There is magic in the garden this spring

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.


  1. tcdallas says:

    I love what you did with your garden. Very inspiring! <3

  2. Anonymous says:

    How I envy you. I have just the tiniest hint of yellow in my earliest dafs. I planted lots of tulips last fall. Cant wait to see the bulbs produce.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Dang, I just found all of your comments in my spam folder. I think it’s because you chose anonymous. Sorry about that. I love comments, and I hate it when Akismet thinks real comments are spam.

  3. SK Waller says:

    I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a garden in this part of the country that’s more beautiful and more suited to my own taste than yours. Congrats on on your hard work!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you so very much SK. You’re too kind.~~Dee

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful spring in your garden. No color here yet. Lovely photos.

  5. mattb325 says:

    I love the tulips; they add such a magical, ethereal quality to the garden, but I have to say, those drifts of Phlox divaricata are stunning! I’ve not seen it before (it’s readily available here in Australia), does it repeat flower through the season?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Matt, no it only blooms in spring here. Then it sets seed and retreats into the background for another year. However, it does bloom for nearly one magical month. I’ll take that. Also, it meanders through plants and doesn’t really get in the way of later bloomers. Thanks for your kind words about the tulips. Can you guys grow tulips in Australia?

      1. mattb325 says:

        Thanks for the info, as some of the low growing phloxes I have in the garden do get repeat flowerings after the main spring flush, but this variety is so spectacular. Where I live is actually very good for growing and naturalising tulips, but we have wet, cool summers (which rarely get above 80F) so if the drainage isn’t perfect the dormant bulbs can rot. However most people in Australia have to grow low-chill varieties (or put them in the fridge for 6 weeks prior to planting) if they want a display of tulips.

        1. Dee Nash says:

          Hi Matt, Just found this comment in spam. So sorry about that. I grow a variety of phloxes too. Love them for all their various bloom periods and types. Plus, they are great for pollinators. Luckily, we get enough chill for tulips to bloom naturally. They just won’t repeat here. Glad yours will.

  6. Enjoy your trip! We’ll look forward to your reports afterward. 🙂 Your Japanese Maples and Tulips are stunning, Dee. I can see that April would be a great time to visit Oklahoma. Aronia berries are tasty–we tried some in a jam at a forager workshop I went to recently. Oh, and thanks for the motivation. I’ll be trimming back perennials and straightening things up in the garden this weekend. Your post shows the benefits of rigorous garden work. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Beth. I still have so much more to do. Some springs are so beautiful while others get a late freeze. This spring I don’t see one in our forecast for which I’m very grateful.~~Dee

  7. Have a great trip…love the shrubs you planted in the border by the deck!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Donna. I can’t wait to see all of them bloom.

  8. It looks ethereal and beautiful. That is a lot of hard work you did-planting all those shrubs and moving things around. Thank you for the prelude to my spring. Someday, hopefully not too far in the future, I will have some tulips and color in the garden.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, I know it’s been long in coming, but spring will come! I saw your iris on your facebook today.

  9. commonweeder says:

    Your garden is indeed magical. And lucky you to be doing all that new planting. I will soon turn a blank slate of a new house into a New Garden and I am so excited. I’m sorry roses had to be removed. I hope you know about a new rose testing program It won’t help us for a little while, but I am so glad that the Earth-Kind list of roses will be expanding soon. And while we wait there is Peter Kukielski’s new book Roses Without Chemicals with 150 rose suggestions. Published by Timber Press. As soon as the ice and snow leaves my old garden I am going to be very busy.

  10. gail says:

    Your garden IS magical and the new shrubs are perfect~I love those splashes of blue and lilac… and like you try to duplicate my favorite looks. Have fun. I wish I was going with you~you will be hanging out with some of my favorite people, too.

  11. Martie Brown says:

    Your garden is beautiful. Gardening is hard work. Love your Japanese Maple. Am going to attempt to send you pic of one of mine.

    Have a good and safe trip.

  12. Kathy Sturr says:

    Oh, how I love the Woodland Phlox! I have a very small patch but I’m going to spread it around thanks to you. I wish I could be out in my garden but if it’s not snowing, it’s raining and if it’s not raining, it’s blowing and it makes me downright miserable so I do other things. Ah, a ray of sun as I write this – finally! But I so despise the wind that has wreaked havoc in my garden. Guess I’m a fair weathered gardener ha ha. Lots of planting you have been doing – what fun. I hope everything takes well – it all sounds so lovely.

  13. Sherry Xie says:

    I am so jealous of your garden! But I know it takes a lot of time and effort to get to this. Winter is just about to leave in Toronto, Canada here….

  14. Hi, love your blog. I garden in the Chicagoland area (now, formerly in Texas) and am taking a class at the Chicago Botanic Garden now on deciduous flowering shrubs. We are learning that they are removing all of the Kerria japonica because it is dying of a terrible canker for which there is no cure. I am so upset since it is a fabulous shrub. Have you heard anything about that in your part of the country? Thanks.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Alison, I hadn’t heard of the canker. I went and did some research after you mentioned it though. I sincerely hope that’s one bullet I miss.

  15. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I too repeat combos that do well in my garden. Native garden phlox is something I have wanted for a long time but have never got around to planting. MUST do this. Your new deck planting looks fine. Can’t wait to hear about your trip. Have a great time.

    1. Sonia says:

      Oh I love spring! I too am out in my garden…and yes it is hard work. After winter and no garden exercise my muscles do hurt. How fun that you get to go to California to see the All-American Selections! Can’t wait until you get back to tell us about new plants and I’ll be following you on facebook with your hashtags! Your garden is already looking so beautiful with all those gorgeous tulips. I visited the Myriad Gardens a couple weeks ago and they had a gorgeous display of tulips throughout the gardens. Enjoy your trip!

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