Irises, peonies and roses light up May Day


Good morning everyone and Happy May Day! It’s beautiful in sunny Oklahoma. Rain fell in April, and there’s more forecast for this month. Hallelujah! Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and those old-fashioned favorites: irises, peonies and roses light up my garden this May Day. How about yours?

Irises, peonies and roses light up May Day. Yellow and peach irises, 'Carolina Moonlight' baptisia, 'Center Glow' ninebark and variegated 'Peaches and Cream' Japanese maple (at rear)
Yellow and peach irises, ‘Carolina Moonlight’ baptisia, ‘Center Glow’ ninebark and variegated ‘Peaches and Cream’ Japanese maple (at rear). These are all in the garage border.

I am not a huge bearded iris fan, but I do like their vertical form. Why am I not a fan? Well, a rain storm usually downs mine their season. You could say the same about peonies, but I have a soft spot for them. Plus, I support my peonies with cages beneath their foliage. They hold up their heads even when thunderstorms pound them. I don’t know the names of the irises, above. They were once tagged, but since I don’t exhibit them, I just enjoy them.

One iris I do know if 'Backdraft.' I love this very special iris coloration, and it's finally happily blooming here.
One iris I do know is ‘Backdraft.’ I love this very special iris coloration, and it’s finally happily blooming here.

Not all in my garden is sunny though. Every landscape has its problems. I want to focus about May’s joys, but I also need to tell you what’s going wrong. I have moles in the garage border. I will have to kill them. I won’t go into the details, but it’s not pretty. They are piling up messy dirt piles and tunneling beneath the plants. These tunnels leave roots exposed, and sometimes entire plants disappear under dirt piles. I must take action now.

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' with the biennial or short-lived perennial Hesperis matronalis, dame's rocket or sweet rocket. Not that sweet rocket is invasive in some parts of the country.
Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ with the biennial or short-lived perennial Hesperis matronalis, dame’s rocket or sweet rocket. Note that sweet rocket is invasive in some parts of the country, but not in Oklahoma. I’ll be pulling a lot of it before it sets seed though because it is still aggressive once established.

As for roses, you know how much I love them. I still have several, and they all appear healthy as of now. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed, shall we? Rose bloom is just starting. I hope we’re in full bloom by next week or so.

Sophy’s Rose‘ is still a favorite with her unique petal shape. She looks like a camellia, but she is all English rose. The color in our bright sunlight is much more pink than red. She does have a lovely, light fragrance.

My current favorite English rose is ‘Darcey Bussell.’ I love the color, the shape of the blooms, how floriferous she is, and her fragrance. I can’t say enough nice things about this delicate rosebush that is at home in the front of any border. I’m growing her in two places: in the tiered garden in front of the Blessed Mother statue, and next to the garage in front of a Japanese maple. So far, no Rose Rosette Disease on either shrub.

Heirloom rose, ‘Marie Pavie‘ (1888), was given to me by my friend, Katie, when Megan made her First Communion fourteen years ago. It has pink buds that open to white and has performed really well in this space. Like all Polyanthas, it’s very disease resistant. It never gets blackspot. Several other roses are in bud and promise a good spring-flowering. I can hardly wait. I also pulled my duranta standard and my orange tree out of the greenhouse where they resided all winter. The orange tree has tiny fruit.

Bumblebees and Eastern Carpenter Bees are covering the Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ that blooms where ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ once reigned. I bought this American wisteria, not to be confused with the overly-aggressive Asian types, five years or so ago from Bustani Plant Farm. Click on the photos in the gallery, above, to enlarge them. This native vine is a sight to see in late spring with black and yellow furry bumbles flitting to and fro. The bees are fussy because I bother them going in and out of the gate, but they won’t harm me or any visitors. They are far too intoxicated by pollen and nectar gathering. Plus, male carpenter bees don’t have stingers.

Which is a good thing since I have visitors coming to the garden on May 11. Two garden clubs are coming to visit. I’m only opening the garden for one day this year, and it should be great fun. Our garden will also be on the Hemerocallis Region 11 tour in 2017 so I’ve been removing some of my older daylilies and giving their spaces to newer cultivars. I hope they will all be clump size by then. If we keep getting rain, that will happen. I’ve never seen the garden look lovelier. Do I write that every year?

Unknown bi-colored salvia, Decadence® Blueberry Sundae baptisia, variegated tapioca
Unknown bi-colored salvia, Decadence® Blueberry Sundae baptisia, variegated tapioca

The purple baptisias are putting on quite a show this spring while the yellow ones aren’t blooming as heavy. That’s the thing about gardening; you just never know what a season will bring, and how plants will respond. For years, I waited on ‘Purple Smoke’ to get going, and now, it’s splendid. Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight,’ shown in the second photo, above, with the yellow iris, isn’t blooming as heavy as last spring, and the two yellow species baptisias in the lower garden are slower to bloom than in previous years. Purple and yellow Decadence® ‘Blueberry Sundae’ is scrumptious in the bed facing the street. Bumblebees love baptisias.

As for peonies, I have several that are blooming. I started years ago in doubles, but now I favor the Japanese bloom style like ‘White Cap.’ I think my ‘Karl Rosenfield’ peonies are being crowded by Phlox paniculata. Whenever we get rain, the phlox becomes very aggressive. I need to get my garden fork and remove some of them. They grow in such large clumps that it’s like doing battle some years.

People think you can’t move peonies in the spring, but if you’re having good weather, of course, you can. I moved five different clumps to the border next to the new deck when we widened that border this spring. They are in front of two different types of Hydrangea paniculata, Little Lime® and Quick Fire®. All of the peonies that were in bud are now starting to bloom. They sulked a bit when I moved them, but quickly perked up. I moved another yesterday and tucked it in. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work to plan a bed, things change. I have another peony I need to move because it’s in too much shade now because the oak tree has grown over the years. Peonies still grow, but don’t bloom well in dense shade. Plus, I think it’s being invaded by Kerria japonica‘s lateral roots. I may move it this weekend. I’m not much of a mover and shaker, but I do move when I must.

Lower garden with heritage dianthus.
Lower garden with heritage dianthus.

Jake, who built the deck, is staining it today, and I’ve planted up some of the pots in anticipation already. They are in a holding area on the right side of the garden. Bill had brick sidewalks installed around the house. We plan to install a pond later this year. The pond is his dream, not mine. I know how much upkeep they require, but he really wants one. No, we won’t have fish. Too many creatures to eat them out here.

These are the things I’m pondering as I stroll the garden this May Day. I hope you have a beautiful weekend wherever you grow too.





  1. Kathy Sturr says:

    I was saving this post for when I had time to relish it – so glad I did! Such beautiful gardens! I love, love, love the Wysteria. It isn’t quite hardy enough here and I don’t want to risk it – I already murdered an Oak Leaf Hydrangea. I think I just may have to move to a warmer zone! I love Baptisia, too. I have Prairie Twilight, I think, could be smoke now I’m not sure. It becomes a large shrub … soon. Here, the tulips are just opening. I love May even though it is “mayhem!” I don’t grow a single peony – that has to change. Thank you for such a wonderful tour! Made my day.

  2. marna says:

    Love the peony. Like you, I’m not a big fan of bearded iris but they are tough and survive our dry summers without help so I keep several varieties. I let dames rocket get a little out of control last summer. It was a job getting rid of it.

  3. Beautiful Dee….I love our pond and am so glad we built one early on.

  4. gardenfancyblog says:

    How beautiful everything looks in your gardens! Everything is fresh-foliaged and prettily blooming. Good luck with your garden tour on the 11th — getting ready for those is exhausting because it seems like there is an endless list of things to tidy and fix up, always just one more thing…. Thanks for sharing this look at your lovely flowers! -Beth

  5. commonweeder says:

    Oh, to be in Oklahoma now that May is here! What a beautiful garden. So far, in the higher elevations of Massachusetts, I have one clump of early blooming daffodils. But spring is coming – even here.

  6. Yes, I’m with Layanee, all your May plants are my June plants. I love Darcey Bussell, too. I love that dianthus, too.

  7. mattb325 says:

    Everything is looking splendid! Pinks, blues and purples are my favourite shades in the flower garden – I find them so wonderful and relaxing, and you have an abundance of these colours!

  8. Lucy Corrander says:

    I’d not heard of the Darcy Bussell rose before so I had to look it up and it looks fantastic. I wish I needed a rose!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Lucy! So lovely to see you. Yes, it’s wonderful. I tested one several years back, and I bought another. I would buy more if I weren’t worried about Rose Rosette.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your garden is a big blooming banquet this May Day.????. Love seeing all this lush lovliness. The moles can reek havoc on a garden bed. You are lucky your dog’s don’t go after them through the garden beds. I had that happen to my garden once at the tune of $500. I will never forget that. Ha

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh Lisa, perish the thought! I hope Maddie doesn’t get that in her head. All that rain has caused the lush feeling. Some plants are, in fact, trying to take over.

  10. Oh don’t you just love May! It is much more floriferous in your garden than in mine but I still love it. Our June is your May. Lush and full with adequate rainfall and great colors. I am glad you still have a few roses and darn those moles!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Layanee, I would love to come to your garden and see May all over again. Maybe one day….

  11. gail says:

    It all looks fantastic! Baptisias are one of my favorite May flowers….I need more of the purple ones, I noticed that I have many of the yellow ones.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Gail, I have three yellow, one blue, one purple/yellow, one purple and a white. I think that’s all. I keep collecting them though because I love them so much.

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