Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A Rainy May Bloom Day

Peony 'Bartzella'
Peony 'Bartzella' in the "Little Indians" bed

It's raining here today in my Zone 6b Virginia garden, a soft and gentle drizzle making our fields and gardens so green and lush...  Bloom Day is hosted by Carol Michel's May Dreams Garden Blog on the 15th of every month. Happy May 2024 Bloom Day!

My 'Bartzella' peony is in its full glory right now, and holding up well in the rain, for which we're so grateful. Last year I separated the old-fashioned iris behind it, but this year's blooms have been very disappointing. 


Iris 'Victoria Falls' with double flowering quince beyond.
Purple Dutch iris with Sambucus 'Black Lace'

My irises are just finishing their display for the year, although some of the late varieties are still blooming; now the peonies are coming into their own. 'Duchesse de Nemours' in the Herb bed is just starting to open.


Peony 'Duchesse de Nemours'

A flowering spike of the Texas yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) I planted two years ago has appeared, I'm looking forward to seeing the flowers close-up. The spike is impressive in height thus far, let's hope the flowers are equally pleasing.


Flower bud of Hesperaloe parviflora

Both of my Ninebark trees are blooming at this time, as is the Asian dogwood, which has recently been re-named Benthamia kousa, replacing the old genus name of Cornus.

Ninebark tree 'Coppertina' (Physocarpus opulifolius)

"Coppertina' with Kousa dogwood behind

Kousa dogwood (Benthamia kousa) in bloom


The native iris (Iris versicolor) under the Redbud tree has produced one bloom thus far; last year it flowered so abundantly, I don't expect anything as profuse this year. The Verbascum 'Southern Charm' was looking much better before the rains, but what can one do? The Salvia 'Pink Profusion' near it was a new addition last fall, but it's not living up to its name yet.


Iris versicolor

Verbascum 'Southern Charm' with Salvia 'Pink Profusion'

The other Ninebark tree 'Amber Jubilee' near the Japanese maple 'Amber Ghost' complement each other so nicely. Beyond are some Willowleaf starflowers (Amsonia tabernaemontana) with the Anise Hyssop I planted last year, a sedge, and some white Salvia.


Ninebark tree 'Amber Jubilee' with Japanese maple 'Amber Ghost'

Amsonia tabernaemontana

I have another variety of Amsonia--hubrichtii--growing in the "Little Indians" bed, but these don't seem to be blooming as well as in previous years--they probably need to be broken up and re-planted farther away from the Korean boxwood. They seem to be re-seeding themselves as well.

Amsonia hubrichtii

The bed on the west side of the house has some nice color--Catmint, Salvia 'May Night,' red Dianthus and a yellow flower that I've forgotten the name of. The Clematis 'Appleblossom' climbing up to the deck still has some blooms

Bed on the west side of the house.

West side of the house with new backyard vegetable enclosure.

Another late-blooming bearded iris variety, 'Wine Festival' offered just one flowering spike this year.

Iris 'Wine Festival'

The pink peony is getting ready to open in the front, by the driveway. The purple Dutch iris are just starting to fade as the Allium moly gets going.

Pink peony with Allium and irises beyond.

Dutch iris and Allium moly

My front yard appears to have the fewest flowers at the moment--the last flower of a lone white bearded iris spike and the red 'Double Knockout' rose. The Double Knockout rose was decimated by sawfly larvae, and I didn't see them until it was too late--the poor rose looks as if it had bronze foliage, but it's only the skeletonized leaves.


White iris and red 'Double Knockout' rose

A blast of color is provided by the last of the red Amaryllis flowers opening on the porch.

Red Amaryllis buds.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

Fringe tree and 'Blue Barlow' Columbines.
Pagoda dogwood on left, fringe tree and Full Moon maple on the right.

On the east side of the house, my ornamental trees are putting on a lovely show: The Pagoda dogwood (now called Swida alternifolia, a new name for this genus) on the left was in full flower a week ago, along with the Virginia Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus). The 'Blue Barlow' Columbines under the trees present a strong contrast to the color of the full moon maple near by.

Such beauty is short-lived, and now the dogwood is setting seed while the Fringe tree finishes its cycle of bloom. But, the progression of flowers continues with lots of other plants.

Yellow iris in front bed.

Yellow iris and blue Camassia on the left.
Front bed by the driveway.


The bearded irises started opening around the first of the month, and continue to delight. One of the things I love the most about irises is that deer won't touch them, and they do well in almost any kind of soil. The bi-color 'Blatant' is one of the earliest to bloom, and it's still going strong, joined by the imposing 'Victoria Falls' in the back bed.

The bed in front of the house hasn't offered much of a display this year--I dug up and separated the rhizomes earlier this spring--but the bed by the driveway made up for it with plenty of yellow blooms, and another patch of yellow iris with blue Camassia 'Quamash' on the west side is very pretty.

Bearded iris 'Victoria Falls' on the left and 'Blatant' on the right.

A bicolor iris, unnamed variety.
Iris 'Wine Festival'


We've had some good rainstorms this spring, a much-needed respite from last year's drought, so other shrubs and trees are coming into bloom now. The Salvia 'May Night' with the yellow flowers by the side of the house looks so nice.


Salvia 'May Night' with yellow Coreopsis on the west side of the house.

Both of my Ninebark trees are starting to bloom too: 'Amber Jubilee' on the west side, and 'Coppertina' in the Badlands.

Ninebark tree 'Amber Jubilee'

NInebark 'Coppertina' in the Badlands bed.

Close-up of 'Coppertina'

The Verbascum 'Southern Charm' which my sister Silvia gave last year is also blooming well under the Seven Son Flower tree in back. I can't wait to see what the coneflowers in the bed will do this summer--last year the deer ate almost every flower here, let's hope this year they'll find something else to snack on.


Verbascum 'Southern Charm'.

Peony 'Coral Charm'


I transplanted the 'Coral Charm' peony that had been waning for the past couple of years in the front bed to the Herb bed last year. With the help of lots of fertilizer it seems to have recovered enough vitality to produce one flower this year. Not a great show, but perhaps the beginning of its recovery?

First flower of Peony 'Bartzella'

My other peonies are just starting to open up, I hope they'll be the stars for this month's Bloom Day coming up next week. I hope my flowers last long enough to have plenty to show then!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Spring Garden Flowers


Pale Dutch Iris

As April turns into May, the progression of spring flowers in my garden begins to peak. Right now the pale Dutch iris are coming into bloom, their perky blossoms brightening the front garden. The bearded irises in this bed (mostly yellow) are ready to burst into bloom, along with the flowering onions (Alliums)


Dutch and bearded iris with giant alliums.

Bearded iris 'Blatant' with Dutch iris.


My azalea 'General Semmes' is blooming profusely in the shade of the cherry tree in front of the house. The native flame azalea, in an identical pot just a few feet away, had all its flower buds eaten by deer during the winter, but they never touched 'General Semmes.' Why, I can only guess--one is a native and the other a hybrid, perhaps this influences the way it tastes to deer? The Lewisia "Little Peach" growing in a pot in front is lovely too.

Azalea 'General Semmes'

Lewisia 'Little Peach'

Going along the west of the house, I found a few sprays of lilies of the valley under the maple tree. Although they're supposed to be poisonous, deer do eat these, so only the flowers under a wire cloche survive. 

The circle of Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides) under the Zelkova is blooming, but as usual, the deer eat the foliage before the flowers emerge, and often dig up the bulbs as well, making for a less than stellar display. I wish I could find a physical barrier to keep the deer away from this bed... all of my beds!--spraying with deer repellent works only for a very short time.


Lilies of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
Spanish Bluebells under the Zelkova tree (Hyacinthoides hispanica)

 The Clematis vine climbing up to the deck is offering its dainty pink flowers. It looks wonderful from the deck, draping itself over the railing.


Clematis montana 'Appleblossom'


My lilac 'Purple Bloomerang' is in full bloom, but the other lilac (behind the purple) has only a few panicles of white flowers.

Lilac 'Bloomerang'

More 'Blatant' irises are blooming in the long bed in back--they seem to have recovered from the attack of two years ago. The two prune-leaf Viburnums way in the back near the woods are covered with flowers.

Iris 'Blatant'

Pruneleaf Viburnum in bloom.

A happy surprise in that part of the yard: the buckeye tree that I grew from seed collected from a hybrid at Blandy is offering its first spike of flowers. From the looks of these, this is likely the Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) rather than the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) parent. My tree is still quite small--under three feet tall, and must be protected from the deer until it reaches sufficient height to be out of their browsing level.

Flowering spike of buckeye tree.

Ambling back towards the house, my Rhododendron 'Southgate Brandi' is blooming nicely under the Japanese maple 'Bloodgood.'  I love the pink-tinted new foliage of the full-moon Japanese maple (Acer 'Shirawasanum') and its curious flowers. My Japanese maples suffered a lot of die-back with last year's drought, and I'm hoping they will recover some during this growing season.

Rhododendron 'Southgate Brandi'

Japanese maples and fringe tree.

Soon the 'Blue Barlow' Columbines and the Virginia fringe tree (Chionanthus virginica) in the east bed will be bursting into bloom. This is always a stunning combination, along with the maples and the pagoda dogwood. This spring I joined the two strips of flowerbed into one, but I haven't had a chance to improve the soil and plant some new spring ephemerals yet. I hope to eventually turn this bed into a small wooded area with shade-loving plants underneath. It's evolved so much from its first year, when all I had planted were the full moon maple and the Carolina Silverbell tree.


East bed expansion with pagoda dogwood on the left.

Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) under the maples.

There's so much work to do at this time of the year for gardeners! Trying to re-plant all the plants that had to be dug up for the veggie garden enclosure, re-edge some beds and get some vegetables in the raised beds is probably more than I can manage in the next week or so. Happy spring!