May 14, 2007

Textbook Spring

It all seems to happen overnight, and sometimes it does, but thankfully, this year, we in New England are experiencing a classically slow spring. Even though weather men and office pundits complain about the cold days, or the wet weekends, or the lack of 80 degree weather, we gardeners know that cold nights without frost, and cool sunny days with the right amount of moisture, brings with it a long, pleasant spring. This is the classic, New England spring. Not hot, nor dry - not a hint of what we typically have been experiencing for the past decade, it seems, of chilly April weather, which overnight turns into summer heat. A May season with 80 or 90 degree days, and then a killing frost. Last year, it rained through the entire month of May (see blog) and I believe that the sun was seen only once during the month. This year, we are experienving a textbook definition of a New England spring, and along with it,, comes postcard images of my garden.

Noy certain what variety this SDB (Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris, is, but if one chooses to grow the taller Standard German Bearded types, (SBI), I would opt for the Standard Dwarf Bearded in stead. Thier size is more managable, and forgiving. The flower stems rarely fall over, and the colors are much more interesting, especially if you are fond of the muddier hues or interesting color combinations. Just check out the blue beards on this black beauty. And, as Joe pointed out, it's fragrance isn't that typical concord-grape scent which I love so much, but instead, it smells not unlike licorice.

Daphne's are most certainly one of the more trendy plants around right now. Not with the public, but with the plant-a-holics. The rare plant collectors. Whereas once interested in blue corydalis like Blue Panda, or Hellebores, these passions have moved on to the garden-club lady circuit who follow such things via Martha and the 'right books'. But if you are interested in what the real horticulturists are looking at that makes thier heart race, it certainly any of these folk lists would include most of the small alpine shrubs in the genus known as Daphne. ( an yeah, along with Paris species, Cypripediums, trilliums, and and a few others, these are the plants that dissapear first at rare plant auctions). One never has enough Daphne's in the garden! Now, These white flowers which I cut from of the more common Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie' is not rare at all, but I still love it, and you can too since this is one which is available now at most leading garden centers. It is available, and so so fragrant, that one would think that a Cinabon bakery opened in your neighborhood. The blue brush glaze pottery piece is from our trip to Kyoto. A back alley 'find'.

Daphne x'Suzannae'
A tiny alpine form, growing in the gravelly. well drained raised rock wall Alpine garden.

Viola pedata and an alpine phlox

Sure, the Alpine garden in the raised rock bed along the western side of the greenhouse, peaks May, I can't seem to help planting what makes it peak so nicely - phlox. Specifically, the forms and species which many of us call Mountain Phlox, or creeping Phlox. I keep at least a dozen forms and species, many with lost tags, or labels that have bee 'consumed' but the very plant itself. All, OK, in my book, since it's hard to go bad, with a creeping phlox. Unless, of course, it starts to encroach upon an equally charming plant, yet much less agressive, the stunning Birds Foot Violet, or Viola pedata. I never understood the stigma this plant has against it. Overcoming the stereotype for the genus Viola may be tough, but this jem is hardly a burdon. Plant snobs dismiss my seedling of the jewel when I bring seedling to a rock garden plant auction, so I always end up with more that I can keep. But if I ever showed one in bloom, surely they would all be snatched up. This is another beauty which is rarely seen at fancy garden centers, and never at your local Home Dept or Lowes. Look for them in the tiny alpine plant nursery's like Harvey Wrightman online, or Siskyou Rare Plant Nursery. They are innexpensive, long lived, and a striking American native that always puts on a stunning show. Look for the bicolor form, and let me know if you find it. It is even better!

The Shrimpy color of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Puget Pink'
Last, but not least, this is not a photo from autumn, nor is it a shot of poison ivy. This is Acer pseudoplatanus 'Puget Pink', a selection of the maple Acer pseudoplatanus 'Prinz Handjery', this was, as Dan says, "one of the most asked about plants in our garden'. This maple may not be available now, since it is a last vestige of the not defunct rare plant nursery Heronswood, Nursery Man and horticulturist Dan Hinkely's famous Seattle area mecca, now purchased by Burpee company, and virtually destroyed. Or atleast, digested and regurgitated into a mess of a business based out of Burpees world headquarters in Pennsylvania. HEy, I wanted to give them a try, but if you are expecting a box with plants similar to the size and quality that you once recieved from the old Heronswood, save your money. I recieved three orders from Plant Delights Nursery in NOrth Carolina, and I wish I photographed the material. everything was so healthy, and large, well packed and perfectly fresh. SImilar selections we're ordered from the Burpeewood business, and the box arrived with the plants knocked out of the pots, 1/10 the size, some rotted, wrapped in newspaper, and allowed to bounce around the box with little to no extra packing. The crocosmia where brocken and each pot only held one corm. Sad, I know these things happen, but you had to see the boxes, since we had a dozen arrive in one week, from Plant Delights, Gosseler Farms in Oregon, White Flower Farm and Heronswood. I used to save the Heronswood boxes for last, since it was such an exciting experience, now, I am convinced that the good ol days are over.


  1. Anonymous9:20 AM

    I've actually had the opposite experience with Heronswood. I've ordered both pre and post Burpee, and Washington shipped and Penn. shipped. The plants I've received from the Penn. location have been of higher quality then any of the plants I had ordered from the Kingston location. The plant selection however, has seemed to take a bit of a hit.

  2. wendi8:08 PM

    your may white flowers are gorgeous! i hope one day to see all of these beautiful photographs in a book. your information is invaluable, thanks! :0)


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