Late March In The Garden

Garden View from Above

Garden View from Above

Grass is at its most verdant this time of year in deep contrast to the surrounding perennial borders. But with iris, monarda, columbine and phlox reaching upwards and filling out, soon the focus will shift. In the meantime a crescent of viola in the meditation circle are fairly ostentatious and a few hyacinths add color to the northern border.

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Woodstock’

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Woodstock’

Last week I purchased more Iberis, one of one of my favorite ground covers. It needs to be planted right away, but rain is pouring down this morning. This is Iberis sempervirens ‘Snow Cone’.

Iberis sempervirens 'Snow Cone' (Candytuft)

Iberis sempervirens ‘Snow Cone’ (Candytuft)

This time of year I hear the garden center call. While many gardeners are dealing with seeds and seedlings, I am just itching to add some things to the garden that offer immediate gratification.

For several weeks though I have been single-mindedly working on garden cleanup and finally yesterday I completed the weeding—I made it around the entire garden and those pesky things will not dare return. Now I can concentrate on some planting fun.

From this upstairs view of the garden one can see much more white fence than evergreen shrub. Succumbing to drought and other excuses, over the years countless shrubs have died out and been replaced, only to have them die out also. The five Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ (Blue Point Juniper) have been the exception.

Garden view from above, with Juniperus chinensis 'Blue Point' (Blue Point Juniper) hedge along southern border.

Garden view from above, with Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Point’ (Blue Point Juniper) hedge along southern border.

I had intended to make a plan to add shrubs to the garden over the fall and winter. The Chuck Hayes gardenia hedge along the back fence has dwindled to a mere five bushes and this harsh winter has contributed further to its demise. Two days ago I dug one gardenia out completely and pruned another way back nearly to ground level to try to revive it. Only one other looks healthy and it is hidden out of view behind the spirea.

Yesterday, without a plan but under the magical spell of springtime, I explored a local garden center to look for new shrubs. The nursery aisles were bursting, with more temptations being unloaded all the time.

Although what I came home with are not perfectly well-suited to the garden, they spoke to me.  Shade loving plants for a garden that has little shade? Surely I can convince them to thrive.

Soon I had selected a pink single camellia with a delightful and strong, sweet fragrance. Its name is Camellia X ‘Koto-no-kaori’.

Camellia japonica hybrid 'Koto-No-Kaori'

Camellia japonica hybrid ‘Koto-No-Kaori’

It features an upright form, reaching 8-10 feet at maturity. I will wait a few days to plant it as the temperature is supposed to dip into the twenties this weekend. Koto-no-kaori needs light shade, which will be a bit of a problem. We plan to lop off some lower branches of the juniper in the southwest corner, so I may be able to work the camellia under its protection somehow.

Camellia japonica hybrid 'Koto-No-Kaori'

Camellia japonica hybrid ‘Koto-No-Kaori’

I use to see Acuba growing on UNC’s campus and found those yellow dotted leaves fascinating. Now, realizing how useful its foliage can be in flower arranging, I have been focused on acquiring one. Welcome Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ (Gold Dust Aucuba), but where will I put you? Your mature size is 6-10’ H x 4-6’ W and your foliage burns in sun.

Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' (Gold Dust Aucuba)

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ (Gold Dust Aucuba)

One shrub that can take full sun is Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’ (Green Mountain Boxwood). This upright, cone-shaped evergreen is a moderate grower, maturing at 5′ H x 3′ W. It has bright green foliage.

Buxus x 'Green Mountain' (Green Mountain Boxwood)

Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’ (Green Mountain Boxwood)

Looking around the nursery I became distracted from shrubs at some point with predictable results. These two sun-tolerant perennials are Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Euphorbia ‘Shorty’. I have grown Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ in a pot for a number of years, but finally decided to try some others. These should form nice mounds.

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'  (Ascot Rainbow Spurge)

Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ (Ascot Rainbow Spurge)

Euphorbia 'Shorty'  (Shorty Spurge)

Euphorbia ‘Shorty’ (Shorty Spurge)

Last fall’s Sweet William seeds are still in their packet, so I bought a healthy-looking clump of Dianthus barbatus ‘Barbarini Mix’. This old-fashioned plant is one I always want in the garden.

Dianthus barbatus ‘Barbarini  Mix’ (Dwarf Sweet William)

Dianthus barbatus ‘Barbarini Mix’ (Dwarf Sweet William)

Oh, I did find a new gardenia that claims improved cold hardiness (zones 6-10). Gardenia jasminoides ‘Summer Snow’ features fragrant, double white flowers and grows 4-5′ tall. I may even go back for a couple more of these. I hear the garden center calling.

Gardenia jasminoides Summer Snow (Gardenia 'Summer Snow')

Gardenia jasminoides Summer Snow (Gardenia ‘Summer Snow’)

In A Vase On Monday—Azure Medley

In A Vase On Monday - March Medley

Monday brings an opportunity to practice flower arranging by joining in Cathy’s weekly  In A Vase On Monday, where the only rule is to fill a vase using materials gathered from one’s garden.

In A Vase On Monday - Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum)

In A Vase On Monday – Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum)

I was excited about cutting a few Azure Muscari this morning to use for my Monday vase. They have just opened in the last couple days. Though there only are 6 growing in my garden, they are so diminutive it seemed worthwhile to cut a few to enjoy close-up.

Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum), the azure grape hyacinth features a bright blue color with a darker blue stripe on each flower. The flowers themselves grow on densely-packed racemes.

In the Pseudomuscari genus the mouth of the flowers is shaped like an open bell, rather than narrowing the way it does on Muscari.

Each flower forms an open bell - Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum)

Each blue flower forms an open bell – Pseudomuscari azureum (syn. Muscari azureum)

I recently bought 2 round black pin holders, very tiny, just 3/4 inch, so decided to try one out today. It was more difficult to use than expected so I will need to practice more with it. It is hard to get small stems inserted securely without damaging them. Very cute holder though.

3:4 inch Black Pin Holder

3:4 inch Black Pin Holder

For the container I needed something flat and chose the white inside of a lid from a small round box of English bone china. The white side of the lid is visible in the very first image (the official portrait of today’s design). Later I turned the lid over and forgot to turn it back. I was experimenting after noticing the colors of the outside of the box lid might complement the flowers. Of course the top side provides no way to hold water anyway.

In A Vase On Monday

In A Vase On Monday

Companions for this week’s Azure Muscari are Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea) and Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft), both just coming into bloom, along with rich purple Viola that bounced back admirably from a cold winter in the meditation circle.

Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft)

Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft)

Viola

Viola

A scattering of Iberis leaves help balance the design.

In A Vase On Monday

In A Vase On Monday

Many thanks to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting. Please visit her to see what she and others are placing In A Vase On Monday.

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – March 2015

Lupinus ‘Woodfield Hybrids’ (Lupine)

Lupinus ‘Woodfield Hybrids’ (Lupine)

It is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), an opportunity to notice the value foliage plays in the garden, as feature or support. GBFD is hosted by Christine at  Creating my own garden of the Hesperides.

This month I have been trimming back and clearing last year’s growth to make way for emerging perennials and bulbs. In the grace period before the acoustic imposition of air conditioners and lawn mowers begins, this a quiet time in the garden. Peaceful. There is space for birdsong and thought.

During this cleanup I welcome back old garden favorites, delight at greeting new additions from fall plantings, and occasionally panic upon finding things I cannot quite recognize as friend or foe.

Last April I purchased a lupine from a local garden center and placed it at the back of the border. It had a few blooms but I hope it is established now and will provide a better show. Its palmate whorls look fresh and eager.

Lupinus ‘Woodfield Hybrids’ (Lupine)

Lupinus ‘Woodfield Hybrids’ (Lupine)

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) sits near the gate at the northern entrance to the garden. Recently I trimmed back all the brown stems from last year to find its gray-green new growth.

Nepeta 'Walker's Low' (Catmint)

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)

Irises are among the old friends I look forward to each year. Suddenly strong new sword-shaped leaves have begun reaching upwards. These Iris germanica (Bearded iris) are cherished pass-alongs from a long-ago neighbor.

Iris germanica (Bearded iris)

Iris germanica (Bearded iris)

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ began budding before I had time to prune it this year.

Clematis 'Jackmanii'

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

In autumn I planted Anemone coronaria (‘Admiral’, ‘Bride,’ and ‘Mr. Fokker’) and for a few weeks I have been happily watching the leaves emerge. I am afraid the voles have damaged many, but I cannot think how to negotiate a truce with them.

Anemone coronaria

Anemone coronaria

Last spring the buds on the Coral Delight Camellia were damaged by a cold snap, but this year its flowers are beginning to open. Actually there must have been one flower last year that made it as evidenced by this thick, hard seed pod that was still attached to the bush.

Camellia x 'Coral Delight' Seedpod

Camellia x ‘Coral Delight’ Seedpod

Thanks to Christine at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting GBFD each month.

Art In Bloom For Spring

Meadow Near Front of North Carolina Museum of Art

Meadow Near Front of North Carolina Museum of Art

Vernal equinox March 20, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT. Earlier in the week it was sunny and 80°F. Now, following a rainy afternoon yesterday, our first day of spring is overcast and 46°F. Tomorrow the weather should be nice again and warmer, 70°F.

Given yesterday’s rainy forecast it was a perfect time to travel to Raleigh to view a special floral show on opening day at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Outdoor Display Near Entrance -  North Carolina Museum of Art

Outdoor Display Near Entrance – North Carolina Museum of Art

For this 4-day inaugural event called Art In Bloom, 45 floral designers each were paired with works of art from the museum’s permanent collection and invited to create interpretations of the art using flowers. (This has been done in other cities for a few years, but it was the first time for our state museum).

The displays were fascinating. They were large, rich in color and texture, featuring familiar and exotic materials (such as anthuriums, calla lilies, orchids, roses, proteas, tropical leaves) and they were presented in an array of interesting containers and frameworks.

Included among the 45 designers were my two teachers who, for the last several years, have offered flower arranging classes through the local garden club. Seeing their work in this exhibit was particularly exciting.  Unfortunately the quality of the dozens of photos I took were extremely disappointing and does not show their work to best advantage.

Jinny was assigned a Roman statue of Herakles. She responded to the white marble by using shiny and rough metal sculpture and anthurium with foliage. Sorry I cut off the top of the design–I could joke about where my eyes were but I truly was trying to include the description on the front of the stand.

Jinny Marino's Design

Jinny Marino’s Design

'Herakles' - Inspiration for Jinny Marino's Design

‘Herakles’ – Inspiration for Jinny Marino’s Design

Jinny Marino's Design

Jinny Marino’s Design

 

In a different gallery, Betsy’s arrangement was facing a different work of art than her assigned inspiration piece, Sunset (Medusa) (1945) by Eugene Berman. She seems to have played off both works of art.

Design by Betsy Ninninger

Design by Betsy Ninninger

‘Sunset (Medusa)’ – Inspiration Artwork for Betsy Ninninger’s Floral Design

Design by Betsy Ninninger

Design by Betsy Ninninger

Ikebana

This morning I returned to the museum for another Art In Bloom event.

Ikebana: Classical to Modern. Kyoko Petersen of the American Institute of Floral Design is a professor in the Ikenobo Ikebana school in Kyoto, Japan, the birthplace of ikebana. The presentation highlights classical ikebana arrangements along with newer styles introduced in the 20th century.

The demonstration was marvelous. It was enlightening to watch and listen as Kyoko created a dozen spectacular designs. She worked with many beautiful flowers, including orchids, anemones, peonies, quince and her favorite, camellias.

In some arrangements she strictly adhered to traditional principles set out hundreds of years ago, where nine elements of nature are represented (such as shady side, sunny side, waterfall). There are specific instructions for placement that cannot be altered. She began with this traditional design representing landscape.

Classical Ikebana - Landscape

Classical Ikebana – Landscape

Several of her designs illustrated 20th century adaptations made by the head master of the Ikenobo Ikebana school where she teaches. (The head master is forty-something generation.) The newer style takes into account people live not in castles, but rather in smaller houses. Also today the designs can take advantage of a wider repertoire of materials than those historically available. Kyoko also demonstrated free-form creations.

This design illustrates the modern simplification the master created in the 20th century.

Modern Ikebana

Modern Ikebana

This was one of my favorite designs. I tried to remember what the unusual leaves are called, perhaps begins with “Renaissance”? The surprising use of yellow pansy at the bottom adds finishing touch.

Modern Ikebana With Three Elements

This final design of the morning was an effusively abundant celebration of Spring, using camellias, peonies, variegated pine and orchids over a framework of weeping willow and weeping cherry. (Sorry for poor photo quality but perhaps you can get an idea.)

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Ikebana: Homage to Spring

Kyoko’s presentation has inspired me to try to learn more about Ikebana.  Another event today that was sold out but would have been fascinating, was a hands-on master class with Shane Connolly, Royal Florist. He designed the flowers for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  If you happen to be local to the Raleigh area, Art In Bloom is well worth your time.

So that is how I welcomed the changing season. And tomorrow I hope to back in my garden.

Wordless Wednesday—Hyacinthus orientalis

After seeing hyacinths in vases recently I decided to bring this white one indoors to enjoy its scent.

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth) - indoors

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth) – indoors

Planted in 2001, the hyacinth opened this week, despite its location. After all these years it sits tucked way under shrubbery and pushed against liriope. Still it peeks out.

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth) fights for its place in the sun.

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth) fights for its place in the sun.

In A Vase On Monday—Heads Up

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

Monday brings an opportunity to practice flower arranging by joining in Cathy’s weekly challenge In A Vase On Monday to fill a vase using materials gathered from one’s garden.

The flowers open in the garden this week are daffodils, crocus and hellebores, so for this Monday’s offering I chose a bouquet of miniature daffodils, placed in a small matte-glazed, blue ceramic vase.

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

Considered an early bloomer, Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ began opening March 9. Perhaps because winter seemed so cold and endless I thought they were a little late opening in pbmGarden. Other gardeners have been highlighting theirs for a few weeks, but memory is tricky. Actually mine opened two days earlier than last year.

Growing only 6-8 inches tall, these cheerful little daffodils have caused a shift in the mood of the garden and the gardener. What a difference some warm days and little patches of yellow can make.

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

The buttercup yellow flowers feature narrow, long trumpets. The stems hold 1-3 flowers per stem, though only a few of the ones I checked this morning had three blooms growing head-to-head. The others were singles.

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete' have a long, narrow trumpet

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ have a long, narrow trumpet

Spring is near…

Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting. Please visit her to see what she and others are placing In A Vase On Monday.

Tulip and Daphne Updates

Tulips - Day 15

Tulips – Day 15

On February 26 I began an experiment to force some tulip bulbs that had been chilling in my refrigerator drawer for 6-7 weeks. I checked and measured the bulbs’ progress this morning.

Tulip Bulbs Developed Healthy Roots

Tulip Bulbs Developed Healthy Roots

 

There are 6 Endless Spring Orange Blend and 3 Persian Pearl. All are actively growing and have developed good roots. One in particular is teacher’s pet, having reached up 7.5 inches.

Forced Tulips - Day 15

Forced Tulips – Day 15

I still intend to follow up on the advice I received to add more rocks and provide a framework to support the bulbs; time just slipped away. The container has been in a cool, fairly dark room for 15 days. I think it might be time to bring it out into the light.

My concerns about the Daphne odora (Winter daphne) were mostly unfounded. Although the shrubs certainly were damaged and browned by the severe cold weather in February, the flowers survived. This week every time I open my front door the sweet lemony fragrance makes me smile and breathe deeply.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)