Saturday, March 20, 2010

Phirst the Phlox!

Mother Nature has started her daily distribution new wonders - and how wonderful it is! In the past couple of days the creeping phlox [Phlox subulata 'Emerald Blue'] has started to bloom. At one time I had much more of it and in several colors, but this lovely purple has been the survivor. It probably needs more water over the summer - but, in my climate, what doesn't? It still makes a pretty bed, especially with the mini-daffodils peeking thru and around it. I'm going to add to the little bulbs as I can, probably with some wood hyacinths [Hyacinthoises hispanica], also known as English bells or Spanish hyacinths. I have lots - all over the yard - and they bloom much later than the daffodils, so I can extend the bloom in this bed with them.

The other big bloomer I have this week is Harry Lauder's Walking stick [Corylus avellana 'Contorta')]. It's a deciduous member of the hazelnut family and considered a dwarf tree. Mostly, it's an interesting addition to the garden in all seasons. Its blooms - called catkins [really!] - are just a cascade of little yellow flowers. They're called "insignificant" in the trade. En masse, however, it's quite pretty. It will be a full of lush green leaves all summer, but then it will leave me the most interesting architecture to observe all winter. Truly a year-round plant!

Tomorrow - forsythia and hyacinths!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Here - It's Finally Here!

Today I believe that Mother Nature is finally stirring! Last Thursday I saw the first tiny yellow daffodils starting to bloom, but it has rained four of the last five days and I could not get out to see them up close [and personal] until this afternoon. Even with the bright and rather warm sun, tho, it was difficult. With nearly three more inches of rain in those four days, the ground is saturated again and one has to pick carefully from high spot to high spot to walk into the yard. Fortunately these pretty little ones were in a bed next to the driveway, so I had asphalt for support.

You can't tell without something for perspective, but they are only five inches tall and the flowers are less that an inch in diameter. The original bulbs were a gift from Mitchell nearly fifteen years ago. When the local botanical garden opened, he bought me a membership for my birthday and it came with a bag of ten [I think] little mini-daffodil bulbs. I have moved these with us from the "old house" and as they multiply have started moving them around the yard. Someday they will be everywhere!

If you look carefully, tho, there are two more important things to see in that photo. The bit of lavender is creeping phlox that will be glorious in another week or so, and the yucca at the top is one of the red yuccas that bloomed for the first time last year. This is the smaller one that did not bloom, but I am hopeful. Will show you those in a few days.

I did a bit of weeding in this bed while I was there. Spring weeds are looking good and healthy, but they have not yet set any seeds so it's a great time to pull them out and avoid this year's growth and next year's new ones. Since they are small and the ground is - did I already mention this? - wet, they were easy to pull and the work went quickly. It is so much easier to do now. If one waits, then the ground will dry out and get hard, so that the roots break off more and leave little ones to come back next year. If one waits way too long, then they will set seeds and when you pull each one out the seeds will fly. It's a funny experience at the time, but disastrous for flower beds! [Can you tell that I have experience with that!]

The helebores are lovely. About ten days ago I waded in and cut back all the big, old leaf clusters around the plants, and got all the vegetation that had been crushed by the snow in January and February. With a few days of sun they have perked up and opened prolifically. If you look carefully in the photo above you will see a red flower peeking thru - right in the center. That is the camellia!

Normally it blooms in late November and on thru December. I have used blossoms on the Christmas table several years, but this year the cold hit us hard and early and I figured I wouldn't get anything. It has been covered with buds for months, but suddenly last week it, too, began to look promising. This is still a small shrub - only about three feet tall and less than three feet in diameter. It's nearly nine years old, but we started with a tiny little one.

Now you can see how lovely it is. This is the first year that we have had more than 10 - 12 blooms, and they are not as cold-damaged as I had feared. They are a truly double flower and dark red. So pretty that I cut some for the house. I guess they will be just as nice for St. Pat's Day as for Christmas!

Yes, indeed. Spring is finally coming to zone 7! Join me next week to see what else is waking up.