I thought you might want to see what’s growing here now and how the garden looks mid-March. This is the front garden. From a distance, there isn’t much color yet. A few small narcissus have bloomed. The lovely ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is nearly finished. You may also be able to spot an occasional yellow pansy. Pansies and violas edge the front border in spring. Deciduous ‘Jane’ magnolia is trying to bloom at left, but I’m hoping it will hold off. We’re supposed to have snow and freezing temperatures this weekend. If we do freeze, the magnolia blooms will turn an ugly shade of brown, always a possibility every year. At this point, I won’t cover anything except the tree peonies in back. They only flower for a short time, and I want to see those crepe paper blooms flutter in the wind. I have two tree peonies, one having succumbed to the Oklahoma summer of 2011.
Tiny Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ are planted beneath the magnolia. I’ll take you up close to see them. These miniatures don’t bloom for long, but while they do, they are worthy of getting down on one’s stomach to snap a shot. Just gaze upon that intense purple. ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is an icy blue, and I have it planted in the border alongside the garage. It’s already finished. I. reticulata ‘George’ also grows in the black mondo grass in the back garden, and in a protected area of the tiered beds. It’s already finished in the black mondo, but I’m still waiting to see it in the more shaded area near the back deck.
In the shaded front lawn, the only place I grow fescue, I planted three different varieties of Crocus tommasinianus, the species, ‘Ruby Giant’ and ‘Barr’s Purple’ just to see if they would work. So many things others can do in more moderate climates, I cannot do here. However, I like these bulbs in the small, green lawn of fescue. I’ll plant more this fall. The tommies actually show up better here than in the mixed border. Something to consider because they are so tiny. Below is a closeup of ‘Ruby Giant.’ It fairly glows in spring light. However, the other colors do too. One, probably the species, is behind ‘Ruby Giant’ on the right at the very top of the picture.
Here is a long view of the back garden.
I’m really glad I began planting bulbs back here and spreading about seeds of blue Phlox divaricata–not yet blooming–for two reasons. First, it improved the look of the back garden in early spring, and second, it makes me get out there earlier to clear the leaves and tired perennial foliage before the bulbs bloom. I planted the same tommies in these beds, but they haven’t been as happy here as in front. Perhaps, the soil is too heavy. Before I planted daffodils and Leucojum aestivum passed along from my friend Leslie, I’d wait to do the back garden. I spent so much time on the front preparing for Easter that I had little time to do the back. Since we’re no longer hosting Easter for the family, I don’t feel like the front and my house have to be show ready. Bulbs need oak leaves cleared away for best bloom, and I find myself doing these chores much earlier. Then, I put shredded leaves on top. Yes, I see the irony, but oak leaves mat down in spring and stifle growth. Once they’re shredded, everything is bliss.
Thank goodness I got to this garden early because an aster–I don’t remember which one–ran amok in the “wet” bed. Some asters (really non-asters now) are rhizomatous meaning they have underground shoots that help them take hold and spread. In dry soil, they don’t spread as much, but in wet clay they can be a real problem. Wet is relative here too. This bed has clay beneath the soil and remains wetter than most of the others. Much of our land is sandstone and sandy red soil, but I do have pockets of clay. Over the years, I’ve built up the raised beds over both types, but two remain more moist than others. They are also in partial shade which adds to their wetness.
The hellebores are at their peak in the back garden, and they seem to love this space. Maybe it’s the early morning sunlight. I don’t know, but they are more floriferous than the ones out front. However, they were also added later when I think better seed strains came along. The Brandywine Series is lovely, and it originated in David Culp’s garden. Culp recently wrote The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage, which my friend, Carol, gave me. Although I can’t grow many of the plants Culp suggests from experiences in his Pennsylvania garden, his techniques are helpful and proven. Plus, I love his hellebores. Here is another.
This year, I also added some hellebores from the Winter Jewels strain, including ‘Jade Tiger,’ ‘Peppermint Ice’ and ‘Golden Lotus.’ All are double. I dragged ‘Jade Tiger’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’ home from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in my suitcase, and both went ahead and bloomed again after I planted them. ‘Peppermint Ice’ is below. My ‘Jade Tiger’ has the form of ‘Peppermint Ice,’ but it is green with dark purple edges.
I also added ‘Harlequin Gem,’ a double in a darker shade. If you’d like to read more about hellebores and seed strains, follow the links, above. Different seed strains have different strengths. I am starting to see hellebore babies now, and I’m glad. I’ve been moving them where I want them to grow The nice thing about hellebores is that they stay evergreen all year, but once they finish blooming, they are hardly noticeable throughout summer. You only see them once winter comes. They are also nice in really tough spots. I have one growing in a terrible place . . . yet, it keeps on blooming year after year. Cut off tattered foliage in early February to make the flowers more noticeable.
As for the daffodils, I gave up long ago trying to keep them straight. There are too many, and I’ve just decided to enjoy them. I hope you do too. Thanks for visiting.