There is magic in the garden this spring

Acer palmatum 'Shindeshojo' on the north side of my garage.

There is magic in the garden this spring, but there are no magic formulas to achieve such beauty. Gardening is hard work. Cutting back perennials, weeding, improving the soil and transplanting are all steps to achieving this alchemy. I planted six shrubs yesterday, two Hydrangea paniculata Quick Fire® and three H. paniculata Little Lime® among them. These were not to replace roses. When we rebuilt the deck this spring, it was a foot shorter so the garden border widened. Being on the East side of the house, I’m thrilled. I never have enough east-side room for all I want to plant in morning sun. In front of the hydrangeas, I moved three peonies that were too tight in another spot, and I’ll plant daylilies in between. I planted the front edge in Mexican feather grass–not invasive in Oklahoma.

New deck and expanded garden border. There is magic in the garden
New deck and expanded garden border.

The day before, I planted four more shrubs to replace roses. These aren’t small shrubs either because I’m trying to incorporate them into a mature garden. Since I’ve lost so many roses, I also have a unique opportunity to work on symmetry and structure which is a good thing. I planted Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’ in the spot where Rosa ‘About Face’ once grew. It will be a pretty addition.

Aronia melanocarpa 'Viking'
Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’ in front of ‘Ogon’ spirea, one of my favorite shrubs.

At the top of this post is Acer palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’ finally coming into its own after five years in my garden and considered one of the loveliest Japanese maples for early red color. I also think A. palmatum ‘Tamukeyama,’ which tolerates more sun, is wonderful too.

Tulipa 'Temple of Beauty' with 'Queen of Night'
Tulipa ‘Temple of Beauty’ with ‘Queen of Night’

The Scheepers tulip mix has been an Easter egg delight on the side of the garage. I think I’ll just plant tulip mixtures in the future because the bulbs are all the perfect height and color combinations. The purples and reds I mixed in the front beds look good too, but not as good as the garage border below. In front, I planted ‘Colour’ Cardinal,’ ‘National Velvet’, ‘Negrita,’ ‘Passionale,’ ‘Black Parrot’, ‘Rococo’ and ‘Kingsblood.’ Of these, I like the ‘Black Parrot, ‘Rococo’ and ‘Kingsblood’ best. I’m listing them here so that I’ll have record of the planting too. What is a blog if not a record of a garden?

'Kingsblood' and 'Black Parrot' tulips in the front border. --Red Dirt Ramblings
‘Kingsblood’ and ‘Black Parrot’ tulips in the front border.

‘Queen of Night’ is very sweet, but so short. Maybe I’ll try John Scheeper’s tall sherbet mix this fall in front and back. As much as I love dark tulips, they don’t show up as well in a dappled shade garden, and Oklahoma’s drying winds are too tough for most tulips out in full sun. Plus, by planting closer to the house, and interspersing tulips with daffodils, I discourage the moles and voles. I lost a bunch of tulips out by the street to these burrowing creeps.

The Scheepers hybrid tulip mix
The Scheepers hybrid tulip mix has performed beautifully next to the garage. It looks better than my hand-mixed version in front. I think I’ll just buy tulip mixtures in the future.

In the back garden, the view below was magical yesterday, but lacking on the left side. I transplanted several pieces of Kerria japonica, the single-flowered form, to the other side of the arbor behind Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle.’ In a few years, it will spread, and perhaps, if I’ve guessed correctly will balance the other side. I don’t know where you can buy the single form of K. japonica. My friend, Wanda Faller, gave me mine. I have the double form flowering in the front yard, but I like the single form best. Japanese kerria is one of those plants that will bloom in sun or shade. It does sucker so don’t put it where it will crowd something else too much.

See how the single Japanese kerria has flowed behind Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' on the right hand side. I moved some of the Japanse kerria and Phlox divaricata to the other side to try and balance things in spring.  Garden magic
See how the single Japanese kerria has flowed behind Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ on the right hand side. I moved some of the Japanse kerria and Phlox divaricata to the other side to try to balance things in spring.

I also noticed in the photo of the garden from my last post taken last summer, that the lamb’s ears were only on one side of the pathway.

Blooms are fairly sparse in my fall garden.
The lower garden last fall in October.

I transplanted more of the large lamb’s ear to the other side yesterday. You need to spend some time looking at your garden so sit in a chair and gaze upon your creation. Don’t always have your head down weeding. Also, take lots of photos with a camera or your phone. Try to concentrate on what you like about the garden and replicate it elsewhere.

The back garden taken yesterday. See all the Phlox divaricata I've transplanted around. It makes for a lot of lovely blue and purple each spring.
The back garden taken yesterday. See all the Phlox divaricata I’ve transplanted around. It makes for a lot of lovely blue and purple each spring. A. palmatum ‘Tamukeyama’ is the red tree on the left. It grows here in mostly full sun.

A few years ago, I realized how much I love Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox, and I decided to try to spread it around. I have purple and blue. I love the blue best, but the purple spreads more easily. Here’s how I got it to spread this much in only a few years. I watch it while in bloom, and if it is somewhere I don’t like, I transplant it to another spot. It fusses a bit after transplanting, but with water, it will settle in. I also take the seeds and scatter them about like I’m Miss Rumphius or something. This native phlox grows best in the dappled shade of trees in Oklahoma although I sometimes see it in the sun here too. Woodland phlox is native to many states throughout the U.S. including Oklahoma. It likes well-drained soil with lots of compost or shredded leaves because it is a native forest perennial. You can buy it many places, but North Creek has two varieties: ‘Blue Moon’ and white ‘May Breeze.‘ Again, Wanda gave me my first starts of blue and purple. You can get phlox seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Tomorrow, I’m off to California for the All-America Selections spring trials with some of my favorite women: Susan Tomlinson of The Bicycle Garden, Barbara Wise of Bwisegardening, Helen Battersby who blogs with her sister, Sarah, at Toronto Gardens, Nan Sterman of A Growing Passion and Diane Blazek, Executive Director at All-America Selections/National Garden Bureau. Our hashtag for this time of fun and frivolity is #NGBplantnerds. I’m sure we’ll all be sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

In accordance with FTC blogger guidelines, I am disclosing that I’m not being paid for this event, but as a blogger, I will be hosted at various stops along the way up the California coast. Just to be clear, I’ve paid for my own airfare to and from Oklahoma, but will receive compensation in the form of food and hotel rooms as we travel to various breeder locations. I’m looking at this as education on the wholesale side of the business.

Bulb forcing experiments

See those in front with the yellow tips? They just came out of the closet today. The vase on the left is modern. The turquoise one may be modern too, but it has the Tye type shape. It came from England.
Forced paperwhites in a gold container
Forced paperwhites in a gold container from 2012

Yes, I know, it’s mid-fall, and here I am talking about forcing bulbs indoors. Well, now is the time. All bulbs except the Narcissus tazetta class and Hippeastrum (amaryllis) must be chilled for approximately twelve weeks, give or take, before you can force them on vase or in bowls–or any other container you’d like.

Forced amaryllis from a couple of seasons ago. You can tell because Bear is small.
Forced amaryllis from a couple of seasons ago. You can tell because Bear is small.

Last year, I placed mine on water in the fridge, but the garage refrigerator gets opened and closed by many people in this house all winter long. Plus, it got so cold out there the bulb water froze. Frozen water didn’t hurt the bulbs or the vases, but I panicked and brought them inside too soon. Some didn’t chill long enough. I’m still placing bulbs in the fridge this year, but I’ll chill them in their nice, dark bags first. Make sure you separate bulbs from any fruit in the fridge because ethylene gas, especially that from apples, interferes with growth. Tagging the bags is also a good idea.

I’ve forced bulbs for several seasons, but last year, I became much more intentional about the process. I blame Garden Winthindoors because Julie’s blog was a source of great inspiration temptation during long, cold winter months. I’m so glad to see she’s back for another round of forcing fun. Plus, I’m now enabling everyone I know. Bwahaha! That’s the extent of my Halloween posting. Boo!

Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine are hanging out in the garage fridge.
Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine hung  out in the garage fridge last year.

I went on a bulb forcing container spree last year, and I’m planting many of these with N. tazetta. These containers are a steal because many were made by McCoy pottery in Ohio, and haven’t been discovered yet by garden enthusiasts. Bulb forcing must have once been very popular.

Let’s bring it back into style.

I love McCoy’s soft colors from the 1930s through the 1960s. I bought a few on eBay last year, but I also found several at my favorite Guthrie antique stores. Milk glass is nice and very inexpensive. Let me lead you down the rabbit trail with a couple of posts from last year on bulb forcing bowls and vases. I’m especially fond of the pink one above. Don’t believe everything you read on eBay though. These aren’t that rare. Don’t pay a fortune for them. I found many locally for $5.00 to $9.00.

Because I don’t like stinky N. tazetta ‘Ziva,‘ which is the most common tazetta in stores, I ordered different ones online. Just search for tazetta, and you’ll find ‘Inball’ (or ‘Inbal’), ‘Wintersun,’ ‘Nir,’ ‘Geranium’ and ‘Erlicheer‘ tazetta types. I especially love ‘Erlicheer’ and ‘Nir.’ Do yourself a favor and grow the ones listed here instead of ‘Ziva.’ Also in the daffodil forcing experiments, I’ll grow miniature types, but they must be chilled first.

Cobalt blue forcing vases and milk glass bowls. You can also see the vintage green, probably McCoy, bowl with the crocus in back next to the agave.
Cobalt blue forcing vases and milk glass bowls. You can also see the vintage green, probably McCoy, bowl with the crocus in back next to the agave.

On to hyacinths. They seem to be very reliable for forcing. I’m growing ‘City of Haarlem’ named after a city in the Netherlands, ‘Delft Blue,’ ‘Gypsy Queen‘ and ‘Woodstock.’ In crocus, I got C. chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl, C. vernus ‘Jeanne d’Arc.’ and ‘Twilight.’ I will plant them inside or out depending upon my mood when they get here since I’m also doing lasagna plantings outdoors. Still waiting on my tulips for that.

Thank goodness I bought a few more vases this year. Vintage and newish ones can be found on eBay, and they aren’t cheap. I let myself have three this year, or was it five? Anyway, they are pricey because they often come from England or even Holland. Bill got a kick out of signing for one of my packages because it came directly from Holland. It’s pictured below.

Amethyst blown glass hyacinth vase.
Amethyst blown glass hyacinth vase from Holland.

That’s my fourth amethyst colored vase since I bought three in the last three years. I also bought two amber ones from Denmark. They are also shaped a bit differently because they are oval instead of round. Kind of a fun thing. I really started by collecting cobalt blue vases and small medicine bottles because I also collect flow blue China. The medicine bottles are for a miniature bottle tree. You can see my blue bottles and vases in the photo below. Some people want jewelry. I like housewares. To each his own.

Amber hyacinth glass from Denmark
Amber hyacinth glass from Denmark

Bulb vases are so pretty they look good just sitting in a window even if you never plant a thing in them. However, I will plant these because the scent of Hyacinth will be the icing on the cake.

Cobalt blue hyacinth and crocus vases are still my favorites.
Cobalt blue hyacinth and crocus vases are still my favorites.