After a delayed but rousing start, the promise of a glorious spring at Hayefield has pretty much fizzled out, due to the unusually dry conditions. Though other places near here have been blessed with some of the wet stuff, our little corner of the county has received exactly 0.0 inches of rain in the last 3 weeks. On the whole, I prefer a spring that’s on the dry side; if there’s regular, abundant rain through April and May, the plants produce soft stems and lush leaves, then struggle once the usual summer dry spells start. But really, no rain is tough to deal with. Instead of planting and weeding, I’ve been spending most of my gardening time hand-watering the new grass paths. It’s keeping the seedlings alive, but even after a month, there’s still just a light green haze–except for some lush green patches where the Canada thistles are thriving (sigh).
The solar panels have a hazy covering too: of yellow pollen. It’s putting a dent in their production, but giving them a good scrubbing isn’t high on my priority list at the moment.
Still, the season so far hasn’t been a total disappointment. In fact, I’m pretty pleased with the progress I’ve been making in adding more early-season interest. Bulbs are generally dependable, so they were an obvious choice. The ‘February Gold’ and ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodils have been thriving and multiplying in the beds and borders outside the fence.
For “something different,” I thought it would be interesting to try ‘Yellow Queen’ Dutch hyacinths. They’re nice, but with the yellow daffodils flowering around the same time, these just looked washed out. Adding some blue or purple ones, or maybe some more grape hyacinths, would probably help.
I didn’t have high expectations of the checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) when I planted them, but they have been terrific: not only are the original bulbs increasing, but I’m starting to find some seedlings as well.
Two years ago, I planted loads of what was supposed to be Muscari armeniacum. The bulbs didn’t flower last year, because either the deer or rabbits nibbled them, and I forgot they were even there. Seeing these beautifully shaded blooms this spring was a wonderful surprise. As far as I can tell, these grape hyacinths are Muscari auscheri ‘Ocean Magic’.(Those black specks look a bit like crazed eyes, don’t they? I didn’t add them; some of the flower buds have them, but most don’t.)
I had added more ‘Thalia’ daffodils at the same time. ‘Thalia’ starts flowering just as ‘February Gold’ and ‘Tete-a-Tete’ finish, extending the daffodil season for another 10 days or so. They make a pretty partner for the ‘Ocean Magic’ grape hyacinths, too.
‘Ocean Magic’ turned out to be a lovely companion for the hybrid helleborus (Helleborus x hybridus), too–particularly the white ones.
The hellebores flower for so long that they pair well with many other spring bulbs as well, such as the checkered lilies…
…and ‘Gravetye Giant’ summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum).
The hellebores are excellent at making their own combinations, too. This one is in front of ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta).
This trio of a plummy hellebore with ‘Chameleon’ euphorbia (Euphorbia dulcis) and the new stems of a native clematis must have been here for a while, but I didn’t notice it until this spring.
Like ‘Chameleon’ euphorbia (and the hellebores, too), ‘Espresso’ tends to seed itself around to make some pretty partnerships.
Most of the fancy lungwort (Pulmonaria) hybrids I started with years ago have died out, but I still find seedlings here and there. This one sowed itself into a patch of Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens).
After several attempts (and failures) at growing the variegated cultivars of common Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum), I was hesitant to try the newer creeping Jacob’s ladder (P. reptans) selections. But so far, ‘Touch of Class’ (below) has come back even better for a second year…
…and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has been thriving for about 5 years now. ‘Fire Alarm’ heuchera is a newer addition, to make a showy backdrop for the lacy leaves.
One of my favorite recent pairings: ‘Bloodstone’ sea thrift (Armeria maritima) with ‘Candy Stripe’ moss phlox (Phlox subulata). The phlox stopped blooming a few days ago, but the thrift is still going strong.
The brilliant yellow bracts of cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) look great with many companions, but wow, they’re stunning against the deep purple-blue of Chocolate Chip ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’).
The flowers of ‘Dixie Chip’ ajuga are lighter but beautiful against its own variegated leaves, and against those of ‘Triple Play’ smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima) too.
The white flowers of this variegated Solomon’s seal (usually sold as Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Striatum’ or ‘Grace Barker’), on the other hand, are almost invisible against its wildly striped foliage. It’s a beautiful perennial, though, and surprisingly vigorous for such a vividly variegated plant.
Mukdenia (Mukdenia rossii) isn’t nearly as showy or as vigorous here, but it’s quietly pretty.
‘Mostly Ghostly’ hosta keeps getting better year after year: surprisingly vigorous for a plant that spends its first month with hardly any chlorophyll.
My luck with epimediums seems to be increasing. I’d stayed away for them for a long time, since I have very little shade, but the few I’ve added tolerate a lot more sun than I expected. I don’t remember planting these yellow ones, though; I’d have sworn these were all red for the last few years.
Honesty (Lunaria annua) is a plant that I used to be able to grow beautifully but have had trouble with since I moved here. I’m thrilled that these ‘Pennies in Bronze’ have made it, finally. The flowers have a richer purple color than I expected; now, I’m looking forward to seeing if the seedpods match the one photo I’ve seen of them. If they are that good, I hope to have lots of seeds to share in the fall.
A couple of shrubby highlights from this spring include the richly scented compact Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’)…
…and the also-wonderfully-fragrant ‘Orange Encore’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). It’s one of the last witch hazels to open but worth waiting for.
The white flowers of ‘Dart’s Gold’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) won’t bloom until June, but the bright new leaves make it look like it’s in flower through a good part of the spring.
‘Sem’ sorbaria (Sorbaria sorbifolia) is also a splendid sight in leaf.
Sanguisorba armena isn’t as dramatic in color, but it’s beautiful in its own way.
To finish, some closeups of a few other foliage favorites: ‘Gerald Darby’ iris…
…’Mostly Ghostly’ hosta…
…’Sunningdale Variegated’ masterwort (Astrantia major)…
…and seedlings of the above.
I’m pretty sure these are Cardiocrinum cordatum…
…and the one below, as well. It’s been so long since the original plant flowered that I can’t remember for sure. I’ve been watching these for about 6 years now, and I think they are finally planning to flower this summer.
Shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia) is always worthy of at least one photo.
And last, a new find for this year: ‘Chocolate Shogun’ astilbe (Astilbe), which seems to be holding its dark color well, even with the hot spells we’ve had so far.
Well, that’s pretty much it for the current highlights from Hayefield. Looks like we might actually get some measurable precipitation in the next week–hooray! I wish you good weather (however you define “good”) for your own garden, wherever you are. Don’t forget to take time to smell the flowers…
…and eat your weeds, too, if they’re edible. To see more spring beauties, visit Carol’s main Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens.