Earliest Ever First Bloom

Iris reticulataSunday (March 13) I noticed this little Iris reticulata blooming in my front garden. This plant is often the first one to bloom in my Minnesota garden, and 2016 is the earliest ever for it to bloom.

In 2012, a notably warm spring, the plant bloomed on March 15. However, in many years, it is well into April before it blooms. Here are the bloom dates I have noted in the blog in the past:

2009 — April 16
2010 — March 25
2011 — April 4
2012 — March 15
2013 —  April 22
2014 — after April 20 (no exact date noted)
2015 — last year I dropped the ball and did not note when the iris bloomed.

As you can see, there has been almost six weeks in variation when the iris blooms. I’m actually hoping we get some cooler weather over the next couple of weeks—spring needs to slow down. One thing I remember from 2012 is that the fruit trees bloomed early. Later there was a freeze, causing devastation for apple growers around the state.

Is anything blooming in your garden yet?

 

 

 

The Garden in Spring

While mowing the yard the other night, the vibrant green of the lawn and all the plants in the garden beds seemed to radiate growth. We’ve gotten about 2 inches of rain over the last week or so, and the plants have responded with enthusiastic growth.

Borage has dainty blossoms on a monster plant.
Borage has dainty blossoms on a monster plant.

The borage I planted next to my vegetable garden last year shot up about a foot overnight, going from a pleasant, if nondescript, mound of green to a monster herb in full bloom. I’m glad it’s happy in its place.

Tree peony blooms are brief but beautiful.
Tree peony blooms are brief but beautiful.

Nearby, the Jacob’s ladder has been covered with purple-blue blooms for almost three weeks now. Its variegated foliage perfectly compliments the Garden Glow spireas in front of it. The tree peony nearby finished its flush of bloom shortly after the rain this week. That is the nature of peonies, a splash of rain and they melt. But before that happened more than 20 big, fluffy deep pink/red blooms with yellow centers covered the plant. The bees were very happy.

A little out of control, but great food for hummingbirds and bees.
A little out of control, but great food for hummingbirds and bees.

Up front, the weigelas have more blooms than I’ve seen before, pink trumpets covering the plants. The chives, as always, bloom prettily this time of year and I will be needing to thin them shortly. For now, I let them run wild. Hummingbirds have been visiting them the past few days. One of them buzzed my head the other night — I think I was between the bird and its meal.

My new bigroot geraniums are living up to their reputation of being super hardy. The bright pink flowers were a surprise for me — I bought them mostly as a foliage groundcover.

Finally, the baptisia, which for reasons I can’t figure out are more contained than usual, are just beginning to open up. This is another favorite plant of the bumblebees.

Spring has definitely sprung in my garden. How about yours?

 

Bee on Baptisia

baptisia and bee
The bees love the nectar from baptisia.

With the sun out (finally) and the temperatures heating up, many plants have started to bloom and the bees and butterflies are returning to the garden. There were swarms of these large bumblebees working over the Baptisia ‘Twilight Blues’ that I have planted in the front garden. The size of this plant makes it almost like a shrub and the flowers, while fairly short-lived, are gorgeous. The bees seem to like them, too, and I know they get pollinated because every fall the black seed pods can be found dangling from the plants.

Right Plant, Right Place II

clara curtis daisies close up

clara curtis daisiesPutting the right plant in the right place is an adage in gardening — and a true one. (Maybe all adages are true?) I’ve written about it before, but more evidence of right plant, right place showed up in my garden this summer.

Last year, I removed some shrubs in a back bed that were damaged in a storm and were otherwise overgrown. The shrubs also put a big corner of that bed in shade. Once removed, several plants that struggled in the past have thrived there, including these pretty Clara Curtis daisies. These are super easy to grow and they will survive even in the wrong type of growing conditions. (They also will spread, but I love the pink color in fall, so I accept the spreading.)

But, give them nearly full sun and good soil; add a little fertilizer and keep them trimmed back in early summer, and this is what you get. Fluffy, healthy, pink masses that bend beautifully in the wind.

Right plant, right place.

 

Poor Luck for Peonies

Calm amid the storms.

It never fails — the day after my peonies start blooming, there is a downpour accompanied by heavy winds, then maybe more wind or cold or heat. My peonies started blooming last week and on Sunday night we had a wild storm — not a huge amount of rain, but it was accompanied by lots of rough wind. (This on top of several earlier storms during the week.)

Peonies have the worst luck with weather — but they keep on blooming and they always survive; many peonies will last 100 years. So despite the storms of spring, remember that every peony you plant will likely out-live you.

A Good Year for Clematis

'Bee's Jubilee' first flush of bloom

With the mild winter and ample rain in April, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year for clematis. Several gardeners have told me their clematis are blooming much earlier than usual. My clematis is the kind that blooms both in spring and in late summer.

Called ‘Bee’s Jubilee’, it climbs the pergola in the backyard. I bought this during a trip to Donahue’s Nursery in Faribault in 2009, and true to the adage first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap — this plant started leaping last season and has continued to grow well. Clematis like slightly acid soil and I have this one planted near a Mugo pine. They also like to keep their roots a little moist and in the shade, which this plant gets, while still getting some sun on their leaves. This plant probably gets hours of sunlight, which seems to be adequate.

What I love about clematis is how generous they are with bloom. The lower half of my clematis is covered with blooms and many buds are ready to open on the upper half.  Photographing this plant is also exciting, especially in closeup. With the sun shining through the petals, the anthers on the bloom have a sculptural character that makes you want to focus closer and closer. (Makes me wish I had a macro lens.) It’s one of my favorite plants to photograph. What are your most photogenic plants?

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates

A Gardener’s Reading, seventh of 30

By Mike Heger, John Whitman and Debbie Lonnee (University of Minnesota Press, 2011)

For many northern gardeners, the 1998 edition of Growing Perennials in Cold Climates has been the go-to reference for which plants to grow and how to care for them for more than a decade. That edition is still valuable, but for die-hard plant lovers, this revision and update is well worth the nearly $40 it costs.

As I noted in a review of the book in the November/December issue of Northern Gardener, this edition has all the virtues of the original plus expanded plant lists and a rating system that helps gardeners choose among the dozens of plant cultivars that have been introduced in the past 13 years.

Like the previous edition, the revised book includes basic information on how to plant and maintain perennials. The bulk of the book is a perennial-by-perennial assessment of plants that are hardy to the North. What is most valuable are the long lists of cultivars of each variety and the authors’ five-star rating system, which gives gardeners vital information of which among the new plants are keepers and which are just good-lookers in the spring catalogs. For plant types with dozens (daylilies, hostas, coneflowers) of cultivars, the ratings will help home gardeners pick through the hype.

The authors are all respected plant-people with years of experience in northern climates. Heger owns the Ambergate Gardens nursery in Chaska; Whitman is a long-time garden writer and photographer; and Lonnee is a horticulturist who works with plants introduced by Minnesota-based wholesaler Bailey Nurseries Inc. In other words, these guys know their plants.

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates is first and foremost a reference, and it is one you will find yourself reaching for again and again as you plan and care for your perennial gardens.