, and late season bulbs seem especially luscious.

Tulip 'Couleur Cardinal'

Tulip ‘Couleur Cardinal’

‘Couleur Cardinal’ has been looking great for weeks.

'Ballerina'

‘Ballerina’

The same is true for ‘Ballerina’.

'Annie Schilder' with 'Princess Irene'

‘Annie Schilder’ with ‘Princess Irene’

And ‘Annie Schilder’.

'Kingsblood'

‘Kingsblood’

‘Kingsblood’ is a later-season tulip that has more recently joined the party.

Tulipa 'Chrysantha' (yellow), 'Lady Jane' (white), and 'Red Gem'.

Tulipa ‘Chrysantha’ (yellow), ‘Lady Jane’ (white), and ‘Red Gem’.

As for late season species tulips, I have discovered that my friends at John Scheeper’s have made an unusual (for them) shipping error. But I’m not complaining!

2015-05-11 09.12.06 tulips

You may recall I ordered T. clusiana ‘Chrysantha’ and ‘Tubergen’s Gem’. However, it seems that instead of the latter, I received T. clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ instead.

Tulips 'Lady Jane' and 'Chrysantha'

Tulips ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Chrysantha’

It turns out, though, that ‘Chrysantha’ and ‘Lady Jane’ are excellent partners. ‘Lady Jane’ has a candy cane color scheme, with a creamy white interior that goes well with the rose and golden yellow of ‘Chrysantha’. ‘Lady Jane’ is also a bit taller and starts blooming a little later. Also taking part, though a bit faded, is T. batalinii ‘Red Gem’.

There are three Tulip varieties I wouldn’t try again: ‘Elegant Lady’, ‘Blushing Lady’, and ‘Salmon Pearl’ – all have colors that are too soft to mix with the powerful reds, oranges, and yellows that predominate among my tulip plantings. Also, ‘Elegant Lady’ has very long stems that seem to require staking.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

White Bleeding Heart

White Bleeding Heart

If the tulips have a co-star, it is the Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), pink and white.

But let’s tear ourselves away from the tulips and check out the other blooms at our place.

Peony 'America'

Peony ‘America’

‘America’, our earliest Peony, has just started to bloom in the back garden.

Red Trllium with a dash of Virginia Bluebell

Red Trllium with a dash of Virginia Bluebell

Also in the back garden, the Red Trillium (Trillium recurvatum) has begun to flower as the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) begin to fade.

Wild Currant

Wild Currant

The dangling chartreuse flowers of Wild Currant (Ribes americanum) have made their appearance.

Flowering containers on the back patio.

Flowering containers on the back patio.

If they’re not full of tulips, the containers are full of pansies (Viola tricolor or V. x wittrockiana), Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), and Stock (Matthiola incana).

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke

In the front garden, the Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) continue blooming. The flowers are nice, but it’s the seedheads that are really special and give this plant its common name.

'Donald Wyman' crabapple blossoms.

‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple blossoms.

Sadly, we never got a picture of our ‘Donald Wyman’ crab at its peak this year, but there are still a few blossoms that have not been knocked off by the rain.

Clove Currant

Clove Currant

Finally, this has been a great year for blooms on the Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum), which I have placed right next to the sidewalk so anyone can enjoy its spicy-sweet scent.

What are your favorite blooms in the garden right now?

Companion Plants in Yellow and Blue

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are a widely loved wildflower.

A mass of Celandine Poppies provide a backdrop for Virginia Bluebells.

A mass of Celandine Poppies provide a backdrop for Virginia Bluebells.

One of its best companions, however, is not so widely loved. I speak of Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), which is peaking in my garden along with the Bluebells even as I write this.

Celandine Poppies

Celandine Poppies

These plants perfect for each other. There are the simultaneously blooming flowers – blue for the Mertensia, golden yellow for the Stylophorum. I always like to mix blue and yellow blooms.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

Then there is the contrast of foliage shape: lobed and oak-like for Celandine Poppies and rounded leaves for the Bluebells, though the leaves of each have a similar bluish green hue. Also, these two plants prefer the same woodsy, part shade conditions.

Celandine Poppies with Great Forget-Me-Not

Celandine Poppies with Great Forget-Me-Not

Some people consider Celandine Poppies to be weedy, and they do tend to seed themselves about with more enthusiasm than is strictly necessary. However the seedlings are not difficult to remove – and a mass of blooming Celandine Poppies are an energizing sight.

A little off topic, but here's our new fountain surrounded by Virginia Bluebells. Nice, don't you think?

A little off topic, but here’s our new fountain surrounded by Virginia Bluebells. Nice, don’t you think?

Celandine Poppies are not ephemerals like Virginia Bluebells. Their foliage does get ratty during a hot summer, but fresh leaves (and sometimes flowers) will sprout when the weather cools.

Another look at the fountain and the Virginia Bluebells.

Another look at the fountain and the Virginia Bluebells.

Celandine Poppies are probably not a good fit for a formal garden, but they can add a great deal of pleasure to an an informal cottage or wildflower garden. The same is true, I think, of Virginia Bluebells.

Virginia Bluebells and Celandine Poppies, another look.

Virginia Bluebells and Celandine Poppies, another look.

Do you grow Celandine Poppies in your garden?

Springtime Blues That Transcend Falsehood And Achieve Greatness

When I speak of the springtime blues, I do not refer to a feeling of melancholy. Rather I mean the blue flowers that bloom in early to mid-spring. I am always cheered by these, as blue is one of my favorite flower colors.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

Perhaps the Queen of the blue flowers in this season are the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). In my garden they are just beginning to flower. With moist, fertile soil and some shade they need no special care and seed themselves about like weeds.

Virginia Bluebells

More Virginia Bluebells

The tubular flowers start out as pink buds and are popular with bees.

Grape Hyacinths

Grape Hyacinths

Grape Hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are a carefree bulb with a reputation for spreading rapidly. I’m a little disappointed that they seem to be more reserved in my own garden. Anyhow, I love the tight clusters of what some call urn-shaped flowers but to me look like tiny bowling balls.

Siberian Squill

Siberian Squill

As I’ve written before, Siberian Squill (Scilla sibirica) multiply with total abandon, making up to some extent for the Grape Hyacinths. They bloom weeks earlier but the flowers are persistent, especially during a cool spring.

Great Forget-Me-Not grow alongside Celandine Poppy.

Great Forget-Me-Not grow alongside Celandine Poppy.

Finally, there is Great Forget-Me-Not  (Brunnera macrophylla), which is the perennial formerly known in this blog as False Forget-Me-Not. This common name comes from the similarity between the flowers of this plant and the sky-blue flowers of the true Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis sylvatica.

My friend Jim recently pointed out to me that False Forget-Me-Not contains a confusing pair of negatives. When you think about it, “False Forget-Me-Not” sounds like “Remember me! But I’m going to be very busy, so don’t bother calling.”

Great Forget-Me-Not

Great Forget-Me-Not

The other most frequent common name is Siberian Bugloss, which sounds like a monster from Norse mythology. “Beware the Siberian Bugloss, my son! When it roams the land, even the bugs flee!” Or perhaps it fits more into a Lewis Carroll poem.

Actually, bugloss comes from the Greek word for “ox tongue”, a reference to the texture of the leaves. But in any case, I find Siberian Bugloss to be an unsatisfactory name. However, thanks to the internet I discovered that B. macrophylla also goes by the common name of Great Forget-Me-Not, so that’s what I’m sticking with from now on.

Great Forget-Me-Not, incidentally, is an easy perennial groundcover for shade – as long as it has sufficient moisture.

What is your favorite blue flower at this time of year?

The Lincoln Memorial Garden in April

These days I have to spend a lot of time in Springfield, about 200 miles south of Chicago. Twice in the last two weeks I was able to get off work in time to take a walk at the Lincoln Memorial Garden, which is located on 100 acres along an artificial lake.

Entrance to the Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Entrance to the Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Let me stop here to apologize for the quality of these pictures. I took them all with my phone. During the first visit it was very overcast, during the second visit the light was better but everything was waving around in the wind. Both visits occurred during the last hour or so of sunlight. But it’s a garden with an interesting history so I wanted to do this post even without good photos.

A path along the shore of Lake Springfield, which was created in the 1930s by damming what was then Sugar Creek.

A path along the shore of Lake Springfield, which was created in the 1930s by damming what was then Sugar Creek.

This garden was created through a labor of love. A member of the Springfield Garden Club spearheaded the idea of a different sort of memorial to the 16th President, who lived in Springfield for most of his adult life. In 1935 she persuaded the City Council to donate the land, which initially consisted of farm fields along the newly created lake.

lmg fieldwcornus lincoln memorial garden

The landscape architect Jens Jensen donated his time to develop the garden’s design. He transformed the treeless fields into a mix of woodland and prairie. Only plants native to Illinois, Indiana, or Kentucky were used – all states where Lincoln spent parts of his youth.

lmg bench2 lincoln memorial garden

Garden clubs from around the country donated funds for the wooden benches, each of which bears a quotation from Lincoln. Acorns were also contributed from many states, and several grew to become some very impressive oak trees.

Redbud

Redbud

In April, the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) are the stars of the Garden.

lmg redbud7

There are some unusually large old Redbud trees.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

On my second visit, the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) were also at their peak.

lmg cornus3 dogwood

I know these are very common trees in some parts of the country, but I think they are strikingly beautiful. Springfield is right around the northern edge of their hardiness range. In Chicago they are a risky proposition.

The dangly flowers of Carolina Silverbell look like they should be making a tinkly sound.

The dangly flowers of Carolina Silverbell look like they should be making a tinkly sound.

Along one path Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina) were blooming.

A mass of Virginia Bluebells along a woodland path.

A mass of Virginia Bluebells along a woodland path.

There were also lots of woodland wildflowers to be found, including masses of blue and white Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

False Rue Anemone carpeting the forest floor.

False Rue Anemone carpeting the forest floor.

In many places the ground was carpeted with False Rue Anemone (Enomion biternatum).

False Rue Anemone

False Rue Anemone

Here’s a fuzzy closeup of the flower. The leaves remind me of Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

lmg phlox

There was also a lot of Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaritica), and sometimes I caught whiffs of its sweet fragrance on the wind.

lmg stream1

Many more wildflowers could be seen, some already blooming, others not. I hope to visit the Lincoln Memorial Garden every week or so through May (and maybe later, depending on my travel schedule) so I can post more updates.

April Leaves Bring May Flowers

Of course you also need rain, but it’s the fresh green leaves of April that herald the flowers of May.

Virginia Bluebells - the little flower buds are visible already.

Virginia Bluebells – the little flower buds are visible already.

For some this tender new foliage is barely noticeable, certainly unremarkable. However, to me their appearance is a moment of cheerful drama. For example, the blue-green leaves of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) which are among the earliest to emerge.

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

Then there are the spotted leaves of Red Trillium (Trillium recurvatum).

2015-04-11 15.13.58

The bright green of White Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis var. alba).

Red Elderberry

Red Elderberry

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa L.) buds hint at the color of the fruit that will come in mid-Summer. Unlike Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), this fruit is poisonous to people.

Peony

Peony

Peony foliage is much looked forward to but also rather strange. This Peony reminds me of the Dr. Seuss characters Thing One and Thing Two, but with green hair instead of blue.

thing

See what I mean?

2015-04-11 15.27.30

And I cannot resist the grassy leaves of Narcissi that are about to bloom.

For more April foliage, follow the link to Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging. Do you have a favorite when it comes to the leaves of April?

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: May, 2014

On the 15th of every month, Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, which allows garden bloggers around the world to compare what is blooming in their gardens. These pictures were taken on Saturday and Sunday, but they do show that many plants seem to be racing to make up for lost time. We have reached that part of spring where there are masses of bloom in every direction, in response to which I say: hurrah.

Brick path into the back garden.

Brick path into the back garden.

Let’s start in the back garden. From the entrance you can see two of the stars of my garden in May: Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and celandine poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum).  These are mixed with lots of wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), which is not blooming just yet.

 

Virginia Bluebell and Celandine Poppy

Virginia Bluebell and Celandine Poppy. The foliage on the poppy, bluish green and deeply indented, is also nice.

This corner of the back garden, set between the garage wall and the back porch, looks like a little flowery meadow at this time of year. The bluebells and poppies are great companion plants. Some people look down on celandine poppies as a weedy wildflower, but I think this is very unfair. Sure, they self-sow enthusiastically, but so do lots of other plants, and their spreading habits can be a virtue in some circumstances – and the seedlings are not hard to pull. And how can you dislike those cheerful yellow flowers? Plus the foliage is quite nice.

Close up of Virginia bluebells.

Close up of Virginia bluebells.

Here’s a close up of the Virginia bluebells. Beautiful, no? I suppose I should warn you at this point that this post is going to run long. I usually try not to use more than 10 photos or so in any one post but I’ve been so flower deprived by the long winter that I have lost almost all restraint.

False forget me not interplanted with Allium 'Purple Sensation'.

False forget-me-not interplanted with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’.

There are lots of false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla) blooming now. Here I am using it as a companion for ‘Purple Sensation’ allium (Allium aflatunense), which should bloom in 1-2 weeks. I’m not sure this is a successful combination because the tall allium somewhat inhibits the Brunnera, but I’ll see how they do over the summer when the allium dies back.

White Corydallis

White Corydallis

Here’s a new purchase from this spring: Corydalis ochroleuca, or white corydallis. I used this to replace the Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra), which the rabbits had treated as the highlight of their private salad bar.

Wild Currant in bloom

Wild Currant in bloom

The back garden is full of wild currant (Ribes americanum), which is blooming now with dangling strands of Chartreuse flowers.

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

My new Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) continue to bloom sporadically. This is their first spring, I’m sure next year they will put on a pretty good show.

Wood Lily Trillium

Wood Lily Trillium

Moving along, we find these wood lily trilliums (Trillium recurvatum). At least I think that is the right species, these were in the garden when we moved here.

 

Jacobs Ladder

Jacobs Ladder

Elsewhere, the Jacobs ladder (Polemonium caeruleum and P. reptans) has just started to bloom. I like using this as an edging plant and for underplanting roses.

Serviceberry flowers

Serviceberry flowers

After delaying bloom for weeks, my surviving serviceberries (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) opened their flowers and dropped most of their petals during a one day spell of hot weather that left as quickly as it came. Just a few flowers remain, but it looks like we will have lots of berries for the birds in June.

Great merrybells along the east side of the house. Damn, I keep forgetting to move that basketball. I think it has been there since around 2008.

Great merrybells along the east side of the house. Damn, I keep forgetting to move that basketball. I think it has been there since around 2008.

OK, then, let’s head back to the front garden the way we came. You can see that the great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora) are still blooming. I have patches of the merrybells in all parts of the garden.

Tulipa 'Little Princess'

Tulipa ‘Little Princess’

So I realize I just did a whole post about species tulips, so today all I’m going to do is show you one more picture of ‘Little Princess’, one of the late bloomers from this tribe.

Container tulips line the walk to the front door.

Container tulips line the walk to the front door.

And I intend to do a post on this soon, so I’m not going into a lot of detail regarding my hybrid tulips. I’ll just say that the early season bloomers are done, the mid-season ones are starting to get blowsy, and we are awaiting the late season tulips with eager anticipation. Plus, I will add that the container tulips did pretty well this year.

Tulips and other flowering containers on the front steps.

Tulips and other flowering containers on the front steps.

Between the hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis), stock (Matthiola incana), and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), you are met with a seductively sweet mix of fragrances just outside the front door.

Bleeding hearts in the front foundation bed.

Bleeding hearts in the front foundation bed.

I’m really pleased with the foundation bed I planted at the front of the house. The bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are looking very robust and are blooming their, well, hearts out.

Ostrich ferns with bleeding hearts.

Ostrich ferns with bleeding hearts.

The ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) also seem pretty happy, as do the false forget-me-not and great merrybells. Actually, for some reason in this spot the Virginia bluebells are putting in only a tepid performance.

Grape hyacinths with celandine poppy.

Grape hyacinths with celandine poppy.

Oh, and I have to mention the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) that are blooming now. Oddly, though, there seem to be fewer this year than last. They make another good companion for the celandine poppy.

Front garden and house, May 15, 2014.

Front garden and house, May 15, 2014.

OK, I’m going to close now with a view of the front of the house. To see more blooms, check out May Dreams Gardens.