Blessed be gardens and weddings in May

Byzantine gladiolus

It’s the beginning of May. Sorry I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. You must forgive me. Like the garden, I am gathering my strength, girding my loins, and getting ready to launch myself and the garden into June. We are facing the calendar and weather with courage, the kind that’s said its prayers.

We have weddings and graduations in May and a regional daylily garden tour in June. We are fixing fences, building beds and borders, and weeding, always weeding. Anything we can’t fix, we will cover with mulch and call it good. We are fluffing with abandon.

This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.
This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.

Most of the garden is in its green phase between the last of the fall-planted/spring-blooming bulbs and the daylilies. It is my least favorite time because I find all that bulb foliage very distracting and messy. Still, I let it do its thing so I’ll have more flowers next spring. Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don’t cut it back no matter how much it irritates you.

Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don't cut it back no… Click To Tweet
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.

One of the few plants blooming with abandon are the Byzantine glads, Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. They are unabashedly hot pink and wave their petals in the air like they just don’t care. If you live in Zone 6 or further south, you should grow these lovelies. I’m making a note to buy more from Old House Gardens this fall.

Garden gathers its strength. Apricot mystery rose with 'Niobe' clematis.
Apricot mystery rose with ‘Niobe’ clematis. What a sweet dichotomy I planted here. Occasionally, a plan works as you want it. I planted these about twenty years ago. Hard to believe they are still going. Like marriage, gardening is a mystery.

My daughter, Megan, known here as the Diva, is getting married tomorrow. I am thrilled for her and Robert, her fiance. Lots of changes in our family this year. A May wedding is a splendid thing. I married my sweetheart twenty-eight years ago on May 12.

May is a beautiful time even if the Oklahoma weather is acting like Seattle or merry old England this year. It’s been cold, wet and rainy for days, but I see that blue skies are forecast for tomorrow and the week ahead. What a happy occasion it will be!

Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment.
Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment. It has splendid pink and red blooms.

The garden senses the change in weather too. Right now, it’s a garden in waiting. The tropical plants which began so strong in late April are looking for wool coats, but as I said, next week is supposed to be better. At my house, we’ve had copious amounts of rain, six inches one week and three inches the next. I think we got another inch two days ago.

Click on the photos in the gallery to make them larger and see the captions better.

It’s been cold for May, from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with cloudy skies. Where are you oh Death Star, ahem, Mr. Sun?

The roses and clematis have no complaints except some mummified blooms on the multipetaled roses. They have trouble opening in cold and rainy weather, and thrips don’t help matters. Clematis clamber and climb through the roses as if they’re never faced a hot and brutal sun before. I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to have.

I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to… Click To Tweet

Ahhhh, an Oklahoma spring . . . gardeners just never know what they’re going to get. This year, Seattle and London, next year, maybe Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Like the proverbial Boy Scout, a gardener must always be prepared.

Hint: you should also learn to go with the flow.

Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I'll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative cotton, put in more soil and plant more seeds.
Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I’ll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative black cotton plants, put in more soil and plant more seeds. Stuff happens. Rain happens.

Remember how I was going to share the building of my raised beds? I still will, but well, my sweet son worked so hard on getting the soil just right, and then tempestuous rains came. Six inches in a few hours compacted the soil where I’d planted cut-flower seeds like zinnias, cosmos, celosia, amaranth and bells of Ireland. Some seeds washed away, while tomato plants shivered. I’m just glad we lined the beds with landscape cloth, or it would have all washed away, down the hill and into the lower pasture.

There was a time when I would be dismayed, but I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and go on. The rains come. The rains go. We can’t control the rain

Instead, let us be happy come what may. Also, blessed be gardens and weddings in May.

 

February garden chores: bit by bit

Pulling daylily foliage away from plants.

February has decided it’s March, and so the late winter season waltzes on into spring. Many years ago, I read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, wherein Lamott’s father told her the only way to accomplish anything–including writing a book–was “bird by bird.” So, as I do my garden chores, I will do them bit by bit, bed by bed, or bird by bird. Bird by bird sounds much more pleasant, doesn’t it?

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

I could wait until March to do many of these garden chores. We will have more cold weather, but my garden broke dormancy and is growing whether I like it or not. I might as well get ahead of the game.

I could wait until March to do many of these garden chores. We will have more cold weather, but… Click To Tweet

Let’s get started:

  1. Clear away dead perennial foliage. My garden is mostly perennial plants. I leave their dead stems remaining all winter partly because small pollinators and other native insects overwinter in the hollow stalks. The other reason I wait? I’m lazy. There it is. As I take debris to the compost pile, I leave it mostly intact for the pollinators to emerge when they’re ready.

    Cut off seed heads from 'Annabelle' hydrangea. Before you trim back any shrub though, especially hydrangeas, make sure your variety blooms on new wood. 'Annabelle' is one that does so you can trim it back as much as you like.
    Cut off seed heads from ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea. Before you trim back any shrub though, especially hydrangeas, make sure your variety blooms on new wood. ‘Annabelle’ is one that does so you can trim it back as much as you like.
  2. Cut back ornamental grasses. It’s quite the chore if you do it by hand. Many of my friends use a Sawzall like this one by DEWALT DWE304 10-Amp Reciprocating Saw, but I find them cumbersome. I like my Fiskars 23 Inch PowerGear Hedge Shears much better. Speaking of Fiskars, with their help, I’m doing a giveaway next week. Check back for details, or better yet, subscribe!

    Ornamental grasses only need care at the beginning of spring. Cut them back and wait for the show to begin. February garden chores.
    Ornamental grasses only need care at the beginning of spring. Cut them back and wait for the show to begin.
  3. Trim back hellebore foliage and press heucheras back into the ground. We’re having another 70F+ degree day today, so you’ll know where to find me. I’m working on the back garden where I’m doing all of the above trimming and cutting back. Because the hellebores have ugly foliage, I’ll cut it back to expose the flowers. As I’ve written before, not everyone does this, but our temperatures fluctuate so much in winter, I have to cut off the ugly foliage. That way I can enjoy the beautiful flowers in all their glory. I’m particularly fond of the Winter Jewels™ series of hellebores right now. I bought some at my local nursery last year, and I may run by there this week to see what else they have. I posted ‘Red Sapphire‘ on Instagram this week, and people loved it. It’s a beautiful upward facing hellebore with a scrumptious color. I just went to Bluestone Perennials and bought three, whoops, five more: Helleborus Flower Girl, Golden Lotus, True Love, Rome in Red and Sparkling Diamond. Some of these–I bet you can guess which–are part of the Wedding Party™ series. Actually, Sparkling Diamond is another Winter Jewels™ selection. I’m planting them in a shady area in the back garden. It’s one of the few places I can still expand that has some shade. In Oklahoma, hellebores appreciate the shade of a tree, and like the same spots heucheras do. Heucheras like to heave themselves out of the ground in winter so push them back into the soil. Apply the same procedure for any other unhappy heaving plants. Hint: Shasta daisies do this too.

    Hellebore Red Sapphire, part of the Winter Jewels series.
    Hellebore Red Sapphire, part of the Winter Jewels™ series.
  4. Weed the paths, or spray them with horticultural vinegar, or a weed killer if you’re not organic. Those early spring weeds can be prolific so get started now. You can also use a blow torch to top kill many weeds. It won’t kill the roots, though.

    Crapemyrtles may look dead while they're still dormant, but they're not. Wait for signs of life before pruning.
    Crapemyrtles may look dead while they’re still dormant, but they’re not. Wait for signs of life before pruning.
  5. Wait for crape myrtles to leaf out before pruning. You can cut off seedheads if you don’t have anything else to do–see me laughing here–but please don’t over prune crape myrtles. It’s very hard on them. Some would even call it crape murder. Just wait a bit longer instead so you can see where to cut.

    February garden chores. Newly pruned rose from the blog in 2008. Have I been writing this blog that long?
    Newly pruned rose from the blog in 2008. Have I been writing this blog that long?
  6. It’s time to prune roses. Again, take your time. Pruning roses is a bit like parenting teenagers. Most of my roses are already leafed out which is way too early, but what is a gardener to do about the weather? Nothing, my friends. Nothing.
  7. You can also plant bare root roses now. I know we’re still seeing Rose Rosette Disease, but I see less and less of it around town recently. Maybe it’s finally blown through. Because I don’t live in a housing development where anyone grows roses, I’m willing to give them a try. I bought three new David Austin roses this week. Two of mine, ‘The Lady Gardener’ didn’t make it last year, so they are replacing them. I bought ‘Boscobel,’ ‘The Alnwick Rose’ and ‘The Poet’s Wife.’ We shall see how they do in my unforgiving garden. ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ planted last year is plugging right along.
  8. Fertilize roses, daylilies and fescue lawn. I ordered Mills Magic Rose Mix for my roses. I like this natural fertilizer a lot. I will also fertilize my daylilies and front fescue lawn with Milorganite. You can also overseed your fescue lawn now. Don’t wait until the weather gets hot.
  9. Sow seeds. You can now sow seeds for cold crops outdoors, and if you have a greenhouse or a seed sowing station, you can now sow indoors too. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc. are ready to start indoors. Lettuces, spinach, beets, chard, kale and other cold weather veggies can be sown outside now. Turnips from the garden are especially good. They taste nothing like the turnips you get in the store. I find cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli hard to grow here in spring. It’s easier to start them indoors and transplant in fall.

    Leaves cover every path in the back garden including the one between 'Annabelle' hydrangeas.
    Leaves cover every path in the back garden including the one between ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas.
  10. Clear away leaves. I live in a wooded area of Oklahoma because we are east of I-35. My garden is always covered up in leaves. I either blow them away or rake them into compost piles. I also have piles of shredded leaves that I use as garden mulch.
  11. Speaking of Mulch. Use whatever type of biodegradable mulch you like. I use shredded leaves and shredded pine bark on my gardens. I keep my homemade compost for planting.

Okay, you have your marching orders for February garden chores. It’s supposed to be beautiful all week. I’m headed out to cut back more foliage and trim up those hellebores. Want to join me? I could sure use the help.

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