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.

You Lookin’ At Me?

All avid gardeners feel compelled to inspect their gardens after any sort of lengthy separation. In fact, the separation may have been only between 8 am and 6 pm of the very same day. So you can imagine how I felt after returning from my prolonged hospital stay.

 

The early species tulips are past their prime, but the later-season ones, like these Tulipa tarda, are reaching their peak.

The early species tulips are past their prime, but the later-season ones, like these Tulipa tarda, are reaching their peak.

 

The English garden writer Beverly Nichols called his inspections The Tour. For him, The Tour had to be conducted in compliance with ironclad rules, most important of which was that each patch of the garden must be viewed in the correct order.

View of the front garden, May 3, 2014.

View of the front garden, May 3, 2014.

If this rule is not observed, according to Nichols: “… you will find that you rush wildly around the garden, discover one or two sensational events, and then decide that nothing else has happened.”

False Forget-Me-Not

False Forget-Me-Not

For myself the exact sequence of the garden inspection is not so critical. Nichols is correct, though, that a garden inspection is not about highlights, but about an infinite number of details gleaned from gazing intently at every square foot of ground. What matters most to me is that the garden inspection must not be rushed, no matter how much you are irritating members of your immediate family.

The early hybrid tulips in containers have begun blooming. In front is

The earliest of the hybrid tulips in containers have begun blooming. The really short red and yellow is ‘Keiserskroon’, the taller is ‘Flair’.

Virginia bluebells are blooming in warmer or sheltered spots, such as here behind the back porch.

Virginia bluebells are blooming in warmer or sheltered spots, such as here behind the back porch.

Also, time is needed during a garden inspection to apply the Stare of Life. The Stare of Life is an intense gaze that warms the soil and hastens processes of cell division and photosynthesis. It can be applied only by gardeners with pure hearts within their own gardens, and scientists are still struggling to understand the phenomenon. I have found it to be most useful in encouraging plants that have not yet broken out of dormancy or whose new growth is frustratingly slow.

Celandine poppies have begun blooming among the spicebush.

Celandine poppies have begun blooming among the spicebush.

Not infrequently neighbors have found me staring intently for long periods at apparently barren patches of frozen earth. I do not try to explain to them about the Stare of Life.

Great merrybells with Narcissi.

Great merrybells with Narcissi.

On yesterday’s tour, there were signs of the transition to the latter part of the season. Many Narcissi have begun fading, but the merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora) have come into bloom.

Great merrybells - Uvularia grandiflora - is a fine spring wildflower native to North America.

Great merrybells – Uvularia grandiflora – is a fine spring wildflower native to North America.

In a shaded spot, the merrybells’ foliage fills in and makes a nice groundcover for the remainder of the season.

Ostrich fern fiddleheads.

Ostrich fern fiddleheads.

I was also pleased to see that the ostrich ferns (Metteuccia struthiopteris) are now making up for lost time.

A foundation planting of ostrich ferns along the front of the house.

A foundation planting of ostrich ferns along the front of the house.

You can see how they respond to the warmer soil closer to the house. I can tell that soon I will be supplying free ostrich ferns to whoever is willing to take one.

In future posts I will write in more detail about what is happening in different parts of the garden.

How do you conduct The Tour in your garden?

April GBFD: Spring Green

At this time of year the blooms of the spring bulbs tend to get all the glory. But it is also worth paying attention to the tender green growth of later herbaceous plants, as well as the woody plants that are just starting to break bud. This new growth has a freshness and sweetness that isn’t always fully appreciated.

'Donald Wyman' breaking bud.

‘Donald Wyman’ breaking bud.

The trees and shrubs are late in leafing out this year. Here is our crabapple ‘Donald Wyman’.

Clove Currant

Clove Currant

And clove currant (Ribes odorata). I am eager to see if this year’s flowers live up to their reputation for fragrance. Last year was disappointing.

Common Lilac

Common Lilac

Here are the breaking buds of our common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), though this picture was actually taken on April 12th.

Tulipa praestans 'Unicum'

Tulipa praestans ‘Unicum’

Some of the bulbs themselves have interesting foliage, like the variegated leaves of Tulipa praestans ‘Unicum’. This is another picture from the 12th, they are blooming now.

Celandine Poppy

Celandine Poppy

Among the herbaceous plants, I like new foliage of celandine poppies, downy on the undersides (Stylophorum diphyllum). The leaves seem to open like to hands unclasping or a clamshell opening.

Virginia bluebells young foliage.

Virginia bluebells young foliage.

Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) foliage has a lovely blue green color. These are all over my garden now, and the flower buds are just forming.

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

I am particularly fond of the ferny foliage of Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans). I can imagine miniature people pulling themselves up the stems, leaflet by leaflet.

Bleeding Heart.

Bleeding Heart.

New foliage of bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is almost frothy, and you can see the promise of the pink flowers in the red stems and leaves.

Take me to your leader. New peony foliage.

Take me to your leader. New peony foliage.

Peonies, on the other hand, look rather extraterrestrial when they first come up. Not sure which one this is.

Garden Blogger Foliage Day (GBFD) is hosted by Christine at My Hesperides Garden. She has an enviable garden in Lazio, Italy, worth checking out for the foliage and much else.

What’s your favorite new spring foliage?

 

Garden Blogger Bloom Day: May 2013

Carol of May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of every month, giving gardeners around the world an opportunity to show what’s in bloom on their home ground. So let’s get to it! May has been a good month for color in my garden.

Tulips in Containers on the front steps.

The lily flowering tulip ‘West Point’ is now blooming, adding its cheery yellow and elegant shape to ‘Flair’ and other varieties..

Tulip 'West Point'

Tulip ‘West Point’ and ‘Flair’

And the late species tulips are showing off. The orange and white ‘Little Princess’ …

Tulip 'Little Princess'

Tulip ‘Little Princess’

And the blue and cherry red ‘Little Beauty’ …

Tulip 'Little Beauty'

Tulip ‘Little Beauty’

And Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’, with petals colored red on the outside and a rich yellow on the inside.

Tulip 'Cynthia'

Tulip ‘Cynthia’

Tulipa orphanidea flava is a wonderful tulip, really interesting coloring.

Tulipa orphanidea flava

Tulipa orphanidea flava

The grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are also blooming well. I can’t wait for these to spread more to create wider clumps, but the delay is partly my fault as I keep disturbing the beds to change perennials.

Grape Hyacinths

Grape Hyacinths

This has been an incredible spring for celandine poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), the delicate yellow flowers blooming profusely over lush blue-green foliage. They are beginning to show more aggressive tendencies, though, I’m going to have to watch these guys more carefully.

Celandine Poppies

Celandine Poppies

The clove currants (Ribes odoratum) in the sidewalk border are blooming. I planted these because they are supposed to have a strong fragrance. The fragrance is in fact very nice, but you have to put your nose right up to the flowers. This is their third spring, maybe when they are more mature … The much more modest Chartreuse flowers of wild currant (Ribes americanum) have also begun bloom.

Clove Currant

Clove Currant

The tiny blue flowers on Nepeta “Kit Kat’ have just started to open. In my garden, the various Nepeta cultivars are essential plants for edging in areas that absorb hot afternoon sun.

Nepeta 'Kit Kat'

Nepeta ‘Kit Kat’ edging the raised front walk/driveway border.

I thought the Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)  had reached their peak last weekend, but I was wrong. The cool weather has been kind.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

In the shady back garden, Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) works well as an edging plant. It also has blue flowers.

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

False forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla) has tiny sky-blue flowers like real forget-me-nots, but this is a reliable perennial.

Brunnera

Brunnera flowers poking up through Allium foliage.

I devoted the last post entirely to old-fashioned bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). Even so, I have to include one more picture for this post.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart with Celandine Poppy.

There are quite a few other flowers blooming now: annual stock, violas, and pansies; great merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), starry solomon’s plume (Smilacina stellata), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginica), and probably a couple of others I can’t think of. Some of these I will include in my foliage follow-up.

In the meantime, happy Garden Blogger Bloom Day to you all!